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'Best, clearest, latest state-of-the-art binoculars in the world' for Haughey during Japan visit

Naturally, as Taoiseach, Haughey was given two free pairs.

shutterstock_1411727741 Nikon Binoculars Source: Shutterstock/Ingrid Emilie S Hansen

WHEN TAOISEACH CHARLES Haughey wanted “the best, clearest, latest state-of-the-art binoculars in the world” he wrote personally to the head of Nikon in 1989. 

Ahead of his official visit to Japan in March that year, Haughey said his search for a decent pair of binoculars for his sailing hobby “naturally” led his officials to contact the company.

Nikon products, after all, “are par-excellence,” Haughey told Nikon President Shigetada Fukuoka in a personal letter. 

Naturally, too, as head of State Haughey was given two free pairs of the best binoculars in the world during his trip.

The curious letter to Fukuoka – released by the Department of the Taoiseach under the 30-year State Papers rule – shows Haughey balancing diplomacy while attempting to drum up business in Ireland. 

Haughey planned to visit Japan in 1988 but this was postponed due to the illness of Emperor Hirohito who died the following January. 

Haughey made his trip the following year, partly as a courtesy State visit, partly in an attempt to improve trade relations between Ireland and Japan. 

Capture Source: Cónal Thomas

Writing to the Nikon President, Haughey thanked Fukuoka for the visit to the Nikon factory where staff showed the Taoiseach the latest binoculars and gave him “the benefit of their advice”.

“Having tested several samples I decided I should wish to have both the 8×40 DCF and 7×50 IF HP [binocular] models,” said Haughey. 

Nikon’s “Mr Satoh” then explained to Haughey, however, that “Nikon wished to make a presentation of these items” for which Haughey said he was “deeply grateful”, adding they would “constitute wonderful souvenirs” of his Japan visit. 

Before his official visit, Haughey – who was a keen sailor and fisherman and whose beloved yacht Celtic Mist was put up for sale following his death in 2006 – was briefed by Department officials on Japanese companies operating in Ireland at the time. 

These included technology manufacturer Fujitsu and pharmaceutical firm Yamanouchi. 

“Please be assured that I shall be an enthusiastic advocate of your products in Europe,” wrote Haughey, concluding his search for a pair of binoculars. 

“I should be very glad to meet you next time you come to Europe when you must visit Ireland. 

“Indeed,” Haughey concluded, “you may wish to consider the advantages that Ireland offers by consulting our Industrial Development Authority Office in Tokyo.”

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