This much I know: Eddie Hobbs

“The climate is always right for a good show about consumer rights.”

My worst habit is impatience.

I wouldn’t say that I loved school. I had mixed fortunes at Coláiste Chríost Rí in Cork. I think I was seen as a bit of a maverick. I was one of a few playing rugby for example and didn’t conform to the more usual GAA stereotype.

The climate is always right for a good show about consumer rights. Judging by the audience reaction to our new TV series, perhaps it’s needed now more than ever.

What appalls me most about our economic crisis is the psychological impact that it is having on the mental health of our society. I have met families who are drowned in debt and yet there is no state response to that crisis. I met one young woman who buried her husband at 20. His financial troubles became so great that he chose to take his own life.

You can’t radically reform a society through stealth. It has to be done through taking the power back and putting it in the hands of the people.

I believe the enemy is within. When the British left in 1922 we handed over one set of colonisers for another. We have what I describe as a dysfunctional democracy. But I don’t think we are a totally passive society — we did take our frustration out at the ballot box.

I don’t mince my words. And I suppose people presume I have a very thick skin. But, I had to develop it. It didn’t come naturally.

When I left school, I went straight to work in an insurance company based in the South Mall in Cork.

I didn’t understand my attitude towards authority until I was in my mid-40s. I was asked to take part in a TV show called Where Was Your Family During The Famine. It took me on a journey through my past, during which the experts revealed that I come from a very long line of dissenters. I knew a little about the dissenters of course, but when I found out more — that they questioned the linking of state and religion; that they were seen as being very dangerous and were banned from being members of parliament and from universities — which lead them to set up their own — I began to understand my own attitudes more.

Being a public figure is tricky. I don’t court publicity and always try to keep it to a minimum.

I’m not sure that human logic can provide all the answers. I certainly sit up and take notice when coincidences happen.

I married a West Cork woman in 1987 and one of my very favourite places is Union Hall.

My father was a commercial salesman and I really think it was the stress of that job that killed him.

When my time comes, I hope I will at least be able to say that I didn’t sit back, I wasn’t apathetic: I got involved. Whenever I hear Thoreau’s quote ‘most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them’ it makes my resolve all the firmer.

I don’t think it is unhealthy to think about death — it’s simply there. Every time I start talking about the link between massive personal debts and suicide, people get terribly uncomfortable. But it’s no use pretending it’s not there.

I admire good orators — I recently spent three hours in The Churchill War Rooms — now there was an orator. And I’m impressed by good tabloid journalists who can take a highly complex document and reduce it down to its very essence.

It has taken me a long time to learn the art-form of doing nothing.

Eddie Hobbs presents The Consumer Show with Keelin Shanley on Tuesdays at 8.30pm on RTÉ One.


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