Constituents remember the person, not the politician

AT Mr Haughey’s beloved Abbeville in Kinsealy, north Co Dublin, it was a day of comings and goings.

On the stroke of 1pm, a gleaming hearse drove up the laneway, followed not long afterwards by Mr Haughey’s brother, Fr Eoghan, in his modest black Ford Fiesta. Looking understandably shaken, he nudged his way up the lane after speaking with gardaí who were stationed at the house since early morning.

The first bouquet of flowers was left by a middle-aged woman, who laid a bunch of pink and yellow carnations on the ground and silently slipped away.

Before long, the body of the three-time Taoiseach departed the scene. Two Garda motorcycles, lights flashing, led the way as the hearse left Kinsealy. Not for the first time and probably not for the last, CJ stopped the traffic. Moments later, Mr Haughey’s daughter Eimear drove her silver Mercedes out of the lane.

After that it was time for the brothers to leave, each with a wave to the knot of media gathered at the entrance. First Sean, then Conor and then Ciaran.

Before, and afterwards, passing cars slowed and motorists stared.

It was a representative of the older generation, always quickest to lend its support to Haughey in recent years, who summed up what the former Taoiseach meant to his constituents.

Pensioner Nancy Campbell dropped off some flowers with a card dedicated to ‘The Boss’ and stating ‘Simply the best’ in big letters.

It was Charlie the person rather than Charles J the politician that constituents wanted to remember.

In Donnycarney, where the Church of Our Lady of Consolation was getting a lick of paint in preparation for Friday’s funeral, people talked of turkeys for the poor at Christmas, jobs for the unemployed and welfare for the down at heel.

“My father always said he was the best crook we ever had,” said painter Joe Murray.

“He meant it in a good way — that he borrowed to keep the country afloat and broke rules to make things happen.”

Thomas Curran, 85, added: “He was a gentleman. If you were in trouble you’d be told: ‘See Charlie’. The young girls in trouble, the unmarried mothers, he’d get them jobs as cleaners in government departments. He’d turn nobody away.”

Up the road in affluent Malahide where the silks from Haughey’s Grand National winner, Flashing Steel, adorn the wall of a local pub and his yacht, the Celtic Mist, is berthed in the marina, opinions were more mixed.

“I remember his ‘tighten your belts’ speech,” recalled one woman.

“I was pregnant with my first child and living in a house with no running water. I couldn’t tighten my belt any further.”

But local man Paul Hatch had happy memories of racing Haughey’s boat for him at the Dingle Regatta.

“I thought he was fabulous. You could sit down and talk to him and have the laugh with him.

“He would talk straight with you, no bullshit. I would rather remember him that way — for the person he was rather than the politician he was made out to be.”

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