Fidel Castro has passed away, and relations between Cuba and the United States have thawed somewhat. But it would be wrong to expect things in Havana to change overnight – not least because the spirit of the revolution remains strong and resolute. That is the clear message from the Cuban ambassador to Ireland, Hermes Herrera Hernández – a man who knew both Fidel himself and Che Guevara, and who insists that “many people in the world, if they knew exactly what is happening, would like to have the same level of human rights that we do in Cuba.”
Hermes Herrera Hernández confesses that he’s somewhat apprehensive as he sits down to chat with Hot Press. It’s not that the Cuban Ambassador fears he’ll put a foot wrong during our version of the Spanish Inquisition – rather he’s worried that his English isn’t good enough to hold such a long conversation.
“It is not my first language – sometimes we use a word instead of another one, which is more proper for that situation. That is the only problem,” he explains, apologetically. “I didn’t get the language from my childhood.”
But the affable Ambassador is clearly being modest. He can easily hold his own in English. In fact, during the next 90 minutes, he only uses one single Spanish word. Hernández’s command of English is all the more remarkable because he didn’t attend school until he was 11-years-old.
The interview offers a fascinating insight into Cuba during Fidel Castro’s reign – and also into the general mindset of someone who has not only met both the late Cuban leader and Che Guevara, but unapologetically sees them both as heroes.
He may have started school late, but Hermes Herrera Hernández went on – against all the odds – to become a highly respected Professor of Economics, before being appointed President of the University of Havana. He also served as Vice-Minister of Culture in Cuba. As a diplomat, he has been Cuban Ambassador in some of the most prestigious posts in the world, including Unesco, the Vatican, the UK and Greece. He was appointed to Ireland in January 2014.
A day before this interview, the Ambassador sent an email asking me to “please avoid any question about the result of the US elections.” Clearly, it’s disappointing that he can’t discuss Trump’s election, but it is also understandable: no one wants to start a diplomatic war. But he doesn’t pull any punches when discussing America’s foreign policies. And even though Hernández repeats that he has to be careful to toe the line, it doesn’t stop him from frankly speaking his mind on several occasions…
Jason O’Toole: What did you know about Ireland before you came here?
Hermes Herrera Hernández: I am not a historian: I am an economist, but I read about Ireland. I had the possibility to be near Ireland when I was ambassador to the UK, but I never had the opportunity to visit. It was not possible. But once I was designated to work here, I started to read more about the history of Ireland. I appreciate very much your history, your struggle, your writers. I appreciate the countryside, the landscapes and so on. But the people impress me very positively because of the friendship, because of the goodwill to help each other. The majority of the population project the country in a very positive way. I am not talking about the weather (laughs)! I am talking about the warm people.
Ireland doesn’t have an Embassy or even a Consulate in Cuba.
We would like to have an Irish embassy in Cuba. We would be delighted. I know it depends on many things in the financial programme and so on. I hope in the future we will have one.
Would you like to see an end to the compulsory visa scheme required of Irish citizens to visit Cuba?
We don’t have an agreement for free visas. We need a bilateral agreement. As far as I know, it’s not under discussion. But we would like to see everybody travelling everywhere without any limitation. Everything that facilitates the contact amongst different people of the world, for us, is right.
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs website, Irish citizens in Cuba should exercise a “high degree of caution”. Why do they say this?
I don’t know why! You’ll have to ask to them because I am not able to respond on their behalf. In Cuba, the security is among the best in the world.
It must disappoint you that they put that on their website?
Don’t provoke me (laughs)! What I recommend is to ask them. It’s the only thing I can do.
Wasn’t it wrong that Cuban natives were banned from staying in tourist hotels – a practise that remained until 2008?
Well, that was a moment when we had no resources. We had no possibilities. It was not a policy of isolation. We had not resources to govern all the necessities of the people and we decided to privilege the tourists that had given support to the economy in connection with hard currency. That was eliminated. But the development of the tourist area is one of our priorities now. And tourism is in the (top) three or four levels in connection with our incomes from abroad. It’s important for us to develop it.
Despite those lack of resources, Cuba has always had a healthcare system that is the envy of most countries in the world, including Ireland…
We don’t compare with Ireland. We like to compare our health system with developed countries in the world because we are making a very big effort for many years. We are very proud.
Should Ireland look to Cuba to help us improve our own health system?
We don’t have an agreement with Ireland, but we are open to show our experience to everybody. We are open to everything, to exchange with Ireland or other countries in the world. We are helping more than 52 or 53 countries around the world with health physicians and nurses and technicians. We have many thousands of Cubans working abroad. One of the good examples was the Ebola (epidemic) in Africa: our physicians were the first to go there when the United Nations asked for support to combat Ebola. And also when there are earthquakes or tsunamis or other kinds of disasters, our physicians go there to help. The work with Ebola has been recognised by international bodies, even by the Secretary of the United Nations and Obama.
