We are often told that sport and politics should never mix. Players are warned about making any kind of political gesture at all, and feel the full force of sporting administration if they do. Clearly sports stars are not meant to publicly air their political views.
What happens when the shoe is on the other foot though: when politicians decide to get involved in sport? Inspired by the General Election, we take a look at times when Irish politicians have placed themselves into the sporting world
Charlie McCreevey: Kildare winning is “better than sex”
Charlie McCreevey….just watch it
In the late 90’s when Charlie McCreevey was leading the long-struggling Irish economy into a massive property bubble, Mick O’Dwyer was leading the even-longer-struggling Kildare footballers to the brink of All Ireland glory.
After a semi-final win against Kerry, McCreevey somehow ended up being interviewed live on the Sunday Game, as you can see in the clip above. This is something that is impossible to imagine today, and given McCreevey’s performance it’s easy to understand why politicians may be keen to avoid these situations.
To his credit though, McCreevey wasn’t merely a bandwagon follower of Kildare GAA. He is still often seen at games around the country, and in 2013 he even served as an unofficial member of Kieran McGeeney’s backroom staff with the U21 footballers. His stint as mentor helped Kildare to a Leinster championship, and earned McCreevey the nickname “Chaz Mac” from the players.
Bertie Ahern: The pundit, the stadium builder and the gambler
Ahern gets a grilling from Eamon Dunphy on the Premiership
Ahern was well known as a Dublin GAA supporter. Stories of him showing up at post-game team dinners are often told in player’s autobiographies. He was also a devoted Manchester United follower and frequently traveled to games in Old Trafford.
Ahern wasn’t satisfied simply being a sports fan though. He chanced his arm at punditry on RTÉ’s The Premiership back in 2001 (seen in the clip above), and wrote a sports column for the News of the World back in 2009. While his opinions may have been pretty unremarkable, his appearance in an ad for the newspaper, featuring the former Taoiseach in a cupboard (around the same time the country was falling to pieces) will surely be played in years to come.
Aherne was never in the closet about his love of football
Ahern’s legacy will now be best remembered for the property bubble he helped fuel, but had things been different, Ahern could be immortalised in the form of a football stadium instead. Unfortunately, the Bertie Bowl never got off the ground, as costs spiralled and support wavered.
While the the former Taoiseach’s love of GAA and football is well known, his real expertise lay in horse racing. The Taoiseach told the Mahon tribunal in 2008 that a previously unexplained stg £8,000 lodgement into his account was in fact money he had won betting on horses. Clearly, Ahern was skilled at picking winners, and was in no way involved in accepting illegal payments.
Charlie Haughey wins the Tour de France
Judging by photos of the podium for the 1987 Tour de France, the event was remarkably won by two men that year. One of the winners was Irish cyclist Stephen Roche, while his partner on the podium was Taoiseach Charles J Haughey.
This was the year before the Irish football team’s success at the European Champioships in ’88, so Haughey was eager to jump on any sporting bandwagon he could find. Haughey’s choice of cycling was a fitting one though: the kinds of lying and corruption that marked his political life have now scarred cycling as well.
Mick Wallace and calcio
While the examples above could be seen as politicians turned celebrity sports fans, Mick Wallace is a celebrity sports fan turned politician. To Wallace’s credit though, he is much more than just a sports fan.
A lover of Italian football, he founded a his own club, Wexford Youths, back in 2007. Not only does Wallace provide financial backing, he has also coached numerous teams at the club, from underage right up to League of Ireland.
Wallace is not a man to politics get in the way of football. In 2012 he requested the Dáil summer holidays be rearranged so they coincided with Ireland’s (brief) Euro 2012 campaign:
Wallace may have been glad his request to get time off for Euro 2012 wasn’t granted…
Even during the current election campaign, Wallace is still making sure not to miss out on any football action. His only tweet from Tuesday mentions the pressing matter of commentary bias on BT Sport’s coverage of the Juventus vs Bayern Munich, and not the ineptitude of the party leaders who were debating around the same time:
— Mick Wallace (@wallacemick) February 23, 2016
Feature image: Oireachtas TV