Charlie Haughey: Who’s who in RTÉ drama

Final episode of RTÉ1 series Charlie on late former taoiseach screens on Sunday night

Aidan Gillen speaks about Charlie, a the three part drama about the life of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey. Video: Ronan McGreevy

The final episode of RTÉ1's Charlie, exploring the wiles and ways of late former Fianna Fáil taoiseach Charles Haughey, screens on Sunday night, January 18th, at 9.30pm.

Here’s a rundown of the more notable characters over decades of Irish public life who are liable to play key parts in the ongoing series.

Charles Haughey

Born in 1925, leader of Fianna Fáil and taoiseach between 1979 and 1982 and again from 1987 until 1991. His involvement with a plot to import arms for the North in the late 1960s saw him lose ministerial office and have his leadership ambitions delayed.


A charismatic and divisive figure, he lived like a wealthy English squire in a mansion in Kinsealy, Co Dublin while advocating hair-shirt measures for taxpayers. The sources of his wealth were disclosed only after he retired - he had corruptly received payments from businesspeople.

PJ Mara

Now in his early 70s,


began working for Haughey in his 30s after his business had failed. He accompanied Haughey around


on the “chicken dinner circuit” during his wilderness years in the 1970s as he tried to cultivate the “grass roots” of Fianna Fáil.

He later became government press secretary and was Haughey’s spokesman during his time as Fianna Fáil leader.

Witty, urbane and articulate, Mara’s most famous quip came after a failed coup against Haughey when he quoted a line from the Mussolini fascist era of Italian politics: “Uno duce, una voce”. He added: “No nibbling at my leader’s bum”.

Later, he acquired a reputation as an electoral strategist. He has worked for businessman Denis O’Brien’s companies since leaving politics.

Ray MacSharry

A Dáil deputy for Sligo, he was one of Haughey’s strongest supporters, who secretly taped a meeting he had with rivals of Haughey’s who said he would be looked after financially if he switched camps.

He later became minister for finance and was known as “Mac the Knife” after imposing a very severe budget in 1987. He was later nominated by Haughey as Ireland’s EU commissioner.

Albert Reynolds

Originally from Roscommon, Reynolds was a wealthy businessman based in Longford when he entered the Dáil in 1977.

A Haughey supporter, he was later promoted to minister for industry and commerce by Haughey.

He fell out with his leader during Haughey’s last term of office and challenged his leadership. He then succeeded Haughey as leader of Fianna Fáil and taoiseach in 1991.

Sean Doherty

A former detective garda, Doherty was a TD from Roscommon who rose quickly through the ranks after his election in 1977.

He was promoted by Haughey to minister for justice in 1982. It emerged he had given political authorisation for the covert recording of the phones of a number of journalists including Geraldine Kennedy (later editor of The Irish Times) and Bruce Arnold of the Irish Independent.

Doherty's career went into decline after these events were revealed by Fine Gael's Michael Noonan, his successor as minister for justice, in 1983.

Doherty denied Haughey knew about the bugging, but in 1990 he went on the Nighthawks programme on RTÉ to disclose that Haughey had in fact known.

That revelation precipitated a heave against Haughey that eventually led to his downfall. In latter years, he won plaudits for his work as chair of the Public Accounts Committee. He died in 2005 at the age of 61.

Brian Lenihan

From a political family, his father, sister (Mary O’Rourke) and two sons (the late Brian jnr and Conor) were also TDs.

One of the so-called ambitious young Fianna Fáil politicians in “mohair suits” who emerged in the 1960s, he was not initially a supporter of Haughey’s but became one of his most loyal lieutenants.

He was Fianna Fáil candidate in the presidential election in 1990, but Haughey distanced himself from Lenihan after the latter was compromised over giving contradictory versions of whether or not he had contacted outgoing president, Patrick Hillery, after a government fell, to ask him not to dissolve the Dáil.

George Colley

A contemporary of Haughey’s in St Joseph’s, Marino, Colley was seen as a representative of the Fianna Fáil aristocracy, his father having been a TD before him.

He became Haughey's biggest rival for leadership of the party during the 1960s, but after Sean Lemass retired the party opted for a compromise middle-ground leader, Jack Lynch.

Colley, an Irish-speaker, lost out to Haughey in the leadership battle of 1979 and was never reconciled to Haughey’s leadership.

He remained as tánaiste when Haughey became leader and while having a veto over the defence and justice portfolios, was effectively demoted to minister for energy.

He backed Dessie O’Malley and the so-called Gang of 22 who voted against Haughey’s leadership in 1983. He died suddenly later that year at the age of 57.

