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Mr Desmond,whose business(Stockbrokers) benefitted hugely from his association with C.J. Haughey, and who was present at both Mr Haughey's removal and funeral earlier this year, said he never witnessed any corrupt practices in the 20 years that he was friends with the former Taoiseach even though the tribunal found that Mr Haughey took €45m in today's money from taxpayers, political allies and ailing friends in order to fund his lavish lifestyle and found his corruption ultimately "devalued the quality of a modern democracy".

And he took a swipe at its refusal to accept at face value his own claims that he received no favours from Mr Haughey in exchange for the €95,000 he paid to have Mr Haughey's Celtic Mist yacht repaired. 

"Maybe the people at the tribunal don't have friends or don't understand how in Ireland most people, if they can, help out their friends in need," he said.

THE book is closed, said Mary O'Rourke on Tuesday, as she mulled over the Moriarty Tribunal report in December 2006 Hardly had she finished speaking than her nephew Conor Lenihan tore it open again.

If ever there was an occasion for keeping the book closed, this was it: the aftermath of the Moriarty Report, which had confirmed a catalogue of wrongdoing by Charles J Haughey including, most devastatingly, the theft of funds raised for Brian Lenihan senior's life-saving liver transplant in the US.

the Clown in the Lenihan Cupboard.?

Lenihans are smart people and most of them can see a choice when it stares them in the face.

They had a choice on Tuesday. They could keep their mouths as firmly closed as the book. Or they could talk and say nothing. Mary chose the latter. Conor unwisely took neither. His over-the-top performance on RTE's Prime Time was astonishing.

Without any provocation, he cast himself in the role of defender of Haughey and of Bertie Ahern, the man who a few months ago described the disgraced Taoiseach as "a patriot to his fingertips". He interrupted other contributors even though he had little coherent to say. They must have been as baffled as viewers who remembered how his late father's political career had ended in 1990.

Haughey sacked Lenihan, his Tanaiste and Defence Minister - and old friend and loyal political associate - at the dictation of his coalition partners the Progressive Democrats. Lenihan had refused to resign because he rejected an accusation that he had lied to the Irish people about an incident in 1982.

The ironies are enormous when one remembers the innumerable thumping lies in which Haughey was caught out before his death. But the circumstances were less important than the politics. One of his closest friends told me after the capitulation: "He should have told the PDs to eff off." And so he should. He should not have pandered to their taste for red meat.

Soon they came looking for his own head on a plate, and got it. Poetic justice, but it did not restore Brian Lenihan's career or silence his detractors.

Which is worse, to betray an old friend or to steal money contributed for the purpose of saving his life? Let moralists ponder that. Here's a political question.

What organisation demands public declarations in favour of persons who have grievously wronged your nearest and dearest? Here's a clue in the form of another question. What organisation's membership features grown men who weep publicly and loudly at funerals?

Tom Gilmartin, billed for an early appearance as a witness at another tribunal, told a number of Fianna Fail ministers that they were worse than the Mafia. Well, no. Nobody is sleeping with the fishes.

The devaluation of Irish democracy deplored by Mr Justice Michael Moriarty has gone nowhere near as far as the undermining of Italian society by a combination of the Mafia, corrupt politicians of both (formerly) main parties, and a Masonic lodge with a membership ranging from cardinals to newspaper editors.

But you can't be a little bit corrupt, any more than you can be a little bit pregnant. Anyone who took a trifle like IR£1,000 from Frank Dunlop set his foot on the slippery slope that led to the tribunals. And grander folk, though they talk a great game, have not convinced some of us they have "changed the culture".

Here's another question, one that many have asked since the publication of the Moriarty Report and some asked before.

Haughey stole money from the Fianna Fail Party. To the best of any outsider's knowledge, the party has made no efforts to get it back. Why? Could an inquiry reveal embarrassing information, like the survival of the old culture in crevices still undiscovered?

And here's a final question. There are chapters of this book that remain closed. For example, Moriarty has not got to the bottom of the "Fustok affair" involving a Saudi sheikh and his friends and relations, the sale of passports by the dozen, and a supposed transaction in which a horse changed hands for IR£50,000.

We can pretty well forget about the horse. You can sell a thoroughbred yearling for IR£50,000 or IR£5,000 or (if you're unlucky) IR£500, but you can't sell bloodstock without documents. And a person engaged in dodgy transactions won't sell a dozen passports, or a single passport, for IR£50,000.

If nine years and €25m failed to find an answer for Moriarty, ordinary mortals might despair. But you never know. Whistleblowers do emerge. Things could get better.

