Adored and reviled in equal measure, Charles Haughery has been one of the most significant and controversial Irish political leaders of the late 20th century. From humble beginnings in Dublin's northside, he rose to become a powerful minister in the Fianna Fail government in the 1960s, a period of expansion and liberlaisation in Irish society. He was responsible for modernising and enlightened legislation in the financial, judicial, social and arts areas, but his career suffered a near-fatal eclipse when he was a defendant in the Arms Trial of 1970.
Pundits wrote that his career was finished but before the end of the decade he emerged from the political wilderness to lead Fianna Fail and become Taoiseach. He not only headed several single-party governments in the 1980s, but led his party into its first coalition. As controversial in government as he was out of it, he was as cursed with shady friends as he was blessed with incompetent enemies.
From the 1960s onwards, Haughey lived in regal splendour in a Georgian mansion outside Dublin. He bought an offshore island, where he built a residence in the style of a latter-day Gaelic chieftain, transporting all the building materials for it by helicopter. Rumours abounded about the sources of his wealth, which he flaunted, but he contemptuously refused to address them. It was not until the summer of 1998, with the revelations of a judicial tribunal, that it emerged that Haughey was the beneficiary of donations totalling millions of pounds from wealthy Irish businessmen and that he had had hundred of thousands of pounds of debts written off by the Allied Irish Bank, Ireland's largest banking group. In 1999, his long-term affair with Dublin socialite Terry Keane became public when she bragged shamelessly about it on the country's most popular television show.
In his final speech in the Dail, Haughey claimed, like Othello, to 'have done the state some service'. No amount of demonising can take that away from him. His dazzling achievements include the establishment of the magnificent International Financial Services Centre in Dublin and his leadership of a government that rescued the country from near-bankruptcy in the late 1980s. The aim of this biography is to present a balanced picture of the man: a fallen idol and flawed genius.
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