Che Guevara’s ancestry went back to Patrick Lynch, who emigrated from Galway to Argentina in the mid-1700s. Che’s father once said, ‘In my son’s veins flowed the blood of the Irish rebels’. Che visited Kilkee in 1961.
I went to Kilkee to talk about the presence of Che Guevara there. For me, Che Guevara is a big hero – no doubt about that. I appreciate very much the participation of Che Guevara in the Cuban revolution. I appreciate him as a Cuban patriot – despite that he was born in Rosario, Argentina. And I appreciate everything: his moral character; his decisions; his capacity; ethically; how brave he was in many things. He did a very good job in Cuba. I had the opportunity to meet Che Guevara when I was at university.
What was he like as a person?
Che Guevara was very, very frank. Very direct. But he was also very just. He was never capable of asking somebody to do something that he was not able to do (himself). The principle of justice was very well rooted in him. I was very pleased with the few times we had the possibility to talk. It was a very big honour.
Did you ever meet Fidel Castro?
I met him many times. He frequently visited the university. I have the best opinion about him – his humanitarian project, his care about health, his care about education, about the development of the country, about the participation of the whole population in the project of the revolution. I have a lot of good memories of Fidel. Later, when I was in the diplomatic service, I also had the possibilities to meet with him. And I have the best opinion, clearly.
Are you putting him on a pedestal?
I am not saying that Fidel Castro was a God, but he was a person with all the characteristics to be very successful and very well considered by the population. This is nothing to do with the propaganda we have to deal with abroad, or in the opinion of somebody who never knew Castro. I cannot affect that point of view. Mine is very, very connected with the ideals of the revolution. I feel in that sense a very real revolutionary – even if I was very young. I only had a modest connection with the revolutionary forces, but not as a big activity.
Cuban-American author Humberto Fontova claims, “Castro jailed and tortured political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin during the Great Terror”, and “murdered more Cubans in his first three years in power than Hitler murdered Germans during his first six years.”
That is incredible to hear that! That has nothing to do with reality. It doesn’t merit a comment. It’s so foolish that anybody can say these things – even if he doesn’t concur with the Cuban revolution and with ideas within Cuba – because it has no factual base at all. It’s an absolute lie.
So, the American media has written a lot of lies about Cuba?
It’s not new. Many, many media (outlets) in America have the position against Cuba. Sometimes they have some objective articles, but, in general, we don’t have a good situation with the American media.
What was Fidel like as a person?
For me, Fidel was a very, very humanitarian man. He was loyal. He was a very good conversationalist. He had a very wide knowledge of many things – medicine, culture, politics, agriculture – not only in connection with the specialisation he had in university. I have the best opinion of Fidel.
Maureen O’Sullivan TD told me that you seemed very upset about Fidel’s death at the signing of the book of condolences.
Of course. Because even if he was 90 – and we know that everybody has to die and 90 is a big age – but it is difficult to accept the death of a person who has been in your life for more than half a century. I was very upset. I was very sad. I also understand that we have to continue the struggle. We need to follow his example and to continue in Cuba with the ideas he put in the Cuban population, the ideas he struggled with, and for. I am convinced that the majority of the Cuban population will follow the example of Fidel.
Before you came to live here, if you had been asked to name five Irish people, who’d have sprung to mind?
For some reason, Éamon de Valera has been always (in my mind) because it’s supposed he had Cuban blood! He was the personality we heard about many years ago, before coming to Ireland. Also the writers: James Joyce and others. And then, some politicians that are well known all over the world. I have met President Michael D. Higgins many times. I am very honoured with that. He’s a good person. I have nothing to criticise (laughs).
Would you have heard about a band like U2?
No, not very much. In general, I have not been very connected with music because I have no tradition, more with literature. I was working for a while as Deputy Minister for Culture in Cuba, but I am not a specialist in the area of music or dance: I was more connected with the other branches. It is a limitation from my past (laughs); maybe from now on I will read Hot Press!
What are your thoughts about Gerry Adams?
I started to hear about him when I was in the UK.
Nothing very complimentary there, I imagine!
I know! I met him only when I came to Ireland. He went to the funeral of Fidel Castro. He has visited Cuba. I am not going to give any political opinion because it is a problem of the Irish people. And for an ambassador, it is not good to try to participate in the internal discussion in the country where we represent our government. But it is easy to say that we have good relations with Sinn Féin and with Gerry Adams. And we also have good relations with all the political parties in Ireland.
What are your thoughts about the IRA campaign in the 1970s and 1980s?
I don’t like the idea of commenting about that, because I think it’s a delicate internal matter for Ireland and the UK. I have a contradiction because I was a professor for many years and normally professors like to express their opinion: but a diplomat has to take care of the internal situation and the sensibilities of the nationals in the country where you are serving or you served before.
