Haughey and Hillery – political clichés

Few things are as entrenched as political lineage within families. There is the impression that political dynasties have existed for generations. Traditionally families have been either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.  This post will explore two of the cases that will challenge that cliché.

The first case is that of John Haughey (24SP9208) probably best known as  the father of Charles J. Haughey Fianna Fáil T. D., Minister, Party Leader and Taoiseach on three separate occasions. John Haughey was also the grandfather of Sean Haughey, Fianna Fáil T. D. John Haughey opted to fight on the Pro-Treaty side during the Civil War. Given that his son would come to represent the party associated with de Valera and the Anti-Treaty side this maybe somewhat surprising. Given what was to come; what is more surprising is Haughey’s file contains a supporting reference from Eoin O’Duffy (24E10) (O’Duffy was leader of the Army Comrades Association (Blueshirts) and first President of Fine Gael). Essentially the father of Ireland’s most noted Fianna Fáil politician received a supporting reference from one of Fine Gael’s most controversial leaders.

Reference for John Haughey from Eoin O’Duffy – leader of the ‘Blueshirts’ (Army Comrades Association) and 1st President of Fine Gael following merger of the ‘Blueshirts and Cumann na nGaedheal in 1933

John Haughey joined the National Army in [August] 1922 and served throughout the remainder of the Civil War. He served in counties Donegal, Mayo and Sligo as well as at Athlone, Limerick, Dublin and the Curragh, County Kildare. He retired to the Defence Forces reserve at the rank of Commandant on 21 April 1928.  Prior to joining the National Forces Haughey  had during the War of Independence and Truce Period served as a Company Officer Commanding, a Vice Battalion Officer Commanding, Battalion Officer Commanding and Vice Brigade Officer Commanding with the IRA.

According to Haughey, and those who supported his application, in 1919 and 1920 he took part in a number of Irish Volunteer and IRA arms raids on homes of members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and [retired] British Army officers. He was also involved in organisational and training work. He states that he was on the run and his family home was constantly raided by British forces. He claims that as a result his father and sister were forced to emigrate to the United States of America. 

During 1920 and 1921 he was involved in the disruption and destruction of communications links in his area. He took part in an IRA ambush at Swatragh in [June 1921] in which he states two members of the RIC were killed and one was wounded and another ambush at an unnamed location the outcome of which does not appear on file. He also claims to have been in receipt of information from named members of the RIC. It is also stated that he took part in “Divisional reprisals” at Doon, County Tyrone in which “…a creamery, dwelling houses, shops…mills were destroyed.”

Extracts from reference regarding John Haughey’s IRA service from Garda Sergeant Patrick J. Diamond

In 1941 Haughey made an application for a disability pension claiming that as a result of service in the IRA and National Forces he suffered a breakdown in health. He was diagnosed as having disseminated sclerosis (multiple sclerosis). After his application was initially rejected he was awarded disability pension of £100 per year in December 1942. Perhaps the understanding of the disease was not as well understood as it is today. It was deemed that his condition “was excited by service in the National Army” It is clear from material in the file that Haughey suffered hugely as a result of the disease. He had difficulty walking, writing and became bedridden before his death in 1947 at the age of 48.

Reference for John Haughey from Commandant A. Fitzpatrick regarding the conditions endured by Commandant John Haughey and the National Army during 1923. 

Mention should also be made to Sarah Haughey’s (34E4944) successful application for a service pension. She was awarded 1 and 7/9 years’ service for pension purposes in 1941 for her service with Cumann na mBan in the periods between 1 April 1920 and 31 March 1923. To date, her application file has not been located. We do know that she was awarded 1/18 for the period 1 July 1922 until 31 March 1923 (Civil War) but exact details of her activities in the revolutionary period are unknown.  It goes without saying that neither application (Sarah or John) give any indication as to political influences they may have had on any of their seven children.

The second example is that of Michael Joseph Hillery (24SP2131) probably best known as the father of Patrick J. Hillery: Fianna Fáil minister (1959-1972); European Commissioner (1973-1976) and the sixth President of Ireland (1976-1990).  His father however opted to join the Pro -Treaty National Forces and served as Divisional Medical Officer 1 Western Division.  Hillery joined the National Army on its foundation in early 1922 and served until his resignation on 1 September 1922. He had previously served in both the Irish Volunteers and the IRA as Brigade Medical Officer during the War of Independence. According to Hillery and other supporting references, during War of Independence he gave instruction in first aid, gave medical attention to wounded and injured IRA members and also attended a number of IRA attacks/operations in his capacity as Medical Officer. Hillery states that he attended the Inagh and Dromin ambushes while references note that he also attended attacks at Rineen, Monreal and Ennistymon.

Reference for Michael Joseph Hillery from Defence Forces Commandant Ignatius O’Neill

Following his return to civilian life he was employed as a medical officer with Clare County Board of Health from the 1920s and as Coroner for West; medical officer to An Garda Síochána and as a Certifying Surgeon with the Department of Industry and Commerce in the 1940s and 1950s. Hillery died on 16 October 1957.

Endorsement of award of Certificate of Military Service and Pension to Michael Joseph Hillery signed by Cumann na nGaedheal Minister for Defence Peter Hughes T. D.

It is fair to assume that Patrick J. Hillery and Charles J Haughey are synonymous with the Fianna Fáil party and were prominent figures in the latter part of 20th century Irish politics.  This post demonstrates, although not exclusively,  that political lines are not drawn so firmly in the sand.

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