Even those who supported and bankrolled the corrupt Haughey knew that he was a gangster who couldn’t be trusted as we see from this extract of the Moriarty Tribunal report.
Clearly, Michael Smurfit knew that handing over a very valuable painting to a man of Haughey’s flawed pedigree was akin to asking a pickpocket to mind his wallet.
7-178 Dr. Smurfit also informed the Tribunal that in 1990, the Smurfit Group made a personal gift to Mr. Haughey of a painting by Jack B Yeats entitled ‘‘The Forge’’, in recognition of Mr. Haughey’s assuming office at the Council of Ministers on Ireland’s assumption of the residency of the European Union. At that time, the Smurfit Group made a presentation to Mr. Haughey of a painting by Sir John Lavery of the raising of the flag at Aras an Uachtara´ n. This latter presentation was a gift to the Irish Nation by the Smurfit Group and the Tribunal understands that it is currently hanging in the State Collection.
7-179 Dr. Smurfit recalled that on the day that he had an appointment with Mr. Haughey at Government Buildings to present the Lavery painting to him, on behalf of the State, he decided on the spur of the moment to make a personal gift in the form of the Yeats painting. The presentation was made during business hours in Government Buildings, and only Dr. Smurfit and Mr. Haughey were present. Dr. Smurfit recalled that he had made the presentation to Mr. Haughey personally, subject to the caveat that he did not expect ‘‘the painting to be sold the following day’’.
As I recall, Smurfit, who had hoped that the painting would be retained as a family heirloom, was shocked to learn that soon after receiving it Haughey did in fact sell it on for a knockdown price.