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GUBU

Dan Damon Dan Damon | 12:00 UK time, Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Expect whole libraries of books about the life and especially the scandals of Charles Haughey, the former prime minister, or Taoiseach, of Ireland - now deceased.

From gun running to cocaine, through corruption, murder and marital infidelity, it will be very hard to separate the truth from the frenzy of speculation now that the libel law no longer applies (you can't libel someone who can't sue you).

Even our interviewee this morning, biographer Bruce Arnold, spent most of the short time he had, just minutes after the news of Mr. Haughey's death was announced, discussing the controversial rather than complimentary aspects of his history.

Permit me a little time to tell you just one story which illustrates why that is.

The title of this post comes from one of the easiest incidents to explain - and it still stretches credibility.

In 1982, a double murderer was arrested inside the house of the Republic's senior law officer, the Attorney General.

The murderer was an eccentric Dublin character named Malcolm MacArthur, who decided to take up a life of crime once he had spent all his modest inheritance.

He needed a gun to carry out successful robberies, he decided. A farmer outside the city advertised a shotgun for sale, so MacArthur set out to steal a car to get to the farm.

He bludgeoned a nurse, who had been sunbathing in the park, and drove off with her dying in the back seat.

An ambulance crew spotted the unfolding drama, and mistaking the murderer for a doctor (because of the hospital sticker in the nurse's car window) escorted them to the emergency room.

The murderer escaped, and abandoned the car.

Then, once he had managed to get to the farm by other means, apparently he murdered the farmer with his own gun, stole his car and drove back to the city.

MacArthur went back to what passed for normal life for him, while Ireland trembled at the story of two apparently motiveless murders.

A few days later, the murderer went to a sporting event with his friend the Attorney General, and listened to the law officer and the head of the Republic's police force, the Garda Siochana, discussing the murders.

Eventually, MacArthur was taken into custody at the Attorney General's house. The Attorney General went on holiday...

The fact that MacArthur was never charged with the murder of the farmer was just one reason the Haughey government at the time found it hard to distance itself from rumours about the case.

Later those rumours concerned a cover up of a paedophile ring involving those connected with the government.

Prime Minister Haughey called the affair "grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented".

Hence GUBU: which became a handy phrase in Ireland to cover any bizarre or embarrassing political story.

Expect a lot more GUBU now.

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