Gary Murphy, Professor of Politics in the School of Law and Government, Dublin City University, and twice a visiting fellow at the Keough-Naughton Institute, has written a long-awaited biography of the Fianna Fáil politician Charles Haughey, who three times served as Taoiseach of Ireland, beginning in 1979 and ending in 1992.
Simply titled Haughey, the book was published by Gill Books in late November 2020 to wide acclaim and was in the Irish bestselling book charts for December—more than 15,000 copies were sold—demonstrating the enduring appeal of Haughey to the Irish reading public.
“Often considered the most talented and influential politician of his generation despite being involved in numerous controversies, including being arrested and put on trial in 1970,” Professor Murphy says, “Haughey’s presence still looms over the Irish body politic. Some consider him the great villain of modern Irish political life given the revelations of his private life which became public after he retired; others a benevolent and forward-thinking politician.”
With exclusive access to the Haughey archives, as well as extensive interviews with over 80 of Haughey’s peers, rivals, confidantes, and relatives, the book took several years to research, envision, structure, and write.
"It was with some relief that I finally saw my biography of the former Irish Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey published this November. The book has been some eight years in the making and is the first full-length, cradle-to-grave biography of the figure who was at the centre of Irish politics for over three decades and was probably the most polarising figure in Ireland from the mid-1960s, through to the end of his career in 1992, and up to his death in June 2006. Coming in at just over 700 pages and some quarter of a million words, it dominated my working life over the past number of years. It has also been gratifying to see the book so widely and positively reviewed across multiple media outlets and newspapers in Ireland.
“I benefitted greatly in thinking and writing about Haughey during my two stays at the Keough-Naughton Institute in the falls of 2016 and 2019 as a visiting fellow. In 2016 I set about considering how to structure my work while at the Institute and bounced some ideas off of my friends and colleagues at Notre Dame. When I returned in 2019, it was with the intention of completing a full first draft of the book. I achieved that objective and then spent the following eighteen months in the teeth of the Covid pandemic editing the work, strengthening my arguments, and polishing the text.
"Working during the pandemic was not without its challenges and I'm not sure I would ever have let the text go, however, until my good friend Declan Kiberd, Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies and Professor of English and Irish Language and Literature Emeritus at the University of Notre Dame, who has taught me so much about modern Ireland, told me it was time to let the world see Haughey. My brilliant publishers Gill Books are in his debt, as am I. The intellectual and personal debts I owe to so many at Notre Dame are to some small extent paid back in my acknowledgements section; but, in reality, I know these can never fully be repaid.
“Charles Haughey visited Notre Dame in May 1991, when he was conferred with a Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa. I was delighted to be able to include this wonderful photo from that day in the book. I look forward to returning to the campus to place copies of the book in the Keough Naughton Institute and Hesburgh libraries."
Listen: Hear Gary Murphy talk about the Haughey biography with Hugh Linehan in this Irish Times podcast.
Read more about the process of writing the biography:
Three Questions with . . . Gary Murphy