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Wednesday 1 October 2014

Jeremy Paxman catches Hay fever on Kells visit

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

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Jeremy Paxman signs his new book 'Great Britain's Great War' at the Hay Festival Kells
Joe O'Connell studies a painting of Samuel Beckett at the Hay Festival Kells

POLITICAL inquisitor and author Jeremy Paxman has admitted he never believed that Irish and British relations would improve so significantly in his lifetime.

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Paxman was speaking at the Hay Festival Kells about his book 'Great Britain's Great War' and said he could never have dreamt of seeing Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness enjoying a "spot of supper" with the Queen.

"I started my journalistic career covering The Troubles in Northern Ireland," Paxman told the Irish Independent at the Co Meath festival.

"If someone had said to me back then that the political changes we have seen would occur within my lifetime I would have been hugely sceptical.

"The sight of Martin McGuinness in his white tie sitting down to supper with, as he would have put it then, 'the head of state of an occupying power' I would have thought it would be totally inconceivable."

Paxman began his career at the BBC in the 1970s and built up a reputation for grilling politicians on current affairs show 'Newsnight'.

Last month, he quit the show after 25 years.

At the literary festival, Paxman spoke of the importance in commemorating the centenary of the 'Great War' in a refined manner.

"I don't know if parties on the street are the best way to remember a war. And I don't know if commemorating the beginning of a war rather than the end makes sense.

"But I do think we should pause and think quietly of the large number of men, women and children who didn't survive and those who were grievously afflicted in both the body and mind."

Other distinguished authors attending the festival include author of 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' Louis de Bernieres, Jung Chang and Declan Kiberd.

Irish Independent

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