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13 Questions: Gary O'Donoghue

by Ouch Team

20th January 2008

BBC political correspondent Gary O’Donoghue is a busy boy. Reporting for TV, radio and online, he could literally pop up anywhere. And look, here he is on Ouch! answering our 13 Questions. Did we mention he’s blind?

People think I'm ...

Gary O'Donoghue as we're used to seeing him, reporting for BBC News as their political correspondent
Brave. They tell me I am while they're helping me across the road. You’d hope familiarity would breed more understanding, but that’s not always the case either.

I want to ban ...

Pavement furniture. I'm a white cane user, and when you're hitting advertising panels, rubbish left out in bags and whatever else, it’s not terribly dignified.

Not a lot of people know that I ...

Played blind football for England while I was still at school in Worcester. I particularly remember getting trounced at a tournament in Spain. It was quite fun, but I ended up with sunstroke.

The best piece of advice I would pass on is ...

Always maintain a clear view of your own strengths and weaknesses.
Gary O'Donoghue with his partner, Sarah, and daughter Lucy, posing in front of Edinburgh Castle during a holiday in Scotland

I struggle with ...

Containing my anger when it comes to idiotic views of disability. Like the taxi driver who told me that the reason he liked Tony Blair was because he looks after people like me.

I excel at ...

My job. The practicalities sometimes make it difficult in terms of getting around very quickly and working a room properly, but the best is when a piece runs in a prime slot, Then I know I have got it right, and before anyone else.

My ideal dinner guest is ...

David Hume. He was a Scottish philosopher, and probably the greatest empirical thinker of the 18th century. We would talk about the theory of knowledge, views on religion, free will. He must have been an absolutely enthralling man.

I couldn't live without ...

My daughter Lucy. She is 6 and an absolute joy. Lucy is fresh and open about disability, asking lots and lots of straightforward questions about blindness and how to cope with it, in an uncluttered and uncomplicated way, which adults forget how to do. We are a good team, she and I, when we’re out together.

If I didn't live in the UK, I'd live in ...

The south of France. I love the smell of it, the taste of it, I love the sun and the hills behind. It's about eating outdoors, going around the wineries and driving with the windows down on a summer's day.
Gary O'Donoghue with his daughter, Lucy

My first job was ...

Photocopying. You would think that one of the few consolations with being blind is that there's no chance of being asked to do photocopying or make tea. I worked at a Braille production department and had to thermoform compliments slips and stuff them in envelopes. It was almost all made up of 19 year old women who only talked about boyfriends and sun beds.

When I come home in the evenings, I ...

Have a gin and tonic, and over the last few years I've spent lots of time learning how to cook. I drive my partner Sarah mad demanding all sorts of strange ingredients from different supermarkets. It's amazingly therapeutic.

Being a disabled journalist is …

Hard, but important. You have to work significantly harder than other people to maintain a flow of information at the right time. Something came in on the fax the other day. Everyone else could digest it straight away, but I had to borrow time from someone to get it typed up. It’s important to have people like me doing the job though, if journalism is going to properly reflect how Britain is. Otherwise, all stereotypes will be perpetuated, and the world won’t move on in its understanding of disability.

How do politicians react to a blind political correspondent?

The other day, I was standing in the members' lobby with a friend and a Tory politician came by, stared at me, stared at the stick and walked off. On the other hand, sometimes you get a second longer before they slam the door in your face. it’s about making that second count.

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