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40 years of GUBU

  • 07-06-2022 2:15pm
    Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭

    Forty years ago, Conor Cruise O'Brien coined a term that has entered the Irish political lexicon - GUBU (Grotesque, Unbeliveable, Bizarre, Unprecedented). He took these words from the mouth of the Taoiseach, Charlie Haughey, who had used them to describe extraordinary events in which a serial killer was arrested at the home of the Attorney General.

    RTE has now produced a podcast about the origin of GUBU. There have been many bizarre and grotesque events in Irish politics over the past 40 years but I doubt if any exceeded this incredible and horrifying case.



  • Registered Users Posts: 8,405 ✭✭✭cml387

    I remember it well.

    Ironically, for all the shady happenings in that disastrous Haughey government (phone tapping, the Dowra affair, calls to the Aras), this genuinely seems to have been pure bad luck that the AG was vaguely acquainted with Mc Arthur.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,606 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    McArthur was never charged with the murder of the farmer Donal Dunne who was shot in cold blood so that McArthur could steal his shotgun. Why he was not charged with Donal Dunne's murder, and why there was no inquiry into why there was no charge of murder is just as GUBU as the rest of this scandal.

    All about the FF corruption of the time.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    The failure to convict Macarthur for the murder of Donal Dunne added to the sense that there was a coverup.

    The IT explains it as part of a deal where Macarthur pleaded guilty to the murder of Birdie Gargan. It is almost unprecedented (that word again!) for anyone to plead guilty to murder because there is a mandatory life sentence I.e. the normal reduction in sentencing for a guilty plea does not apply. The evidence against Macarthur was overwhelming but there is always a risk that a prosecution might fail due to a technicality. The DPP intended to present a statement in court about the Dunne murder but the Judge ruled it out so the Dunne family never had their “day in court” and naturally felt aggrieved.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    It was an ill-fated government and partly responsible for the economic calamity that Ireland suffered in the 1980s but the GUBU scandals that emanated from Haughey had not really begun so you’re right that this was a case of bad luck for Haughey - he had no connection with Macarthur and his appointment of Paddy Connolly as AG seemed entirely reasonable.

    Haughey is criticised for allowing the AG to go to New York but it seems the AG gave Haughey the impression that Macarthur was merely arrested in his apartment block - once Haughey understood that Macarthur had been a house guest of the AG, he called the AG back from NY and fired him forthwith.

    Cruise O’Brien coined a word that haunted Haughey for the next decade and beyond. Somehow Haughey lived up to the GUBU label. The Cruiser had tremendous literary gifts. I can’t think of any Irish politician today who might compare.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    I just listened to episode 3, the Haughey episode. What a disappointment! I assumed they had some dirt on Haughey, some link to these terrible murders. Maybe via Paddy Connolly, the AG, or some other nefarious Haughey contact. But this episode has nothing, just nothing!

    The introduction begins "Though they never met in their lifetimes, the narratives of Charles Haughey and Malcolm Macarthur would become inextricably linked".

    In the lifetimes! Hilarious. So now we know Macarthur will join Haughey and other monsters in the afterlife.

    The podcast starts with Haughey opening an account at the Dame St. branch of the Munster and Leinster Bank in June 1973. What's the link with Macarthur? Was Macarthur also a customer at that branch? Did he plan to rob that branch? No, there is no link but it is there to remind us that Haughey borrowed a lot of money which the bank ultimately had to write off. (Bonus points - there was no Munster and Leinster Bank of Dame St. or anywhere else in 1973 - it merged with the Provincial Bank and the Royal Bank of Ireland to form AIB in 1966)

    The episode makes desparate efforts to find "commonalities" between Haughey and Macarthur. We are told they both had "wretched childhoods". In fact, their childhoods were as different as any two Irish boys in that era could be - Haughey's family was poor, living on a miserable pension in a Council House where his mother gave devoted care to Haughey's disabled father and all her children. Macarthur was an only child whose family was very well-off and lived in a large house with servants but his parents' marriage was a disaster.

