Jack Lynch was "a nice fellow" - journalists said so, his colleagues said so, even Opposition deputies were of that opinion. And the idea is expounded throughout T Ryle Dwyer’s biography of the former Taoiseach. Unfortunately, the reader is told little else about Jack Lynch – the man – in Part One of this book.
Split into two sections, Part One deals with Lynch's pre-Taoiseach career while Part Two picks up the story in 1966 when Lynch reluctantly took over as Taoiseach from Seán Lemass.
There's nothing in Part One of 'Nice Fellow' to catch readers' attention and as such it doesn't do justice to the rest of the book. As a scene-setter it's too long, revealing little about the wily hurling star turned politician. The result is something that reads more like Irish political history with a focus on Jack Lynch rather than a biography of the Cork man.
If you do succeed in making it to Part Two however you will be rewarded. Here is where the biography really starts. Dwyer explores Lynch's leadership as Taoiseach, his electoral popularity, his role in keeping Ireland out of the conflict in Northern Ireland, and Ireland's EEC membership bids. The author also focuses on Lynch's part in the controversial arms trial.
Proposing Jack Lynch as Taoiseach, Seán Lemass said, "I believe he has the qualities of intelligence and integrity and the capacity to work which will enable him to become a great leader and Taoiseach. Time will prove this to be so." However, time has not been kind to Jack Lynch. Since his death in 1999, his leadership qualities have been called into question and public opinion is now divided as to whether Lynch was one of Ireland's finest Taoisigh or a weak leader manipulated by others.
Dwyer sets out to present a balanced assessment of Jack Lynch's career. This he succeeds in doing, Lynch certainly isn't glorified – Dwyer provides the facts – leaving you to decide.