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It has been the most dramatic Presidential election ever, with seven candidates finally lining up to go before the electorate. Among them is former Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Michael D Higgins. So who is the man about whom The Sawdoctors wrote ‘Michael D Rockin In The Dail’? And if he does find favour with the electorate, what kind of presidency can we expect from him?
Olaf Tyaransen, 19 Oct 2011
There were moments of political drama too.
I was involved with government transitions. I was the first observer to arrive in Chile, in defiance of Pinochet, to witness the vote which removed him from power. I watched the formation of the first Sandinista government in Managua, and I also watched the fall of that government. Those were extraordinary events to be a part of.
You wrote about all these experiences in your Hot Press columns.
I did. Hot Press was very important. I remember when Niall Stokes met me and he said “Rolling Stone includes political commentary” – so I got a bundle of Rolling Stones, spread them out on the bed, and decided that this was something I could do. I wrote for Hot Press from 1982 to 1993, and I used it as a kind of an intellectual diary. I wrote about all the campaigns: the divorce campaign, the campaign on family planning, all of these. And then I used it to record what happened when I was travelling abroad, often under the most extraordinary of circumstances because we didn’t have what I called telex at the time.
A fax machine?
Yes. I was trying to find a fax machine, and I would send the thing in handwritten and it would be a big discussion in Hot Press as Niall would ask Liam (Mackey), and Bill Graham occasionally, to decipher my writing. But Hot Press was a great experience. Later on, at nighttime, when I would be going home from the Dáil to my hotel or whatever, I would meet youngsters in the street in Dublin and they’d talk to me about Central America or Africa and other things I had written about.. But I think I only missed about six issues. I wrote every fortnight. Niall gave me total freedom as long as the piece was at least 800 words and if it went over 2000 to give him notice – that was it.
You stopped writing for Hot Press in 1993 when you became a government Minister.
Yeah, I sometimes regret that. I didn’t write at all from ’93 to ’97 because I was so focused on my work as a Minister. But after ’97 I wrote occasional articles.