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Sunday 28 May 2017

Collins was 'our Nelson Mandela', says McDowell

Claire Dalton

Former political leader Michael McDowell has criticised the composition of RTE's Great Irish series -- even though he presents the first programme to find Ireland's most influential figure.

"I share the view that the Top 40 was cluttered with 'flavour of the month' celebrities instead of figures of real importance like Daniel O'Connell and de Valera," said the former Progressive Democrats leader, who will champion his hero Michael Collins in the first programme of the series this Monday.

Mr McDowell was referring to the inclusion in the Top 40 of figures such as The X Factor judge Louis Walsh and Ronan Keating of Boyzone, actor Colin Farrell and showband star Joe Dolan. The longlist was drawn up after a professional poll by Ipsos/MRBI and the final top 10 was whittled down by public vote and included Stephen Gately and Phil Lynott.

The top Five are the subject of separate hour-long documentaries each presented by a different prominent figure.

"I think there is too much current affairs on Irish radio and television and not enough documentaries," said Mr McDowell yesterday. He added that he greatly enjoyed making the programme, travelling in the footsteps of his hero Collins.

Mr McDowell, who has returned to the bar since he retired from political life, is the only 'non-media' person to front one of the programmes.

In the series Bono will be presented by RTE's Dave Fanning; James Connolly by Liveline's Joe Duffy; John Hume by Prime Time presenter Miriam O'Callaghan; and Mary Robinson by journalist and broadcaster David McWilliams.

When the series ends the public will then be asked to select Ireland's greatest figure.

In the programme Mr McDowell, a grandson of Irish Volunteers leader Eoin MacNeill who famously tried to call off the 1916 Rising, says Collins was "Ireland's George Washington -- he was our Nelson Mandela".

Travelling through Collins' birthplace in west Cork, Mr McDowell describes him as a "moderniser -- more interested in the future than the past" and a major figure in creating "the modern, democratic republic that we love.

"This is our Republic and we have Michael Collins to thank for that," he says.

Speaking yesterday he added: "In the last 10 years, since the Michael Collins movie, Collins has become everybody's property, not just one side, and that I think is a great thing."

The series starts tomorrow night on RTE One at 9.35pm

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