In my writing life there have been three occasions when words have failed me. It happened when I felt overcome by fear of the events of the present and even greater fear about the future.

The first time it happened was during a very savage bloody night in Belfast during The Troubles for example. I then asked my news desk to leave a blank space to reflect my shock and fear. They did that.

Another news desk did likewise on another similar occasion. Both white spaces were much more evocative than any words I might have been able to write at the time.

This evening, looking across the wide Atlantic as certain events unfold by the hour and the streets echo with the sort of sounds that Belfast experienced during The Troubles.

I am requesting my dear Editor Debbie McGoldrick to grant me a few blank single-column inches on this page to mirror my mood. I know she will do this.

Afterwards I am delighted to move on in the usual fashion to another American event last weekend about which I have thousands of angry words queuing up to be released.


The young Dubliner called Conor McGregor will shortly become a millionaire if he is not one already. He probably is that. He is highly successful at what he does.

He filled Madison Square Garden last weekend with a highly excited audience which included many Irish and Irish Americans. I gather that not alone is he now the winner of one world title belt in his fighting discipline but he actually holds two belts and is the undisputed biggest drawcard in his fighting world.

Good luck to him on that financial front, and if he becomes a billionaire out of it I will be very pleased for him and will always wish him well.

Last I heard, after his title win, he was looking for a significant share of the fighting franchise of which he is kingpin. I wish him well on that front also. 

Did he also announce in New York that he is shortly to become a father? If so I fervently hope that all goes splendidly on the maternity front too. Clearly the imminent child, be it son or daughter, is unlikely to lack any of the creature comforts of this life.

All that being said, without even a hint of begrudgery, I find it appalling that McGregor, forever to be seen in his hype sessions with our national flag draped around his shoulders, is internationally projecting an Irish stereotype which is dreadfully negative.

I shudder when I encounter his bellowing and often rude images on my TV screen and always switch him off. His behavior, when he so strongly links it to his nationality, is fearfully negative and reductive of us all.

We have had to contend for generations with the image of the brawling and often drunken Paddy.  In reality, on both coasts of the Atlantic, that is almost gone.

It is years since I last witnessed a pub brawl over here. Years in truth. It was in Limerick. Two young men went outside the front door of the pub, well intoxicated, and launched themselves at each other throwing wild haymakers which all missed, then launching kicks and curses, and finally getting into grips on the ground before friends separated them and brought them away out of sight.

Those haymakers and kicks and grapplings, primitive and without any of the admittedly brutal balletics of boxing, are to me exactly and horribly similar to the alleged discipline in a cage of which McGregor is king.

I still, however, would have no difficulty at all with that were it not for the fact that the Dubliner drapes himself in my and your flag and couples himself to a version of our Irish identity which we shun.

Clearly I do not speak for all modern Irish because the aircraft are full of supporters for every fight in which McGregor is involved.  So be it.

I would not like to be a passenger on any of those flights. Is it true that a few had to be diverted because the behavior of at least some of the passengers was akin to that of their hero?

In synopsis, if McGregor left my flag at home when he goes out to brawl his way to even bigger paydays then I would be able to really salute his achievements. In the meantime he nearly qualifies for another blank space on this page!