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An interview with Con Houlihan
Hot Press spoke to with the late, great sportswriter in 1984...
Declan Lynch, 13 Dec 1984
Did you say you don’t know the alphabet? “To this day I can’t say the alphabet, A,B C, I’m stuck after that”.
Con was expelled from Castlemartyr. “I won’t name the principal because he’s still dead! He was a bad person. We did little things like sabotage and so on, and I was part of that little movement. I went to Tralee C.B.S., then. Ah, gentlemen! There I was treated as a human being. They were… up there. Books that were censored in Dublin we had them there. Eventually, I went to a school set up in Castleisland. There were 20 of us, and every one had been expelled. I did my Leaving went over to England in ’43. Good years, the War years. I was making £20 a week which is money you wouldn’t even think about now.”
Con was pro-British during the War. “Oh I was totally pro-British. Totally anti-Nazi. Oh, Jesus, yes of course. I was very aware of the anti-Jewish thing before the war. I knew Hitler was a bad person. Never doubted it. He was a rascist. To me we’re brothers and sisters and lovers and I despise racism. To say I’m better than you is deplorable and despicable.
“We knew what was happening here, we weren’t friggin’ asleep. I thought de Valera handled it very badly. Here's the strange thing. Only one state offered the Jews asylum. That was South Africa. It’s an irony but it’s true. In the '30s, when decent people were being put to the wall, we admitted two or three Jews. Why? We come on now as anti-apartheid. In 1937, who gave the Jews total ingress? South Africa. That’s why I can’t be anti-apartheid. I know the obscenity of the black/white confrontation but I can’t forget what happened in ’37. I wrote a letter to the Press in 1941 saying that James Dillion was right, we shouldn’t be neutral. It was short, grammatical and non-libellous and they didn’t use it.”
If anyone apart from Dev had been in control do you think we’d have been neutral? “My background is socialist, left wing. In ’24 there was no revolution, there was a rebellion. When the smoke died down, people who owned land and factories still had them. The pyramid of power, money and prestige remained. The colour of the post office boxes changed but in James Connolly’s terms there was no change. I love Connolly. He was a working-class man. “Ireland without its people is nothing”. It was people working down at the East Wall. It wasn’t Cúchulainn fighting a war.