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Fianna Fail Leadership Election 1979: What if Colley Had Won?


sheamuseen

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Everybody knows the result of the Fianna Fail Leadership Election in 1979 (Haughey won) when he defeated George Colley by a handful of votes. But what if those deputies who changed their minds at the eleventh hour and backed Haughey had supported Colley and he had prevailed, would we have a different Ireland today - different as in better?

George Colley is now largely forgotten but he was somebody from the old school who saw political office as being public service (real service to the state) and in that regard was the antithesis of Haughey, who as we know to our cost had a different vision. Be aware that Colley died in 1983 but it is likely that even a short leadership would have had profound influence on the party and of course would have - in all liklehood - spelt the end of Haughey ambition to lead Fianna Fail.

So would Fianna Fail + Ireland have been better with Colley?
 

TradCat

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It could hardly have been worse. But in the tough times that were in it I would guess that a pro-Haughey coup would have done for George in the early 80's.
 

Tomas Mor

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I think it would be a better Ireland. Dont know if Haughey would have ousted him if Colley had lost 81 or 82 election. Colley was the decent traditional wing of FF and early on spoke of low standards in high places when it was not fashionable to do so. He must have died of a broken heart so early in life.
 

Pauli

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Everybody knows the result of the Fianna Fail Leadership Election in 1979 (Haughey won) when he defeated George Colley by a handful of votes. But what if those deputies who changed their minds at the eleventh hour and backed Haughey had supported Colley and he had prevailed, would we have a different Ireland today - different as in better?

George Colley is now largely forgotten but he was somebody from the old school who saw political office as being public service (real service to the state) and in that regard was the antithesis of Haughey, who as we know to our cost had a different vision. Be aware that Colley died in 1983 but it is likely that even a short leadership would have had profound influence on the party and of course would have - in all liklehood - spelt the end of Haughey ambition to lead Fianna Fail.

So would Fianna Fail + Ireland have been better with Colley?
Well, it could hardly have been worse. The Cabinet had, in the main, supported Colley and the backwoodsmen backed Haughey. As a result, Haughey had to promote some of the worst people ever elected to Dail Eireann but, then again, he dominated them. A fraudulent budget was followed by his 1982 GUBU regime which, at the time, set a new low for political behaviour. Corruption became an instrument of governance and illegal and questionable acts became the norm. A certain B. Ahern was a fresh TD, elected in 1977, at the time and he learnt well at the feet of the master. It inculcated a debasement of politics from which we still suffer very badly. I am not saying that FF would have remained a party that could continue to command a certain respect in the country had Colley won but Haughey's win drove the party into the sewer where, to this day, it is still mired.
 

the_rebubblican

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Interesting question. We would have been spared a lot of the jackass politicians gaining prominence i.e. Burke, Flynn, O'Dea etc. Ahern would still have risen due to his "deviousness". There was I think a certain lineage to what the party stood for in the early days of the Republic in the Colley wing. The clear difference between Haughey and Colley was that the former knew that wealth was what he wanted and that office was a menas to this as well as a means to massaging his ego, Haughey didn't care for party history, Colley did. Haughey should have been lanced after the arms crisis. Lynch was weak thereafter and his ultimate error was the77 election. It was the seed for the property bubble. Haughey was the pirate in the ship of state. If Colley had won he would have had to deal with Haughey and that would have created a schism between the old school and the upstart. At least the old school values would have stood a chance of surviving. Under Haughey they were wiped out. Ultimately Spring was right, Haughey was a cancer in Public life, now it seems the party is too as has been proven in the banking crisis/property bubble.
 

SideysGhost

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It's not quite that simple though. Haughey wasn't some sole personification of evil, he was in effect just the figurehead for the TACA gang. And TACA had by 1979 deeply infiltrated the senior levels of the civil service as well as FF. Their malign influence on the direction of the State can be seen in legislation going as far back as the early 60s - like the 1963 Planning Act for a prime example - when Haughey was just a pup, albeit a rapidly-rising one.

Essentially a decision was made back then that high land and property values were the road to prosperity, and almost every economic decision made by most Governments since the 60s has first been filtered through mantra of "High Prices Good".

So the roots of the malaise go far further and deeper than just Haughey...
 

SlabMurphy

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Well, it could hardly have been worse. The Cabinet had, in the main, supported Colley and the backwoodsmen backed Haughey. As a result, Haughey had to promote some of the worst people ever elected to Dail Eireann but, then again, he dominated them. A fraudulent budget was followed by his 1982 GUBU regime which, at the time, set a new low for political behaviour. Corruption became an instrument of governance and illegal and questionable acts became the norm. A certain B. Ahern was a fresh TD, elected in 1977, at the time and he learnt well at the feet of the master. It inculcated a debasement of politics from which we still suffer very badly. I am not saying that FF would have remained a party that could continue to command a certain respect in the country had Colley won but Haughey's win drove the party into the sewer where, to this day, it is still mired.
Interesting and needy thread. I've always reckoned that FF due to the uniquely Irish trait if admiring ' the cute whoor ' were corrupt, though it has to be said Haughey brought it to an entirely different level. Like someone said, corruption became the norm in doing things in business and politics from Haughey on.

