Sometime in the late 1980s, a sailor in the Irish Naval Service listened in astonishment to a news report in which the Dept of Defence officially denied that Irish naval ships were sent to ‘guard’ Charlie Haughey while he entertained on his private Island, Inishvickillane.
The Irish Navy carries out two and three week patrols around the Irish coast. Before departing on patrol, a ship will be given a Sailing Order outlining areas to be patrolled and specific missions to be achieved.
This is a broad instruction and is open to change depending on changing circumstances. These circumstances could include proceeding to a vessel in distress, reports of illegal fishing or even investigating illegal arms or drug smuggling. These missions were all part of life for a serviceman at sea and were accepted as part of the job. However, there was one mission that always caused deep resentment within the ranks of naval servicemen – being used by Haughey as a private resource for services and entertainment.
Having a State vessel at his private disposal was, no doubt, a great boost to Haughey’s ego. Friends and guests would be brought on board for a tour and entertained with food and drink at the States expense. Other services were also provided. For example, naval divers would install and maintain moorings at the island.
These ‘secret missions’ to entertain Haughey invariably occurred on long holiday weekends. They never formed part of the sailing order. A radio signal from Naval HQ, usually received a day or two before a patrol was due to end, would instruct the vessel to proceed to Inishvickillane.
Last minute instructions like these were necessary for secrecy and to prevent servicemen, who should have been relaxing at home with their families after a grueling three weeks patrol in the Atlantic, from venting their anger.
Obviously, at this time in the late 80s a serviceman or family member had had enough and complained to a media source – hence the official denial from the Dept of Defence Press Office.
How do I know all this in such detail? I was that sailor listening in astonishment to the official denial.