Charles Haughey

Former prime minister Haughey invited to Iraq by Saddam Hussein's deputy


Charles Haughey

Former Irish prime minister Charles Haughey was invited to Iraq by Saddam Hussein's second-in-command Izzat Ibrahim in January 1980, only six weeks after Haugey became taoiseach, reports the Irish Times.

The invitation also arrived four months after Haughey (as minister for finance) had offered AIB a deposit of £10 million from an Iraqi bank owned and controlled by the Republic of Iraq.

The unusual invitation led the secretary Department of Foreign Affairs, Noel Dorr, to prepare a brief in July 1980 justifying the planned visit in October 1980.


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Dorr said questions may arise as to why Haughey should single out a “distant and relatively radical country in the Middle East” for his third foreign visit as prime minister. His other visits were to France and Britain.

Dorr noted that Haughey’s interest in the visit came “from the fact that he has happened to develop contacts with it while he was minister for health and would like to build on this relationship."

Dorr warned that Haughey should keep in mind that the Labour Party “might try to focus again on accusations of tailoring our approach to the Middle East to serve certain business interests here."

He said the best approach would be to “avail of the coincidence of the visit with the trade fair” (in Baghdad in October 1980) to provide a kind of “safety net” in case “the prospects for a successful visit appear unfavourable closer to the event."

Dorr said the prime minister's agreement to visit Greece on the way would “soften the impact somewhat” of a visit to Iraq.

“However, the proposed visit can be justified easily enough by referring to the potential for favourable economic relations with Iraq, its importance and interest for us as a potential oil supplier and its interest as a leading country of the region and leader in the Third World.”

However, a report from the department of energy stated that it did not have any need for oil nor did it have room to store oil and was “not in favour of raising the oil question."

In early September 1980, the Iraqis postponed Haugey's visit. The reason became clear on September 22nd, when Iraq invaded Iran.


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