But was Castro right or wrong to support the IRA?
I always have been supporting Castro in everything he did – and I also supported him on that occasion. I cannot say more than that, because I don’t like to give a personal approach to those things. But I supported him at that time. I too indentified with the sacrifice of the population. He was not talking about the policy in general of the Movement or something like that: he was talking about a humanitarian problem – and I think he was right.
Wasn’t it ridiculous that Cuba was only removed from the United States ‘State Sponsors of Terrorism’ list in 2015?
Well, that was a positive to remove Cuba. It was unjust to have Cuba on that list because we’re against terrorism. Even we are victims of terrorism.
Does the use of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base for torture damage the reputation of the US?
Well, when we think about America and the Bay, we think not only about the prison but also the whole intervention – that it’s in the hands of the United States and they are taking something that is ours and they won’t return the Bay to Cuba. That is very important. They think this territory belongs to the United States, but it’s not theirs. We don’t accept that agreement established at the beginning of the 20th century. We’d like to resolve that problem. It’s one of the things we need a conversation with the United States about. That territory belongs to us.
Isn’t it unrealistic to expect the America to hand it back over?
We have to fight! Nothing is completely unrealistic in life and in the world. Our feeling is we have to continue the struggle. We will try to get that base sooner or later – but always by peaceful means.
President Donald Trump is now talking about bringing back waterboarding…
We don’t accept the torture. We don’t practise it. We suffered torture in the past – and we were young people at that time. And, of course, the practise of torture is negative to any country that practises it and to any government who officially supports the practise of torture – that is not acceptable. Cuba is clear about that.
What’s your reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris, Nice and Brussels?
We condemn all the acts of terrorism. They are not justified. We think they are one of the worst things that people can do. Terrorism is not justified because it affects innocent people, (it) affects people that have nothing to do with the supposed target of terrorists. We think it is a very tragic and sad moment for the people who are suffering because of terrorism acts in Europe and elsewhere.
What are your thoughts about the war in Syria?
We think Syria has to resolve the problem by themselves. Syria has the right to resolve the problem by themselves. This participation of other countries supporting the terrorists, and the so-called terrorist group, was not a benefit to the Syrian people at all.
So you’re against outside interference in the conflict?
We think the solution has to be brought by the Syrians with the respect of the other countries and the countries that are negotiating. If they help, ok, if they don’t help, it’s not positive. But the essential point is the solution has to be the participation of the Syrian population in the decisions and they must resolve the internal problem.
What are your thoughts on the influence globally of Islam?
The actions taken many times in the name of one religion have not been really a ‘religious action’ but have been a terrorist or aggressive action. It’s not fair to use religion to support any kind of action. In general, we respect all religions, including Islam. And we condemn any act of terrorism if it is taken in the name of a religion or not.
Were you religious yourself growing up?
No. I am a non-believer. My family is Catholic, but I was the black sheep! I am very frank about that. I can understand and I can accept many ethical principles of the Church. And I have a culture with that because of my family in Cuba, but personally I am not a man who believes about the myth, the immaculate conception and so on.
You were the Cuban Ambassador to the Vatican during Pope John Paul II’s reign!
Even there I was very clear. They respected me and I respected them a lot, to ensure that we had a very good (line of) communication.
Did you tell the Pope that you don’t believe in God?
Not to him, because he didn’t ask me. But to many people in the Vatican, I told them – if they asked. If they didn’t ask, I didn’t say. But, of course, the Pope had a way to know many things about the ambassadors there (laughs). I never hid my condition – as I did in Cuba when I was young, I always was very clear about my position. Even to ask for work it was sometimes easier to say you were a Catholic – but I said, ‘No,’ because I am not.
Why don’t you believe in God?
I don’t know why. Maybe the reality of the life around me in the countryside: in my early years of life I didn’t have a faith and I didn’t get that faith. It’s better to be clear about that and ask others to respect my point of view. I had a different point of view with my mother, of course, because she was a believer, but we never fought. We respected each other. But my personal view is to respect – and many times the non-believers are not respected. The believers are respected, from different religions, but the non-believers are not respected and are condemned on many occasions. I don’t accept that. We have all the right to be or not to be a believer; and to have one or another religion. There are many jokes: sometimes, some people say, ‘Thanks be to God, I am not a believer!’ I don’t say that.
Do you think it was right of Castro to declare Cuba an atheist state back in 1959?
I think we never have been declared (as that) exactly. In our constitution it’s clear that we have to respect all the points of views – the religions and the people who have no religion. Maybe it’s the only constitution that puts a guarantee for the people who are non-believers, because normally in many constitutions the liberty to have one or another religion is clear, but not always is it clear that even we have the right not to be baptised, not to have a particular belief or not to be active in the religion at all. Clearly in Cuba, we are getting better understanding between all the people who believe in religion. I think the situation now is very clear.
