Haughey’s support for IRA fundraising thwarted by the US and John Hume – Donlon memoir

It was a godsend that Sean Donlon, Eamonn Gallagher and Noel Dorr were the chiefs of Dublin’s Department of Foreign Affairs at the height of the troubles. In a memoir appearing in the Irish Times over the past two days, Donlon gives a gripping account of how Charles Haughey when first elected Taoiseach at the end of 1979 tried to overturn the anti-Provo stance of Jack Lynch. Clearly, the diplomats were nervous of how the (wholly and completely innocent) former gunrunner would react.

When telling me of my appointment, the then taoiseach Jack Lynch said that the priorities in my mission were, firstly, to do everything possible to reduce US financial, political and logistical support for the Provisional IRA and, secondly, to work closely with the IDA to secure US investment in Ireland

Typically, Haughey didn’t have the guts to argue openly for a change of policy but instead, tried to undermine his own ambassador by using his monkey Brian Lenihan snr to go behind his back in Washington and then shifting him. Haughey wanted to encourage New York Congressman Mario Biaggi and a group called the Irish National Caucus who supported IRA fundraising in the States. This was contrary to the established policy of relying on the Four Horseman, the senior congressional figures including Ted Kennedy who took the John Hume line, set firmly against violence.

Biaggi had informed secretary of state Cyrus Vance that the Irish government was now working with the INC and he handed Vance a letter formally requesting the state department to declare me persona non grata for actions incompatible with my diplomatic status…
I had a meeting with Haughey. It was brief and cold. He sat at his desk. I was not offered a seat and remained standing. I was to leave Washington in August and take up the post of permanent representative to the UN in New York. It was an important post as Ireland was about to take a seat on the UN Security Council. I said that the move would, however, be seen by the Four Horsemen and others as a snub. For the first time in history, a powerful Irish lobby had been created in the US. It appeared that it was now to be put at risk. Haughey made it clear that he did not wish for a discussion. He pointed to the door and I left.

Typical bad manners from the ignorant wee blurt. Typical too, that his flanker failed. As a connoisseur of power himself, it was only surprising that he failed to appreciate Kenndy and co’s far greater clout with Irish America compared to the likes of Biaggi, the INC and Noraid. To use one of his favourite epithets, Haughey was mostly a bollocks, for all his swagger and hooded menace. He was a gesture republican who never took any risks to advance the cause and backed down at the first whiff of greater power. He remained ambivalent towards the IRA up to his retirement and disgrace.

For Hume, this was a unique stance. Over the years, he had gone to great lengths to avoid embroiling himself and the SDLP in Dublin politics. He now issued a statement: “In order that all shades of suspicion be removed and this unfortunate affair closed, it is necessary that it be made absolutely clear that the activities of Congressman Biaggi and the organisations with which he is associated enjoy no support whatsoever among any substantial section of Irish opinion.”

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    The belated recognition, as signalled by the British in signing the GFA, that the IRA campaign was not a criminal campaign, but an insurgency that could not be defeated militarily without adressing the underlying causes now shows us that Haughey’s view of Republicanism had a lot in common with British policy towards the Provos post 1998.

  • Padraig

    [b]’It was a godsend'[/b]

    It must be reassuring to know that God was in there boxing in your own corner. From your own personal intelligence of God’s activities perhaps you could let me know that since He actively , apparently works so assidiously in Britain’s interests if He also, perhaps, wears Union Jack boxer shorts as well?

    Thank you.

  • aquifer

    Haughey backed the traditional irish separatist Provos over the socialist secular Officials and it was not a good choice.

    Tragic.

  • seamus friel

    The British government should have just saved money and brought their own ambassador home when Sean Donlon was in Washington. He was a true West Brit and never changed. He opposed a campaign to free the Birmingham 6 and Guilford 4 in the States. That gives you an idea of the calibre of the man. By the way why was it a Godsend? And good old Jack Lynch listened to the bold Sean. That’s the same Jack who run up Edward Heath on the nightr of Bloody Sunday to ask politely about the little incident that happened in Derry earlier and was told by Heath in no uncertain terms to basically get lost and to stop bothering him .Jack finished the call off with another apology for disturbing the bachelor Heath. What a pair Sean and Jack. They suited each other.

  • cynic

    Ah what good company you Republicans keep.

    So close to the cause that on VE day he didn’t join in celebrations of the defeat of Nazism but burned the Union Jack in Dublin instead.

    A dishonest, philandering, corrupt, lying gunrunner who in the end just couldn’t remember how even £200k donated for his ‘friend’ and party collague’s liver transplant and treatment accidentally migrated into his personal account. He led the brown envelope culture in Ireland and the corruption of the political and business class for a generation.

    A true patriot.

  • Harry Flashman

    “So close to the cause that on VE day he didn’t join in celebrations of the defeat of Nazism but burned the Union Jack in Dublin instead.”

    I’m no fan of the oul’ scoundrel but in fairness that incident was in retaliation for the students of my old alma mater, Trinity College, burning the Irish tricolour which was a singularly offensive thing to do in the middle of Dublin.

