This much I know: Ivan Yates

I’m not paid to be bland.

Working in broadcasting has been a learning curve. The more you do it, the more you realise that it is a performance. My role is different to straightforward journalism and the imparting of information. My job is to editorialise.

To provoke conversation and debate, to initiate and add to a conversation. I have strong views on some issues, others, I have to contrive. I got no formal training in the beginning. The technical aspect — controlling your breathing, learning how to read a radio script or auto-cue on television — comes with practice. The ability to be spontaneous is very important.

The great thing about working in the media is you can change your mind about something. In politics, you can’t.

I have awful problems with my back. I can’t sit for more than half an hour. Otherwise my left leg goes numb. So I stand up when I am presenting my radio show on Newstalk.

I used to try and swim to ease the pain, I even had two rods put into my back, but none of it has really helped.

As a child, I was very self confident. I became head boy of Aravon School in Bray, Co Wicklow and was always very independent and well able to stand on my own two feet.

I knew I was pre-ordained to be a farmer, my father’s intention, and I’d always been fascinated by bookmaking and betting and racing.

I am meticulous and a firm believer in planning. When I was running 63 betting shops, being organised was vital. Likewise, when I was running political campaigns I could have 300 volunteers working with me. It was a military-style operation.

My biggest fault is impatience. When I get tired I get cranky and can become irritable. I’m 100% work-oriented. Of course, I do relax by attending race meetings and rugby matches.

I’ve been married to Deirdre since 1985. Our youngest child is in UCD, the others are grown up.

My working hours are anti-social and I hate every second of having to get up at 4.30am. I won’t do it indefinitely. I can’t wait to get out of this routine which means I go to bed at 9.30pm and am asleep by 10.30pm.

At 4.30am, I have an hour’s reading to do, going through all the briefs that have been prepared by the team. We have a conference call at 6.15am, after the news, and decide on the running order. Apart from the show, I do a lot of after-dinner speaking and MCing and facilitating of events — as many as three a week. They all require preparation and, whilst I’m not complaining, this work load may not be sustainable.

Another failing I have is a low boredom threshold. At the peak of my strength I just ended my political career, which was a good thing [he was elected as a Fine Gael TD representing the Wexford constituency from 1981 until his retirement from politics in 2002]. I’ve seen people lose seats. I have no regrets about that aspect of things.

My biggest challenge was my bankruptcy. It involved me going abroad in my 50s and living alone in Wales, a country I’d never lived in before, and the whole aspect of doing it in the public eye was difficult. I’m not looking for sympathy. I was in control of certain decisions.

I have a fear of dying. And a phobia of flying. I’ve had it for 14 years or more. I started having very frightening panic attacks on flights after rough landings in bad weather in small planes. Eventually, I was so stressed, I had a kind of physical breakdown.

When you are in a dark place, my advice is to take one step at a time. Think of taking incremental steps: ‘if I can get to this position next’ instead of trying to jump 10 steps ahead to where you want to be in two years. There is a sense of satisfaction from building on each step.

I don’t know if there is a heaven or a hell.

* Ivan Yates co-presents Newstalk Breakfast with Chris Donoghue every weekday morning from 7am on Newstalk 106-108fm


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