I haven't any doubt that " the backwoodsmen backed Haughey. As a result, Haughey had to promote some of the worst people ever elected to Dail Eireann ". As far as I remember some of the worst lackeys and criminals in the country supported him, Doherty, Flynn, McSharry, Lenihan etc and of course Ahern was a junior member of the gang but learning his trade from the head scumbag.

Pauli or anyone else, do you have any good links or references to the FF leadership election that got Haughey in ?
 

SlabMurphy

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It's not quite that simple though. Haughey wasn't some sole personification of evil, he was in effect just the figurehead for the TACA gang. And TACA had by 1979 deeply infiltrated the senior levels of the civil service as well as FF. Their malign influence on the direction of the State can be seen in legislation going as far back as the early 60s - like the 1963 Planning Act for a prime example - when Haughey was just a pup, albeit a rapidly-rising one.

Essentially a decision was made back then that high land and property values were the road to prosperity, and almost every economic decision made by most Governments since the 60s has first been filtered through mantra of "High Prices Good".

So the roots of the malaise go far further and deeper than just Haughey...
The TACA gang, that was a 'fund raising' organization in FF headed by Haughey ?
 

Pauli

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Interesting and needy thread. I've always reckoned that FF due to the uniquely Irish trait if admiring ' the cute whoor ' were corrupt, though it has to be said Haughey brought it to an entirely different level. Like someone said, corruption became the norm in doing things in business and politics from Haughey on.

I haven't any doubt that " the backwoodsmen backed Haughey. As a result, Haughey had to promote some of the worst people ever elected to Dail Eireann ". As far as I remember some of the worst lackeys and criminals in the country supported him, Doherty, Flynn, McSharry, Lenihan etc and of course Ahern was a junior member of the gang but learning his trade from the head scumbag.

Pauli or anyone else, do you have any good links or references to the FF leadership election that got Haughey in ?
I have never come across a definitive account of the unseating of Lynch and the subsequent election of Haughey in December 1979. However, if you want the definitive account of the dire GUBU regime Haughey headed up in 1982, "The Boss" by Joe Joyce and Peter Murtagh is unsurpassable. The story of "the trees" in the Dublin West bye-election is priceless.
 

Tomas Mor

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Interesting and needy thread. I've always reckoned that FF due to the uniquely Irish trait if admiring ' the cute whoor ' were corrupt, though it has to be said Haughey brought it to an entirely different level. Like someone said, corruption became the norm in doing things in business and politics from Haughey on.

I haven't any doubt that " the backwoodsmen backed Haughey. As a result, Haughey had to promote some of the worst people ever elected to Dail Eireann ". As far as I remember some of the worst lackeys and criminals in the country supported him, Doherty, Flynn, McSharry, Lenihan etc and of course Ahern was a junior member of the gang but learning his trade from the head scumbag.

Pauli or anyone else, do you have any good links or references to the FF leadership election that got Haughey in ?

I dont think Lenihan backed Haughey, only one on front bench that did so was O Kennedy wsho turned at last moment. It was the likes of McSharry, Doherty, Flynn, McEllistrim, Killalea, Bertie and their ilk that stormed the palace. People forget that there was only 6 votes in it, so if 3 had changed ? Calls were made in the middle of night threatening people to vote CJH, and his camp got people with money and influence to pressurise their llocal TD to do the right thing.
 

Pauli

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I dont think Lenihan backed Haughey, only one on front bench that did so was O Kennedy wsho turned at last moment. It was the likes of McSharry, Doherty, Flynn, McEllistrim, Killalea, Bertie and their ilk that stormed the palace. People forget that there was only 6 votes in it, so if 3 had changed ? Calls were made in the middle of night threatening people to vote CJH, and his camp got people with money and influence to pressurise their llocal TD to do the right thing.

Dont froget those intellectual titans, Tom McEllistrim and Jackie Fahey.
 

dmc444

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The only member of the Cabinet to back Haughey was O Kennedy- well it was a secret ballot so we dont know if anyone voted for him.

Tomas Mor is wrong about people being threatened in the 1979 contest- in the others yes TDs were threatened but remember Colley was in the position to do favours-he had the party leadership behind him- Haughey didnt- he had nothing to give them.

Haughey won the leadership by studying Thatchers rise in the 1975 to the tory leadership, Haughey from 1977 made sure every TDs queries were taken care of and he made himself available to all the TDs many of whom were young and new with no loyalty to Colleys political pedigree.

There was a good part in Berties autobiography were he describes a situation were Lynch, Colley etc would walk down the corridors of leinster house and show no time for backbenchers were as Haughey always stopped and chatted.

I know many people are critical of Haughey but he did at least work to gain support unlike Colley who thought he was entitled to it.
 

