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Take me to your leader

No problem! Eamon Gilmore has just taken over at the helm of the Labour Party. Here, in a wide-ranging interview, he talks about Bertie Ahern, the future of Labour, Gay marriage, God, abortion, bias in the media – and a whole lot more besides.

Jason O'Toole, 15 Oct 2007

What do you make of Trevor Sargent stepping down as leader of the Greens?

I found it a strange kind of dance. It was his decision and I respect it, but I found it all a bit strange. I don’t see the point in, “I’m stepping down as leader but I am still going to be a Minister”. I think if the Greens were going to renege on what they said prior to the election, they should have came straight out with it and said, “We are doing it”. But not engage in this kind of rather odd political choreography.

Do you believe in God?

I’m agnostic. I doubt rather than I believe, let me put it that way (laughs).

Should the Angelus be taken off the air?

If we were starting from scratch, you wouldn’t put the Angeles on television. But to try and remove it now would just upset too many people. I think it is quite tasteful the way it is done; it is a moment of reflection rather than a very religious kind of thing. There are a lot of things on television – like violence – that I would rather see off our screens than it.

Should abortion be legalised?

I’m pro-choice. If abortion wasn’t as available in the UK then it would be much more on our agenda than it is now. Situations where the life of a mother is at risk, where a foetus is not viable, and, in particular, the issue of rape – those areas need to be looked at . The rate of abortion amongst Irish women is very high – that’s a reality. We have a look at honestly whether the availability of abortion services in Ireland would increase or reduce it.

Should same sex marriages be legalised?

The Labour Party produced a Civil Unions Bill in the life of the last Dail, which we moved and wasn’t accepted. We intend to introduce that bill again in the new Dáil. I hope that the government will accept the bill or to do something very similar to it. And if they don’t, it will be something that Labour will do when we are in government.

On a personal level, do you have a problem with same sex marriages?

It is not for any of us to prescribe the relationships that adults form with each other – whether they are of the same sex or with a different sex. What is the job of the State is to have a legal framework in place so that people can make their own choice and order their own affairs. People of the same sex, for example, who are in a relationship that they want to make permanent – in such a way with legal rights and inheritance and all of those entitlements – in my view it is the duty of the State to regulate our legal affairs so that happens. I believe that people should be free to live their lives, to form whatever relationship they have, and get the State out of the bedroom.

But would you approve gay marriages?

As I understand, gay marriage would require a constitutional referendum. I have no objection to it. I have a personal view that people’s private lives are their private lives. The arrangements that people make is their own business. Politically, we have to work with what we have.

Who would be your favourite sex symbol?

Julia Roberts.

What type of music do you like?

A mixture. I have a wide interest. What did I last buy? The Boss. Live In Dublin by Bruce Springsteen. And I like old Blues. Leadbelly.

Photos by Emily Quinn.

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