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9899 IRISH TATLER MAN
If you’re Irish, there stands a good chance you’re a dab hand at talking
a blue streak about this mighty country of ours. If so, be sure to get
your mitts on the latest tome from Irish broadcaster Seán Moncrieff,
The Irish Paradox – a fascinating study into why we are all so bloody
complicated! Domhnall O’Donoghue met with the author to discuss all
TalkA GOODthat is great – and not so great – about the Emerald Isle
Granted, it isn’t customary for a
Regardless of journalist to begin an article many others, is carefully illustrated throughout
the subject, Irish detailing the manner in which he Moncrieff’s latest literary accomplishment, his
people always bade farewell to his interviewee. fifth to date.
have diametrically However, in this case, given the subject
opposed views, matter that preceded these Godspeeds On one hand, the Irish are the friendliest
which I see all and cheerios, it seems like the end is the people on Earth, a tribe who wouldn’t think twice
the time during most appropriate place to start. about giving a near stranger the shirt off their
the show After an enlightening debate about back (or a spare room that they don’t have); on
his new book, The Irish Paradox – an the other, we Paddys could make a career out
astutely observant investigation as to why the of our ability to conceal and remain guarded,
inhabitants of this little country are such a ultimately making it impossible for anyone to get
contradictory lot – Seán Moncrieff and I fell to know us properly.
into a fluffy conversation about our favourite
places on the island. There’s more. We proclaim to be the Fighting
Seán, who was chatting to me on the Irish, yet we have such a chronic fear of conflict
telephone from his home in Dublin, mentioned and confrontation, it’s a wonder we are capable
that he had an immense grá for Galway, where I of leaving the house in the first place. Or what of
am currently based. And so, rather than simply the fact that our mammies boast to their friends
commending his fondness for the magnificent about how mighty we are, yet they would rather
City of Tribes, I found myself compelled to invite swallow knives than praise us to our faces, fearful
him to stay with me in the Wild West, should he that we would rise above our stations.
ever be passing.
“There’s always a room for you here,” I told And then there’s that little fact that we always
him, even though there wasn’t, and even though express affection through insults – “Ye cute
this relatively brief chinwag was our first. hoor” or “He’s a feckin’ divil at the best of times”
Only for the fact that the poor chap had to or “She’s a jammy bitch, that one”.
scoot off to present his award-winning radio
show with Newstalk – which he incidentally Ultimately, we think we are the dog’s bollix –
describes as having “a good balance of being but then again, we don’t.
intelligent without being po-faced” – I would
have insisted that my well-worn liver had his “The Irish people are so contradictory,”
name on it, should he ever need a spare one. Moncrieff tells me with a mellifluous voice that
You see, that’s what Irish people do: we offer was, understandably, voted the sexiest on radio
the world then pray that you won’t take us up once. “For some, this is a really good thing,
on it – a riveting inconsistency that, amongst especially for those of us who are creative.
For others, it’s quite bad – especially if you’re
charged with running the country!”
It is easy to see why the father-of-four has
such a vested interest in Irish identity, given his
own colourful upbringing. The son of an Irish
mother and a Scottish father, Moncrieff was born
people are so
for some, this is
a really good
for those of us
who are creative.
For others, it’s
quite bad –
with running the
Portrait photography: HAZEL COONAGH
in England, where he lived until the age of 12 “I am very proud of the book,” he says, clearly The Irish Paradox shines a light on the pros and
before being uprooted along with the rest of forgetting the Irish cardinal sin of self-praising. cons of our society will inevitably rustle a few
the family to Mayo. “It’s just been released, but lots of people have who-do-you-think-you-are-talking-about-us-like-
already complimented the cover, saying it’s my that feathers.
In the opening section of The Irish Paradox, best one yet, so that’s a good start!”
the 54-year-old vividly recalls a childhood “[The book] has just been released, so
memory where the clan attended a Christmas Taking the guts of a year to complete, which I’m not quite sure what people’s reaction
panto. When one of the performers enquired he did on the DART in order to avoid “too will be, but I assume there will be plenty of
if any audience member was from London, as many distractions at home – people looking disagreements,” he concedes, though clearly
quick as a wink Moncrieff flung up his hand – for lifts here and there!”, the broadcaster and relishing the prospect of pistols at dawn.
only to have it almost immediately dislocated presenter allowed the opinions of his Newstalk
from its socket by his mum, who practically listeners to influence and shape the content. “Of course, I’d love if everybody described it
saw it as some “profound act of betrayal”. as genius!”
