Four years is a long time in politics but it was four years ago that Eoghan Harris accepted a bet from Jude Collins which eventually cost Mr Harris one thousand pounds. Here is the story as told by Jude Collins!


There are stories that have a happy ending and there are stories that have an unhappy ending. This is a happy-ender.

It began back in August 2007, at the ‘West Belfast Talks Back’ session of Féile An Phobail, where Senator Eoghan Harris, a columnist for The Sunday Independent, was one of the panellists. In his column the previous week, the good Senator had announced that at the south’s next general election, Sinn Féin’s remaining seats (they’d just dropped from five to four) would be mopped up by Fianna Fail. Mmm, I thought. On my way to the WBTB session I stopped off at my bank and got them to give me a £100 note for five twenties.

Fast forward to questions from the audience at ‘West Belfast Talks Back’. I stand up and hold aloft my money. “I have in my hand a £100 note,” I say. Cue yelps of delight from audience. “With it I want to bet Eoghan Harris is wrong about Fianna Fail mopping up Sinn Féin seats at the next election. According to his column he is certain it will happen, so I’d like odds of 10-1”.  Faced with denying his own column prediction, the good Senator said he’d be glad to take my money from me and give me those odds.

Now – and this is getting to the interesting bit, so pay attention – fast forward four years, from 2007 to 2011. The south’s general election has been called and I contact Senator Eoghan again. What about our bet? There’s a pregnant pause of several days; Senator Eoghan eventually breaks cover and declares he’s prepared to cede the bet even before polling day. “You got lucky with the financial melt-down, my boy,” he tells me. I explain that I’m not a boy and it had nothing to do with luck, just shrewd political judgement on my part (it never pays to be modest in matters of money).

After that there are a few minor wobbles before the happy ending. At one point the Senator got an idea that the bet was in Euros, not pounds, but when I mentioned a 2007 tape recording and an Irish Times report saying otherwise, he accepted that he’d misremembered. And he changed his minds several times about when he’d pay me – before the election, then after the election, then just before the election. A bit of a Hamlet, the Senator.

But now he’s paid (I told you it was a happy ending). The postman, God bless him, brought a  big fat banker’s order for £1,000 the other day, and the money is now nestling in a specially created account in my bank. I had thought of getting it in fivers, rushing home and rubbing them all over my naked body but the present Mrs Collins said that might traumatise the cat so I didn’t. Fair play to ex-Senator Eoghan: he did cough up the £1000 with a degree of good grace. That said he was of course totally, wildly, completely and utterly wrong  in his prediction and I was undeniably, impressively and wonderfully right, so  nya-nya-na-nya –NA… I’m going to leave marks on this kitchen table if I dance on it any more.

The £1000 question: what will I do with the money? I thought about getting a dog and calling him Eoghan but I’ve decided instead to focus on the May election here. Out there somewhere, I know, there is a simple soul convinced that May 5th will see the SDLP mop up Sinn Féin seats and Margaret Ritchie emerge as the new First Minister. My mission over the next eight weeks is to find him or her, put an arm round his/her shoulders and flutter a £1000 note under his/her nose. “Can I interest you” I will say “in a little bet?”

P T Barnum was right. There’s one born every minute.

You can read more of Jude Collins at –