Category: Archive

Inside File Last of the Cheeky Charlies

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

"IF" has been leafing through the pages of "Sweetie," the book that proclaims itself on the cover as "The Explosive Inside Story of C.J. Haughey." Pun intended? At the very end of the Kevin O’Connor tome is an "Epilogue" containing a number of anecdotes from the Haughey era and beyond. Here’s one: "At a Fianna Fáil fund-raiser in the Plaza Hotel in New York in 1997, attended by the taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, Irish passports were freely sought by the well-heeled American businessmen. One Texas banker approached a table which was hosted by Environment Minister Noel Dempsey. He offered an open check to the minister in return for an Irish passport. In polite terms, the Meath politician told him to get lost."

One up for the Soldiers of Destiny. Here’s another yarn from the book. Back in 1980, with Ireland’s finances going down the plughole and the International Monetary Fund kicking down the doors of Ireland Inc. like so many 19th century bailiffs, Haughey and his closest ally in Fianna Fáil, Brian Lenihan, were interested in hearing about any plan that would put a finger in the financial dike. Lenihan apparently came across one while on a trip to Washington, D.C., and related it to a friend in a pub once he got back to Dublin.

O’Connor takes up the tale: "This was the time when the whole international political scene had been thrown into turmoil by the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians, and the Americans were worried that this was the beginning of a new push by the Soviets to extend their sphere of influence around the world.

"In the pub Lenihan told his friend that officials in the Washington administration had come up with a solution to our financial problems. They would clear the debt — provided we would agree to an unusual quid pro quo. Swearing his friend to secrecy, he revealed that the Americans wanted the Irish government to provide a suitable site to house a nuclear arsenal in Ireland. They suggested than an ideal location was a hydroelectric power station at a place called Turlough Hill in County Wicklow, about 40 miles from Dublin. The National Electricity Service Board had excavated a huge area of rock under the mountain and ran a shaft up the center to enable turbines to be driven by water tumbling from the mountaintop.

"In order to allay the fears of workers at Turlough Hill, the Americans proposed that the Irish government would purchase the site. It was proposed to install the nuclear arsenal beside the generators — under the mountain.

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"Brian Lenihan began his conversation with his friend: ‘You will not believe what is on the cards for Turlough Hill. Certainly, Laragh will never be the same again.’ In the end the proposal came to naught because the Americans had second thoughts."

And finally, this little gem from the mouth of Charlie himself on the subject of journalists: "I hate those creeping little . . ." Ouch!

"Sweetie" is available at $19.95 from Irish Books and Media Inc. at (800) 229-3505. It’s also on sale at the Grafton Shop, 51st Street just west of Third Avenue, in Manhattan, (212) 759-2850.

McCain’s people

Arizona’s Senator John McCain’s presidential prospects are on the upswing with less than a year to go before the 2000 presidential election. Should he win the race to the Oval Office, McCain would join a distinguished line of American presidents with Ulster Scots roots.

In his biography, "Faith Of My Fathers," McCain makes mention of a family line going back in part to County Antrim. Given such lineage, it should not be too hard to ignite McCain’s interest in Ireland as an election or even post-election issue, something that has already been recognized as worth doing by other main hopefuls including Gore, Bradley, "W" and even wee Stevie Forbes.

Prof. Adams

Gerry Adams might have to take up the pipe again. With all that terrorist chic stuff fading faster than a good night’s sleep on the Garvaghy Road, Adams is in high demand for college appearances and the professorial look always benefits from a few smoky rings floating about the old quadrangle. Adams will be in Beantown next week to deliver his rescheduled Boston College speech on the 16th and is also appearing at Harvard the following evening as a guest speaker in a course currently presided over by Jean Kennedy Smith.

The Harvard event, "IF" understands, is students-only, so the just folks will have to bide their wee. In the meantime, a free copy of "The New Irish Americans" for the reader who can most humorously decide on Adams’s academic career, what subject he should teach and why. Send to "Inside File" at the Echo address and include phone number.

Peter’s pence

Peter Vallone’s political career is going to sail right on through the New York City Council Speaker’s 65th birthday but not without dropping anchor for an evening at Harbor Lights in South Street Seaport on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 18. Irish-American friends of Vallone are organizing a birthday party fund-raiser during which, rumor has it, Malachy McCourt will burst forth from a big cake clad in a mere bikini. Think about that for a moment. For details on ticket prices, call (212) 791-2001 or (212) 788-6925.

Tiocfaidh Aussie’s Lá

Aussie’s home grown shinners are vowing to fight on for a republic after voters last weekend rejected the idea in a referendum and opted instead to maintain ties to the British monarchy. The result was not a shock given the fact that the proposal on the ballot did not envision a head of state elected by popular vote, but one placed on the throne, so to speak, by politicians in Canberra.

Quite a few republicans voted "no" to this idea, thus sealing its fate. Still, some republicans were furious, not least author Tom Keneally, who winged his way home from a U.S. tour promoting his latest book, "The Great Shame."

"We must fight on. I want to die and be buried under the sod of an Australian republic," Keneally said.

"IF" assumes Keneally is hoping for a wee republic in due course, but not too soon, given his line about dying first. All good stuff, though. Nothing like a bit of we will them fight on the beaches etc. Especially if its Bondi, sport.

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