Growing up, were you aware of the outside world?
I was not very aware because I was a son of rural workers. I started school at 11-years-old, which is very late, of course.
Why did you start school so late?
There was no school in my area. In Cuba, some parts of the island in the countryside didn’t have schools or teachers at all. And the only way you had to learn was at home with your family. And I was living in the territory where we had no teachers and no schools. That’s why – not because I didn’t want to (laughs). I studied at home with my mother – very elementary things, because she did not have a big level (of education). But I went to school at 11 for the first time and I started to study and I never stopped: I continue to study now at 75!
Did the outside world mean America?
I was open to the world. But the things I read were American reviews, American magazines, American cinema. My formation was in an oppositional culture. But that was only my own generation because we have very close contact with American society and also economically. We were dependent in many ways on American positions. That was my childhood.
Did you have any sense of where Europe was?
I was more in connection with the American society and American cinema. I was a fan of cinema. I knew where Europe was on the map, of course. But I was not connected with the reality of Europe until I was older, a teenager.
Were you aware of the tensions between Cuba and the US?
I did not agree with the Guantanamo Bay base – occupied by the United States. I was against that even when I was very young. I was not happy with the dependence of our economy. Because we were dependent on our crops production and we suffered when there was a low price. Also, we were against the control of the customs and many other unjust things. In that sense, I was a rebel but not with a clear political philosophy formed properly.
Were you taught the history of democracy?
I didn’t think about democracy when I was a child, because we did not have that situation. We were under the dictatorship of Batista (Zaldívar) and we were not happy with that situation. And we – very moderately – joined the people who were against that dictatorship. And step-by-step, I was getting a political culture. And finally, I understood the rest of the world and I understood very different political doctrines and so on.
You supported Fidel Castro overthrowing Zaldívar’s regime.
I identified myself with the idea defended by Fidel in the occupation. For me, this revolution was democratic in the sense that it was supported by a very important majority of the population.
What was your analysis of how Fidel ruled?
I completely agree with the way he ruled Cuba. I agree how he implemented the Cuban policies. Of course he was a man and I cannot say he never made a mistake, but he had the capacity – not many heads of State have this understanding – when he was wrong to rectify publicly and to say to the people, “We have to do it another way because it was wrong.”
But was he right not to have free elections?
The public image that is presented about Cuba in the world – by the main media – is not a positive one. And they try to demonstrate that in Cuba we violate the human rights, we don’t have a democracy and so on. Because I have spent a part of my life abroad and I see how the press – not all the media, but a big part of the media – have interests against Cuba and presented the fear of Fidel or the Cuban policy as very negative. Well, I don’t agree with that, because I know Cuba. I know how we act. I know how we manage with democracy and with human rights. And I must say that many people in the world, if they knew exactly what is happening, would like to have the same level of human rights that we do in Cuba.
You reject the view that Castro was a dictator?
I reject the idea. And I say, on the contrary, that he was a man of very democratic feelings and that’s why he promoted all the time the participation of the people in the decisions of Cuba. He was always going to the people and explained to the people and asking the people to support. And I, of course, don’t accept for anything the idea of a dictator – humanitarian or not. Personally, I’m very clear on that point.
So, you’re saying Cuba is a democratic country?
For me, democracy in Cuba is present. I have that point of view in spite of the fact that many people suppose that if there are not many parties, there is no democracy. But in Cuba the party doesn’t select the candidate – it is the population itself in an assembly of neighbours who propose the candidate. They cannot put someone (in) that was not elected by the people – this is not well known abroad and sometimes the international press reduce the problem to, “How many parties do you have?” I know many countries where there are many parties – and democracy is not present.
Is dictatorship acceptable?
I don’t identify Cuba with dictatorship – even libertarian. Because of that old concept of the ‘proletariat dictatorship’ in favour of the people and so on. We don’t use that term. We think the way is to facilitate and promote the participation of the people in every big decision – not only (with) the constitution, but The Family Code and many other very important laws have been because of the whole population.
So all big decisions in Cuba are made by the majority of people?
The important ideas are discussed by everybody before they go to parliament to be approved as the line of the party – then the participation is of a big majority. For the big majority, it is a way to express their ideas and to say what they think is wrong in the project, or is not very good and propose how to change it. And then all the propositions are taken in consideration and normally the projects are very much modified after the discussion with the whole population. That is the way we understand democracy – and not only in the act of the election.
People have the perception that elections in Cuba aren’t egalitarian…
Always the election is a democratic one. Even Cuba has the possibility of recalling an election of a person if he didn’t do the work. There is a way to revoke the election. Many countries have not the possibility to revoke a previous election: but Cuba does.
