HE has built a career on asking tough questions and putting people under pressure for straight answers but Limerick broadcaster and journalist Vincent Browne showed a softer side to his character this week when he spoke of the most important role in his life – being a parent.
The Broadford native was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award by his home county at the Limerick Person of the Year 2012 awards ceremony, for his distinguished career in journalism over the past 40 plus years.
In a colourful, candid and often humorous address, Vincent played down his own career successes, choosing to focus instead on what he deemed to be a more important role in life – a parent’s ability to instil in their children “a sense of self-worth and happiness”.
The straight-talking journalist told the audience: “For most of us, thinking that we have achieved anything in our lives is a conceit, aside from giving our children a sense of self-worth and a sense of happiness. The parents who manage to do that, I think, contribute enormously.”
Then, the father-of-two turned to his wife, Jean, who he felt was far more deserving of the lifetime achievement honour.
“In our family, we have two daughters and they have a sense of self-worth and a sense of happiness and serenity and I think my wife Jean is far more deserving of a lifetime achievement award. I know many of you are thinking she is deserving of a lifetime achievement award for having a lifetime with me and, in that regard, you’re absolutely right,” he smiled.
Known for his dry wit, the broadcaster left guests in the Pegasus Suite of the Clarion Hotel, in fits of laughter when he offered a glimpse into the life of the young Vincent Browne.
With comic timing, he recalled one particular episode, when he found himself in the firing line of a local priest who had become “incandescent with rage” over his conduct in church.
Altar boy Vincent had collapsed with laughter during Mass in his native Broadford - he and his fellow altar boys would mimic the characteristics of the locals and on this day the sniggers from the boys behind him had set him off, to the point that he thought he would combust.
“Finally, I collapsed, shaking – shaking with laughter,” he recalled.
“Anyway,” he continued, “I can think of so many people who are more deserving of a lifetime achievement than I am. I’m hugely honoured to be honoured by people from my own county who I have such allegiance to and I am deeply grateful.”
The veteran broadcaster was presented with a framed, specially commissioned front page of the Limerick Leader by the paper’s editor, Alan English, who described him as “the most influential Irish journalist of the past 40 years and one of the best this country has ever produced.
“Beyond the cut and thrust of the political debate, his approach is informed by a passionately held view that this country is blighted by social inequality – not least in his native Limerick. He has been a champion to the underdog and the socially disadvantaged and that is one of the many reasons he richly deserves the recognition he is receiving in this city today.”
Illustrating Vincent’s dogged determination in “getting the story”, Mr English recalled an anecdote relating to his former colleague in the Sunday Times, David Walsh, who was working under Vincent at The Sunday Tribune at the time.
“The paper was previewing a big Gaelic football match and the interview everyone wanted to get was with the Cork forward, Larry Tompkins,” the editor recalled. “The only problem was, Larry Tompkins wasn’t playing ball – not with the press anyway.”
Tompkins categorically turned down every interview request, including the Tribune’s. David Walsh reported this at the Tribune’s news conference.
“Vincent said: ‘Nonsense, of course he’ll give us an interview.’ David said: ‘No, getting an interview with Larry Tompkins is impossible’.
“Vincent considered that, for a nanosecond, and then shot back. He said, ‘David, do you realise that at this very moment there are men building a tunnel between England and France, 45 metres below the seabed – and you’re telling me that getting an interview with Larry Tompkins is impossible?’ David redoubled his efforts – and he got the interview.”
Vincent was also presented with a specially commissioned trophy by Ivan Tuohy, manager, Clarion Hotel and Dave O’Hora, Southern, award sponsors along with the Limerick Leader.