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Dail radars humming as Mac is back on a mission

HEADS swivelled to track the progress of the smartly-suited chap as he wandered about the corridors of Leinster House yesterday looking for a former colleague.

Lots of ex-politicians appear in the building on a regular basis, but few of them set the finely-tuned political radars of the inhabitants humming in quite the same way as Michael McDowell does.

The PDs may be deader than the Celtic Tiger, but the fair-haired head of their penultimate leader still pops up over the political parapet from time to time. Last July he materialised at the MacGill summer school in Donegal and went all coy in the face of questions on whether he was contemplating a dramatic comeback in the ranks of Fine Gael.

"I'm not talking about that," the former Dublin South-East TD teased the reporters. And then last month he rattled a few more political cages when he took on yet another new job.

On September 20 the legal eagle sailed forth from the law library to champion the cause of Michael Collins in RTE's hunt for 'Ireland's Greatest', in which he declared "every man wanted to be Michael Collins and every woman wanted to stand in Kitty Kiernan's shoes".

The evident gusto with which he took to the role of TV presenter inevitably sparked speculation that he was in line to receive a telly show of his own, with some reports that he would end up head to head against TV3's Vincent Browne with a late-night current affairs show.

So yesterday the question was -- Is Mac Back? Was he poised to rise like a bespectacled phoenix from the ashes of the 2007 general election and haunt the dreams of his old constituency foe, John Gormley? Or was he harbouring dreams of making it big in Montrose? Neither, as it transpired. Michael was on a mission. He had turned up to meet with former Fine Gael minister Nora Owen -- not to plot a course into the band of Blueshirts, but to give her money.

So caught up has he become with the Big Fella that Michael wanted to donate his fee for presenting 'Ireland's Greatest' to the Michael Collins 22 Society.

And so he nipped in to give the haul to Nora, grand-niece of Michael Collins and patron of the society, and the group's national organiser Bill Martin.


The voting to select 'Ireland's Greatest' closes this evening, and Michael admitted he was nervous about the outcome. "Michael Collins is the greatest outstanding figure of the 20th century. We've not got a great outstanding Irish figure of the 21st century yet," he reckoned.

Oh dear. Brian Cowen will be crushed.

And his fee for his part in the programme? €6,000, no less. But Michael had it all worked out and, by his calculation it wasn't that much, really.

"We found out that in 1921 Michael Collins turned down £25,000 to write his autobiography. That's €960,000 in today's money," he explained.

So was he planning a few more political chapters for his own autobiography, or a move to the glamorous milieu of RTE?

Michael just smiled. "Relax, that's not on the cards," he said. Maybe not. But that won't keep the political radars from humming whenever he hoves into view on Kildare Street.

Irish Independent