Your definition of democracy is quite different from how we perceive it in the Western world…
I think democracy has been mis-used in the international media. And in the concept of the political culture of many people it has been reduced to the question of ‘How many parties?’ Even if you have two parties in a country – that’s suppose to be a democracy! From my point of view, it is not.
Would you prefer to see a Cuban-style system in place here?
Every country has to decide which way they live. As ambassador, we don’t give an opinion one way or another about a particular situation inside the country. That is a political matter and we have to respect that. We are, of course, in favour of the majority of the population and not a minority.
Do you believe your country’s system should be used as a template for other countries?
We think our formula could be effective to promote the participation of the people – from very young ages until the old population. They have the right to express their opinion, the right to do it different ways. You have a formulation to maintain the population acting in the best sense of the protection of laws, the protection of policies and so on. For me, that is the best way of democracy.
How important was the release of the Cuban Five – a group of spies arrested on American soil back in 1998?
I think the liberation of the Cuban Five was a matter of justice and was also a result of the solidarity with Cuba all over the world. It was not an exchange of prisoners, as some say – it was a matter of justice to liberate those people who were condemned unjustifiably.
You believe they had an unfair trial?
It was unanimously decided that the judgment was not fair because it was done in Miami with a very bad ambience against the Cubans – because of the right-wingers who are settled in Miami. And they had a very big campaign in the press against them.
Was there a bias against them in the US media?
They were condemned before the judgment by the press and by the right-wingers. And even some journalists were paid – that was uncovered later – for publishing negative things about them. They were unjustifiably condemned. We have to look at that problem as a matter of justice to rectify a very big mistake made by the so-called American justice.
Did they not deserve a prison sentence for espionage?
No, no, no. Not at all. They were doing nothing against America, against the American population or even the American government – they were trying to discover and trying to avoid the possibilities of terrorist acts in different parts and in Cuba itself.
Were they not a threat to US national security?
It is very ridiculous to suppose that the five men could put American security at risk. They were inside counter-revolutionary groups and trying to discover the plans of terrorists in Cuba and, also at the same time, against others. They were dealing in favour of avoiding the terrorist attack that affected the Cuban people – and also could affect the Americans because the plans of the terrorists were to attack planes or ships with American citizens inside even, not only Cubans – with missiles. In the terrorist attack on the plane in Barbados, they killed people from many countries.
Why did Cuba for three years deny that the Cuban Five were spies?
I don’t know. I don’t remember if we were denying or not. Anyway, that depends on the criteria of any moment: which is better, or more negative and so on, for the people who are affected? I can’t answer because I don’t know the particulars. But what we were very clear about was: they were doing a very important job and were not spying and not doing bad things towards the Americans.
Amnesty International criticised the Americans for not granting the prisoners’ wives visas to visit them…
Well, that was very negative – so many years without the possibility of meeting. Even the American practice in prison is not to isolate the prisoners completely from the family. And in two cases (of the Cuban Five) they did that for many years and it was very negative from the humanitarian and from the legal point of view.
Did people in Cuba like and respect Barack Obama?
I’d prefer not to go into the relations between Cuba and the United States. He did make a step forward, in favour of having a new situation in resolving the traditional problem in the last half a century. And we have to say that. But it was not enough. There’s still a long way to go. But I have to accept that the steps were okay and we appreciate that.
Obama announced in January 2016 that he was lifting export sanctions against Cuba.
The blockade is still in force in spite of the measures taken by Obama. The blockade exists. The blockade is active. Very often they are finding bans on different organisations that deals with Cuba. The blockade is the worst thing we have now and it is interfering in all positive developments with Cuban relationship with the United States.
Donald Trump has threatened to re-impose sanctions on Cuba. He said on Twitter: “If Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate deal.”
I’m not going to comment about it – as I talked to you by email. It is the Cuban government and the American government who have to discuss and try to resolve our problems. We hope any president elected in the United States now, and in the future, will be in favour of trying to get a solution to our traditional so-called diferencias.
But the change of president in America is not very positive for Cuba?
We have a long tradition of difficulties with the presidents of United States, with the policies of the United States – and we are not going to go now into one in particular. We also we have a nice and good tradition of (positive) relationships with the American population. We are very well aware of many positive things that are present in the American population, in the culture, in the science, in the technology. And, in many ways, we’d like to develop this relationship with America, which is one of our nearest neighbours. And we will do our best. But I would like not to reduce the problem to one or another president. I hope any president now and in the future will take into consideration the goodness of having good relations with a very close neighbour.
What do you feel about Donald Trump’s plans to build a wall between America and Mexican boarder?