Des O’Malley

He succeeded his uncle Donagh O'Malley as a TD for Limerick and was promoted by Jack Lynch as minister for justice in the early 1970s during the Arms Crisis.

He became a bitter rival of Haughey, and backed George Colley in the leadership contest in 1979.

To avoid a damaging split in the party, Haughey retained both Colley and O’Malley.

However, the relationship with Haughey never healed and O’Malley was increasingly isolated.

He led the so-called gang of 22 rebels who voted against Haughey in 1983 when the party was back in opposition.

He was eventually expelled for "conduct unbecoming" over his stand on Northern Ireland in which he said he stood "behind the Republic".

He later formed the Progressive Democrats with another Fianna Fáil defector, Mary Harney, in 1986.

Geraldine Kennedy

A leading journalist of her generation, Kennedy was a political correspondent with the Sunday Tribune and with The Irish Times during Haughey’s years in power.

She and Bruce Arnold of the Irish Independent were both getting leaks about Government decisions from the Fianna Fáil cabinet, leaks that infuriated Haughey.

Her phoned was tapped secretly after authorisation was given by Haughey's then minister for justice, Sean Doherty.

She later left journalism to join the Progressive Democrats and was a TD for two years between 1987 and 1989.

She returned to The Irish Times and later became editor, stepping down in 2011.

Bruce Arnold

A political columnists and arts critic for the Irish Independent, many near the Fianna Fáil leadership were hostile and suspicious of English-born Arnold’s motives.

When he began to publish articles based on Cabinet leaks, Doherty authorised taps on his personal phone.

Michael O’Kennedy

A barrister and Tipperary TD, he served for a while as minister for finance and was later an EU commissioner.

Gerry Collins

A student political leader during the 1960s, he was a Fianna Fáil TD for Limerick who served in various ministries including as minister for justice.

Not seen as a Haughey supporter initially, he became one of Haughey’s closest and most durable supporters. In recent years, he helped Fianna Fáil with its strategic plans.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn

A TD for Galway West, She was appointed minister for the Gaeltacht by Haughey at the age of 30, the first woman to be a senior minister since the foundation of the State. She later fell out with Haughey and backed Albert Reynolds as leader. In 2009 she was appointed an EU Commissioner by Brian Cowen's government.

Mr Haughey, with Mr Tony Gregory, TD, before he started a sponsored cycle from Dublin to Kilnacrott, Co Cavan, to raise money for a holiday home for inner city children in 1982. Photograph: Peter Thursfield

Tony Gregory

Tony Gregory was a former Sinn Féin and Irish Republican Socialist Party member who followed an independent path from the late 1970s.

He was elected to the Dáil in 1982 as an independent TD for Dublin Central.

He agreed the noted Gregory Deal with Haughey that saw £80 million being spent on his constituency in exchange for supporting the Fianna Fáil government.

The Worker’s Party also supported the Fianna Fáil government, but all voted against the Government when it presented a severe budgetary package, The Way Forward, in the autumn of 1982.

Gregory successfully defended his seat until he died aged 61 in 2008, after a long battle with cancer.

Charlie McCreevy

From Kildare, McCreevy was an accountant who was regarded for many years as a maverick in Fianna Fáil.

Initially a supporter of Haughey, he quickly turned against him and was one of the gang of 22 who voted against him in 1983.

He toyed with joining the PDs in 1986 but stayed on in Fianna Fáil.

He became a minister under Albert Reynolds and was minister for finance when Bertie Ahern was taoiseach.

Some blame his cash and spend policies for the crisis that later befell the economy. He was appointed EU Commissioner in 2004.

Bertie Ahern

Another of the 1977 intake, Ahern was, like Haughey, a working-class Dub from the Northside.

Ahern first made his name as party whip and made a reputation for forging unity and conciliation.

Later as a minister he championed social partnership and amassed a huge political machine around St Luke’s in Drumcondra.

Haughey once described him as the “most ruthless, the most cunning and the most devious of them all”.

He was talked about as a potential party leader in 1991 but his marriage had broken up and he declined to stand.

He was minister for finance under Albert Reynolds and succeeded him as Fianna Fáil leader in 1994.

He became taoiseach in 1997 and led the party to three terms in government. He led the country during the periods of the Belfast Agreement and the Celtic Tiger.

In 2006, The Irish Times disclosed details about unusual features in his personal finances, ahead of tribunal disclosures featuring large “dig-outs” from his friends.

He resigned as taoiseach in 2008 and was later criticised for his role in overheating the economy.