Haughey by Gary Murphy: A scholarly but overly flattering portrait

Book review: Murphy is meticulous in sticking to evidence but at times his praise goes too far

Charles Haughey: Murphy makes a convincing case for Haughey as an energetic and progressive minister for justice – but there are times when his praise goes too far

Charles Haughey: Murphy makes a convincing case for Haughey as an energetic and progressive minister for justice – but there are times when his praise goes too far

“The inconsistencies in Haughey’s own career,” Gary Murphy writes, “and the subsequent revelations about his finances after he left public life meant that pretty much anything could be said about him”. Murphy’s biography benefits, on the other hand, from a sober, research-led tone and from access to Haughey’s personal archives. As a professor of politics at Dublin City University, Murphy writes with skill and relish about the intricacies of Fianna Fáil’s constituency politics and about Haughey’s early efforts to get elected to the Dáil.

The problems in the book begin with a reference to Haughey driving a Jaguar in 1959. And then, in the same year, “he also began riding horses and joined the Ward Union Hunt”, and also bought Grangemore in Raheny, “a large Georgian house on forty-five acres of land”. It is unclear where the money came from. Is it possible that Haughey still had an income from his accountancy firm? Was it borrowed money? Or was he on the take as early as then? These are questions that are not addressed here. Later, when we read that “the Caribbean was a favourite destination for the Haugheys”, it is impossible not to ask who was paying for this.

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