Pioneer magazine

March 09: Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh

Micheál Ó Muircheartaigh, one of our most popular broadcasters, and his wife Helen, now live in Meath, on the border with Kildare. This leaves him within striking distance of the Capital as well as providing speedy access to Ireland's main arterial roads. This way, Micheal, father of eight and now a sprightly grandfather of many more, is well placed to set out on his frequent journeys to the four corners of the country and further afield where he promotes the many and varied good causes he has taken to heart. He took time off from his busy schedule to talk to Pioneer magazine.

Pioneer: Even the least observant viewer of the Irish media must have noticed the Pioneer Pin on your lapel. How long have you been a member of the Association?

Micheal: I joined the Pioneers while still in Primary School in Kerry. I was one of the many youngsters at the time who became Pioneers as an extension of the Confirmation Pledge. There were so many people of all ages around wearing the Pioneer Pin that it seemed a very natural thing to do.

Pioneer: You were a teacher for a large part of your life before dedicating yourself so totally to the media and the world of sport. Has Pioneer membership ever proved a handicap to you in any of these areas?

Micheal: I have never felt in any way disadvantaged by my membership nor by wearing the Pioneer Pin. Some people seem to imagine that there will be difficulties. My experience has been that none ever actually arise. People allow you your own space in life. Jim Bolger and Aidan O'Brien, two of the world's top racehorse trainers have no trouble always wearing their Pioneer Pins. There are plenty of alternative drinks and they should always be made available.

Pioneer: You are identified with Greyhound Racing and other sports but your name is primarily associated with Gaelic Games. There is a widespread complaint, especially among parents, that a culture of drinking and, indeed, irresponsible drinking has crept into the GAA.

Micheal: People of authority in the GAA freely admit that they will have to do more to counteract this trend in the future. An important step in this direction is the appointment of an officer to promote a change in attitudes. Since most of the really effective work in the GAA is done at local level, each Club is now expected to nominate a person to cooperate in this project. The main focus will be the younger players.

Pioneer: You have had first-hand experience of GAA activity over a long period. Have there been any significant changes in recent times?

Micheal: One thing that is very striking is the high level of player fitness nowadays. The majority of them realise that you cannot drink heavily and keep fit. For instance, a few years ago, after one of the GAA All-Star trips abroad I asked Sean Kelly, then President, if he had any comments. "The big drinking days are now over", he replied. This is clear to me also. I remember on one trip when Donal O Cusac arrived late because of work commitments. His first question on coming into the hotel was "Where is the gym?". In an earlier day the query would probably have been about the location of the bar!

Pioneer: Have you any ideas about how we can help young people avoid the pitfalls of alcohol abuse and drug addiction?

Micheal: We must give them a reason for doing something. There is no point in simply telling them not to do something. This is why your effort to explain the thinking behind the Pioneer work is so important. Because they are young and as yet inexperienced they are open to being challenged and encouraged to do things. Indeed, I think that we don't ask young people enough. They would surprise us with their idealism and generosity.

Pioneer: We are grateful to you for your generous support of the Pioneer Association over the years, Micheal. We hope that you will continue to help us as we try to bring our message to a wider audience.

Micheal: Indeed I will. You should be fearless in using every opportunity to put your important message across. You should keep in mind the Sean-fhocail. "Muna bhfuil agat ach pucan gabhair bigi i lar an aonaigh". ("Even if you have nothing else to sell than an old puck-goat make sure you are in the middle of the fair").

And you have something much more valuable to sell!