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Donegal writer takes a sideways look at Irish life

Paddy Duffy outside the White House.

Paddy Duffy outside the White House.


TODAY signals the start of a busier week than usual for Donegal man Paddy Duffy.
On Thursday, his second book ‘Do You Know Who’s Dead?’ will make its first appearance on bookshelves while he celebrates his thirtieth birthday on Sunday next.
A former columnist for the Donegal News, Paddy Duffy is assistant producer on a new four-part documentary series about the Obama Presidency which is expected to air on the BBC next spring.
Last month Paddy, who is from Argary, between Lifford and Raphoe, travelled to America for the first time and within 48-hours he was inside the White House.
“It’s classic me. I wait for a while before doing something and then I throw out a sling shot and lo and behold I end up getting to see places that most people only ever dream of. I’m quite jammy really.
“That said, I felt comfortable there (White House) as I’d watched the West Wing over and over on DVD,” he laughed.
A former member of the University Challenge production team when he was based in Manchester, Paddy has been living in London for the past year.
From Fionn MacCumhail to the FAI, Do You Know Who’s Dead? is a hilarious celebration of all things unmistakably Irish, as it describes our distinguishing features – big and small – in politics, music, culture, sport and more.
Margaret Thatcher time
If you find it hard to end a phone call, have ever driven several miles out of your way for slightly cheaper petrol, or spend just a little too long surveying the death notices, this is the book for you.
“I’ve been working off Margaret Thatcher time these past few months. I’ve been kept going with the Obama documentary all day and then writing the book at night. It’s been a busy, busy few months but things are starting to ease off somewhat now,” he said.
The idea for the book came from one of Paddy’s visits back home.
“I had the idea to write a history book but I didn’t want it just to be about who was Taoiseach between A and B or pictures on a wall with faces and dates but a real history and here’s the end results,” he said.
‘Do You Know Who’s Dead?’ delves into Ireland, the country of 13-verse-long songs, outspoken lunatics, strongly held trivial opinions and friendly exchanges about the day’s names in the death notices.
Medical panacea
It’s also a place where flattened fizzy drink is treated as a medical panacea, and where celebration can be squeezed out of anything from a major sporting victory, to a valiant quarter-final exit.
“Being a Donegal man, I had plenty of local stories to draw on,” he said.
Daniel O’Donnell, McDaid’s Football Special and the ‘Tinneys’ in Strabane all get a mention.
“There’s a whole chapter dedicated to minerals – especially regional minerals like McDaid’s Football Special. I take it with me wherever I go and the Portugese really love the stuff. I brought a consignment to work with me one day and they all loved it,” he laughed.
Irish music and it’s impact on the world makes reference to Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher and Daniel O’Donnell.
“Daniel appeared on Top of the Pops back in 1992. What many people don’t realise however was that he was on the same week as The Shamen with ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ – one of the most controversial number-one hits of the time due to its perceived endorsement of recreational drug use.
“While I don’t dwell too much on the Peace Process there’s also a mention of my own local Lifford and Strabane, the ‘Tinneys’, and how the area suffered during the Troubles,” he said.
Other little known nuggets include the fact that Hot Chocolate was discovered by a medic from County Down (Dr Hans Sloane) while another Irishman, Dr John Boyd Dunlop, properly harnessed the technique for tyres and revolutionised transport in the process.
“For instance, when they were neogitiating the Anglo Irish Agreement they were racking up huge bills from Harrods for bon-bons and party streamers. I’m trying to tap into a sense of what it’s like to be Irish – the things that make us tick. It’s not all about green hats on St Patrick’s Day,” he said.
Deele College
A former student at Deele College in Raphoe and then Galway to study History and English at NUIG, Paddy worked for SpunOut.ie as a writer and the Donegal Youth Council as a mentor, facilitator and as a columnist for the Monday edition of the Donegal News.
From there he worked as a columnist and editor for the European Youth Press, has been a ‘talking head’ on RTE Radio, a social media pundit for BBC NI’s election coverage and worked on Top Gear.
“I would like to do a bit more radio work and get my face on television. I would also like to write a book about Irish American Presidents. We all know about Kennedy but what about William Buchanan and his Ramelton background or James Poke and Cavancor? There’s loads of stories,” he said.
In the meantime, he has to finish the Obama documentary series, launch his new book and celebrate his 30th birthday.
“Do You Know Who’s Dead?” will be available in all good bookstores and online on Amazon from Thursday.

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