    Oh, but here's what Haughey and Macarthur really had in common - "a fear of poverty". Amazing! Imagine anyone growing up in this land of milk and honey having a fear of poverty. No wonder Haughey and Macarthur were kindred spirits even if they never met. Are we quite sure that Haughey wasn't a serial killer in his spare time?

    In contrast, Paddy Connolly - the only real link between Haughey and Macarthur - is handled with kid gloves. This epidsode doesn't even mention that he left generous bequest to Macarthur's son. The gay scene in Dublin at the time is mentioned but oh so discretely.

    There is a generation of IT staff who are tragically obsessed with Haughey. They need therapy, or an exorcism. Anything that might help free them from their terrible fixation which colours their view of everything that happened in Ireland for almost 30 years.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    The Guardian recounts the MacArthur story today, probably because some people suggest that GUBU would be a useful acronym to describe politics in the UK now.

    Nothing really new but at least Harry McGee sets the record straight on Haughey, making up for the nonsense in Episode 3 of the Irish Times podcast.

    Haughey’s reputation for intrigue fuelled conspiracy theories that destabilised his government, even though, in this instance, the taoiseach was blameless, said McGee.

    It says the story lives on because MacArthur is at liberty in Dublin now but it does not mention the extraordinary twist in the tale - Paddy Connolly’s bequest to MacArthur’s son. It says MacArthur’s motive remains an enigma. I think his motive is plain- money, lots of it.

    I hadn’t heard of the BBC podcast until now.

  • Registered Users Posts: 13,697 ✭✭✭✭Danzy

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    That's what we were told at the time.

    But would you leave an apartment in Sandymount to the son of a "vague acquaintance"? 30 years after the "vague acquaintance" had gone on a murder spree and put you at the centre of an enormous scandal.

  • Registered Users Posts: 22,176 ✭✭✭✭Esel

    Also gubu was the next fundraising plan in MacArthur's notebook, which involved electrocuting an elderly relative (by wiring an internal brass doorknob to the mains) so that he would benefit from her estate.

    Not your ornery onager

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,957 ✭✭✭kirk.

    Not exactly a criminal mastermind McArthur

    Had the appearance of to the manor born about him

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  • Registered Users Posts: 22,176 ✭✭✭✭Esel

    Yeah, he seems to have been just a low-functioning psychopathic murderer.

    Problem: Need Car. Solution: Kill owner with hammer.

    Problem: Need shotgun. Solution: Shoot owner.

    Problem: Funds low. Solution: Wire doorknob to mains and wait for inheritance.

    Not your ornery onager

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    Not low-functioning, just incompetent and arrogant enough to believe he was exceptionally intelligent and could out-smart the cops. I think great credit is due to the Gardai who connected the dots in this case, especially because MacArthur was bound to kill again.

    The murders of Bridie Gargan and Donal Dunne appeared to be unconnected but the Gardai matched fingerprints off a newspaper found near Donal Dunne and the shovel found near Bridie Gargan. MacArthur had no criminal record so no fingerprint records but the big break in the case was when MacArthur attempted a robbery which was almost comically inept. MacArthur phoned the Gardai in Dalkey the next day to say the whole thing was just a prank - and he gave the Gardai his real name! Still, there was nothing to link this episode with the two murders but the Gardai realised MacArthur fitted the description of the murderer and tracked him down quickly to the AG's home.

    Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions about MacArthur because his trial was shut-down without evidence being heard. MacArthur thought he had a deal which would get him out in a few years but there was such a backlash, he had to sit in jail for 30 years.

    Will he ever tell the whole story? Apparently, he cannot discuss the case under his parole conditions.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,606 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    Why was MacArthur not charged with the murder of Donal Dunne?

