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The man who would be king

*That* Hot Press interview with Brian Cowen from May 2007.

Jason O'Toole, 23 May 2007

What do you make of Enda Kenny’s idea that publicans should have their own vehicle to taxi revellers home?

That’s nonsense. We don’t want a nanny state in this country. People have to take responsibility for their own actions. Again, many of them do. Most local towns have a taxi service. And people make their own motoring arrangements – young people, particularly, who have grown up in a culture where drink driving was never accepted. Older people that didn’t grow up in that culture find it very difficult to adapt. I think in relation to all laws, what we need to see is sensible application of the laws.

Do you enjoy a drink yourself?

I do. This time of the year, the summer, more lagers than Guinness. I have always enjoyed – I was reared in a pub – as a young fellow, serving in the pub I learnt far more there about human nature than I learnt in any university or school. I think it gave me a great insight into people. Sometimes, I reckon my political judgements have emanated from my observation of people and my understanding of what makes them tick. I find it very relaxing and I enjoy the company. I very seldom would ever drink at home. I know that younger people are different about that now. You have more people drinking at home then going out. But, for me, if I have a drink I have a drink in a pub. On my way home from a meeting, I would always go in for a couple. It is good to talk about other things and not to have your life dominated by politics. It takes up enough of our time as it is. I enjoy the craic and other things, local issues, local chat, sport.

Someone told me they spotted you a few times in the Pod nightclub.

No. I might have been there once in my life, but that was a long time ago.

Do you believe in God?

I do. Being a good Christian is a difficult thing. I don’t believe in the secularisation of the country. I believe that religion has its place. Spirituality has its place for people. It can bring a bit of meaning to life and a purpose. I respect those who don’t believe; I also respect very much those who do. It is certainly part of my life – as best I can.

Do you go to mass every Sunday?

I certainly go to bed with the intention (laughs). Most Sundays.

Do you believe in heaven and hell?

I believe there is a place beyond here, yeah. Hell is not the fire and brimstone hell. For me, one struggles with one’s faith all the time. It is like everything, you have to renew it. You have to work at it. You have a different perspective at different times of your life. But I am not a person who is dismissive of religion. I admire those who have faith, who live a life of faith, who find a great deal of contentment and perspective in their life as a result of that faith – whether it’s Christian, or Muslim. We are in a more multi-cultural country now, a more multi-faith country. That’s good.

But is the Church still relevant today?

I would be very strongly of the view that the values that have served us well historically are just as relevant in this era of prosperity today – that we don’t become a ‘me’ generation, that we don’t become a selfish individualistic society that fragments, but (one) where the values of solidarity and civilised living and dignity towards our elderly and providing facilities that enable them improve their lives remain. These are important values of society, ones that I think that are shared by all the parties, but ones that we need to give expression to more effectively.

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