TOOLS OF THE TRADE  Daniel Carey’s trusty notebook, laptop and dictaphone are pictured with a copy of The Mayo News. The man himself is pictured left in Michael McLaughlin’s studio, and right, outside The Mayo News office on the Fairgreen. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

As Daniel Carey, The Mayo News’s ace-sports journalist, grammatical guru, teller of tales, former film reviewer and lover of chocolate doughnuts, leaves the newsroom for the hallowed halls of academia, Áine Ryan talks to him about ‘anything but sport’ 

AR You are exiting The Mayo News to pursue a Phd in DCU after ten (or more!) years writing about sport. Tell us about your subject-matter?

DC It’s an oral history, based on interviews with former journalists and editors about their working lives. The PhD will look at Irish journalism over the past half-century, with a particular focus on technology, religion and politics.
I’ve always loved hearing people’s stories, and have long had a particular interest in media history. In 2012, I edited a supplement to mark the 120th birthday of The Mayo News. Edwin McGreal chaired a ‘round table’ discussion for that supplement with five long-serving members of staff (Pádraic Geraghty, Pat Cawley, and the late Seán Staunton, Martin Curry and Eamon Connolly). Those five men had almost 200 years’ service to the paper, and saw extraordinary changes during their careers. That same mix of continuity and change popped up in my own recent conversation with Seán Rice to mark his 80th birthday. I think it’s important to document these stories, and I hope that I can do them justice.

AR You have been writing for The Mayo News since you were a teenager. Local journalism, like all the outlets of mass media, is enduring a hiatus because of its digitisation and the rise of social media. Where do you see the local newspaper in a decade from now?

DC In 1996, when I first set foot in The Mayo News office, there was still a darkroom for developing photographs. Now, our coverage of general elections and All-Ireland final press nights involve video, Facebook and Twitter, and our podcast has become a huge part of our GAA coverage.
But these are challenging times for newspapers. Most people under 40 get their news online now, and most papers haven’t worked out a way to make any serious money from the content they provide. Local papers are disappearing across America and the UK, and I really hope that doesn’t happen in Ireland. The Mayo News has been a huge part of my life, and has some fantastic people working for it. The recent preview supplement we produced before the All-Ireland final was a great team effort and probably our best ever, but unfortunately we didn’t get the fairytale ending we all wanted!

AR Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny brazenly appointed former constituency colleagues to the Seanad – Michelle Mulherin and John O’Mahony –  after the last General Election. Was he correct?

DC No, he wasn’t correct, but I can understand why he did it. I think Enda Kenny deserves credit for some of his imaginative nominees to the Seanad in 2011. But the whole system needs reform. As an NUI graduate, I’m entitled to vote in Seanad elections, but I’ve never taken up the offer. If I had done my BA and MA degrees in DCU, I couldn’t vote, and that’s totally nonsensical.

AR If you could bring one Irish hero (or heroine) back from the dead to deliver a state of the nation address to the Oireachtas, who would it be and what do you imagine they would say?

DC He’s not long dead, but the late TK Whitaker, who I was lucky enough to see address a crowd in Mayo County Library in 2009, was always worth listening to. He was witty, wise, insightful, and a rock of good sense. He said in Castlebar that the recession shouldn’t blind us to the many significant advances that have taken place in Ireland over the last century, and was able to see both the good and the bad at a really difficult time in the country.

AR American President Donald Trump lands on the runway in Knock Airport and you are the only journalist there. What three questions would you ask him?

DC 1)What the hell are you doing in Knock (sorry, Ireland West)?  2) Is The Mayo News fake news? 3) Do you mind accompanying me to the Garda station in Swinford? I know a few people who want to question you about threatening international peace and security!

AR Bus Éireann is up against it with private operators ensuring travellers get to their destinations more quickly. As a regular bus user (since you don’t drive) if you were appointed chief executive, what would you do?

DC One of the drivers on the Ballina-Galway route reckons I must own about seven buses at this stage! Bus Éireann is a bit like the Common Agricultural Policy – the economics mightn’t make sense, but in social terms, it’s invaluable. Buses in rural Ireland are populated largely by the young and (especially) the old, many of whom would be completely isolated if they didn’t run. A lot of the drivers double as social workers and citizens’ advice centres! The Expressway part of Bus Éireann will probably have to go, but most of the routes they offer in Mayo aren’t served by private operators. So if that means changing the numbers on the front of the vehicles so that they’re no longer Expressway, so be it.

AR What’s your view on Brexit being nothing more than a primitive form of harnessing nationalistic and nativistic sentiment and a political means of controlling immigration?

DC As Detective Lieutenant Frank Drebin said to Jane Spencer in ‘The Naked Gun 2 1/2’: “Why, that’s brilliant! That’s a lot better than what I came up with!”
Seriously, though, there were two mornings in 2016 when I felt I’d woken up after a vote that made the world worse than the one I’d gone to sleep in. One was the occasion of Donald Trump’s election; the other was Brexit. I was actually in Brussels at the time, having attended the Ireland-Italy soccer match in Lille two days before, and there was a really weird vibe in the city that morning. Brexit made the unthinkable possible, and I’ve seen nothing in the last year and a bit to change my conviction that it’s a horrible mistake.

AR Imagine you are in front of a firing squad in the stone-breakers yard in Kilmainham jail in 1916 but will be freed if you quote lines from the best politically ideal speech ever recorded, what would they be?

DC If Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ and Barack Obama’s ‘One voice can change a room’ speeches are too obvious, I’ll settle for two lines from Cllr Johnno O’Malley at the Mayo GAA homecoming after the 2013 All-Ireland final: “America got Bin Laden, we’ll get Sam Maguire!”

AR You are being exiled to Caher Island, in Clew Bay, for a weekend of solitude. You have been given a tent, matches, water and a bag of chocolate doughnuts. You are allowed three other items, what are they?

DC A book, a radio and some way of playing a Leonard Cohen CD. I could probably do with someone to help put up the tent too, but I guess that’s cheating!

AR You have won a prize to host a dinner in the dining room of Áras an Uachtaráin. There has to be a gender balance to your ideal guest list of eight (dead or alive). Who are they and why?

DC Five are dead and three living. The women would be Marina Hyde (the brilliant Guardian columnist), Lucy Kellaway (the hilarious Financial Times writer turned teacher), Sarah Kendzior (who’s written some great stuff on the Trump era), and the writer Rebecca West. The men would be President Michael D Higgins (because it would be a shame to kick him out of his own house), the Dutch writer Rutger Bregman (because I don’t want to be the youngest person in the room), the former British prime minister William Ewart Gladstone and the boxer Muhammad Ali.

AR I know we weren’t allowed talk about sport, but one sneaky question. Who is the best sports journalist of all time? And, just for a good measure, a favourite line from his/her reportage?

DC Simon Kuper, the Financial Times writer and author of ‘Football Against The Enemy’, though these days, he’s more of a general columnist than a sports journalist. Consistently produces brilliant one-liners. He said Amsterdam was ‘a town where if you spotted Jesus Christ having a drink with Nelson Mandela at the next café table it would be uncool to notice’. He said not starting the gifted Dutch footballer Dennis Bergkamp in games late in his career was ‘like keeping a Vermeer in the cellar’. And he said that after he moved to London, ‘even outside you often couldn’t be sure whether it was raining or not’.