TERRY PRONE: Putting Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran in a box because of his education is a terrible mistake

Kevin Boxer Moran outside Leinster House after the 32nd Dáil convened. Picture: RollingNews.ie

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran listens with a ferocious level of concentration. He has some memory. Because he cares. Because he works, writes Terry Prone.

IT SOUNDS as if it was one of those radio programmes where external, non-political commentators spend their time giving out. Such programmes are staples of current broadcasting, and those of us who get asked to appear on them are properly grateful.

One of those who appeared on such a programme recently – I don’t know who it was – gave out about the current government, offering up the killer point that said government is just about to gain a minister who “doesn’t even have a Group Cert”. Now, there’s an interesting observation. Up to now, we didn’t know that a Group Cert was the basic qualification for being a minister, but now we’ve been put straight. Ministers should be highly educated, presumably to degree level.

Oddly, the killer point doesn’t seem to work the other way. Nobody ever says Leo Varadkar made a cobblers of something but isn’t it wonderful that he has a medical degree, or that Simon Coveney isn’t good at something political, but this must be set against him having an agricultural degree. People who might disagree with Katherine Zappone don’t qualify what they say by announcing that at least she has a doctorate. Owning a degree is rarely if ever used in comment, other, perhaps, than the odd stated view that Leo and James O’Reilly were ‘at least’ properly qualified medics.

That, we suspect, comes from two factors. The first is that, whether in politics or business, credentialism is rampant, and without a third- level degree, most recruitment websites don’t accept that an applicant even exists. It’s basic housekeeping. The second is that, whether in business or politics, we all know people who are covered in degrees and a matching level of incompetence. They can cite stuff. They just can’t DO stuff. Particularly if doing stuff requires decision-making.

Perhaps the most notable degree-holder in world politics right now is the President of the United States, who went to several third-level colleges, not making much of a mark in any one of them. He eventually went to Wharton, an Ivy League university, access to which, back then, might have been helped, in the case of such a mediocre student as The Donald, by family relationships with the folk charged with accepting students into the university. He “showed up for classes and did what was required of him, but he was clearly bored”, according to one contemporary.

Despite his boredom, he graduated. He didn’t graduate with distinction and no records support his claim to have been top of the class.

The key question is how much the Wharton degree improved his performance as a politician.

Universities are supposed to develop the capacity for critical thinking. He demonstrably lacks that capacity.

More fundamentally, universities are supposed to develop the capacity for simple THINKING.

He demonstrably lacks that capacity.

Not that one would wish to criticise whoever gave him the degree, although he himself did precisely that in his book The Art of the Deal, wherein he says a degree from Wharton “doesn’t prove very much”. And so say all of us, at least in his particular case.

The particular case referred to on the radio programme, however; the impending minister who doesn’t even have a Group Cert, is one Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran, better known as Boxer as a result of him drawing out and clouting a much bigger boy in schools football. Boxer, as he revealed on Friday’s Late, Late Show, is a tad deficient in education. I had no clue how deficient the first time I met him, when a mutual friend asked me, having delivered a speech in Athlone, to meet him because he was, she said, being right royally screwed within the local branch of Fianna Fáil, the party to which he had given his allegiance from boyhood.

Boxer Moran, that night, proved to be an expert in local politics.

He knew the structures, the pressures, the systems, the problems.

Particularly the problems. He could, and did, give day, date and detail of individual, if unnamed, constituents who were having trouble with social welfare or flooding or health.

I fed him names of politicians to figure out his judgement and got a series of pen-pictures that were better, more evidenced and more ruthless than the best political correspondent could produce.

Also riotously funny. Tears of laughter squeezed out of my eyes, but what was even more interesting was that he stopped, right there.

He wasn’t in the business of being entertaining.

He knew he was entertaining, but he had a real problem and wanted help solving it. Unlike President Trump, he was undistractable.

“Listen,” I said, getting up to go. “Let me think about it and I’ll text you.”

Small pause.

“No point in texting me, you’ll have to ring me.”

“I hate ringing people.”

“Well, I can’t read.”

Simple as that. Crippling as that. He didn’t do any self-pity, and it wouldn’t have washed, anyway, because this was clearly a super-competent politician who was going places.

Even though the spirit had been beaten down, it hadn’t been beaten out of him.

Years later, I got a two paragraph text from him and it stuck me to the ground.

Long after his schooldays had hardwired him into illiteracy, with the help of Michelle, his wife, he had tackled it.

The chances of him reading War and Peace are slim, but then the chances of the majority of the population reading War and Peace are slim, and those who haven’t don’t seem to grieve about it on a daily basis.

The person on the radio programme who seemed appalled by anyone being allowed to become a minister without a Group Cert under their belt probably doesn’t know Boxer Moran. Because anybody who knows him well rates him, even if they hate this Government and all it stands for. They rate him because he’s smart. Because he listens with a ferocious level of concentration. Because he has a superb memory. Because he cares. Because he works.

I doubt if eyerolling is going on within the civil service at the prospect of his elevation to the minister’s office, but if there is, there shouldn’t be.

When he doesn’t know a word that 90% of the populace doesn’t use, but is common currency within public administration, he’ll demand a simpler term, which is always good intellectual exercise for those given to conceptual and abstruse English. Any fears that subtlety or complexity will be beyond him will speedily be laid to rest.

The reality is this. Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran will work alongside ministers and ministers of state of varying degrees of education and experience. The smarter ones already know the truth, which is that he could buy and sell the best of them. Without a Group Cert to his name.

He listens with a ferocious level of concentration. He has some memory. Because he cares. Because he works


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