David Mc­Cul­lagh

Broad­caster and au­thor David Mc­Cul­lagh is a stal­wart in cur­rent af­fairs, but what are his in­ter­ests away from the coal­face of pol­i­tics? Donal O’Donoghue pitches the ques­tions

RTÉ Guide - - Contents -

Donal O’Donoghue sits down with the broad­caster and au­thor

It had been a hec­tic seven days for David Mc­Cul­lagh. One week be­fore we meet, the RTÉ broad­caster hosted his first Prime Time pres­i­den­tial de­bate. The fol­low­ing day, Wed­nes­day, his new book, De Valera: Rule, was ‘launched’ by Brian Cowen. On Thurs­day, he was get­ting ready­ing for Elec­tion Day and on Fri­day, he was mon­i­tor­ing exit polls on The Late Late Show. Through Satur­day, he was knee-deep in elec­tion cov­er­age. Come Sun­day, he rested by lis­ten­ing to This Week, the RTÉ ra­dio show he has an­chored since Septem­ber (he got the day off). Now, di­rect from a Prime Time meet­ing, Mc­Cul­lagh seems slightly anx­ious. “There’s not much news about,” he says, those dis­tinc­tive eye­brows knit­ted in worry. But I sus­pect that won’t be the case for long.

David Mc­Cul­lagh is a bright spark. His two-vol­ume bi­og­ra­phy of de Valera ( De Valera: Rise was pub­lished last year) is, if not the de­fin­i­tive pub­li­ca­tion on the sub­ject, most likely the big­gest. “I had to cut 140,000 words from the first vol­ume,” he says. “War and Peace was men­tioned by the pub­lish­ers and not in a good way.” He smiles. Mc­Cul­lagh has a wry sense of hu­mour, some­one who once did a TV broad­cast from out­side Gov­ern­ment Build­ings in jacket, shirt, tie and shorts (he was filmed from the waist up) and gave us the fun­ni­est line from that Pres­i­den­tial De­bate. “Per­haps in seven years we’ll have three can­di­dates from Ire­land’s Fittest Fam­ily,” he quipped when chal­lenged by one of the Drag­ons’ Den can­di­dates for de­scrib­ing them thus.

Last month, the Dubliner marked 25 years with RTÉ, hav­ing joined the na­tional broad­caster in 1993, fol­low­ing his first “proper job” as a re­porter with the Evening Press. In RTÉ, he worked on ra­dio and tele­vi­sion news be­fore be­ing pro­moted to Po­lit­i­cal Cor­re­spon­dent, his dream job since his school days at New­park Com­pre­hen­sive in Black­rock, Co Dublin and the rea­son he stud­ied pol­i­tics at UCD. In 2013, af­ter 12 years as po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent, he joined the Prime Time team. De Valera: Rule is his fourth book, fol­low­ing Rise, The Re­luc­tant Taoiseach (a bi­og­ra­phy of John A Costello) and A Makeshift Ma­jor­ity, a his­tory of the first in­ter-party gov­ern­ment carved from the car­cass of his PhD the­sis.

He lives in Dublin with his wife, Anne-Marie Smyth (who also works in the RTÉ News­room), their daugh­ter Rosie and their dog, Max, the “other love of my life”. He has been a Bruce Spring­steen “fa­natic” (33 gigs and count­ing) since first see­ing the Boss as a 17-year-old at Slane Cas­tle in 1985. “Spring­steen of­ten talks about mu­sic hav­ing the abil­ity to make a dif­fer­ence to a per­son’s life and I be­lieve that to be true,” he says. In 2004,

Mc­Cul­lagh joked that his am­bi­tion was to “make it to re­tire­ment with­out be­ing sued”. Is that still the case? “My big­gest am­bi­tion of all is to get to re­tire­ment with­out be­ing found out and that hasn’t hap­pened yet.” en he laughs long and loud, but I’m not sure if he’s laugh­ing at him­self or the world: maybe a bit of both.

My favourite Bruce Spring­steen track

It has to be Land of Hope and Dreams, not his best per­haps, but the most emo­tional for me. Our daugh­ter, Rosie, was born 18 years ago to­mor­row. My wife, Anne-Marie, was very sick fol­low­ing the preg­nancy and spent a month in hos­pi­tal. So I was driv­ing in and out of the Coombe with Rosie in the baby seat and Bruce Spring­steen’s Live in New York City on the CD player. On that al­bum is the song, Land of Hope and Dreams. “Dreams will not be thwarted…faith will be re­warded” and that had such a res­o­nance with me at the time. ank­fully, my faith was re­warded and ev­ery­thing was OK in the end.

