Saturday 17 August 2019

Ivan Yates on his bucket list trip around America with wife of 31 years: 'I am a home bird at heart'

Ivan Yates is back from the trip of a lifetime with his wife as they celebrate 31 years of marriage this week, writes Niamh Horan

Ivan and Deirdre on their grand tour of the USA. The couple are pictured here in New York
Ivan and Deirdre on their grand tour of the USA. The couple are pictured here in New York
Deirdre and Ivan Yates in the USA
Ivan and Deirdre on their grand tour of the USA
Deirdre and Ivan Yates at Niagara Falls

He has travelled more than 20,000 miles across America and visited more than 30 states in a little over 100 days - and if the bucket list experience has taught Ivan Yates one thing: it's that, in his heart, he is a home bird.

The broadcaster, who is celebrating his 31st wedding anniversary with wife Deirdre this week, was back in town for the Christmas holidays - and rather than tackle the second half of his world tour - he says he might just stick around.

"The original plan was to repeat this over Europe but we are just going to take a little pause until we decide. We will certainly do some more travel next month and February, perhaps shorter trips, but we are going to think about it over Christmas.

"I am ready to come home. I am all 'touristed' out."

Asked if he could return to a presenting role in the New Year, Mr Yates said the next stage of his life is "a blank page".

"The honest answer is I don't know what I will be doing. I have absolutely no expectations but my entire media career since 2009 - be it at TV3, Newstalk or newspapers - someone else picked up the phone. I never had an agent. So really I have no commitments, plans or obligations."

Deirdre and Ivan Yates at Niagara Falls
Deirdre and Ivan Yates at Niagara Falls

But he added: "If an opportunity comes up before September [when Deirdre returns to her teaching job] I will certainly consider it."

Speaking about how he has reassessed his life, Ivan says he is taking a philosophical view: "I am 57, my father died at 57. I lived my whole life getting into politics at 18, the Dail at 21, developing a business and the last several years in the media and bankruptcy. It's all been a little bit manic. So instead of chasing butterflies I'll be happy if one lands on me."

Ivan and Deirdre's trip of a lifetime took the pair from New York to Philadelphia, Boston to Vermont, Montreal to Toronto, before taking in Niagara Falls, Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver and the west coast of California from Sacramento to San Francisco and San Jose, Silicon Valley, right down to San Diego, Texas, New Orleans, Nashville, Florida and up to Washington DC before sailing home from Brooklyn to Ireland.

The couple saw Adele perform in Madison Square Garden, Tom Jones in Boston and Van Morrison in San Francisco. They took a helicopter ride over the Grand Canyon and partied in the honky-tonk bars of the Wild West, while a game of American Football at Giants Stadium and an ice hockey final in Toronto covered Ivan's sporting passions.

On the political front, Ivan says: "I inhaled the full American culture. I immersed myself as a student in the politics of the election campaign and the media's coverage of the campaign. I went on every narrated tour, I learned a lot about the history of America, the geography and culture of it. I treated it as a PHD in America."

On his experience of the country's social issues, the broadcaster said he was taken aback by the "absolute chilling abject poverty" and the "everyday nature of the acceptance of homelessness".

"People who should be in mental health facilities were living under bridges or wheeling around [their entire life's belongings] in supermarket trolleys," he said.

The exclusion of their plight from each of the three American Election debates was explained to him in the simple shrug that "Hobos don't vote".

The politician, turned presenter, also described how he had witnessed first hand, the issues that Donald Trump campaigned on including the "huge influx of Cubans into Florida and Mexicans into Texas".

Speaking about Trump's victory, he said: "As a political junkie I am in awe of what he did.

Ivan and Deirdre on their grand tour of the USA
Ivan and Deirdre on their grand tour of the USA

"It's not that I agree with him on every issue but his success as a candidate by any standard in any country was historically unprecedented."

Asked if he would have voted for Trump, he replied: "Oh yes. I wouldn't have voted for Hillary [Clinton] under any circumstances. To run as a proxy 'third term Obama' was a disastrous idea. That, on top of the lack of energy to visit some of the states in the last 30 days of the campaign and I also thought she had nothing to say other than Trump was 'dark, divisive and dangerous'. Other than the fact that she was a 'me too Obama' and the fact that she was a woman, she had no other message except 'vote for me.'"

He believes the only faltering in Trump's momentum occurred during the audio tapes controversy. "I think the fact that he is so wealthy and had a few wives, he doesn't need to be hassling or hustling women. He hasn't a problem with women. So to put him across as some sort of sex fiend really doesn't make sense if you think about it and the public didn't buy into it."

Although Ivan said he is grateful his American trip gave him a "much broader world view" he is in no hurry to return.

"My fondness for Ireland increased with each passing week."

Speaking about his New Year resolution, the former Fine Gael TD said: "I think I am going to try and have a less manic life. I have been getting up very early in the morning for the last six years and before that I was really on the back foot trying to maintain 400 jobs in Celtic bookmakers and dealing with all the difficulties of corporate and personal insolvencies and the whole tsunami of the crash. Since I started at 21 in the Dail I have been really finding it quite hard to stand still, so I actually think I am going to be less manic in anything I do."

Ivan, who enjoyed pints with his former co-host Chris Donoghue following his return, as well as a night out with Anna Daly and colleagues at the TV3 Christmas party, says this Wednesday marks the couple's wedding anniversary.

And after 31 years of marriage he says: "We really are companions whether we are travelling or not - it's a done deal."

And what has the former Minister learned on married life after three decades?

"Just do as you are told."

Sunday Independent

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