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The Evil That Irish Men Did
Down the centuries Ireland has produced its share of scoundrels and blackguards. In a new book Joe O’Shea delves into the dark world of Irish villains.
Olaf Tyaransen, 02 Nov 2012
Whatever about the Irish Civil War, they definitely don’t teach this shit in school. Amongst the black-hearted villains featured within his book’s pages are bloodthirsty buccaneer and pirate Luke Ryan (from Rush), psychopathic New York mobster Vincent ‘Mad Dog’ Coll (born in Donegal, above the pub now owned by Clannad), heartless Kilkenny slave-trader Antoine Walsh, and the murderously brutal Sir Hugh Gough, the Limerick man who commanded the British forces in the first Opium war against China.
Unlike many history books, it’s a brisk, enjoyable read. O’Shea isn’t an academic: the book’s strengths lie mainly in his storytelling abilities.
“I didn’t go to university. I did journalism in Rathmines College for eight months. I dropped out when I got a newspaper job at 19.”
Although always in demand as a freelance journalist, he found the time to research and write the book after he left his job as co-host of daytime RTÉ chat show Seoige & O’Shea, which he presented alongside Grainne Seoige for two years until 2008.
He had never sought out a TV career, and says the gig basically landed in his lap.
“It’s funny because I was a last minute addition to that show,” he recalls. “They were doing screen tests for various people, and I was a pretend guest for those. Then they asked me to come back to do one myself. So I did a screen test on a Sunday afternoon: the Sunday after that I was offered a job, and the Sunday after that I was getting ready for the first show.”
It took him a while to settle in.
“I was very, very far out of my comfort zone because I’d never been on TV before. I’d never done anything like that and suddenly I’m doing 90 minutes of live TV, five days a week, with a very high-profile person. I was very nervous for the first few months. Then I got some time off at Christmas and went away and sat on a sun lounger in Lanzarote for a week. I thought it through and kind of went, ‘There’s no point being afraid of this’. So once I’d processed it, and decided to enjoy it no matter what happened, I was fine.”