Life Lessons with Ivan Yates

Looking back on his life so far, Ivan Yates talks Michelle Dardis through the highs and lows of the last six decades…


I was born and reared in Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford. My father was a wool merchant and had other retail and domestic fuel businesses in the town. I was brought up with an entrepreneurial background, a public sector background. I was the third of four kids. My parents decided to send me to boarding school at the age of eight. I was in a place which no longer exists in Bray, Co. Wicklow and you didn’t get home very often. I was very homesick, very sad. I found it very tough. I think it was a mistake sending me there. You grow up quite fast.


I left school at 16 because my dad was dying of cancer. His dying wish was that I’d come home to run the family farm which had been rented out for decades. I went to college as a virgin, hadn’t smoked and didn’t drink. I got an education in life. It was the happiest year of my life in Gurteen Agricultural College in Tipperary and afterwards, I came home to farm. It was also around this time that my interest in politics became apparent. I enjoyed public speaking in school and debating, and essentially then, I decided to look up the Yellow Pages and join Fine Gael. Incredibly, I became a candidate at the age of 18 for the local elections. What happened then was, I got so involved in politics as well as the farming that I became the youngest TD in the Dáil. The rest is sort of history!

My 20s

During my twenties, I became a career politician and spent twenty years in politics. I always said though getting in so young that I wouldn’t spend my entire life in politics and leave when I was forty but, nobody believed me. I worked my way up!

My 30s

My life story has been very much a partnership with my wife Deirdre and we’ve four adult kids together; two boys and two girls [who were born and grew up in this decade]. They’re all pursuing their own careers, they’re completely independent. Throughout the last 30 years, Deirdre took primary responsibility of parenting, for feeding and looking after them, while my focus was on finances to ensure they got a certain level of education and so on. We’re all very loyal to each other and we’ve a WhatsApp group with the six of us. I’m fiercely proud of my kids and grandchildren.

My 40s

In my forties, I built up to 63 betting shops, from the first one I opened in 1998. There was a point in 2006 I was making €80,000 a week, €4 million a year, and happy days! But then the crash came. You had to buy clothes and eat food, but you didn’t have to make a bet – and then there was migration to online betting too. The business was in deep distress. I had a deal on the table to sell to William Hill and the betting tax doubled from one to two per cent which the bookie had to pay in 2010, and William Hill pulled out of the deal. It was like trying to catch a falling knife.

My 50s

In my fifties, in April 2009, the management of Newstalk asked if I’d up sticks from Enniscorthy and come present Newstalk Breakfast and live in Dublin. I had no training. I filled in for George Hook, I was a radio and TV guest, speaking about betting, politics and that sort of thing but it was a whole new career. I did Newstalk Breakfast and The Hard Shoulder, but I also took a year out for bankruptcy to deal with my issues. It was a tough time.

My 60s

In my sixties, I dealt with the last legacy issue of the crash in so far as I had a court case to get my family home back in Enniscorthy. I was working all the hours that God gave with this new media career, which was entirely unplanned and unexpected. My wife decided that she was going to give up teaching in Glenageary and move back to our family home. I decided to follow suit. I gave up all my contracts in the summer of 2020, all the full time media work. But, in this last chapter of my sixties, I’ve been filling in for Pat Kenny, now I’m doing the podcast Path to Power with Matt Cooper. I also do between 50-70 events a year guest speaking, chairing conferences and all sorts. It suits me. It gives me time which I didn’t have while doing media full time and that brings us up to the present day.

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