Why I love Star Trek

A er Anne-Marie and I got mar­ried, we started get­ting into e Next Gen­er­a­tion, the re­boot with Patrick Stew­art. en we went back and watched all the orig­i­nal shows and ev­ery se­ries to date apart from the lat­est ( Star Trek: Dis­cov­ery) as we have the Leav­ing Cert hap­pen­ing at home. It is great es­capist en­ter­tain­ment but it also car­ries the mes­sage that there is hope for hu­man­ity, the re­verse of a dystopian fu­ture. Whoopi Gold­berg, who ap­peared in one of the Star Trek movies as well as e Next Gen­er­a­tion, has said that see­ing a black ac­tress on telly in the orig­i­nal se­ries [Nichelle Ni­chols, Uhuru] was im­por­tant to her be­cause if you can’t see it, you can’t be it. I wore my Star Trek cu inks (an­other present from his wife) dur­ing the Pres­i­den­tial De­bate.

Our Wed­ding Songs

Our rst dance was to Move Over Dar­ling by Doris

Day. I have two le feet so I went for dance les­sons be­fore­hand and was able to do a class of a tango to that song. Ev­ery­one as­sumed I couldn’t dance. We had our 25th wed­ding an­niver­sary re­cently and I was think­ing maybe I could do an­other dance but no, it’s all gone. Our sec­ond dance song for the wed­ding was It Had To Be You by Harry Con­nick Jnr and the third was Bet­ter Days by Bruce.

The book

is is go­ing to sound re­ally bor­ing but I would have to say, FSL Lyons’ Ire­land Since the Famine. Our his­tory teacher at New­park Com­pre­hen­sive, James Ryan, got us to read that rather than the sim­pli ed course book. It was, is, a beau­ti­fully writ­ten book and made you think about his­tory in a di er­ent way than if you had just stuck with the text­book. It in uenced the di­rec­tion I took in life and showed all of us in the class that we could go be­yond the su­per cial level of his­tory that was be­ing taught at the time. Hav­ing said that I only got a C in my Leav­ing Cert in His­tory and that still ran­kles.

The doc­u­men­tary

Prob­a­bly Lau­rence Rees’ Nazis: A Warn­ing from His­tory (1997). ere was one mo­ment in that which stood out for me. A woman, asked what it was like to live in Ger­many un­der the Nazis, said that it was ter­ri­ble and shock­ing and so on. en the pro­gramme-mak­ers pro­duced a let­ter which she had writ­ten to the Nazis de­nounc­ing her neigh­bour. It was just one of those mo­ments where the pre­tence and denial of what peo­ple had done un­der that regime was stripped away and she was faced with what she had done. at was a pow­er­ful piece of TV.

The liv­ing per­son I most ad­mire

Bruce Spring­steen, as a per­former and artist and a force for good, if that doesn’t sound too pre­ten­tious. He was once re­ferred to as a “true Amer­i­can hero”. I don’t know if he is a hero but he is some­one who be­lieves that the arc of his­tory bends to­wards jus­tice. In his own way, I be­lieve that he tries to do his best to live up to that and help it along.

The most ex­pen­sive item of cloth­ing I ever bought

When I was a stu­dent work­ing in Lon­don I bought a leather blou­son jacket of which I was in­or­di­nately proud. I can’t re­call how much it cost ex­actly but it was a signi cant por­tion of the money I saved for the sum­mer.

I re­ally loved that jacket, Anne-Marie not so much. So the jacket was even­tu­ally con­signed to the back of the wardrobe and hasn’t been seen in years.

My great­est ex­trav­a­gance

e tick­ets for Bruce Spring­steen on Broad­way when Anne-Marie brought me to New York for my 50th birth­day last De­cem­ber. I’ve spent so much on Spring­steen down the years that I reckon he owes me a for­tune now.

The piece of tech­nol­ogy

My favourite piece of tech­nol­ogy would have to be my MP3 player. It is a Mi­croso Zoom which is on its last legs, an an­cient thing, but it has ev­ery piece of mu­sic I ever owned. I’d be lost with­out it.

De Valera: Rule by David Mc­Cul­lagh is pub­lished by Gill

Prime Time, Tues & Thurs, RTÉ One

This Week, Sun­day, RTÉ Ra­dio 1

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.