‘Vindicating The Collective Irish Unconscious’


90365922Charles Haughey at Abbeville, Kinsealy, Co Dublin in September 1995



Did not some great French sage say: “Le style – c’est l’homme”? And although Mr Haughey’s politics were not always admirable, there was something human and even shrewd about my mother’s instinctive attraction to the “Duce”, to reference to PJ Mara’s renowned allusion. Above all, there was something that spoke to the historical collective memory of the Irish people.

And it’s something ancestral which, strangely enough, Charles J Haughey shared with – of all people – Mary Robinson. When Charlie acquired Kinsealy, drank Montrachet, and sat on his hunter, he was vindicating the collective Irish unconscious in a parallel version of “the risen people”. This was not “the risen people” of wild rebellion, but the “risen people” who were now as good as their lords and masters had once been – who could be as grand, as stylish, as upper-class as any belted earl who had gained land and estates from selling out at the Act of Union, or who had exchanged an ancient chieftain’s role for an endowment by a Tudor monarch.

Charlie was proof that the “risen people” had arrived. And so, in a different way, was Mary Robinson – the very embodiment of the “Catholic gentry” who showed the world that we were no longer the wild Irish so unfavourably portrayed by cartoons in ‘Punch’ and the hostile London ‘Times’.

My mother’s generation – born before World War I – has now passed away and the folk memory which propelled their hunger for style, confidence and even upper-class taste in leaders has perhaps faded. She had been born into a Galway family where old people could remember the Famine, not only the lesser famines of the 1870s and 1880s, but the Great Famine of the 1840s, too. Eamon de Valera represented austerity and sacrifice, but Charlie brought panache, elan and glamour. And, for the vicarious pleasure he gave in that regard, I do not retrospectively begrudge him the Mercedes cars, the Charvet shirts or the wine cellar stuffed with Chateau Margaux.


He loved a Merc and a Margaux – which made Charlie my mother’s darling (Mary Kenny, Independent.ie)

(Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland)

34 thoughts on “‘Vindicating The Collective Irish Unconscious’

    1. Tannoy

      I trust she’s referring to the crop failures, rather than famines, of the 1860s (not 1870s) and 1880s. /end(pedantry)

  1. curmudgeon

    Ah Mary Kenny. I love her articles and her prose, hate her politics not as much as she hates anyone in the service/retail industry that doesn’t know their place and kowtow to her every whim though.

  2. Odis

    He helped put Ireland on the map – by impersonating the British ruling classes? And as such is a model all politicians should aspire to.
    Hmm – righto.

  3. EhudRabat

    Kenny is well known for her, let’s say, fondness for the gargle, and unfortunately as such has seen her cognitive abilities disappear into a black hole. She was, believe it or not, once thought to have a bright career ahead of her, but alas, has ended up writing tatty pieces for tatty newspapers. A shame.

  4. Sheikh Yabooti

    Oh dear jesus.
    She reminds me of the sweaty gobshite uncle shouldered up to me at the bar at some Tipp wedding defending Lowry by spluttering ‘he fikshed de rowed’ defences to anyone still sober enough to be wearily patient, or too bladdthered to extract themselves…

  5. mauriac

    As an English minister said he bought all his furniture.Charlie’s (and Marys mothers) intrinsic sense of inferiority led to a worship of baubles.Garret and Dev would be more obvious examples of Irish self confidence…

  6. Nigel

    There’s nothing wrong with the quoted piece, until the very end anyway. Forgiving transgressions because he allowed the plebs to live vicariously is the snobbish fondness of someone only a few rungs lower on the social ladder than he was. That stylish, lordly respectability was the scab on a suppurating pus-filled body of corruption and bitter begrudgery is the very least we owe him.

    1. Joe the Lion

      LOL. I can. She makes half a fair point which I guess is why it appears unpalatable to many.
      We’ve seen the same type of ritualistic fawning with the likes of the Obamas, Liz Windsor, Clintons, various Archbishops, Garth Brooks’s , Popes, and even I would suggest Yeltsin when they deign(ed) us with their presence. We’re so just a small town in Britain.

  7. cluster

    What I hate about these sorts of posts is that I end up giving the offending ‘journalist’ (Waters, Kenny, David Quinn et al.) a click-through and probably so does every other Broadsheet reader.

    It really is time for the older generations to be swept aside.

      1. Spartacus

        No, cluster is right. Let’s get rid of all older people. Picking a random threshold figure out of my rectum, I’ll go for 22. Everyone over the age of 22 to be burnt at the stake.

        Who’s with me?

        1. Artemis

          Ah he’s probably just having a bit of a mid-life crisis.
          Probably heading towards 40 and can’t quite accept it.

          My grandfather had no time for the church all his life.. we’re talking the 20s here, where the local Canon would call door to door to people who didn’t have a bean, looking for their ‘dues’, and he’d promptly tell him to fupp off out of it.
          So yeah, not all old people.

    1. Artemis

      reenter the majesty huh? hmmmm.
      Have you ever considered writing erotic novels ABM?

      I reckon if you applied yourself properly you could probably write some decent stuff..

  8. donnchup

    Aping in every aspect the habits of the recently-departed masters is not the hallmark of a risen people. It is the actions of a colonized people.

  9. John E. Bravo

    Sorry to see the toilet duck expunged from the record, Clampers. A vivid image which I will recall the next time I see a pubic groomers offering a deal on a bleached bikini line.

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