  • Todd

    “So close to the cause that on VE day he didn’t join in celebrations of the defeat of Nazism but burned the Union Jack in Dublin instead.”

    How do think he got elected to lead our country!

  • cynic

    Fair comment Harry, but given that the Prime Minister had just conveyed to the German Embassador his deep condolences on the unfortunate death of Adolf Hitler, I might have been tempted to burn the Irish flag myself!

    Offensive? Almost certainly but small beer in comparison and absolutely nothing to do with Irish National politics.

  • Dylan

    So?… Hardly shocking or groundbreaking to think that a prominent Irish politician wanted to support the I.R.A. Like it or not Irish politicians, citizens and the Irish in America were/are mighty pissed off at Britain for raping Ireland on every conceivable level for at least 400 years. Not very surprising then that they might want to fund an armed insurgency to remove the aforementioned occupiers! “A Godsend”? Maybe, if you are a Unionist or British, not so much of a “Godsend” if you are a Republican, Nationalist, have Irish ancestry or or in any way in favour of Liberty, self-determination or freedom.

  • Greenflag

    padraig ,

    ‘your own personal intelligence of God’s activities perhaps you could let me know that since He actively , apparently works so assidiously in Britain’s interests if He also, perhaps, wears Union Jack boxer shorts as well?”

    Ah padraig , padraig padraig shure yer taking the michael now eh;) lol -) Are you unaware that God when he/she/it used to exist was as we all know an Englishman no less and alas no more ;)?

    Did the same God not make bloody sure that the sun never went down on the British Empire? Mind you he never publicly admitted much and certainly not that he could’nt trust his fellow countrymen/gods in the dark 😉 Credibility ye see . You can’t have enough of it . It goes well with gullibility and gobshittery !

    ‘in retaliation for the students of my old alma mater, Trinity College, burning the Irish tricolour which was a singularly offensive thing to do in the middle of Dublin’

    They would’nt do it today HF 😉 My apologies old man I did’nt know you were at Trinty back in the 1930’s 😉

    Now there’s an idea . Instead of burning the Irish Tricolour on top of a rubbish pyre at Orange Order festivities, out of deference to that one half of the Northern Ireland population who consider the Tricolour their flag, could’nt the Order mandate that only ‘half ‘ the tricolour should be burnt ? Call it parity of burning esteem.

    To express how they have moved forward into the 20th century the Order could also in an effort of positive reach to that half of the NI population which does not share Orange aspirations, recommend that the tricolour should be cut in half through the middle white vertical and only the orange and white half be burnt.

    I’m sure that Irish nationalists will reply in an equally tolerant like manner by merely burning ‘half ‘ the Union Jack ?

  • cynic

    Dylan

    Sort of depends on your view doesnt it.

    If you sign a Treaty that is binding in International Law then you can live with it or you senak off, fund and arm your proxies and send them out to slaughter thousands of people in support of ‘the cause’ while you work with their agents in another jurisdiction to support them.

    And speaking of ‘raping’ poor Ireland, in the context of Haughey (or anything else) is a bit rich. As a republic for almost 100 years now she is a big girl and has had no need of the Brits to rape her. Her own political and ruling class have been so busy at that I doubt she has had time to give anyone else a chance.

    Still, never mind. Away and nurse your sense of victimhood and grievance. You can always clsoe your eyes and think of England / Ireland / wherever else takes your fancy

  • Granter

    “raping Ireland for over 400 years”. You know I think she liked it cos the huzzy Erin still had that old ‘come-on big boy’ look in her eye.

    I think she liked the manly Brit cos her own were too sozzled on pints of the black stuff.

  • sinless

    Donlon, Mary Robinson and other Anglophiles should have their pensions stopped and property confiscated. Why should the Irish tax payer further support West Brit leeches who got in on the coat ails of 1916?

  • Brian MacAodh

    Haughey comes across very poorly in this. Not surprising, though.

  • longdansweeney

    Haughey was a self serving politician who’s goal was power. The fact that he had a family history with republicanism probably lead to his half hearted attemps to “do the right thing”

    As can be seen now with Adams, you get power, you talk yourself (and your followers) into a corner and then all that’s left is gesture politics.

    It’s a shame. People such as Michael Collins don’t comer along very often.

  • Lugs Brannigan

    We should be all down on our knees to Charles J. Haughey. If he hadn’t been elected as Taoiseach in 1987 the 26 county state would now be on a par with Zimbabwee. FitzGerald and especially Spring doubled the national debt in just four years and “nice guys” that they were certainly didn’t have the balls to push through the cuts that were necessary to save the state from bankruptcy (sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it?).

    As regards corruption CJH was in the Mickey Mouse Department compared to the last Rainbow Government. If a certain ex Minister is found to have been corrupt by the Tribunal the Irish State will be sued for billions. I hope it’s brushed under the carpet for the sake of hundreds of thousands of decent taxpayers across the State.