The decision by RTE to find out who we think is the greatest ever Irish person reveals much of what we think about ourselves at present. No scientist, no writers, no poets, no actors, no sports stars, no protestants or anyone from religious life are listed. Political giants who shaped our nation whether I liked it or not; O’Connell, Parnell, Cusack, Davitt, De Valera, Lemass, Whitaker, Larkin, all missing from the final list of 10. No business man (Arthur Guinness must be spinning in hs grave)not even Michael O'Leary after his Hanger 6 stunt could get in ahead of former air hostess Adi Roche.
The 10 voted by the public says a lot about Ireland in the 21st century; Bono a tax dodging humanitarian rock star, 2 who were shot dead, Collins & Connolly, another who died from a drug overdose Phil Lynott, just 3 women 2 of whom were former Labour presidential candidates, Adi Roche, Mary Robinson as well as Sonia O’Sullivan, and the late Stephen Gately one of 2 members of Boyzone originally nominated. Incidentally the initial list of 40 nominees contained more member of Boyzone when you add their manager Louis Walsh than members of the first Dail! I wonder if they’d had a bigger short list of 50 would Mikey Graham have edged out Countess Markievicz?
I voted for James Connolly. If there was PR I’d have continued my preference for Noel Browne and Mary Robinson. There are many left off the list I’d have loved to seen nominated Dr Kathleen Lynn, former FF TD who founded a children’s hospital in the 1930’s, Countess Markievicz first woman to be elected to Westminster, Ernest Walton, Nobel prize winner, WB Yeats ditto, Grace O’Malley or Nano Nagle surely should be there? What about Gay Byrne? As a broadcaster and as someone who’s changed attitudes to road safety? I’d have him there. Sonia a rare world class athlete who brought great pleasure to the country doesn't make it past the tape!
The late Frank Cluskey said that there was no point in having a vote unless you knew the outcome beforehand. I know where he was coming from on this one. I’d have thought that nominees would have been drawn from a wider base. Yeats once said that Irish Protestants were no petty people, RTE seem to have another view. Not one Northern Protestant included. Instead we have a mish mash of celebs and lefties! I’d be happy if any of the 3 I’ve picked win, but there must be more to Ireland than these. John Hume is also a man of real substance and vision, But Stephen Gately, Bono or Phil Lynott all of whom I’ve seen perform? Did I think I was looking at the greatest Irish person ever? Not really, Michael Collins apparently could work a crowd much better and at least had vision and left the country something more valuable.
We as a country are celebrity driven that live in the present but also lives in the passive. We’ve arrived at the stage where TV3 will send its Expose team round the entertainment world to interview celebs but doesn’t put resources into investigative journalism.
But we’re also humanitarian minded; It’s extraordinary how many humanitarians there were in the initial list. But where was Sir Rodger Casement in the nominees? It seems as if there is a disconnect between the present and the past and its just present day humanitarians or celebs who count. Perhaps in another 10 years we might expect celebrity chefs, Reality TV presenters, NAMA execs listed?
In the meantime I think the top 5 will be Collins, Connolly, John Hume, Mary Robinson and Bono with Hume to win. Connolly was listed by BBC some years back in their competition to find the 100 greatest Britons ever. But lets wait and see what September brings. In the absence of any Wexford person on the list I’m concurrently running my own poll to see who you think was Wexford greatest ever person. Pick from Brendan Corish, Eileen Gray, Fr Murphy, John Redmond and Colm Toibin.