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Bland wee Daniel is No 1 at winding up top celebrities

LARISSA NOLAN FEISTY feminist Germaine Greer took such a dislike to him that she tried to ridicule him in front of a live TV audience while pop maestro Louis Walsh witheringly dismissed him as "a pile of sh*te".

And now Morrissey - the so-called king of indie cool - has set aside his usual brand of post-modern angst to have a go at the poor fella.

Just what is it about poor old Daniel O'Donnell that provokes such fear and loathing?

As multi-millionaire artists go, they don't get any blander than wee Daniel, the country-folk crooner and unapologetic square, famous for his laid-back, inoffensive music and wholesome image.

He loves his mammy, his wife and his home county of Donegal; he works for charity, is kind to old folk and has plenty of time for his armyof fans.

On the face of it, Daniel O'Donnell should, if anything, be a figure of utter indifference to the likes of an intellectual such as Greer or an all-powerful pop impresario such as King Louis.

The news that Daniel is preying on the mind of Stephen Patrick Morrissey is a particular shock. Morrissey has spent two decades, pondering weightier matters, like the futility of modern life.

But it seems the madder they get, the more they get wound up by ordinary, humdrum, wee Daniel.

One would imagine that Morrissey, possibly one of the greatest lyricists of all time, and still, at 47, one of the coolest figures in music, would not even be aware of Daniel's existence.

Yet it was O'Donnell of all people who got Mozzer hot under the collar at a gig in Manchester last weekend after he performed his passionate, rousing hit Irish Blood, English Heart.

The heavily anti-establishment song tells of the culture clash he experienced being raised in Britain by Irish parents and at the end, he launched an attack on those who received knighthood and other honours from the British establishment.

Interestingly, he steered clear of mentioning Bono, who is set to receive an honorary knighthood next month, but he wasn't slow to take a swipe at Daniel, who received an MBE in 2001.

"I've been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour and Tories and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell," he sang, before saying: "That's the song that'll ensure I'm never be on the New Year's Honours List." Then he said Daniel O'Donnell had been made an MBE because he is "a mad member of the British Empire".

The young rock crowd at the gig must not have had a clue who he was talking about, but no doubt their grannies would have. Multi-millionaire artists don't come any blander than Daniel, which makes his propensity to inspire such vexed emotions perplexing.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent this year, Louis Walsh conceded he was very successful, but said, "you don't have to be that talented to be successful. Daniel actually has no soul in his music. He has a huge following but so did the Pied Piper. I can't understand why someone as ridiculously untalented as Daniel O'Donnell gets all the attention."

He was the target of negative vibes from Germaine Greer in the summer, when the formidable Aussie feminist took a serious turn against him when they were both guests on Miriam O'Callaghan's RTE chat show.

Chatting to Miriam, Daniel mentioned that cooking wasn't one of his wife Majella's strengths and said he loved his mother's pancakes. Cutting to a break, the audience heard Greer tackling Daniel over his comments and suggesting that pancakes weren't so difficult to cook."Well Germaine, your pancakes may be a bit bitter," he responded light-heartedly, but showing a sharp tongue that surprised most.

Greer became even more irritated by him, pulling faces behind his back and wrinkling her nose at him.

Miriam O'Callaghan later said: "Daniel came across really well. He believed he was standing up for himself and I admire that in him."

And so did the viewers. Because that is the thing about Daniel - the public likes him. OK, so he might be like a character straight out of Fr Ted and he is about as exciting as a night in watching Pat Kenny, but he doesn't try to be something he's not. And he is not afraid to be uncool, which makes him cool by default.