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Seán Haughey interview… January 30, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

There’s an interview in the Mail today with Seán Haughey, son of Charles J, conducted by Jason O’Toole. In a way what is most telling is how little Haughey divulges. This seems to be a man who has decided the less said the better, and what is said is entirely anodyne. One comes away with a sense of someone who has no particular political ideology.

First up there’s a fair bit of personal stuff about his father and his family. And surprisingly defensive too…or perhaps not so surprising on second thoughts.

People were genuinely supportive and very favourable towards my father and his legacy despite everything. I felt throughout all those difficulties he still had great support throughout the country. ‘I know people will say, “Is that fella delusional?” But that certainly was my experience and I can’t deny that.

Fair enough, but even that has the feel of displacement activity on Haughey’s part as if he’d rather not discuss contemporary politics for fear of giving too strong an opinion.

This may well be also because as he admits ‘he will always live in the shadow of the two political giants in his family: his ‘controversial’ father and his more ‘universally accepted as brilliant’ grandfather, Seán Lemass’

And the ‘legacy’ of his father he thinks has held him back…

People are still very opinionated about his legacy.

So, yes, all that has overshadowed – is the word you use – my own political career. But I’m carving out a niche for myself and whacking away diligently and dealing with the issues of the day. I don’t feel intimated by that (legacy), as I have fairly modest ambitions myself; I’m just really honoured to be a public representative. ‘But the Haughey name, from a party point of view, probably has held me back. There probably would be a reluctance to advance somebody with the Haughey name. I have felt that from time to time.’

And what of this?

Seán insists he was as shocked as the rest of the nation when financial scandals about his father – including the revelations about taking money from businessmen and embezzling money from Fianna Fáil – began to emerge after his retirement from political life, specifically during the McCracken Tribunal and the ongoing Moriarty Tribunal. And even though his father managed to purchase the palatial Abbeville estate – eventually sold off to settle tax evasion bills – and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, Seán maintains that he always believed his father’s financial dealings were all above board. But he concedes: ‘I wondered about it from time to time. To me, it was the family home. It was a very grounded family upbringing but I always felt maybe that he’d made money from property and investment and so on. Yes, I did question from time to time but I always felt there was a fairly innocent explanation.’


Not exactly gushing words for one B. Ahern…

Even though he’s going to bravely face the irate electorate in next month’s election, he admits that he did – albeit briefly – consider quitting Fianna Fail when he was passed over by then taoiseach Bertie Ahern for several ministerial positions. ‘I was taken aback at that time. The general view was that I was next in line. I may have contemplated it (leaving Fianna Fáil) for a day or two but with my tradition and heritage I don’t think I could have done that. ‘With a grandfather and a father leading the party, I don’t think I could ever contemplate running as an independent – even though a lot of my voters tell me I should in the current scenario. If you’re on the team, you play with the team, in good times and bad. ‘I think Bertie Ahern did his best to move people along and give people a chance and so on but he probably was apprehensive of preferring somebody with the Haughey name. I think that would be fair to say. I don’t have any grudges against him at all, in that regard.’

As for the present and the future… well, hardly a ringing endorsement of FF prospects in this:

…he concedes that he himself is already contemplating life outside of politics if he fails to retain his seat in Dublin North Central. ‘I have a fighting chance of retaining my seat. I’ll go out there and fight for it and take my chances. I did think long and hard about running in this election – it’s going to be a very, very difficult election. You’d be mad not to reflect for a little while before a General Election, whether you should run again. You know, what are the prospects of defeat and so on.’

And more broadly?

I’d love to be a Fianna Fáil today – probably in Opposition – and build up the party, to give it new vision and new direction with the new leader.’


Seán believes there is a new sense of optimism in the party following Micheál Martin’s ascent to the leadership. ‘He will bring a new energy to the party. We’ve seen that a week is a long time in politics and four weeks is a long time in politics; so, I think the election is all to play for. Campaigning hasn’t even commenced yet. I wouldn’t right us off just yet.’ Spoken like a true Haughey.

Never a truer word…


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