    It wuld have been an open and shut case.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,405 ✭✭✭cml387

    Wasn't it the case that he was charged, but that he pleaded guilty to the murder of Bridie Gargan so the Dunne charge was left "on file".

    Theories were that it was wrapped up in seven minutes by the judiciary to save Connolly, "one of their own" as it were.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,606 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    Surely not. They would never do that, would they?

    That would be corrupt.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    The decision not to prosecute MacArthur for the Dunne murder added to the controversy and the sense that there was a coverup.

    The DPP, who used to work for the AG, decided to accept a guilty plea on one count (the murder of Bridie Garage) rather than run a full trial on both murders. It is a rare case where an accused pleads guilty to murder and there seems to have been a deal done in MacArthur's case. Magill has an interesting account of this process and how it backfired for MacArthur - far from being a "forgotten man" who would be released in six or seven years, the controversy was such that no Minister for Justice dared release him for 30 years.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,957 ✭✭✭kirk.

    That's another can of worms

    Political control over prisoner release , it's mostly optics

  • Registered Users Posts: 27,565 ✭✭✭✭blanch152

    The FF corruption of the time all started with the Haughey refusal to explain how he could afford his home.

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,606 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    I think you could go back further.

    How did De Valera get to own the Irish Press group? Many Irish Americans subscribed their one dollar to help establish the Irish Press as a voice for FF and got shares, but suddenly they group was owned by Dev's family.

    There was some scandal involving Lynch and Tacca (or some such name) that allowed access to ministers (for a contribution).

    The relationship between Dev and John Charles McQuade needs some deep delving, particularly in the Archbishops involvement in the drafting of the Irish constitution, and in Irish politics under Dev.

    Corruption goes very deep in Irish politics.

  • Registered Users Posts: 8,405 ✭✭✭cml387

    There's always been a rumour that Haughey's start came from sterling devaluation in 1967.

    As we were in the sterling area Haughey probably would have been informed (he was minister for finance then), the opportunities for a killing if you had advanced knowledge would be immense.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 4,957 ✭✭✭kirk.

    Haughey and McArthur probably had a bit in common

    They both had aristocratic notions

  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 19,606 Mod ✭✭✭✭Sam Russell

    In Haughey's case it was not an aristocratic notion, it was the real thing.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,957 ✭✭✭kirk.

    Ya I didn't know was just guessing

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,639 ✭✭✭John_Rambo

    Hi, has anyone come across McArthur recently in Dublin City? I saw him briefly on Wicklow st.

    I'd recommend this podcast by the BBC on the same subject.

    Absolutely fascinating that he's precluded from talking to the press as part of his release. Straight back to gaol if he talks. Something big being hidden.

  • Registered Users Posts: 40,384 ✭✭✭✭ohnonotgmail

    Or maybe they don't want him profiting from his notoriety

  • Registered Users Posts: 437 ✭✭TipsyMcStagge

    I'd say he knows a few dark secrets alright the AG wouldn't have been the only big time closet McArthur came out of I'd say.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    The BBC podcast series is very well made and captures the paranoid atmosphere of that time very well. More importantly, and to my surprise, it adds a very interesting new dimension to the case: a possible link to the Charles Self murder.

    I had heard vague suggestions that MacArthur might be involved in that brutal murder, just six months before the Bridie Gargan and Donal Dunne murders, but there seemed to be no evidential basis for this speculation. Episode 6 of this podcast throws a dramatically different light on the Charles Self murder and the ensuing heavy-handed police investigation into the gay scene in Dublin.

    Charles Self was murdered in the house he shared with Vincent Hanley, the RTE DJ. Hanley was in London that night and his room was occupied by a visitor, Bertie Tyrer, who was woken up in the middle of the night by a stranger who came to his bedroom door. Tyrer (like Self a stage designer) drew a sketch of this stranger for the Gardai and told them the stranger spoke with a "West Brit" accent.