We are not in favour of walls. We are in favour of integration. We think the best way is to try to collaborate, to try to understand each other, to try to develop good neighbourly relations – from everybody towards everybody. And we are looking for peace all over the world. We are trying to eliminate the arms. We are working hard in the United Nations in favour of disarmament. And we try always the best to unite people and not to divide people.
I can appreciate you don’t want to talk about the US elections, but you must surely have an opinion about Donald Trump?
Everybody could have an opinion! But it’s not my task now to offer you my opinion. Apart from that, I am not a specialist in relation with the United States. I have always been serving in Europe, and even I am not a real specialist on Europe (laughs). But I am not the right person to talk about Cuba and America at this moment and in general. Another person would be best to talk about it.
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John Boyne had already penned a clutch of novels when he wrote his first book for young adults. Published in 2006, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas went on to become a literary phenomenon, selling seven million copies. But behind that remarkable success lies a very different kind of life story. Now, with the publication of his latest novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, the best-selling writer feels that he can talk honestly and openly about his past: about growing up in Ireland, his sexuality, the break-down of his civil partnership, depression, drinking and a lot more besides.Read More
With no background in politics, and a paltry five weeks to canvass, he was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 as an Independent. Since then, he co-founded and then left the Social Democratic Party. Throughout all of this, he has retained a boyish enthusiasm and a sense of humour – which is unusual in Irish politics. So what lies behind the cheerful demeanour and liberal attitudes of the TD for Wicklow? Well, he’s a long-time fan of Hot Press for a start…Read More
Dexys Midnight Runners’ hit single may not have been written about him, but there’s lots of reasons right now to chant the name of the People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny. Chief among them is the fact that he has got a Bill legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes through its first stage in the Dáil – an extraordinary achievement for a man who only became a TD in February 2016.Read More
U2 fans will get the chance to party away in the company of a great tribute band at a special two night event being organised at The Church Bar venue in Dublin on the weekend of the historic Croke Park gig to celebrate the seminal classic album 'The Joshua Tree' in July, it has just been announced.Read More
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly tell us what Leonard meant to him during his Long Kesh incarceration...Read More
Christy Dignam bravely opened up in an extensive interview with Jason O'Toole back in October.Read More
Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae sat down with Jason O'Toole back in September for an extraordinary interview on his religious and political views.Read More
Just ahead of the US Presidential elections, Jason O'Toole caught up with the former Miss Universe Ireland, who went to the States to take part in the Trump-led international beauty competition, to talk about modelling, politics and cuisine.Read More
Amnesty International is not banned from any primary schools in the Waterford district – despite a letter being circulated that appears to claim otherwise, the Catholic Church diocese of Waterford and Lismore has insisted today.Read More
An Irish company’s cheerful little product is receiving some major international exposure thanks to Kourney Kardashian.Read More
The O’Donovan brothers’ humorous comments about their brilliant silver medal achievement at the Rio Games has been voted as the most memorable Irish sporting moment of 2016.Read More
President-elect Donald Trump took to twitter yesterday to attack Vanity Fair’s editor after the magazine gave one of his restaurants a negative review in their latest edition to just hit the newsstands.Read More
Paul McCartney’s critically acclaimed 1989 album ‘Flowers in the Dirt’ is to be reissued next March, it has been confirmed.Read More
A video has just been uploaded onto YouTube of The Boss getting a packed Carnegie Hall into the festive mood with some Christmas tunes at Sting’s biennial Rainforest Fund benefit gig.Read More
Lady Gaga’s fans will no doubt have a million reasons to be excited to learn that the latest music video from her new album ‘Joanne’ has just been uploaded on YouTube.Read More
Some of the most influential figures in the music industry are urging President-elect Donald Trump to radically shake-up laws concerning intellectual property rights.Read More
Outgoing US President Barack Obama has said that he will not be afraid to air his views when Donald Trump is in the White House.Read More
Virgin Media’s Irish customers can now watch all their favourite Netflix shows seamlessly on their TV using their Netflix subscription on Virgin Media’s Horizon TV service.Read More
Ten websites that are believed to best record “Irish life in 2016 and remember the events of 1916” as chosen in a public vote have been revealed by the National Library of Ireland.Read More
Arcade Fire’s powerful live performance of ‘Reflecktor’ in London back in 2014 has just been uploaded on the Internet as a preview of the band’s new two-disc DVD/Blu Ray concert and documentary, which will be released on 27 January.Read More
Ex-Take That star Robbie Williams has reached out to One Direction singer Zayn Malik, urging him to be strong in the aftermath of his debilitating anxiety that forced him to cancel some upcoming shows.Read More
The original Netflix series The OA, which is from visionaries Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (Sound of My Voice, The East), will air on the online streaming service from 16 December.Read More
