Posted tagged ‘Charles Haughey’

University anniversary

January 13, 2011

Exactly 22 years ago today, on January 13 1989, the Irish government then led by Charles Haughey announced the establishment of Dublin City University and the University of Limerick. At the time both institutions were designated as ‘National Institutes of Higher Education’.

DCU and the University of Limerick had a massive influence on how universities operate. Unlike the established universities at the time, they had close links with industry, focused on particular areas of study and research, and allowed students to gather experience through work placements. Many of their innovations have now become standard across the sector. As young universities, they have had remarkable success in gaining international recognition. DCU became by far the youngest university to enter the global top 300 league table in 2006.

The presidents of the two universities at the time were Danny O’Hare (DCU) and Ed Walsh (Limerick). They should still be proud of their legacy.

Political expletives

November 30, 2010

Almost exactly 16 years ago in Ireland the then Leader of Fianna Fáil, Charles Haughey (who had been before and would later again become Taoiseach, and who was never less than controversial), gave an interview to the magazine Hot Press. The interview was unremarkable in terms of content, but explosive in terms of the colourful language used. So Ireland was able to learn that one of its political leaders used all sorts of swear words in conversation, and that he had a particular fondness for the ‘F’ word. Shock was expressed in newspaper comment pages. But nobody needed to be surprised. After all, most people in Ireland were (and are) fond of swearing their way through the day, by no means excluding politicians. One other Minister (of a different party) was notorious for his habit of arranging meetings by telling his secretary to ‘get that f***er in here’. And today several Irish politicians are known for their fondness of expletives.

It’s not uniquely an Irish habit. The White House tapes released at the time of the Watergate investigations revealed Richard Nixon as a serial swearer. Recently there have been newspaper reports telling us that current British Prime Minister David Cameron ‘uses four-letter expletives as casually as a teenager in a school playground.’ What is more, in doing so he follows, it is said, in the footsteps of the last two occupants of No 10 Downing Street. And back in America, Barack Obama last year said of his (now departed) White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel that Mother’s Day was problematic for him because he was not used to saying ‘day’ after the word ‘mother’.

Why would any of that shock us? Maybe there is a view in some circles that politicians need to show some sort of decorum that suggests to voters that they would be more at ease at your granny’s birthday tea than just before closing time in the pub. But don’t we want our politicians to be part of life as it is lived, rather than as it is airbrushed?

I confess I get very tired of the over-use of swear words, particularly in Dublin, where many people seem to feel a need to introduce the ‘F’ word into every sub-clause of every sentence. But on the other hand, expletives can have a use, and apparently are effective in reducing tension and blood pressure. So if anyone wants to be critical of David Cameron, I hope they find a better basis for that. And as for Charles Haughey’s interview, even today it makes me smile, not because I admire the language, but because he felt confident enough to ‘be himself’. That’s not a bad thing.

Charles Haughey’s papers come to DCU

February 4, 2009

Tuesday was a significant day for Dublin City University: the papers of the late Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Charles J. Haughey were handed to DCU by his family. They are now being sorted and catalogued and, eventually, will be accessible to researchers, historians and scholars who want to study them. It is a priceless collection: letters, reports, memos, documents and other memorabilia, perhaps the most impressive and complete collection of such documents in recent Irish history,  providing insights not just into the life of this most visionary but also controversial politician, but also his times.

It was one of those interesting twists that the hand-over of the papers took place on the day that we learned of the break-down of the social partnership talks aimed at tackling the serious economic and financial problems currently faced by Ireland. In 1987, within days of becoming Taoiseach after the general election of that year, Haughey set about the task of preparing the ground for what became the Programme for National Recovery – an agreement between the government, the employers, the trade unions and other representative groups, under which pay restraint was agreed in return for reform in taxation and various social programmes. It was an extremely successful initiative, contributing critically to a steep growth in Ireland’s competitiveness and providing order in the country’s public finances. The boom of the Celtic Tiger was born in that initiative, very well documented in the papers we received today.

Political archives are enormously important for historians, political scientists, journalists and others. With the Haughey papers, and with materials previously provided by the families of the late Irish Times editor Douglas Gageby and diplomat Sean Lester, DCU is building a collection of unique value. And we hope that this is only the beginning of a process that will allow us to become the recognised home for such archives in Ireland.

In relation specifically to Charles Haughey, I think the time is right to change the focus from one on his personal life and finances to the role he played, first as a reforming and socially aware Minister in several departments, and later as the head of a government that took the painful but necessary steps to halt Ireland’s dramatic economic slide. When Haughey took over as Taoiseach in 1987, there was a huge public debt, and unemployment was at over 17 per cent. Within three years everything had changed, and the country was well on the way to becoming a model for economic reform and development. I am glad that DCU is able to make some contribution to recognising this.


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