Category: Archive

Said to be ailing, Haughey back from U.S. to face scandal panels

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Amid a flurry of speculation about the state of his health, former Taoiseach Charles Haughey returned home from the United States at the weekend after reportedly undergoing medical tests at a New York hospital.

It has been reported that Haughey underwent a checkup for prostate cancer at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in Manhattan, a world-renowned hospital for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

The former taoiseach passed through the VIP arrivals section at Dublin Airport when he arrived home last Saturday and would make no comment to the waiting media.

On Sunday, he attended the funeral of former Minister of State Tom McEllistrim in Ballymacelligot. A second generation TD for North Kerry, McEllistrim had strongly supported his leadership.

Haughey laughed and replied, “Na bac” [Don’t bother], when asked about his health by reporters.

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His family is said to be angry about the speculation about his health, regarding it as an intrusion into his private life.

Fianna Fail TD Sean Ardagh told RTE said that Haughey’s brother Jock was unwell and that the whole family is under a lot of pressure.

Now 74, Haughey has suffered from a number of health problems in recent years and he and his family have been under unrelenting pressure as a result of a series of sleaze scandals involving both his public and private life.

He has had recurrent kidney stone problems and in January 1997 was admitted to the Mater for cardiac tests. He had been taken by ambulance from his home at Kinsealy, Malahide, after feeling unwell.

In January 1998 he broke his leg in a fall from his horse while out riding on Portmarnock Strand. In April 1970, when minister for finance, he was also hospitalized after falling from a horse on the morning he was due to deliver his budget speech.

Scandal inquiries

Inquiries and court cases — and offshoots from them involving not only himself but others members of his family — are piling up on Haughey and will ensure he continues to remain in the public spotlight as scandals from his past haunt his retirement.

He had been due to appear in the Circuit Criminal Court on March 21 on charges he allegedly hindered and obstructed the McCracken Tribunal, which established that he received _1.3 million from department store boss Ben Dunne between 1987 and 1991. The case has now been postponed.

Haughey’s lawyers had expressed concern about the difficulty of finding an unbiased jury to ensure he gets a fair trial.

In an unprecedented move, the trial judge decided to circulate among 800 potential jurors 15 questions about their opinions and attitudes toward Haughey.

This is expected to be challenged by the Director of Public Prosecutions in a special divisional (three-judge) High Court on March 27 on the grounds that it is unconstitutional and in breach of existing legislation to interrogate potential jurors in this way.

Under the 1996 Juries Act, defense and prosecution lawyers can challenge a maximum of seven jurors. Because of the importance of the case in regard to how trial-by-jury operates, any High Court verdict is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court.

There is anxiety that changes in the jury selection system could lead to an O.J. Simpson-type vetting process where preliminary issues before the hearing could take almost as much time as the case itself.

Haughey’s tax problems are also due to come up in the Circuit Court at a closed hearing on April 4 and, whatever the decision, it appears inevitable the case will subsequently be fought through both the High and Supreme Courts.

In December 1998, a major political row blew up after it was revealed a tax assessment by the Revenue Commissioners of about _1.8 million against Haughey for the Dunne cash gifts he received was reduced to zero by an appeals commissioner. The decision is being appealed by the Revenue Commissioners.

In addition to capital-acquisitions tax, plus interest, due on the Dunne money, the assessment may also have included penalty payments.

It is believed Haughey appealed against the assessment on the grounds there was inadequate proof of where the money came from and if it was paid by someone living within the Republic.

Much of the Dunne money was diverted through offshore accounts before Haughey received it. Tax liability on gifts depends on the tax domicile of the person making the gifts and where the donated assets were based.

Another tribunal, headed by Judge Michael Moriarty, is currently investigating possible other payments Haughey may have received during his long political career. The former taoiseach is expected to be called to testify later this year.

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