Thursday 17 April 2014

Harry Boland

Olympian and lifelong Haughey friend who gave evidence to the Moriarty tribunal, writes Daniel McConnell

Olympian: Harry Boland

Harry Boland who died at the age of 88 on December 18 in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, was a noted sportsman and Olympian.

But he will be chiefly remembered as a scion of a great republican family and for his almost lifelong association with Charles Haughey.

Boland, steeped in Fianna Fail from birth and with a notable GAA lineage, was the last surviving member of the 1948 Irish Olympic basketball team that competed, with scant success it must be said, at the famous post-war games in London.

Boland was the nephew of the legendary War of Independence and Civil War figure who bore the same name. His father Gerald, was a founding member of Fianna Fail and remains the holder of the record as the longest serving Minister for Justice since the foundation of the State.

Harry Boland was also a former business partner and long time friend and confidante of controversial former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

The Boland clan lived firstly in Marino and then at Griffith Avenue on Dublin's northside. He went to St Joseph's Boys School in Fairview, where he met the young Haughey and another future star of Fianna Fail, George Colley.

In a 2005 documentary Harry Boland told of an early encounter with Mr Haughey while they were both at "Joey's," which illustrated how deep his family's republicanism ran.

"He invited me up to the house to look over notes for the exams, and in I went and saw a picture of Michael Collins in the military uniform. That was like a red rag to a bull, where us Bolands were concerned. I wasn't sure should I have turned on my heels and left, but I didn't," he recalled.

Alongside Haughey, Harry Boland graduated from University College Dublin with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree in 1946. Thereafter, the pair went to work for an accountancy firm on Dame Street, established by Boland's brother.

During his studies at UCD, Boland won a junior championship medal in hurling and it was through hurling that his lifelong association with basketball began.

Approached by Fr Joe Horan, he was enticed into setting up a team in time for the 1948 Games, but the team was outclassed in all of its matches against Mexico, Iran and France.

Boland, the only man in the team not attached to the Defence Forces, only made it onto court against the French.

He was the only member of the 1948 team to survive to see the Olympic Games return to London in 2012. He was a former President of the Irish Basketball Association between 1965 and 1968 and was inducted into the Irish Basketball Association Hall of Fame. A similar honour was bestowed by his old university.

His trip to London marked the only occasion Boland signed his name in English for anything, as he preferred to use the Irish version Annraoi O Beollain.

This would prove significant during the Moriarty tribunal which investigated the activities of Haughey, Boland -- the accountancy firm he established with Haughey in 1950.

Boland was forced to testify and he denied knowledge of an account set up in his name at the Guinness and Mahon Bank, which was central to the controversial offshore accounts scandal involving Haughey and Des Traynor, who worked at the Haughey, Boland firm.

Boland told the tribunal he never authorised the account, saying he never held a bank account in the English form of his name. The account had £229,000 lodged to it during its two-year existence.

In its report, the tribunal accepted Boland's evidence that he never opened the account, that he never authorised any other person to open the account and that he never gave a general form of authorisation to open accounts in his name.

The tribunal said it considered it possible that Traynor attached Mr Boland's name to this account to deflect attention within Guinness & Mahon from the growing level of Haughey's indebtedness to the bank.

Mr Boland is survived by his wife Noirin, daughter Maire and sons Harry and Gearoid.

Irish Independent

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