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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
She must have been terribly disappointed.
Between herself and my father, what they did was they saved every penny they earned to buy a house. My father worked in the docks as a casual labourer. My father was knocked off when there were no boats to unload, so my mother worked in restaurants. In the mid-’50s, when half the country was emigrating there were houses empty all over the city. My parents bought a house for 700 quid, having saved every penny of it over God knows how many previous years. So, all of those influences were there: my family’s own experiences of housing conditions and inability to get State support, combined with my father’s long history of storytelling, I think all of those things influenced me.
Which politician did you most admire?
The politician I most admired in all of that time was Seamus Costello. He was murdered at 38 years of age. I could put myself in that position rather than looking at John Bruton or Brian Cowen or Bertie Ahern or whoever, you know?
Did you get involved in politics from an early age?
I did the Leaving Cert on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising and I went into university and got involved in setting up a Republican Club there. It was at a time when the Official Sinn Fein – because they hadn’t split until ’69 – were involved in the Dublin Housing Action Committee. It was a trendy thing to get involved – the Ruairi Quinns, Kevin Myers and the poor guy who was killed in a plane crash, the journalist John Feeney, people like that were in UCD at the time. That group were calling themselves SDA, Students for Democratic Action. They were by-and-large quite upper class and they liked the idea of getting involved. This, to me, was a bit of an irony in that I had grown up experiencing poor housing conditions and the difficulties of housing for families on a waiting list – never mind getting a place. So, I felt obliged to play a part in this. This was something that I’d grown up with and experienced – and here were all these yahoos, as I saw them, getting involved for a couple of years while they were students because they thought it was trendy. They probably didn’t give a damn about the actual issue.