British intelligence agencies conducted a 10-year campaign to denigrate and block Charles Haughey’s return from political exile after the 1970 arms crisis.
Much of the libel revolved around allegations that Haughey was a leader of the Provisional IRA and was deeply involved in crooked real estate deals to enrich himself and also fund the IRA.
It revolves around the insane claims that Haughey and the IRA – in collaboration with loyalist paramilitaries – bombed Belfast to profit from reconstruction contracts and land speculation.
The campaign also attempted to portray Haughey as a “series womanizer.” It successfully got some evidence of his association with fashion writer Terry Keane printed in Britain, but the spy-conspirators always failed to print their allegations in Ireland.
All of this is expressed in a fascinating new book, An enemy of the crown, which is scheduled to be released next week. Author David Burke has spent more than 30 years researching and documenting MI6’s dirty trick campaign against Charles Haughey, with some compelling, detailed stories of a conspiracy in the corner.
The book tells us that the British services have received some help from the Irish police, army and security services.
The author names a senior Garda and also cites the involvement of at least one senior official in the Justice Department.
Here’s a taste of what this book has to tell us:
1 Meet Sir Maurice of Gloom Hall
A central figure in this dark tale is Maurice Oldfield, who endured a long career of espionage and dirty tricks in the Middle East, Albania and elsewhere before turning his energies to Irish affairs in general and eventually the case of Charles J. dedicated to Haughey. He was Chief of MI6 for British Intelligence from 1964 to 1973, Chief of MI6 from 1973 to 1978 and Security Coordinator for Northern Ireland from 1979 to 1980.
‘Gloom Hall’ was the nickname given to MI6’s London headquarters, where Sir Maurice operated when he wasn’t in Stormont doing things. Oddly flamboyant for a spy, he recommended actor Alec Guinness in preparation for the lead role Craft tailor soldier spy. Oldfield devoted the years 1970-1980 to attempting to defame Charles Haughey.
Haughey, according to the campaign, is “an IRA godfather,” a master of crooked lucrative real estate deals – including an IRA-loyal connection to bomb Belfast and profit from rebuilding – and a serial womanizer. It began after the 1970 gun trial and focused on stopping Haughey’s comeback and rise to leadership in the country.
In his youth Mr Oldfield paid a schoolmate £1 to take his driving test. Subsequent mendacity was far more serious — including protecting those involved in the horrific Kincora child sex abuse affair.
2 The effect of an eye patch
Charles Haughey wasn’t the only target. For a time, so was Neil Blaney, who was acquitted of gun conspiracy charges with Haughey in 1970.
Others “marked” were businessman Gerry Jones, who had become a household name for his smart suits and distinctive eye patch while attending the gun trial in support of Haughey in 1970.
Jones was alternately a civil servant, a businessman eventually employing 8,000 people, and finally a promoter of charity and the arts in London. He was a highly unlikely IRA man.
3 The ‘Keane Edge’ is the sharpest
A pamphlet prepared for the Official Sinn Féin in 1971, entitled Fianna Fail and the IRA, alleged close ties to the new breakaway Provisional IRA. A man named Hugh Mooney, who worked for Oldfield, embellished it with garish details of Haughey’s alleged IRA involvement, and the revised document was reprinted by forgers to resemble the original.
This was part of a series of expensive but not very successful attempts to attack Haughey. The fake pamphlet marked the first time his private life was addressed, calling him a “womanizer”.
Efforts have been made over the years to build on this in hopes of pernicious support in Ireland. A recurring problem has been getting such insults into the media in Ireland and the US.
How the years rolled through the satirical magazine Private detective was tight and contained many stories about Haughey – not least his extramarital relationship with the fashion writer.
The book notes that Irish sales of the magazine were low: the Irish media refused to leak the reports for various reasons and there was real surprise outside the media/political bubble in 1999 when Ms Keane revealed the affair on RTÉ The Late Late Show.
4 “Sir Spy” – Diplomacy and espionage merge
Charles Haughey often assumed that there were British efforts to spy on him, and he was cautious around some Britons. The Taoiseach’s longtime advisor, the widely respected Pádraig Ó hAnracháin, told the author that the Taoiseach was aware of the surveillance.
The book notes that Ó hAnracháin was referring to a British ambassador, Robin Haydon, who served in Dublin from 1976 to 1980 as ‘Sir Spy’. It echoes the old controversy of embassy staff gathering basic information and speculation that they were up to something more underhanded.
There are reports of a named local employee at Haughey’s constituency office receiving a surprise visit from someone trying to recruit her to spy on her boss. There is another episode featuring a Scottish engineer who was working on the island of Haughey, Inisvickillane, only to leave abruptly with no subsequent contact.
In any case, it later turned out that Haughey’s house was bugged by Gardaí. But the author also benefits from a broad reading of the machinations of British intelligence and some previously released British security documents, while speculating about what might eventually emerge from the archives.
It also refers to a letter from then Minister of Northern Ireland Humphrey Atkins to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher dated 24 April 1980. It heavily criticized Haughey and also referred to two recent London intelligence reports about him.
5 Fears Wilson and Haughey could unite Ireland
Part of the motivation for Oldfield and his colleagues revolved around fears that British Labor leader Harold Wilson and Haughey would coincide as leaders in London and Dublin. The author quotes Wilson’s press secretary, Joe Haines, recalling that his boss, Taoiseach, offered Jack Lynch a united Ireland “within 15 years”.
The subject of much that was written and said about Charles Haughey was that he was passionate about the unification of Ireland. Jack Lynch was considered a total constitutional politician who was capable of more cooperation with London.
The author convincingly argues that Oldfield and his ilk had a very poor understanding of the intricacies of Irish politics. They did not take into account Haughey’s repeated denunciations of the IRA or that, as a young Minister of Justice, he played a key role in crushing the IRA’s six-year “border campaign” in 1961.
6 winners and losers
A sideways glance at this shows us that Charles Haughey won. The MI6 campaign failed to prevent his return to mainstream politics, becoming the front bench of Fianna Fáil in 1975, the Cabinet in 1977 and finally the Taoiseach in December 1979.
Sir Maurice Oldfield was eventually banned from British intelligence, largely due to the consequences of his association with rogue elements attempting to destabilize Harold Wilson as Prime Minister. The existence of this lawsuit against the elected leader is disputed – but its existence is now widely accepted in the UK.
But this story is full of ironic reflections. Had the campaign targeted Haughey’s chaotic finances, it might have been successful. However, he ultimately lost power in the June 1981 elections as a result of the IRA’s hunger strikes.
This was the same IRA the spooks would have us believe led and funded.
David Burke’s “An Enemy of the Crown” is out Thursday by Mercier Press
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/british-spies-struggled-for-a-decade-to-block-charles-haugheys-return-writer-of-new-book-claims-41995716.html British spies fought for a decade to prevent the return of Charles Haughey, author of new books