Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Haughey Part IV

I watched the fourth and last episode of the Haughey documentary last night. The producers had taken a critical mauling in the Irish media over the last couple of weeks for their failure to cover the issues in enough detail and for ignoring several important topics. Apparently they were still editing the episode on Sunday afternoon, so they must have paid attention.

This weeks episode was an improvement on episodes 2 and 3 but still didn't provide enough detail. This time it wasn't because they overlooked topics, it was just that they couldn't fit any more in. It would have been easy to divide this episode into 3 separate episodes. One episode dealing the 1989 election, the Progressive Democrats coalition, the reaction of the party and then his with his political downfall. A second (and maybe even a third episode) could have focused on the payments from business men and a final episode to cover the tribunals.

The producers were on the radio on Sunday talking about a bit secret they were going to reveal. It was about the fact that Dr John O'Connell had passed on a payment to Haughey from a Saudi diplomat for the sale of a horse and then later when the end was near for Haughey O'Connell tried to force him to resign by threatening to reveal the story. It wasn't really an earth shattering secret and it was more interesting as part of a larger campaign against Haughey organized by Albert Reynolds and Padraig Flynn. They claimed they didn't know what O'Connell had done but they must have. In the end Reynolds did the right thing, he succeeded because he put more thought into the heave then the previous contenders but just like with Haugheys rise to power we don't learn enough about his fall from power.

The Brian Lenihan incident was also dealt with. That was Haugheys worst moment in the Fianna Fail party and many members hated him for it. I remember meeting Lenihan during the presidential election and he looked very ill, how he managed to campaign amazed me. For Haughey to fire him to save his own skin was a disgraceful betrayal. But even worse was the way he redirected funds from the Lenihan medical collection into his own account. Once that was revealed I think most members of the party finally washed their hands of Haughey. It amazed me to hear that in the end when Haughey had been ousted the only politician to visit him in his office was Lenihan, loyal to the end.

The payments and any possible favors granted in return should have been given a dedicated episode. While this episode did come out more against Haughey and his corruption it still could have done more to explain the whole golden circle. For example Larry Goodman deserved more than just a passing mention. Ben Dunne and Dermot Desmond were interviewed and said they gave money, received nothing in return and would give more money again. There was no depth to story, it just threw out facts and figures without sufficient background.

At the end Haugheys greatest rival was Garret Fitzgerald as leader of Fine Gael. He had the most insightful opinion when he said that Haugheys talents had been wasted and the nation had lost a potentially great statesman to the corruption and scandals.

The series was something that had to be made, the real shame is that it was too short and only scratched the surface of the story. Hopefully this wont become the definitive series but I guess it was better than nothing.

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