RTE’s greatest

Sep 26th, 2010 | By | Category: Ireland

Enjoying the quietness of south-west France, with the only annoyance being Bayonne losing 26-25 to Perpignan through conceding unnecessary penalties, the tranquility of a lazy Sunday was disrupted by reading a post by Seconds Out on Bock the Robber’s website.

RTE have been running a poll on who was the greatest Irish person.  This began with a Top 40 last March, from which the exclusions are astonishing and many of the inclusions simply bizarre:

1. Bono (1960)
2. Dr. Noel Browne (1915 – 1997)
3. Michael Collins (1890 – 1922)
4. James Connolly (1868 – 1916)
5. Éamon de Valera (1882-1975)
6. Joe Dolan (1939 – 2007)
7. Ronnie Drew (1934 – 2008)
8. Colin Farrell (1976)
9. Garret Fitzgerald (1926)
10. Stephen Gately (1976 – 2009)
11. Bob Geldof (1951)
12. Pádraig Harrington (1971)
13. Charles Haughey (1925 – 2006)
14. Séamus Heaney (1939)
15. John Hume (1937)
16. James Joyce (1882 – 1941)
17. John B. Keane (1928 – 2002)
18. Roy Keane (1971)
19. Ronan Keating (1977)
20. Seán Lemass ( 1899-1971)
21. Jack Lynch (1917 – 1999)
22. Phil Lynott (1951 – 1986)
23. Paul Mc Grath (1959)
24. Christy Moore (1945)
25. Liam Neeson (1952)
26. Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847)
27. Daniel O’Donnell (1961)
28. Brian O’Driscoll (1979)
29. Michael O’Leary (1961)
30. John O’Shea (1944)
31. Sonia O’Sullivan (1969)
32. Charles Stewart Parnell (1846 – 1891)
33. Pádraig Pearse (1879 – 1916)
34. Christy Ring (1920 – 1979)
35. Mary Robinson (1944)
36. Adi Roche (1955)
37. Wolfe Tone (1763 – 1798)nd
38. Louis Walsh (1952)
39. Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)
40. W.B. Yeats (1865 – 1939)

It is presumably a poll on the greatest 26 Counties person, with the odd Ulsterman thrown in because of southward inclinations; thus John Hume and Seamus Heaney make the list, but there is no place for George Best in a list that includes the much lesser talents of Paul McGrath and Roy Keane.

Anyway, this list was whittled down to ten: Bono, Dr. Noel Browne, Michael Collins, James Connolly, Stephen Gately, John Hume, Phil Lynott, Padraig Pearse, Mary Robinson and Adi Roche; from which a shortlist of five has emerged: Bono, Michael Collins, James Connolly, John Hume and Mary Robinson. RTE’s top five are all from the 20th Century and, by contemporary definitions of nationality,  one of them is a Scotsman,

As the shortlist is confined to the 20th Century,RTE’s top ten can be contrasted with the ten people from the island of Ireland who have won Nobel prizes:

Samuel Beckett
Mairead Corrigan
Seamus Heaney
John Hume
Seán MacBride
George Bernard Shaw
David Trimble
Ernest Walton
Betty Williams
William Butler Yeats

Only John Hume of the Nobel laureates made it into the RTE top ten.  Stephen Gately was greater than Ernest Walton.  What a great country we live in.

Leave a comment »

  1. At Wilson’s Hosp prize day the Warden spoke of his 4 Irish heroes: Horace Plunkett (co-ops); Noel Browne (TB); Ken Whitaker (economic dev); Donogh O’Malley (free secondary ed). Good choices, I thought. Only Noel Browne in this top 40.

  2. How could anyone even think of mentioning Steven Gately, Ronan Keating, Colin Farrell and Daniel O’Donnell in the same breath as WB Yeats, James Joyce, John Hume, Dr Noel Browne – even Roy Keane and Phil Lynnott dont warrant a mention either in my opinion but what do I know !! John Hume gets my vote.

  3. But if John Hume, why not David Trimble?

    Linda’s list from Wilson’s sounds more substantial than the one from RTE.

  4. How about Peig Sayers, Thomas O’ Crohan, Sean O’ Crohan Maurice O’Sullivan, I enjoyed reading about their lives and experiences from the Blasket Islands….

  5. I chose John Hume as he is in the top 5. – David Trimble would come a close second if he was also in the mix. Peig Sayers was the bane of many leaving cert students lives over the years – thank goodness she has finally been put out to pasture !!!!

  6. I have A.N. Wilson’s ‘Our Times’ as part of my holiday reading. His chapter on Ireland is probably the weakest part of the book, including factual errors; he describes Hume as ‘weasly’!

  7. What about Harry Ferguson, that inventive Ulsterman – planes, tractors and more besides. He even made it on to a stamp – an Irish stamp. (By the way, Irish commemorative stamps are great.)
    And while we’re being scientific – Robert Boyle – arguably the first modern chemist – from Waterford I think.
    I’ve had dealings with 5 of the final 10 – most of whom were/are very tolerant.
    One of them had a very odd accent. But which one?

  8. Maybe the first, alphabetically.

    Boyle was suggested on the thread on Bock the Robber’s site. I thought Francis Beaufort might be another candidate.

  9. It was Sean McBride – in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens. Joan Ruddock was there too, the then chairwoman/person/whatever of CND (now Labour MP). We were all there saving the world, as you do.

    The women with whom Joan Ruddock was staying were in awe of her smooth hairless legs – no sign apparently of any human agency in their hairlessness. I pass that on, but I don’t really feel qualified to comment further on it.

Leave Comment