Academics in Gonville & Gaius College, Cambridge, have uncovered evidence in the personal papers of former MI5 Director General Martin Furnival Jones that former Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey was an agent of the British security service.
Professor John Rilfololap of the school of contemporary history believes that Haughey had been recruited when he was a young backbencher in the early 1960s. Furnival Jones, as a young MI5 attache to the Dublin embassy, quickly identified the then Dublin North East TD (and son-in-law of then Taoiseach Sean Lemass) as a rising star but also someone open to inducements. A steady series of cash payments followed by the setting up of an account in Switzerland sealed Haughey’s recruitment, and goes some way to explain his unusually conspicuous wealth in the 1960s.
Furnival Jones’s own star in MI5 was seen to rise rapidly as Haughey became justice minister, managing to secure his own reputation as a solid nationalist by blocking extradition (Haughey told his handler that it wasn’t going to happen anyway) whilst introducing hardline courts against the IRA, which the British really wanted.
Ironically, it was only after he’d left justice and later become finance minister that Irish security services became suspicious of Haughey, eventually tracking him to a meet with his MI5 handler. With evidence, senior Gardai approached a shocked Jack Lynch, who had faced down Haughey for the leadership of Fianna Fail and Taoiseach after Lemass. Lynch, who believed that the existence of a British agent in the upper ranks of Fianna Fail would destroy the party, proceeded to devise a scheme where Haughey would be framed for importing weapons. The whole affair became known as the Arms Trial, and resulted in Haughey’s removal from cabinet.
Papers reveal that Haughey convinced MI5 that this was a manageable setback. The British security service, reeling from the rumours that Furnival Jones’s predecessor, Sir Roger Hollis, had actually been a Soviet spy, decided to play the long game with Haughey if only because the service was so bereft of victories.
Furnival Jones retired in 1972. It’s not known if Haughey continued to work for MI5 when he returned to power in 1979. But historians have noted that most of Haughey’s anti-British grandstanding, which built him so much support with the hardline wing of Fianna Fail, was on issues like the Falklands War over which Ireland had little influence. On the issues that he could influence, such as extradition and the Anglo-Irish Agreement, both of which Haughey opposed in opposition, he u-turned and implemented a pro-British line when he returned to power a second time in 1987.