Monday 21 January 2019

Gossip queen became star of own soap opera

Sam Smyth

Not long after Terry Keane had invented the tell-all gossip column, her own private life became a scandalously public soap opera.

She broke the news of her affair with Charles Haughey under her own photo byline, where the then Taoiseach was paraded as her 'Sweetie'.

The notorious celebrity that followed her appearance on the 'Late Late Show' in 1999 was some compensation for surrendering her dignity and discretion.

Yet, in recent years her reputation for hedonistic notoriety faded as she succumbed to illness and age. And after nearly eight years battling cancer, Terry Keane (69) died on Saturday. She at first loved, and then dreaded, the public persona that wrote a column in the 'Sunday Independent'. In the beginning, she was amused by the frisson aroused by the gossip, and 'The Keane Edge' was among the most read pages of the newspaper.

However, she balked at tales of marriages and relationships foundering after the tittle-tattle was published under her name.


She told friends that she was upset about stories of children coming home from school crying after an item about their parents was published in her column.

For the estranged wife of one of the country's most eminent and respected judges, she had an unerring knack of unearthing titillating nuggets of whimsy and scurrilous tales from between the sheets.

Yet for someone perceived to be calculating and shrewd, she believed other shrewder and more calculating journalists railroaded her into the famous interview with Gay Byrne.

Mrs Keane was told that another writer was about to expose the affair with Charles Haughey and persuaded her to tell all to them before the book was published.

She even sold the newspaper her private snapshots with Haughey and agreed to be interviewed on the 'Late Late Show'.

It later emerged that she had sold the most intimate story of her life for £50,000. Although her life has been largely defined by her affair with Haughey, Mrs Keane also had other relationships, including a long spell with banker Craig McKinney.


Before her invention as a gossip columnist, she had been a fashion journalist, with the 'Irish Times' and 'Sunday Press'.

With her husband Ronan Keane she had three children -- Madeleine, Timothy and Justine. And after being reunited with another daughter, Jane, her son Timothy died tragically in 2004. The death of her son came four years after she was first diagnosed with bowel cancer and in her grief she was comforted by the love and affection of her daughters.

After her health improved, she moved to a village in Languedoc, France, where she was visited by her daughters and grandchildren.

Recently she had moved to Monkstown and lived with Coco, her Cavalier King Charles spaniel. She had a close circle of friends who could forgive her worst excesses for the wit, warmth and generosity of her company.

Terry Keane's was a life lived to the full and, even of it was for many of the wrong reasons, she left a bigger mark than most of her contemporaries.

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