Elton John has teamed up with YouTube to give you the opportunity to create a brand new pop video for one of his seminal classic tracks.Read More
Music icon Bob Dylan said it was a great honour to receive “such a prestigious prize” – but confessed that he always thought he’d just about the same chance of going to the moon as he did of being the first singer-songwriter to be deemed a worthy enough winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.Read More
He’s best known for tearing musicians apart with his outspoken criticism on The X-Factor, but Simon Cowell had nothing but praise for Louis Tomlinson after the 1D superstar found the inner strength to go on with the show and perform his new single just days after his mother lost her battle with leukaemia.Read More
Tina Fey has opened up about how she believes that Donald Trump’s negative presidential campaign and his shock victory has alarmingly fueled an increased level of misogyny in the US.Read More
It’s 18 years since we last hard new material by the Scottish band, but The Jesus and Mary Chain has just confirmed that they will be releasing a new studio album early next year.Read More
Fourteen “enterprising teens”, ranging in age from 12 to 17, had an audience with the Minister for Employment and Small Business, Pat Breen when he visited their school in Wicklow yesterday to launch a new teacher resources package to help support the next generation of entrepreneurs.Read More
As most of the world stayed up late watching the dramatic US presidential election count unfold, the First Lady Michelle Obama has now revealed that she was tucked up in her White House bed fast asleep!Read More
Best-selling author Stephen King has dismissed any criticism of Bob Dylan becoming the first singer-songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as nothing more than “just plain old sour grapes”.Read More
Fiona Apple has put an anti-Donald Trump spin on a cover version of a classic Christmas song!Read More
Ryan Adams has opened up about having to force himself to "keep my chin up" while recording his new album because his marriage was coming to an end at the same time.Read More
Lady Gaga has courageously spoken on US national television about how she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since enduring the horrible ordeal of being raped as a teenager.Read More
Composer Patrick Cassidy and actor Patrick Bergin are teaming up to perform a concert at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin in aid of The Friends of St. Luke’s Cancer Care on 14 December from 8pm – 9:30pm.Read More
Internationally acclaimed soprano Celine Byrne – who was recently asked to perform for Pope Francis – will end the year on a high note with a Christmas Gala at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin on 18 December.Read More
The annual summer literature festival in Kells, County Meath will rebranded as the ‘Hinterland Festival’ in 2017, it has just been announced.Read More
It’s not set for a US cinema release until next May, but a brand new teaser trailer for Marvel’s eagerly awaited Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 has just been put up on YouTube.Read More
“Do not deceive yourselves: Trump is no ordinary conservative Republican. He is the closest thing to Hitler Americans have ever seen.” That’s the stark warning from an Associate Professor of US History at Trinity College Dublin.Read More
Madonna has spoken about her anger and dismay over President-elect Donald Trump’s shock defeat of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House.Read More
It’s hard to believe that it’s exactly 20 years since Will Smith’s hit TV show came to an end, but Netflix is now bringing all six seasons of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ to the streaming service on New Year’s Eve for its Irish members.Read More
Actor Andrew Sachs has died at the age of 86 following a four year battle with dementia, it was confirmed late last night.Read More
Drake was the most popular musician played on Spotify for the second year running in 2016 with an astronomical 4.7 billion streams on the music service.Read More
It looks like selfie sticks – along with more than a dozen other “undesirable items” – could be banned when Chris Martin and Co takes to the stage in Croke Park next summer, as part of their world tour.Read More
FANS of the popular US sitcom Friends will certainly be disheartened to hear that Jennifer Aniston feels a reunion movie or TV show will never happen.Read More
Bernie Sanders has confessed that he's left wondering "what if" if it was him instead of Hillary Clinton who ran against Donald Trump.Read More
It’s hard to believe that Neil Diamond is celebrating his 50th anniversary since he became a household name with his first major hit single with ‘Solidarity Man’ all the way back in 1966.Read More
It appears that the door is now finally being opened to making cannabis legal for medicinal purposes in Ireland.Read More
Star Wars fanatics are in for a treat.Twitter has teamed up with Disney and People magazine to live steam an exclusive special ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' event with a behind-the-scenes sneak peek from the hugely anticipated new movie on Friday.Read More
Nirvana, R.E.M., Elvis, Rod Stewart, along with David Bowie and Prince - who both sadly passed away this year - are among 25 artists going to have one their songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, it has been announced.Read More
The critically acclaimed musical ‘The Train’, which is inspired by a remarkable true story involving a former Hot Press writer and has a score composed by Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame, is to be staged at The Abbey next spring.Read More
The rumour mill has gone into overdrive with recent speculation that the First Lady Michelle Obama was planning to run for the presidency in the future. But outgoing US President Barack Obama has now debunked the notion of his wife making history by becoming the first woman elected to the White HouseRead More