“My listeners have definitely informed this
And so, Moncrieff grew up in England book. Regardless of the subject, Irish people Having been so immersed in Irish life, was
believing himself to be Irish, yet when his family always have diametrically opposed views, there anything that caught him off guard as the
moved to Ireland, he felt like a foreigner. This which I see all the time during the show,” project took shape?
experience of feeling something of an outsider Moncrieff notes.
for much of his early life was the catalyst for his “Absolutely, a few things took me by
latest magnum opus. Even though he always manages to strike surprise. In particular, how contradictory we
a convivial tone throughout, the very fact that are when it comes to racism. On one hand,
100101 IRISH TATLER MAN we are much more tolerant and welcoming
Got News for You and he told
me after that his costume
budget there was the same as
our entire budget! We made it
for a tuppence, but it worked
With so many strings to his
professional bow – journalist,
broadcaster, writer and TV host
– Moncrieff coyly underplays
his scope and versatility,
insisting that all his careers are
“I am continuously cross-
pollenating! I started off in
print media and then moved
into broadcasting, and the only
difference was that I was then
reading what I had written out
“Besides, if I had only one
focus, I would become bored,
Boredom is something that
evidently won’t be troubling
this reluctant renaissance man
as the future is awash with a
whole host of exciting projects,
While the way we drink and the way we relate is not, just like his including another novel that he
to each other can often be described as fellow Irish brothers hopes will be a “bestseller and
sell zillions of copies” – possibly so that he can
retire and put his feet up, or at the very least
dysfunctional, there is nothing quite like a and sisters, held to allow him to upgrade to an office a little more
night out with irish people. The energy, the ransom by mean- luxurious than the southbound DART to Bray.
craic, the fun – tourists travel here just so spirited envy, who
that they can be a part of it out of his peers or Speaking of going south, there is one
contemporaries is thing that Moncrieff hopes the Irish will never
worthy of applause? lose should our unique identity continue
to be gobbled up by the one-size-fits-all
“I really admire homogeneity that is currently sweeping the
David Frost – he has world: the craic.
had such a varied “Ireland is seeing many changes take place
career,” Moncrieff – it’s inevitable,” Moncrieff concedes. “Our
in comparison to other EU countries; on the swoons. “He is equally at home interviewing millennials are now only partially Irish, partially
other, when it comes to Muslims and the US presidents as he is doing utter nonsense. global. They are not too dissimilar from people
Travelling community, we are pretty bad. We One day he’s interviewing Reagan, the next he’s in places like Milwaukee or Birmingham.
associate danger with them, especially with fronting some silly paranormal programme for “If we are changing, though, there are
Muslims – who many of us view as terrorists. ITV! certain things that I hope remain the same.
“On my radio show, there are some “We also have a wonderful culture of While the way we drink and the way we relate
listeners who have texted in claiming that the broadcasting here in Ireland,” he continues. to each other can often be described as
refugees aren’t fleeing from war in Syria at all, “There are so many great names, from Pat dysfunctional, there is nothing quite like a night
but are instead trying to infiltrate the West.” Kenny to Seán O’Rourke to Matt Cooper.” out with Irish people. The energy, the craic, the
And while Moncrieff concludes that many When it comes to the media, while we fun – tourists travel here just so that they can
of the existing stereotypes concerning the Irish might boast strong radio and TV presenters, be a part of it.
are well-founded and with merit, he discovered we lack substantial budgets – something that “We are also an extremely kind, warm and
that one particular hackneyed myth lacks Moncrieff deftly illustrates with the example of helpful nation. There are thousands of people
substance: that we are a nation of begrudgers. former ITM cover star, Dara O Briain. around the country who carry out charity work
“If someone’s success is transparent,” “I’m quite proud of Don’t Feed the or unpaid work on behalf of their community,
Moncrieff explains, “like that of sports stars Gondolas,” he mentions, once again hospitals or clubs.
such as Brian O’Driscoll or Roy Keane, and unashamedly tooting that horn of his. “I hope that side of us never changes.” ITM
we’ve seen that they have achieved their “Especially when you think of all the restraints The Irish Paradox, How and Why
success through hard work, we don’t begrudge we had. We Are Such a Contradictory People
them anything. In fact, we make them heroes. (€16.99, Gill & Macmillan) is out now.
“I remember Dara was a guest on Have I
“But, in other areas – in politics, say –
we are suspicious of someone’s success,
something untoward must have gone on for
them to have gotten to where they are now. Ireland is seeing many changes
They must have used their pull or contacts to take place – it’s inevitable
Therefore, seeing as the UCD alumnus