You Can’t Be Serious 

A ‘friend of a friend’ down in Kerry, watched this year’s All Ireland Football Final on TV – as his beloved Kingdom chalked up yet another success. Nothing unusual about this, I hear you holler … either about Kerry winning or a man watching it on television. What is unusual here is that the loyal fan owns a ten-year premium seat since the mid-1990s and has renewed it twice.

For twelve years now, this man gives away his seat for the matches. He is protesting against Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Croke Park in 2011, because British troops shot dead 14 innocent GAA followers in 1920.

Leaving aside the fact that the British Monarch laid a wreath and bowed her head on the spot where Michael Hogan died; and that overall her visit was beautiful, conciliatory, and brought people of all political persuasions (including Martin McGuinness) together, my ‘friend of a friend’ is standing by his principles: Not always the best place to stand, I would suggest.

The Kerryman is a minority of 1 percent and nobody else is suffering for his honestly held convictions only himself. Few know about it – and even fewer care. This is a prime example of ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face.’

‘Standing on principle’ is fine, but is it always worth the price you pay? Of course it does depend on the issue, what is at stake, and more importantly, will your principled stand make a difference. I have backed off my ‘matter of principle’ a few times … but not often enough – especially when my principled stand was no more than ‘thickness!’ But the following are two examples where I got it right.

I loved squash from the very first ball that Michael Fallon hit back to me on court. I won the first tournament I played in, the ‘D section.’ That I remember beating Justin Trapp in the first round and the late, Peter Tone, in the final, shows how much squash had come to mean to me. The next club tournament was a team event and I was picked on Tom Hunt’s team, along with players Penny Downes and Paddy Caulfield. We were runners-up, but the friendships made, as with other teams I played on, endure to this day.

I paid my £2.50 fee early for the next tournament and drove to the club on the night the draw was made. Consternation … my name wasn’t on any of the sheets: I had been omitted by mistake and I was livid. I demanded my fee back from Teresa behind the counter, and I told Michael what I thought of him and his club! Michael shrugged his shoulders indifferently, as I stormed out; vowing to ‘never again put my foot in this place!’

Before I got home, luckily the realisation hit me that nobody cared whether I played or not, I’d soon be forgotten about, and I would be the big loser if I ‘stuck to my guns.’ I swallowed my pride and went back playing a couple of days later. Not only did I get so many years of incredible enjoyment for not standing on principle, but eight years later I bought the place! That’s how close it came to that wonderful chapter in my life never happening.

And so to my next big dividend for not allowing pride and principle to get in the way of knowing what was best for me. In other words, ‘not cutting off my nose to spite my face.’

In January 1999, I was completing the purchase of the commercial unit in La Zenia, where we subsequently created the famous ‘Paddy’s Point’ pub. I had as yet no legal adviser – or really any professional person to help me. I had to complete the deal, as I was flying home the next morning. I am good at mental arithmetic, and even though the seller tried to bamboozle me with ‘impuesto’, VAT and other costs, I realised he was doing me out of £1,000. I pointed this out, but ‘he who holds the gold’, insisted otherwise. (I was later proved to be correct with my figures, but I did nothing about it)

I had a snap decision to make. I didn’t know enough to call his bluff and I could see a golden opportunity possibly heading down the Swanee. The bottom line is that I believed the unit was worth that extra grand to me and so I let ‘the ride’ go. I did the deal and we went on to turn the commercial into Spain’s best known pub. Had I stood my ground and held onto my principle, none of this might ever have happened; and I would have ‘cut off my nose to spite my face!’

More often than not, I haven’t been as smart as the above examples would suggest … but I still have my nose!

Don’t Forget

It takes a wise man to know when he is fighting for a principle, or merely defending a prejudice.