Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bertie Ahern's " patriot to his fingertips" and the legacy of a kleptocracy

In June 2006, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern gave a ringing peroration at the graveside of Charles Haughey and he indeed owed his deceased predecessor a great deal and knew more than most that his fellow Dublin northsider had been on the make, on a gigantic scale.

Political courage is a rare commodity and not to put a tooth in it, Ahern backed the right horse and won hugely.

"If the definition of a patriot is someone who devotes all their energy to the betterment of their country," Ahern said: "Charles Haughey was a patriot to his fingertips."

"Despite the controversy, even political opponents acknowledge that he had indeed done the State some service," he said. "The ultimate judgement of history will be positive."

Ahern spoke of how he remembered as a teenager canvassing for "Charlie" at election. "He was one of us, he was larger than life," he said.

The Taoiseach compared Haughey to the poet WB Yeats whom he said was a great but complex man, "impatient for the progress of our country".

When Yeats wrote "I am of Ireland", Ahern said he could not have penned a better description of Haughey.

He described the former leader as a "consummate politician, who exhibited grace under pressure, incisive mind and superb parliamentary skills proud identity with all of Ireland and a profound respect in victory and defeat for our democratic institutions."

In his report, Mr. Justice Michael Moriarty said that Haughey "lived a lifestyle and incurred expenditure vastly beyond the scale" of his income and it concludes that Haughey "devalued the quality of a modern democracy".

"As one of Mr Haughey's successors I want to acknowledge that he left a huge legacy of lasting achievement that this generation has based its own progress upon," Ahern said.

There were undoubtedly achievements as there were in the case of Richard Nixon.

Bertie Ahern was a bookkeeper in the Mater Hospital before entering politics and presumably it wasn't a place where blank cheques were floating about.

Bertie Ahern certainly knew aspects of Haughey that were unknown by many others including what Justice Moriarity termed the "elements of fear and domination engendered by him in individuals in both the private and public sectors."

Ahern said last June that Haughey would ruefully acknowledge to him that he enjoyed the proverbial nine lives.

"Charlie, Boss the last of those lives has now been extinguished. Today the most agile and instinctive of our political leaders is still," the current Taoiseach concluded.

Boss, indeed.

The Taoiseach says Haughey had a profound respect for our democracy while Justice Moriarty said that he devalued it.


Comment: All the King's Men - The Ireland that made Charles Haughey