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'Dear Charlie': State Papers reveal 'warm congratulations' sent after Haughey regained power in 1989

While Iran sent flowers, Pakistan praised Haughey’s “outstanding qualities of wisdom and leadership” after the general election.

Image: Tim Brakemeier DPA/PA Images

WHEN FIANNA FÁIL and Charles Haughey retained power following the 1989 general election, the Taoiseach received correspondences from both sides of the crumbling Iron Curtain, the US and Asia to congratulate him on his victory.

This correspondence has been revealed in the annual State Papers released to the National Archives under the 30-year rule. 

Haughey had called a general election in May 1989, after his minority government lost a Dáil vote on funding for Aids sufferers. While not required to call an election, Fianna Fáil were doing well in opinion polls so Haughey moved to an early election. 

Fianna Fáil actually lost four seats in the June election, with Fine Gael and Labour making small gains. It led to the party entering into a coalition with Desmond O’Malley and the Progressive Democrats. 

Haughey was then elected Taoiseach on 12 July.

On the same day, he received this letter from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher:

“Dear Charlie, I send you my warm congratulations on your re-election as Taoiseach, and look forward to continuing to work with you on the many issues in which we share a very close interest, both bilaterally and in the European Community. My colleagues similarly look forward to working with your new team. Warm regards, Yours ever, Margaret.”

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Haughey also received “warmest congratulations” from US President Ronald Reagan.

Reagan said: “The unique and exceptionally close relationship between our two countries is one of the unchanging foundations of United States foreign policy.

I look forward to working with you in the days ahead to maintain and broaden this grand tradition of Irish-American friendship and cooperation.

The Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke told Haughey he was “delighted” to hear of his re-election.

“I am sure that you are as pleased as I am at the achievements of the Australia-Ireland Economic Committee at their recent meeting,” he said. “I look forward to a renewed impetus in relations between our two countries.” 

Haughey also received warm wishes from East and West Germany.

Erich Honecker – general secretary of Socialist Unity Party of Germany – told the Taoiseach he was confident that “further development” of relations between Ireland and East Germany would be “mutually advantageous” for the two nations.

West Germany’s Chancellor Helmut Kohl, meanwhile, told Haughey he trusted in the “continuation of the good cooperation with you and your government in the approved partnership within the European community”. 

The USSR’s council of ministers also wished Haughey well, and said that Soviet-Irish cooperation had “acquired a new impetus as a result of the summit at Shannon in April of this year”. The council said it hoped that would now develop further. 

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The summit mentioned was the first ever Irish-Soviet summit that saw President Mikhail Gorbachev attend a series of talks in Ireland. 

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Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told the Taoiseach that the “renewed confidence thus reposed in you by the people of Ireland is a reflection of your outstanding qualities of wisdom and leadership”. 

She added: “Pakistan and Ireland have traditionally enjoyed close and friendly relations which, I am sure, will be further strengthened in the years ahead.”

Further congratulations came from the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Turkey, Zambia, Japan, Nigeria and Mexico.

As well as well wishes from Iran, Haughey was also sent flowers by their ambassador.

This would prove to be Haughey’s final term as Taoiseach.

After a series of controversies, which included the phone-tapping scandal, Progressive Democrat leader Des O’Malley said he could longer support a Haughey government. He formally stepped down as leader of Fianna Fáil on 30 January 1992 and as Taoiseach on 11 February. 

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Sean Murray

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