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I life less ordinary
In the final months of his battle with cancer, TONY GREGORY sat down with Hot Press to discuss his life and career. Knowing it would be his final interview he was in a reflective frame of mind.
Jason O'Toole, 23 Jan 2009
The new year started tragically with the death of Tony Gregory, one of the country’s most widely respected politicians. The 61-year-old was Ireland’s longest-serving independent TD ever, having spent almost 27 consecutive years in the Dail as a deputy.
His political career began with a wave of national publicity when he was elected to the Dail in February 1982. In what became known as the ‘Gregory Deal’, he found himself in the unique position of being able to negotiate a major capital investment in his constituency in return for agreeing to nominate Charlie Haughey as Taoiseach. After this, Gregory was rarely out of the public eye as he campaigned vigorously on his constituents’ behalf, as well as on national issues.
An iconoclast by nature, and the first TD to refuse to sport a tie in the Dail, he had little time for pomp or ceremony. But he cared deeply about the ordinary working class people he represented. He played an influential role in the anti-drugs campaign of the mid-’80s. He’ll also be remembered for protesting alongside the city centre street traders – a campaign that ultimately saw him being slung into Mountjoy Jail for two weeks.
When we met at the Dail, to conduct what he knew would be a high profile interview, it was obvious Gregory was facing into a serious illness. He had lost weight, and was wearing a baseball cap, which I presumed was to conceal the inevitable hair loss from the chemotherapy he was undergoing.
He told me that he didn’t like discussing his illness in public, and despite the fact that he was facing into the last few months of his life, refused to allow self-pity to seep into our conversation or to see himself as a victim. Instead, he was in a reflective mood and determined to set the record straight on the major events in his life.
As we sat down in a conference room in the government building called Leinster 2000, Gregory told me to hurry up with my questions as he became tired easily and reckoned that he probably wouldn’t be able to take more than 45 minutes of questioning. Instead, almost two hours later, he was still going strong, with all the energy he could muster.