Updated: 30/06/17 : 05:15:37
Printable Version   Bookmark and Share Share This

current

Recalling the charade of a political trial

By Eugene McGloin
Political Editor

A POLITICIAN walked out with his co-accused from the courts in Dublin, all having just been acquitted of all charges, carrying jail sentences. 

News bulletins were few and far between back then, especially so that Friday evening five decades ago.

This Debacle

But the message of defendant Charles Haughey quickly got all the way across the Atlantic to the ears of the intended. 

Haughey said, in paraphrase, that those responsible for ''this debacle'' should take the only honourable course.

He meant 'resign pronto' and the main target of his message was a senior politician, Taoiseach Jack Lynch -- then in America.

Haughey spoke mainly for himself; some of his three civilian co-defendants, all acquitted, had felt some of his evidence impinged on their chance of clearance.

Closed Ranks

Anyway, the party troops rallied and did what Fianna Fáil always did best in those days, namely closed ranks.

To a man and woman those troops were all there at the airport when Jack Lynch, Taoiseach, arrived home from America.

''Crisis, what crisis'' one Minister from Mayo (rhetorically) asked the Press when batting down an RTÉ query. 

Of course, it would be a mistake to look back on all that as (merely) 'a Fianna Fáil episode.'

The parallels are those which have always been applied by all powers-that-be in this State. They close ranks, Press especially. 

Over the years Haughey forgot few of the names or faces of Gardai who arrested him. 

Talk to families and they will tell you that aspect stays in their memories long after, leaves an aftertaste.

Contradictory Trials

It is neither popular nor profitable to say it now, nor was it then. But I've NEVER changed my view, not even wavered once in that fifty years.

Namely, the sum of Haughey's trial -- TWO court trials actually -- were a political charade by this State.

1. Rightly or wrongly, Haughey was then viewed by some as a scapegoat, caught up in a show trial to sate public and keep senior politicians silent, if not sweet.

2. By others, Haughey was viewed then -- and viewed now -- as 100% guilty in both those (contradictory) court trials mounted by the State.

Those two competing aspects, above, are predominant in trials involving politicians; moreso when the politicians are wholly acquitted of all charges.

Read history books and you'll see that Time itself does little, too, to change those templates -- they echo in Biblical tales even.