REVIEW: The Broderick Lectures at Museum of Treasures
WE know that spring is in the air when the daffs are in bloom and the birds are chirping and historian Eugene Broderick is in his heaven in the packed Garden Room of the Museum of Treasures.
“It would be easier to find a unicorn,” laughs Eugene, “than to find someone with a good word to say about Charles J. Haughey.” A cry of “Free travel” comes from the floor and, actually, Eugene manages to find lots of good words to say about our quixotic Taoiseach who boasted to be from Castlebar, Derry and Dublin.
‘The lunchtime Broderick Lectures are at an ideal time that facilitates those on lunchtime breaks and also retirees’
In some ways, he was correct. Charles was born in Castlebar in 1925 and his pro-Treaty mother and father were born in Derry. His father John became a Commandant in the Irish Free State Army but had to resign his commission due to severe ill-health on a pension of £90/year. The impoverished Haughey’s moved to a farm in Meath and then finally settled in Donnycarney, where his father was diagnosed with MS and tough times for the family.
Haughey was fiercely intelligent and gained a Corporation scholarship to St. Joseph’s secondary school in Marino. Young Haughey had finished first. He subsequently won a Dublin Corporation scholarship to UCD where he obtained first-class honours in Commerce in 1946. Three short years later, he had qualified as an accountant and a barrister and was courting Seán Lemass’s daughter who was also a Commerce student.
He targeted politics and his fierce ambition alienated a considerable number of Fianna Fáilers. After several attempts, he finally made it to the Dáil and became well-known on the rubber-chicken circuit. Appointed as a parliamentary secretary (now Junior minister), he set about the Dept. with a reforming zeal. When he finally became Minister for Justice in 1961, law reform was top of his agenda. Free Legal Aid, only available in murder cases, was greatly extended; Guardianship of Infants Act gave mothers equal rights; Capital punishment was abolished except for capital murder; Succession Act gave women the legal right to a husband’s estate and the Special Criminal Court was established. When Haughey was moved to Agriculture, Cearbhall Ó Dálaigh (Supreme Court judge and later Irish President) wrote to congratulate him on his tenure in justice.
When Seán Lemass retired as Taoiseach, Haughey eyed the top job. So did others. Politics abhors a vacuum and Haughey was prevailed upon to withdraw to enable Jack Lynch to become Taoiseach.
The seeds of future enmity had been sown and the whirlwind waited.
The lunchtime Broderick Lectures – an ideal time that facilitates those on lunchtime breaks and also retirees —on the Haughey years continues at 1.15pm for the next three Wednesdays at the Waterford Museum of Treasures.