    For whatever reason, this sketch was never made public by the Gardai but a friend of Charles Self, Bill Maher, was shown the drawing by investigating Gardai. He didn't recognise the man at that time but, months later, when MacArthur's photo was on every newspaper, Maher immediately said - "****, that's the person in the drawing". When a colleague from RTE asked one of the detectives investigating MacArthur if he could have been involved in the Charles Self murder, the Garda dismissed it ("not a runner").

    This sketch is not conclusive, of course. Colm Tobín says it is unlikely unless MacArthur frequented gay pickup areas like Burgh Quay (where Charles Self met a man he brought home on the night of his murder). But is is not just the drawing - there is the West Brit accent. At the very least, MacArthur should have been asked about this murder. He was in Tenerife in early 1982 - when did he actually leave Dublin? He may have a perfect alibi or maybe he went to Tenerife to make himself scare during the Garda investigation of the Self murder. The Garda response to the BBC enquiries for this podcast is a classic stonewall. Oddly, the podcast doesn't mention that there was a full-scale Garda cold case investigation of the Charles Self murder about 10 years ago which, it seems, never considered Malcolm MacArthur as a suspect.

    There is another extraordinary possibility mentioned in this podcast, and for the first time as far as I know. There was very bad blood between MacArthur and his father. They had a terrible fight and MacArthur went to live with an uncle in California. On one of his very rare visits home in 1971, his father died suddenly overnight. Was there an inquest? What cause of death was certified? The podcast doesn't pursue these questions.

    I have a feeling that there was a major coverup in this case but the media was so obsessed with Charlie Haughey that they missed the real manipulators of this case. The DPP did a deal with MacArthur in which he pleaded guilty to murdering Bridie Gargan but was not tried for the murder of Donal Dunne. Was there more to this deal? Did the Gardai agree not to investigate MacArthur for any other crime or did they believe a law-abiding citizen had suddenly become a brutal serial killer at the age of 36?

    h t t p s : / / p o d c a s t s . a p p l e . c o m / i e / p o d c a s t / e p i s o d e - 6 - a - f o r g o t t e n - m u r d e r / i d 1 6 4 6 0 2 2 9 0 6 ? i = 1 0 0 0 5 8 0 3 0 6 8 6 7

    Post edited by Caquas on

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,957 ✭✭✭kirk.

    Lots of stuff is connected and not in the public domain

    I know events that are linked because I'm personally involved .It's through people that have met but it's not reported on.

  • Registered Users Posts: 9,639 ✭✭✭John_Rambo

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,394 ✭✭✭Caquas

    The Spectator review praises the production quality of the BBC podcast but wonders "where's the beef?"

    There are only so many people you can get to contextualise the context-defying fact that Ireland’s most wanted criminal was found in the home of Ireland’s most senior lawyer...

    And so… and so what? We don’t really know....

    The BBC series tries to link these murders to a wider sense of corruption in Ireland at that time but it offers no proof of anything. The IT podcast was worse - it tried to smear Haughey with these murders but it is clear from the BBC series that Haughey had nothing to do with the case until MacArthur was arrested and then Haughey handled a bizarre situation much as any Taoiseach would. His slip of the tongue (congratulating Gardai for "getting the right man") was ultimately a harmless gaffe. On the other hand, the AG made matters much worse by flying to New York on his holliers.

    I think there are two ways of viewing this case. Either the murders were nothing more or less than evil doing of a lone psychopath who has paid for his crimes with one of the longest jail terms in the history of the Irish State. Or... MacArthur had protection in high places but even that couldn't protect him from the public outrage at his appalling crimes. The latter view is only credible if MacArthur's relationship with the AG was much more than we were led to believe. I would have been sceptical until the AG's will left substantial bequest to MacArthur's son. At the very least, there is much that we don't know.

    One thing is clear - although both RTE and the BBC might give a different impression - this scandal had nothing to do with either Haughey or the Catholic Church. Maybe that is part of its GUBU-ness 😜