June 17, 2006

Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?

I'm looking out on blue skies (very unusual for Dublin), the morning after they finally put Charles Haughey in the ground. It reminds me of a scene from a story, the day after the storm when the world seems new again. I'm a child of the seventies, a time when Charles J. was in his pomp. Instinctively, I didn't like him, was afraid of him even.

There was something rather terrifying about Haughey. Despite the efforts of various political rivals and enemies, nobody seemed able to drive a stake through the heart of this awful figure, who ruled our world as surely as the witch or the big, bad wolf rules in children's stories.

Recent pictures in the papers show him much smaller than I remember him. This is a man who brought his own brand to Irish politics, and even his own tagline, what came to be known in our country as GUBU - Grotesque, Unbelievable, Bizarre & Unprecedented. From a distance, he seems a two-bit dictator of a tin-pot republic - it's easy in these celtic tiger days to forget the bleak wasteland which he ruled - but he was very real indeed and threw a dark shadow over the island.

People argue over his legacy - some say he led us to a promised land or at least took us on the first few faltering steps - but I believe he stands for something very wrong at the heart of Irish society, something that continues to stalk our relative successes. Our current first politician stood at the tyrant's grave yesterday and delivered an oration. It was like a scene from The Soprano's. This is still a place where grasping, greedy men determine too much of what happens next.

It's difficult not to greet news of the departure of one such man with a sigh of relief. Ding, dong, the wicked witch is dead...

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