Odyessus

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The only member of the Cabinet to back Haughey was O Kennedy- well it was a secret ballot so we dont know if anyone voted for him.

Tomas Mor is wrong about people being threatened in the 1979 contest- in the others yes TDs were threatened but remember Colley was in the position to do favours-he had the party leadership behind him- Haughey didnt- he had nothing to give them.

Haughey won the leadership by studying Thatchers rise in the 1975 to the tory leadership, Haughey from 1977 made sure every TDs queries were taken care of and he made himself available to all the TDs many of whom were young and new with no loyalty to Colleys political pedigree.

There was a good part in Berties autobiography were he describes a situation were Lynch, Colley etc would walk down the corridors of leinster house and show no time for backbenchers were as Haughey always stopped and chatted.

I know many people are critical of Haughey but he did at least work to gain support unlike Colley who thought he was entitled to it.
...TDs were threatened...

Threatened with what and by whom?
 

SideysGhost

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The TACA gang, that was a 'fund raising' organization in FF headed by Haughey ?
That was the official line. TACA was in reality quite a bit more - a lot more sinister and involving a lot more people - than just the "have 10 minutes access to a Minister for cash at the golf classic" fundraising operation it is usually portrayed as.
 

hiding behind a poster

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I think Haughey was the sort who, even if he'd lost that vote, would have kept plugging away until he got the job himself. I don't know if Colley's understanding of the economy, plus whether he'd have had sufficient integrity to face the hard decisions rather than dodging and running in 1981 as Haughey did, would have made a lot of difference. The national debt went up by 240% under the 1977-81 government, would it have been better under Colley?
 

dmc444

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I think Haughey was the sort who, even if he'd lost that vote, would have kept plugging away until he got the job himself. I don't know if Colley's understanding of the economy, plus whether he'd have had sufficient integrity to face the hard decisions rather than dodging and running in 1981 as Haughey did, would have made a lot of difference. The national debt went up by 240% under the 1977-81 government, would it have been better under Colley?
I agree i think Haughey wouldnt have accepted defeat nor do i think Colley would have actually included him in his government.

What i disliked about Colley was the entire sense of entitlement that he had, this idea that courting backbenchers and listening to the party were things that were beneath him. I think also Haughey did a much better job taking the fight to Fitzgerald- Haughey was a scrapper and i think thats what was needed against a very popular FG leader.
 

Magror14

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I dont think it is certain that Haughey would have made a comeback. Those were uncertain times. Haughey damaged Fianna Fail. I came from rabid Fianna Fail roots but as the 1980's got going I found it impossible to support that party. I am certain that had Colley been leader I would not have defected. Of course there were others like me (not just the PD's). It wasn't the alleged corruption. More Haughey's hypocritical reliance on the reactionary mucksavage wing of the party. Colley had the pedigree and had the support of the best of the party.
 
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devnull

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Colley was personable and regarded as a man of the highest integrity.
He'd also been successful in mid-level portfolios and had even stood up to Cardinal McQuaid over religious control of the new comprehensive schools.
But he was a poor public speaker and the contrast between the two candidates' tenures in Finance made Colley look terrible.
Haughey was by far the more able minister and there were genuine doubts about Colley's competence to lead the country.

Wikipedia quotes Brian Lenihan Sr. as describing the choice between 'a knave and a fool'.
I don't know if the quote is correct, but it does neatly sum up FF's dilemma - if it had merely been between Good and Evil then a slight majority of the FF parliamentary party would have chosen Good.

Much of the blame for Haughey's disastrous periods as Taoiseach in '79-'82 can be put down to the combination of the economic crisis and the instability of the leader's position. As others have pointed out the instability would have been even worse under Colley.
If he'd still died in 1983 then Colley's tenure as Taoiseach would probably have gone down in history as an unmitigated disaster.
 
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Passionateheart

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Did Colley have a veto under Haughey on certain ministerial appointments? FF would probably have lost the next election in any case, so Haughey would be back and which ministerial post would he have held under Colley as taoiseach?
In the unlikely event that Haughey's career was ended by a Colley victory then, who would ultimately have succeeded him as FF leader/taoiseach?
 

SlabMurphy

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I agree i think Haughey wouldnt have accepted defeat nor do i think Colley would have actually included him in his government.

What i disliked about Colley was the entire sense of entitlement that he had, this idea that courting backbenchers and listening to the party were things that were beneath him. I think also Haughey did a much better job taking the fight to Fitzgerald- Haughey was a scrapper and i think thats what was needed against a very popular FG leader.
Jayus FF supporters :rolleyes: you have to give them credit for having the thickest of necks :rolleyes:

Taking the fight to Fitzgerald was like taking a fight to a dead sheep. And for what great purpose was Haughey " taking the fight to Fitzgerald " - so he could get his hands on power and line his and his crony's pockets :mad:

" A very popular FG leader ". Fitzthatcher was a clown, a west british clown. So the choice was a total crook or a west british clown.
 
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