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The man who nearly had it all -- how Yates lost his biggest gamble

IF things had gone only a little differently Ivan Yates would be preparing for talks with creditors owed billions, instead of millions, next week.

From being the youngest TD in the Dail when he was first elected in 1981, Yates went on to establish himself as a capable administrator as AgricultureMinister under John Bruton between 1994 and 1997. He had always been marked by his energy and was widely praised for deft handling of the beef crisis during his time in Agriculture.

When Bruton resigned in 2001 many expected the still young ex-minister to throw his hat into the leadership ring.

Instead, he stunned many by leaving the Dail altogether, sticking to a self-imposed target to limit his political career to just 20 year.

Observers noted that he had beaten the old truism that all political careers end in failure.

Yates' decision to stand down cleared the way for Michael Noonan, and a year later Enda Kenny to take over the battered Fine Gael machine.

Move forward a decade and Kenny and Noonan are deeply immersed in talks with the "troika" looking for a way to renegotiate the €31bn Anglo "promissory note".

If he had opted to stay in politics Yates would almost certainly be involved -- almost certainly in Cabinet, maybe even Taoiseach.

Instead, he's facing a much more personal meeting with creditors after calling a meeting with the banks, the taxman and the small suppliers that were left out of pocket following the collapse of his betting business collapsed last year.

It's an extraordinary measure of the man that the collapse of the business empire built up by Yates and his wife has if anything copper-fastened his popularity with the wider public. The public acknowledgement of the business collapse -- including admitting his own role in over-expanding during the boom has added rather than detracted from the authority he built up during his time in the Dail.

A year after the business went under Yates himself remains a whirl of energy.

He keeps up a massive media output despite debilitating back pain. He's won admiration for the frank handling of his own business travails and crucially remains as opinionated as ever

In a recent interview he has hinted at the difficulties of the last year.

The man that could have been leading the country is instead considering leaving for Wales -- where reformed bankruptcy laws make it easier to rebuild shattered finances.

His radio broadcasting is done from the flat of his back to help deal with the pain.

Media owners, and the public they serve are an unforgiving bunch. If Yates's authority as a public figure had been damaged by the collapse of Celtic Bookmakers his radio, tv and newspaper gigs would have quickly slipped away.

Irish Independent