A Fianna Fail convention at the Stella Ballroom in 1986 Michael Parks, Charlie Haughey, Willie O'Dea and Dr Richard O'Flaherty
I am pretty sure I met Ewen McAskill many years ago. He retired from the Guardian recently after a long career in journalism. He was the paper’s chief political correspondent.
McAskill’s claim to fame, and it is a great claim, was that at a press conference in Scotland in 2016 he challenged Donald Trump over his claim that he was popular in Britain, telling the Buffoon in the White House he was ‘toxic’ for most people on our neighbouring island.
For his honesty he was banned from all future Trump press conferences.
McAskill has described Trump as ‘a nasty, nasty man’.
I came across this on the web last week and the thought occurred to me this is something I know something about. I have spent my entire adult life in the media and the one thing that has often totally confused me is why people vote for the likes of Trump. Believe me there are so many examples.
In Irish terms, let me point to Charlie Haughey and Ian Paisley as two leaders that didn’t exactly top the charts in terms of warm and fuzzy personalities, but I’ll come back to this duo in due course.
Let me give me you a simple example of the type of thing I’m on about in regard to how contrary human logic can be. Let me use two sports people purely for illustration purposes.
Way back in 1980 myself and the wife got into a massive argument during the Wimbledon men’s singles final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg. McEnroe was the typical American spoilt brat. He was rude, nasty, unsporting, everything you would not want in your own child. By way of considerable contrast, Borg was polite, sporting, gentlemanly in every way, the type of young fella you would want your son to be.
My wife thought Borg boring, McEnroe exciting, just great. I didn’t get that. I saw one as a boor the other as a decent human being. No contest.
And at the risk of kicking this analogy to death, do any of you remember the snooker player Alex ‘Hurricane’ Higgins? Alex really was something else.
His main foe back in the day was Steve Davis. Davis was known by the ‘Spitting Image’ programme as Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis because he was never controversial, never in the headlines for the wrong reason and went home to his partner when the game was over. Higgins was the antithesis of this – got involved in rows with opponents, was known to walk out in the middle of an interview if he didn’t like a question, could throw a strop about next to nothing.
Years later Davis was asked about Higgins during an interview and said he couldn’t deal with the Belfast born snooker star, that one day he was all friendly and nice the next a spitting devil. The problem was he didn’t know which day was going to be the nice day and which day wasn't.
The fans absolutely adored Higgins. He could sell out a tournament on his own in minutes. Davis couldn’t draw flies even if they left a load of horse manure in the middle of the room. Work that out.
Anyway, back to Haughey and Paisley. I met Haughey way back in the 1970’s when he came to Letterkenny. He was on the ‘chicken and chips’ dinner circuit back then working his way back up the ranks of Fianna Fáil after the fallout from the Arms Trial (younger readers might need to look this up!) Anyway he strolled into the ballroom at the Golden Grill and all the faithful stood to applause. He really did have something of the emperor about him.
I remember it well as I was a wet behind the ears reporter and was about to stand up too but the late John McIntyre, editor of the Donegal’s People’s Press, grabbed my arm and pulled me down to my chair telling me that we were the press and not part of the political circus.
Haughey turned on the charm that day. He was oily smooth, coming over to shake our hands and be super friendly. I recounted this story to a Belfast Telegraph journalist years later and he told of approaching Haughey in a hotel asking for an interview only to be told to ‘f….off’ in the rudest way possible. If it didn't suit him he could be real nasty.
And, of course, Paisley was famous for insulting people. The list is almost non ending – the pope, the members of the European Parliament, various Taoisigh most notably Brian Cowen.
So tell me, why do we consistently vote for people like this to top positions? Most of them are demonstrably flawed, often arrogant, egotistical and frequently nasty. You wouldn’t trust them as a friend. So why do we admire them?
I was sad to read an article by the editor of this paper, Michael Daly, recently about the closing of Brennan’s Bar in Bundoran. It was a unique place, as were the two sisters who ran it for so many years.
Patricia Brennan serves up one last pint PICTURE: MATT BRITTON
The Brennan sisters were part of the fabric of Bundoran. It was only but right in a changing world they insisted on the old values of no singing, no swearing and no television. If you came into their bar you came in for a drink and a bit of craic and conversation. It was old fashioned but by God it was real.
Now you go into a pub and there’s 15 screens with some English Premier League match blinding you at every turn of your head. And that's progress?
AND FINALLY . . .
I see we are having Lannigan's Ball type politics at the moment - Leo stepping in one day, Michael stepping out the next; and neither wanting to make contact.
It seems that Leo wants to get Fianna Fáil to sign up to another couple of years of 'confidence and supply' while Michael wants no government collapse until after Brexit is completed. This could prove interesting in the weeks ago.
Then we had a minister resign. This opened the door for Donegal's own Joe McHugh to climb further up the political ladder. Good for Joe! The bad news is that there are a lot of people out there awaiting broadband in rural Ireland and following this fiasco they could be waiting a lot longer. And then there was the Charlton Report. It was damning of the Gardai, and lets be honest that was hardly a massive surprise.
Just a normal week in Irish politics...God help us!