Ivan Yates believes the Government made a mistake in “outsourcing” decisions to the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet).
“People live in Ireland rather than China for a good reason, people do so by choice. They like a liberal democracy, they value their freedom, and they don’t like, in my opinion, an unelected group, even in the context of public health, they want their elected people to be in charge.
“I believe until the Government centrally and in an overall way reasserts its authority and central role, it will be very hard to restore the authority it has lost, therefore my first advice to the Government would be look the election is going to be in 2025, this is still a winnable war, but my sense of it and the opinion polls reflect this, their lack of authority, there is no votes in Nphet, their lack of authority has undermined their credibility as well as their popularity.”
Having worked in politics, business and the media he is starting down another career path with his new media masterclass course. A key part of the one-day course is how clients in the public and private sector can get their message across in a clean and concise manner.
It is a message he argues Government needs to heed. “My whole problem with the Government is, they don’t really think beyond the next soundbite, they haven’t really thought, where is the country going to be at the end of 2022.”
He reckons Sinn Féin has come to represent change, particularly for younger voters, and this will come into play when the next general election comes.
“I have no doubt that Sinn Féin have built on their electoral success and have copper fastened a mood for change amongst the electorate which will be hard to reverse, not impossible, but it’s an uphill challenge for the Government.”
He believes there is a culture here of “putting the head down and waiting for it all to blow over”.
He uses his own experience of bankruptcy as an example of how to deal with adversities. “If something has gone wrong, if you have done wrong, you have got to find redemption.
“This isn’t new, it will happen in perpetuity, people make mistakes, make poor judgments, get into hot water of different kinds, because that’s life, it’s human nature.
“I fervently believe, having asked yourself the meanest, harshest questions, and thought about the truthful answers, the only way you can ultimately find redemption is to face the music and ask people to accept your explanation. Albeit, couched in contrition, albeit couched in abject humility that you did make a mistake and if you have the chance again you will do differently.
“When I came back from Swansea post-bankruptcy discharge, I faced a tsunami of criticism about bankruptcy tourism, being a poster boy for that, having fled the jurisdiction. I actually said, no, I want to explain, ‘because the Irish bankruptcy laws went back to Victorian 1860s and there was a modern legislative framework, the 1986 UK Insolvency Act, we need to copy and paste that and introduce that here’.”
“They did that in 2016, they introduced the UK act virtually verbatim, and now you hear adverts from the Irish Insolvency Agency, ‘come to us if you can’t pay your debts’.
“They say when you’re explaining you’re losing, I say when you’re not explaining you’re being destroyed.”
For example, Mr Yates feels John Delaney's biggest mistake was not speaking out to offer “his side of the story”.
“Until such time as he [Delaney] gives his side of the story, even if people don’t accept it, if you apologise genuinely the issue then becomes do people accept your apology.”
Mr Yates feels the reaction to the Golfgate scandal was disproportionate compared to the recent controversy over a gathering in the Merrion Hotel organised by former minister Katherine Zappone.
“What I found amazing about the contrast between Golfgate and Merriongate was that people involved said last August: 'I checked with the Oireachtas Golf Society was this within Covid regulations, could the Station House Hotel in Clifden hold this event within guidelines, and they assured me that it was'.
“This year, that was Leo’s [Varadkar] defence, that he had received assurances from the organiser Katherine Zappone and from the hotel, in other words what explicitly was not acceptable in August 2020 was allowed to be accepted in August 2021.
“My position on all of this is what happened in Golfgate was a hysterical overreaction, was mob law in effect, and that the sanction on certain people was way over the top and unfair whereas others had no sanction at all.
“I believe that Leo and Micheál [Martin] were wrong in issuing a statement calling for Phil Hogan to step down.
“In any historical context for an Irish commissioner to be put in that position was very short term populism and the chickens came home to roost for Leo when he was in the spotlight.”
Mr Yates cites Michael O'Leary as an example of how business people can promote themselves without marketing.
Mr Yates calls cancel culture an “absurd social media phenomenon”, again pointing to Nphet.
“What I find about cancel culture, I went through the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, whereby there were different types of restrictions and repressions. There was the Catholic Church, there were individual freedoms which we didn’t have like divorce, but we were moving towards a society where people had more individual choice and freedom.
“Now some self-appointed people, who have never been elected to anything, decide that they can cancel people. They have no mandate to do this, there is no majority authority.
“This is a social media phenomenon which is absurd, of course you can find certain people and their views reprehensible, you can utterly disagree with them, but you don’t have the right to deny them freedom of speech, this is a fundamental issue.
“Somewhere down the line, through cancel culture, people have decided they have this entitlement to cancel people. They don’t, legally, morally, they don’t have this right.”
The key message he wants to get across in his course is that “difference sells”.
“Difference sells; if that means controversy, if that means some people disagree with you, that is an occupational hazard, you can’t be all things to all people and expect people to be interested.”
Mr Yates says he would be happy if he never presents another television programme again, having “given it everything”.
“I’m a great believer that life is a journey and the most important thing is not that you’re lying on the shovel and keep repeating the above, time-serving, what I believe is what invigorates you is a fresh, new challenge, this training thing is completely new.”
Places on Mr Yates' new course costs €1,500 on www.mediamasterclass.ie, with the option of an extra €450 for a personal session on Zoom.