Twenty-three years after his political career ended and almost nine years after his death, Charles Haughey is still hogging more column inches and debate than any other personality in Ireland.
More than 724,000 viewers watched the opening show in RTE's three-part mini-series about Haughey’s rise to power and his three stints as taoiseach (prime minister) between 1979 and 1992.
The series, called "Charlie," features his millionaire lifestyle funded by wealthy supporters and corruption, and his 27-year-affair with journalist and High Court judge’s wife Terry Keane.
One scene in the first episode featured Keane, played by actress Lucy Cohu, shutting the door of Haughey’s new office from the inside and sexily proposing that the first thing they should do was “christen” it.
Haughey, who died aged 80 in 2006, was the most prominent and controversial politician of his era.
His daughter Eimear Mulhern this week hit out angrily at what she described as a “disgraceful” RTE drama.
She told the Irish Sun, “Can you imagine my mother watching that program.
“My mother is sitting there, aged 89, fully compos mentis. She is going to have to listen to and watch this drama. I think it’s disgraceful.
“It does bother me, but I have lived with it all my life. I just feel it is very hard for my mother and the grandchildren and nephews and nieces. That was their grandfather. It’s really tough.”
Former Fianna Fail Minister Mary O’Rourke hailed "Charlie" as riveting and predicted it would be “a huge success.”
O’Rourke, 75, is sister of the late Brian Lenihan, who was foreign affairs minister under Haughey and at one stage his tanaiste (deputy prime minister).
She admitted to being “a bit troubled” by the depiction of her brother, who at one stage was seen carrying Haughey’s Charvet shirts which he had tailored in Paris.
O’Rourke said, “That would never have happened. There would have been someone else to do that. I’m quite sure Brian Lenihan never did that.”
The series coincidentally follows on the release of 30-year-old U.K. state papers in which Haughey was described by British Ambassador to Ireland Alan Goodison as negative and unhelpful.
The ambassador's comment was in a briefing document for his Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in the run-up to the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
He said Haughey, who was opposition leader at the time, “put forward no positive and realistic ideas and, although he would prefer power, he obviously enjoys the negative role of leader of the opposition.”
Goodison added that there was no suggestion that Haughey intended to be constructive or helpful in any way in his approach to an Anglo-Irish Agreement.