‘To have lived through those 12 or 13 years. It had excitement, it had drama. Skullduggery, loyalty, disloyalty. It had everything. And it can never and will never be repeated again…’
The above quote by Padraig Flynn. And boy, did he have a way with words. For those of us born after say, 1977, it is hard to have a personal view of Charles J Haughey. Too young to put the puzzle together. Then again folks much older were not necessarily wiser. The enigma of Haughey continued for all his political career, with many secrets and lies getting buried with him.
It would be unfair to criticise the journalists who worked these stories. It was a different time of course, and Fianna Fail were still in the midst of a modernisation that many would say they have yet to attain.
Irish folks have an awful gra for nostalgia and old footage is of itself a massive comfort, almost to the point of an aversion therapy, as someone else once said.
He shaped a modern nation, not for the better, most would say. But then everyone had an opinion on CJ. What little I can recall is pieced together by the chats my elders had in the kitchen as well as what I saw on TV. I have posted a few of these YouTube greatest hits below.
Haughey ( broadcast in 2005)
Put simply this is an excellent piece of work. Both balanced and compelling, it provides a linear structure from Haughey’s roots in Derry right up to his final denoument in Dublin Castle. Flynn’s quote is heard in the last episode. By then you will have witnessed the whole journey and it’s hard to disagree with him.
Haughey: The Money Trail ( Broadcast in 1997)
If Niamh Sammon’s 4 hour epic( above) is Francis Ford Coppola then this one is maybe Sidney Lumet. Concise and fascinating, it is created within the typical RTE prime time layout. P Flynn was obviously busy in Brussels ( in his second of three houses?) so it comes down to Seamus Brennan and Willie O’Dea to stick their heads above the paraphet. Well worth a watch, though the picture quality is not great.
- Note there is a two parter from TV3 called GUBU but because of the station’s obsession with pop music, you’ll have to put up with frequent dead air during your viewing. Some excellent photos used in the Ken Burns style montages mind you
Charlie ( 3 part Drama Miniseries)
A lot of what you see in the documentary is attempted in this following re-inactment by the Love Hate boys. This is not a particularly well made programme and it’s a shame because Aiden Gillen certainly looked the part. The lack of cinematic scope is disappointing. Compared with something like The Treaty (1992) the three parter suffers from production unable to work within budgetary limits. Despite that, it has some occasional good moments ( Timotei! )
Election Debate 1987.
A long long time ago, politicians used to wait until the other person was finished speaking. They also used to get their point across without shouting. This is a pleasure to watch. Two educated men, jousting thoughtfully, a mutual respect quite evident.
The Dubliners Tribute Show
A short clip here on the Late Late Show. Byrne manfully tries to disguise his political leanings as the special guest star appears. Haughey makes a handful of gold plated puns before exiting stage right, as ever looking for a seat.
Charlie Haughey’s Ireland
While in opposition in the mid 80s, CJ was desperate to maintain a relevance with the world outside Leinster House. This self produced travelog around the country retains a certain charm. Haughey appears comfortable in his own skin, extolling the virtues of a country on the rise, while occasionally giving himself credit for some of its success. No more of that, for now. (excuse the poor quality)
Arise and follow Charlie
This little ditty was taken from an old Jacobite song. Journeys are shortened from southern glens to western shores, but the blind loyalty is no different. The song is a perfect toe tapper. You can almost taste the chicken and chips. (Honourary mention for ‘We’ll be There’. Alas, there is no decent recording of that one online but the old election paraphernalia on the youtube clip is charming )
So there you have it. There is a little more I could add to the list but overall it is quite disappointing to think this collection is as limited as it is. When you compare it to the modern age of tweets and Instagram videos that Haughey’s modern counterparts use now, well it’s like comparing Sam Smith to Elvis really, isn’t it?
I am all for fairness and would love to one day do a Fine Gael companion piece. Alas a lot of their stuff is unavailable at the time of writing. Could it be a case of the Irish media’s favourites being more aware of the dangers of posterity? Who knows? All is for certain that on either side of the house, nobody has come close to matching Sweetie’s infamy. Not even Bertie.