Mind you, they could get worse. The capi may not rest content with tears and bearhugs. They may wish to introduce kneeling and kissing hands. Oh, and sentimental songs. But they have these already in the Galway tent.

James Downey is the author of Lenihan: His Life and Loyalties, a biography of the late Brian Lenihan

Aherns graveside oration to his patriot dead.?

About six months ago, in a graveside oration, the Taoiseach described Haughey thus: “If the definition of a patriot is someone who devotes all their energy to the betterment of their country, Charles Haughey was a patriot to his fingertips”.

Conversely, Moriarty said of him that by taking those payments Haughey “can only be said to have devalued a modern democracy”.

What a patriot!

Possibly the only semblance of truth in Bertie Ahern’s extravagant description was his reference to Haughey’s fingertips — they were everywhere.

Ahern availed of a fairly rare occasion in Irish life to deliver his eulogy — a State funeral that his Government accorded Haughey who, even in death, managed to extort money from the taxpayers.

Instead of quoting from Yeats, as he did, the Taoiseach might have borrowed from Winston Churchill: “I am prepared to meet my maker. Whether my maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter”.

Haughey was elected Taoiseach three times.

Most politicians would consider elevation to the most powerful and prestigious office in the land to be a signal honour. To him the office was like a cash cow and he milked it for what he thought it was worth. He merely considered it an opportunity to print money.

And he printed millions of it — the equivalent of €45 million in today’s terms, as the Moriarty report pointed out. No wonder Haughey wanted to retain the power of the office — it was his lever for untold riches.

The man was far removed from the real world and he proved it when he had the temerity to tell the rest of us on television in 1980 that we were living beyond our means.

But Haughey couldn’t have done it without the help of others, and there were plenty to ingratiate themselves with him once they knew he was available for ingratiation. Even though Bertie Ahern got only a slight tap on the wrist from Moriarty, he had helped Haughey to enjoy a lifestyle he wasn’t entitled to by signing — without question — blank cheques on the Fianna Fáil leader’s account. Haughey then proceeded to abuse that account, set up with taxpayers’ money, by spending almost €16,000 on Charvet shirts and more than €15,000 on lavish meals in the Le Coq Hardi restaurant.

The Moriarty report found that Bertie Ahern “undoubtedly facilitated the misuse” of taxpayers’ funds by Haughey, although it was “satisfied” he had no reason to believe the account operated otherwise than in an orthodox fashion.

Other individuals are peeved because they figured in the tribunal. They know whether or not they received favours for cash, but either way it was wrong to give money to any public office-holder — never mind a Taoiseach.

It was wrong, just as it was wrong of Bertie Ahern to take a substantial amount of money from wealthy friends when he was Minister for Finance.

For almost 20 years, Charlie Haughey went through about £9.1 million, yet the family described the tribunal’s findings as “perverse”.

In a statement they said the allegations of political corruption and misuse of office were “unfounded”.

Now it’s understandable they would try to defend the family name, but defending Charles Haughey — the Jesse James of Irish politics — is an impossibility.

Where did they imagine all the Charvet shirts came from, not to mind the mansion they lived in at Kinsealy, the island they visited off the Kerry coast, the yacht they sailed in and the horses he and they rode?

The tribunal found he took £9.1 million in cash for favours and from public funds between 1979 and 1996 — or 171 times his gross salary of £53,000 for 1988.

In an eight-page submission which the family made public, they concluded he was entitled to a positive finding that no favours were done in return for the money received by him during the period 1979 to 1996.

THAT pillar of society and financial rectitude, the AIB, was outraged when the now defunct Evening Press carried a piece in 1983 saying Haughey owed them £1 million the previous year.

While the figure might have been slightly awry, there is no doubt the story was substantially correct.

Charles Haughey never doubted there was a Santa living, as he did, in an unreal world far removed from the rest of us.

Unlike the little girl whose implicit trust in a newspaper reinforced her belief.

There the late Taoiseach would have differed trenchantly with her.

On September 21, 1897, the New York Sun published an editorial headed ‘Is There a Santa Claus?’

Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the editor and asked if the famous old man really existed, for her father had told her that if she read it in a newspaper, it must be so.

Leader writer Francis Pharcellus Church was given the job of answering Virginia. After dismissing scepticism, he wrote: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.

“Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We would have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve for Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus.

“The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody, can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

“You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty — and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

“No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood”, Church concluded.

A happy and peaceful Christmas to everyone. (Irish Examiner editorial Dec 21 2006)