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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 4°C
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SPOILER ALERT: This is the infamous TV appearance that led to Charlie Haughey's downfall

If you’re not entirely familiar with the manner of Haughey’s real-life political downfall, perhaps don’t watch this just yet.

IF NOTHING ELSE, the Aidan Gillen-fronted drama about Charlie Haughey that’s been playing out on our screens for the last two weekends certainly has the nation talking.

Relatives of certain politicians portrayed in the show have been taking issue with how their family members were portrayed by the writers — while at least one well-known commentator remarked that Haughey himself was often even more irascible in-real life than in Gillen’s portrayal.

Quite a few viewers, obviously, didn’t have the pleasure of living through the events covered in the drama —- as evidenced by this surprising poll finding during the week that 23 per cent of 18- to 24-year-olds would like to see ‘a character like’ Haughey in power today.

So… If you happen to have only a hazy memory of how it all came apart for the former Fianna Fáil leader, perhaps don’t read any further.

If you’re still with us, however — this is the infamous appearance by former justice minister Sean Doherty that led, finally, to Haughey’s undoing back in 1992…

RTÉ - Ireland's National Television and Radio Broadcaster / YouTube

To give some context… Viewers of the drama will have noted how Doherty was given the boot by Haughey in 1982 over phone tapping revelations.

Charlie — as ever, the great survivor — denied all knowledge of what had been going on, and went on to lead Fianna Fáil in opposition until it returned to power, with him as Taoiseach, in 1987.

The scandal just wouldn’t go away, however. And Haughey could no longer survive, after Doherty — in the wilderness for over a decade — made the above appearance on Shay Healy’s Nighthawks show, telling the presenter “I do feel let down by the fact that people knew what I was doing”.

Doherty later said that transcripts of secret recordings were “handed to him [Haughey] directly”.

Haughey insisted that the claims were “absolutely false”. But with the Progressive Democrats threatening to pull out of coalition, Haughey fell on his sword, resigning as Taoiseach and, after 13 years, stepping down as leader of his party.

haugh RTÉ “I have done the State some service, they know it, no more of that.” – Charlie Haughey quoting Othello upon resigning in 1992. RTÉ

For his part, Shay Healy has admitted he had no idea he’d been handed a scoop by the former justice minister.

“When the show was over and we were standing at the bar having a drink, Doherty leaned into my ear and said ‘In case you didn’t notice, I said something tonight that I’ve never said before’,” the broadcaster wrote in his ‘On the Road‘ memoir.

Healy’s been airing a few more recollections about the time on social media in recent days…

“Years later I was at a reception in a restaurant in Malahide and I spotted Charlie on the far side of the room,” he wrote on Facebook. 

“I’d never met him and for a moment I flirted with the notion that I’d go over and say hello.

“I let discretion be the better part of valour and abandoned the idea.

I could just imagine him swiveling those hooded eyes on me and hear that rasping voice saying “ fool.. you have unhorsed me.”

SHAY HEALY Photocall Ireland Shay Healy Photocall Ireland

Includes reporting from Hugh O’Connell.

Read: Fianna Fáil TD thinks Charlie is ‘dreadfully unfair’

Read: Mary O’Rourke was ‘a bit troubled’ by Charlie’s depiction of Brian Lenihan

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