O'Clery, Conor

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O'Clery, Conor


Born in Belfast, Ireland. Education: Attended Queen's University Belfast.


Journalist and writer. Irish Times, served variously as news editor, North American editor, resident correspondent in Belfast, and foreign correspondent in London, Moscow, Washington, and Beijing, c. 1972-2005.


Journalist of the Year in Ireland, 1987.


Phrases Make History Here: A Century of Irish Political Quotations, 1886-1986, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1986, published in the United States as The Dictionary of Political Quotations on Ireland, 1886-1987: Phrases Make History Here, G.K. Hall (Boston, MA), 1987.

Melting Snow: An Irishman in Moscow, Appletree Press (Belfast, Ireland), 1991.

America: A Place Called Hope?, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1993.

The Greening of the White House: The Inside Story of How America Tried to Bring Peace to Ireland, Gill & Macmillan (Dublin, Ireland), 1996.

Daring Diplomacy: Clinton's Secret Search for Peace in Ireland, Roberts Rinehart Publishers (Boulder, CO), 1997.

Ireland in Quotes, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1999.

(With Siobhan Creaton) Panic at the Bank: How John Rusnak Lost AIB $691,000,000, Gill & Macmillan (Dublin, Ireland), 2002.

The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave away a Fortune, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2007.


Conor O'Clery is an Irish journalist who worked for more than three decades for the Irish Times, including years spent as a foreign correspondent in London, Moscow, Washington, DC, and Beijing. He has also authored and coauthored several books, including Panic at the Bank: How John Rusnak Lost AIB $691,000,000, written with Siobhan Creaton. The book depicts the true story of the fourth-largest banking fraud in the world, which cost Allied Irish Bank 691 million dollars.

For his book Daring Diplomacy: Clinton's Secret Search for Peace in Ireland the author uses his resources from his years as a senior Washington, DC, reporter for the Irish Times to describe how former U.S. president Bill Clinton spearheaded America's secret negotiations with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in an attempt to secure peace in Northern Ireland. Mary Carroll, writing in Booklist, commented that "few within the U.S. media had the relationships O'Clery maintained in the U.S. Irish-American community" to research and tell this story. Based on interviews with involved parties, including Clinton, U.S. deputy national security advisor Nancy Soderberg, former U.S. Speaker of the House Tom Foley; and leaders of Northern Irish political parties, including Ulster Unionist Party member James Molyneaux and Social Democratic and Labour Party leader John Hume, and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, O'Clery details how the British government objected to the negotiations and how nongovernmental activists pushed for a new approach to diplomatic strategies. In the end, the author depicts a U.S. administration willing to use innovative means to find peace, and combatants seeking to overcome distrust and renounce violence. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that when Americans read Daring Diplomacy, they will "wonder why so much of their foreign policy seems carved in stone, never to be changed as the times change, when change, as this marvelous book shows, is there for the doing."

In The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave away a Fortune, O'Clery profiles Chuck Feeney, the twenty-third richest American alive in 1988, according to a rating published in Forbes magazine. The biography, for which the subject cooperated, presents a look at Feeney's life, including his youth in a blue-collar, Irish-American family during the Great Depression and his fortune-making role as cofounder of Duty Free Shoppers, the world's largest duty-free retail chain. The author also chronicles Feeney's secretive efforts as a philanthropist over many years and his creation of Atlantic Philanthropies, with the goal of giving away the remaining four billion dollars of Feeney's fortune during his lifetime. "Feeney's spend-it-now philanthropy has also influenced others to better prepare their children for lives of privilege minus the psychological hex wealth can sometimes be," commented Michelle Conlin in a review for Business News.

In the introduction to his book, O'Clery notes: "I got to know Chuck Feeney in 2002 when I was assigned by my newspaper to Wall Street and we were introduced by a mutual friend. After several lunch meetings … he agreed to cooperate on a book about his life to promote giving while living. He undertook to release family, friends, associates, and beneficiaries from long-standing vows of secrecy, and to allow me access to his archives. He did not seek any control over the final product. Nor did he or his philanthropy finance the biography in any way."

O'Clery also describes how Feeney, after selling his duty free interests in 1997, was "outed" as one of the greatest and most mysterious American philanthropists in modern day. Feeney, despite his great wealth, typically flies in economy class on airplanes and has never owned a house or a car. The Billionaire Who Wasn't follows Feeney as he goes "underground" after the sale of his business until 2003, when his foundation announced that, over the next fifteen years, it planned to give away 350 million dollars each year to groups and causes that focus on human rights, global health problems, disadvantaged children, and care and treatment of the elderly. In 2005, Feeney wanted to tell his story to promote philanthropy.

In his book, the author also identifies the many causes that Feeney has supported, including funding for schools, hospitals, and other causes in Ireland (both the Republic and the North), Vietnam, and the United States. Also included are numerous interviews with Feeney and his family, friends, business partners, rivals, and recipients of his generosity.

A Kirkus Reviews contributor referred to The Billionaire Who Wasn't as "a smart business book detailing some vicissitudes of retailing, wrapped in a vivid biography of an engaging tycoon." Writing in Library Journal, Susan Hurst called the book "an interesting and well-written book defining a man whom most of us have never heard of."



O'Clery, Conor, The Billionaire Who Wasn't: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave away a Fortune, Public Affairs (New York, NY), 2007.


Booklist, March 15, 1997, Mary Carroll, review of Daring Diplomacy: Clinton's Secret Search for Peace in Ireland, p. 1223.

Boston Globe, September 18, 2007, Michael Kenney, "He Doesn't Want to Take It with Him" review of The Billionaire Who Wasn't.

Business Week, September 24, 2007, Michelle Conlin, "Giving It All Away," p. 112.

Chronicle of Philanthropy, October 18, 2007, Marty Michaels, "Secretive Philanthropist Breaks Long Silence"; October 18, 2007, Anne W. Howard, "Tycoon Made a Fortune Just to Give It Away," review of The Billionaire Who Wasn't.

Economist, October 6, 2007, "The Secretive Do-Gooder; Philanthropy," p. 99.

International Herald Tribune, May 16, 2008, Chris Nicholson, "The Quiet Philanthropist," review of The Billionaire Who Wasn't.

Irish Literary Supplement, spring, 2003, Robert G. Lowery, review of Panic at the Bank: How John Rusnak Lost AIB $691,000,000, p. 28.

Kirkus Reviews, July 15, 2007, review of The Billionaire Who Wasn't.

Library Journal, September 1, 2007, Susan Hurst, review of The Billionaire Who Wasn't, p. 146.

Publishers Weekly, February 17, 1997, review of Daring Diplomacy, p. 204.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 1988, review of The Dictionary of Political Quotations on Ireland, 1886-1987: Phrases Make History Here, p. 2.

RQ, winter, 1987, Gary R. Purcell, review of The Dictionary of Political Quotations on Ireland, 1886-1987, p. 276.


Cornell Chronicle Web site,http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/ (October 29, 2007), Lauren Gold, "Biographer Discusses Chuck Feeney, Cornell Benefactor and ‘the Good American.’"

Disillusioned Lefty,http://disillusionedlefty.blogspot.com/ (August 20, 2005), Kevin Breathnach, "Conor O'Clery's Last Lines," profile of author.

UCD Clinton Institute for American Studies,http://www.ucdclinton.ie/ (June 18, 2008), brief profile of author.

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