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Charles James Haughey

Prime Minister, 1979-1981, 1982, and 1987-1992

Charles James Haughey

Charles James Haughey was born in Castlebar, County Mayo, on September 16, 1925, and grew up in the Dublin suburb of Donnycarney. He was educated at the St. Joseph's secondary school in Fairview, and at the University College in Dublin. Prior to entering politics, he was a successful accountant and businessman.

Early Government Career

A member of the Fianna Fáil party, Haughey was elected to Parliament in 1957, and was continuously re-elected until 1992. He became Minister of Justice in 1961, and served in a ministerial capacity in all subsequent Fianna Fáil governments until 1970. As Justice Minister (1961-1964), he introduced legislation to protect the inheritance rights of wives and children. He also introduced the Special Military Courts which ultimately helped defeat the Irish Republican Army's Border Campaign. As Minister for Agriculture (1964-1966), he had to deal with a series of protests organized by the National Farmers Association and Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association that at times threatened the stability of the Fianna Fáil government. As Minister for Finance (1966-1970), Haughey introduced a series of social reforms designed to ease the economic burdens faced by pensioners. He was dismissed from his ministerial position in May of 1970, after accusations surfaced regarding his complicity in an attempt to import arms for the IRA using government money. Although he was subsequently acquitted of wrongdoing by a court, Haughey's political future seemed in doubt. That doubt increased after his party lost control of Parliament in 1975.

Although Haughey had a rather minor role during the opposition period, he returned to prominence upon his party regaining Parliament in 1977. As Minister for Health and Welfare (1977-1979), he began the first government anti-smoking campaigns. He was also responsible for The Family Planning Bill, which allowed a pharmacist to sell contraceptives upon presentation of a medical prescription.

Prime Minister

Haughey became leader of the Fianna Fáil upon the resignation of Jack Lynch. He was formally elected Prime Minister by Parliament on December 11, 1979, and served until June 30, 1981. During this period he increased public spending, which led to increased borrowing by the government and taxation. It was largely due to Haughey's economic policies that Fianna Fáil lost the general election of 1981to a Fine Gael-Labour coalition; Garret FitzGerald, leader of Fine Gael, replaced Haughey as Prime Minister.

FitzGerald's government collapsed in 1982, due in large part to a controversial budget. Haughey regained the Prime Ministership on March 9, 1982, but lost it again on December 14, 1982, after allegations that he had authorized the tapping of journalists' telephones were made public. FitzGerald regained his former position with a comfortable Parliamentary majority, and held it until 1987.

Haughey regained the Prime Ministership on March 10, 1987, even though Fianna Fáil failed to win an overall majority in Parliament. A general election held in 1989 resulted in the party losing four seats, and Haughey failed to achieve a majority of Parliament votes for Prime Minister. Although he was technically forced to resign, he remained acting Prime Minister for 27 days, during which time a coalition with the Progressive Democrats was formed that allowed him to remain in office. Haughey's final stint as Prime Minister proved even more contentious than his others had been, and he was frequently at odds with his own party. He was finally forced to resign on February 11, 1992, and he retired from politics soon after. He was succeeded as Prime Minister by Albert Reynolds.

Accusations of financial impropriety dogged Haughey even after he left politics. He ultimately agreed to pay taxes and fines on money received in secret payments, and was indicted on charges of obstructing justice. He died of prostate cancer on June 13, 2006.

See Also

Albert Reynolds

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The Robinson Library >> Ireland

This page was last updated on February 07, 2019.