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Terry Keane: A mistress with attitude and a penchant for the grand entrance

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Charles Haughey with Terry Keane and her daughter Madeleine in Kerry. Photo: Michelle Cooper-Galvin

Charles Haughey with Terry Keane and her daughter Madeleine in Kerry. Photo: Michelle Cooper-Galvin

Irish Independent Photographer Tom Burke

Irish Independent Photographer Tom Burke

Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey at the Beef Tribunal with Conor Maguire. Photo: Tom Burke

Former Taoiseach Charles Haughey at the Beef Tribunal with Conor Maguire. Photo: Tom Burke

Taoiseach-elect Charlies Haughey and his mother Sarah in 1970. Photo: Tom Burke

Taoiseach-elect Charlies Haughey and his mother Sarah in 1970. Photo: Tom Burke

Charles Haughey and the late Neil Blaney at the Four Courts during the Arms trial in October 1970. Photo:Tom Burke

Charles Haughey and the late Neil Blaney at the Four Courts during the Arms trial in October 1970. Photo:Tom Burke

Haughey family at dinner. From left: Kieran, Eimear, Charlie, Maureen and Connor. Photo: Tom Burke

Haughey family at dinner. From left: Kieran, Eimear, Charlie, Maureen and Connor. Photo: Tom Burke

Charles Haughey on a vintage car at Abbeville, Kinsealy. Photo: Tom Burke

Charles Haughey on a vintage car at Abbeville, Kinsealy. Photo: Tom Burke

Charlie Haughey with Fianna Fail deputies and PJ Mara (left) make their to the press conference in Government Buildings following his election as Fianna Fail leader in 1979 . Photo: Tom Burke

Charlie Haughey with Fianna Fail deputies and PJ Mara (left) make their to the press conference in Government Buildings following his election as Fianna Fail leader in 1979 . Photo: Tom Burke

Charlie Haughey and Dr, Garret FitzGerald shake hands befored an RTE TV Seven Days  programme in centre is presenter Brian Farrell. Photo: Tom Burke

Charlie Haughey and Dr, Garret FitzGerald shake hands befored an RTE TV Seven Days programme in centre is presenter Brian Farrell. Photo: Tom Burke

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Charles Haughey with Terry Keane and her daughter Madeleine in Kerry. Photo: Michelle Cooper-Galvin

My introduction to Terry Keane came when she walked into the old Dobbins restaurant for a press reception some time in the early 1980s with an equally glamorous female companion. There was an understandable lull in the conversation until a voice, coming from their direction, demanded: "Who do you have to f**k to get a drink around here?"

Terry traded on her reputation and to some extent her connection to Charlie Haughey, the most notorious, colourful and able politician of his generation. She was a fashion writer for the Sunday Press, later moving to the Sunday Independent where she wrote the infamous 'Keane Edge' gossip column. Her tempestuous relationship with Charlie Haughey was well-known in media and political circles. But they were discreet, conducting their affair in the private rooms of expensive restaurants or the homes of a circle of mostly well-heeled female friends of Terry. While it was to become the most notorious love affair of a generation, it was also very private by today's standards.

In the Sunday Independent I came to know Terry a little better and always liked her, but in truth, I was in awe and even slightly afraid of her. But like most reasonably well informed observers, I was intrigued by her relationship with her lover Haughey, the 'Sweetie' of so many 'Keane Edge' columns in the years that followed.

The Terry Keane of the television series 'Charlie' seems to me to capture her imperious nature, her devil-may-care attitude, her slightly clipped Anglo accent and the access she enjoyed.

Haughey also seemed to secretly enjoy the 'Sweetie' persona. She had a hotline to the Fianna Fáil leader and sometime Taoiseach during those heady days of the late 80s and early 90s that led to some incredible stories.

But he certainly did not enjoy the denouement, when Terry finally went on the 'Late Late Show' and burned all the bridges between them with her 'tell-all' confession to Gay Byrne. The following morning, a Saturday, I spoke to him, he sounded like a man whose life had fallen apart. They never spoke again and I have always felt that Terry made a mistake that destroyed a vital part of both of them.

The Terry I knew during those years certainly added to the gaiety of the nation. The 'Charlie' series has revived a famous affair, but nothing today could capture the frisson of excitement it engendered back in those now almost forgotten days when what Eamon Dunphy called 'official Ireland' kept its secrets to itself and the ordinary people, and the FF footsoldiers, were kept in ignorance of the secret life of the man they called The Boss.

 

Irish Independent