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very strange Professor Luke O’Neill reveals how he never expected to become famous in a million years

'One of my younger sons said to me, 'Dad, you are being attacked a lot on social media - you have made it'


Professor Luke O’Neill

Professor Luke O’Neill

Professor Luke O’Neill

Professor Luke O’Neill, who has become well-known for his media appearances through the pandemic, has admitted that his new-found fame is “very strange". 

The biochemistry professor who is now one of Ireland's leading scientific commentators on Covid-19, revealed how one of his younger sons had said to him recently that he was being attacked a lot on social media, which means “I had made it.”

He told Henry McKean on Newstalk: “I didn’t expect it in a million years, I'm a scientist. I work in a lab.

"I was known in immunology, I would go all around the world. People knew me at conferences, it wasn't unusual for someone to shout at me across the conference halls.

"But now, it's everyone on the DART."

"It's 99% thumbs up, 1% abuse - which is pretty good!

"One of my younger sons said to me, 'Dad, you are being attacked a lot on social media - you have made it.' That was his view, that was quite nice.”

However, the top prof told how his almost didn’t go onto science as he nearly became a banker in “Thatcher’s Britain”.

“I was doing my PhD in London, and guys in the lab were leaving science and going into finance - Thatcher’s Britain, this was 1987.

"I was interviewed by a major bank for a job in finance, it was very tempting.

"I went to the interview, got my jacket and tie - I rarely wear a tie, this is 1987 - went to the interview and I was offered a job.

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"I had to have a real moment [asking] 'am I going to leave science and go into finance?' And I decided to stick with the science.

"It was tough because a science career is tricky enough," he added.

"What put me off... they were a bit showy, those bl**dy Thatcher supporters in the City of London quaffing champagne and all that kind of thing.

"I didn't like that. The life style looked a bit too, what's the word, 'Hooray Henryish' is the word."

"It just shows you... the road not taken. Finance's loss is science's gain.”

Talking about grown up in Bray, he said it was like a holiday every day in the summer.

"My dad had a deckchair seafront business... we had 500 deckchairs at the peak of it.

"Every Sunday, the Dubs would all come out on the buses and then rent the deckchairs. In those days people had their Sunday Best, they wouldn't sit on the grass.

"So the bottom probably fell out of the deckchair market a few years ago."

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