Ex-Take That star Robbie Williams has bravely admitted that he started taking anti-depressants this year after a “weird summer”.Read More
Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher has revealed that she still loves her ex-husband’s music – even if she feels he has personally insulted her in some of his lyrics.Read More
The US's First Lady-elect is threatening YouTube with a major lawsuit over a video on its site that claims her son Barron is autistic.Read More
Lady Gaga wore her heart on her sleeve on Sunday in an interview on US TV in which she touched on the subject of love following her break-up with actor Taylor Kinney after being together for five years.Read More
There will be a vigil to mark the death of Fidel Castro in Dublin this evening (Monday, 28, November) at 6.30pm at The Spire on O'Connell Street, according to a tweet put out yesterday by Sinn Féin's newspaper, An Phoblacht.Read More
RTÉ has announced a new partnership with the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for next year's event, which will see both RTÉ2 and RTÉ 2FM play a lead role in supporting what has become one of the highlights of the Irish musical calendar as part of a new agreement.Read More
Hothouse Flowers are riding high in the iTunes charts with one of their old hit singles – and it’s all thanks to Jeremy Clarkson and Co’s new Amazon online streaming show, ‘The Grand Tour.’Read More
Irish superstar Niall Horan might be focusing on his solo career right now, but he’s confident One Direction will reform in the future. “We’ll be back,” the Mullingar native vowed yesterday, which the band’s fans will surely be thrilled to hear.Read More
President Michael D. Higgins leads the Irish tributes this morning to the breaking news of the death of former Cuban leader, Fidel Castro.Read More
Gilmore Girls makes its much-anticipated return today on Netflix with four memorable chapters from the lives of Lorelai, Emily, Rory... and many more stalwarts from the fictional small town of Stars Hollow.Read More
Popular radio DJ Nikki Hayes has bravely revealed that she gave up alcohol last year because of its negative side effects of being mixed with medication to deal with a mental health condition.Read More
To help celebrate Thanksgiving, Aretha Franklin was invited to sing the American national anthem before yesterday’s big football game between Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings at the Ford Field stadium.Read More
It’ll probably come as no surprise to hear that the teenager filmed being hit by the Canadian popstar prior to one of his gigs on Tuesday is now planning to take legal action.Read More
Media reports that Elton John is set to perform at President-elect Donald Trump’s Inauguration ceremony are “not true,” according to a spokesperson for the British star.Read More
Vladimir Putin’s top media advisor in the Kremlin has used disgusting racial slurs to attack US President Barack Obama on the state-owned national television.Read More
The French composer’s new single Oxygène Pt. 17 has just been stuck up on YouTube without any fanfare, shortly ahead of his much anticipated new album on 2 December.Read More
Justin Bieber lashed out at a fan shortly before going on stage for his “Purpose World Tour” concert in Barcelona last night.Read More
The USA might have had a very different President-elect right now – if it wasn’t for the fact that Donald Trump's grandfather was booted out of Germany, according to a legal decree that was recently discovered.Read More
Ex-Neighbours star Jason Donovan says he would prefer if his teenage children wanted to experiment with drugs that they would do so in the more safe environment of the family home in front of him – describing it as a form of “reverse psychology”.Read More
Phil Collins revealed back in 2015 that he was “no longer retired”... and now true to his word he plans "some comeback shows" next year.Read More
Kanye West was forcibly taken to hospital for his own safety after suffering a "psychotic breakdown", according to US media reports.Read More
Former Sex Pistol Steve Jones has opened up for the first time about being sexually abused by his stepfather in his autobiography.Read More
A three-day auction of Marilyn Monroe’s personal and career items has just fetched a staggering $11million dollars, which is being described as a “another word record” for the LA-based Julien’s Auctions who organised the event.Read More
The Police have been offered a whopping $9million US dollars to reform for a one-off festival in California next year, according to reports.Read More
It’s hard to believe that it’ll be 25 years since Queen’s charismatic frontman was cruelly cut down in his prime this coming Thursday (24 November).Read More
As part of the celebrations for the upcoming 50th anniversary of their debut album, the Grateful Dead have announced plans for a comprehensive reissue of their entire discography.Read More
Outgoing US President Barack Obama has for the first time revealed that he strongly warned President-elect Donald Trump that he should tone down some of his radical political stances during their chat at The White House last week.Read More
The much-anticipated new show by ex-Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is now uploaded for streaming. The first episode of the new show called 'The Grand Tour' – featuring hosts Clarkson, Hammond and May – premieres exclusively on fee-paying Amazon Prime Video today (Friday 18 November).Read More
Defeated US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton gave her first public speech in which she not only opened up about her pain at her shock defeat, but she also made a rallying cry for young people not to get disillusioned with politics.Read More
Fans of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events look set to be in for a real treat if the exciting new trailer just put up on YouTube for an upcoming series created by the book's author himself is anything to go by.Read More
It’s hard to believe how time flies. Jeff Buckley – who will probably be most fondly remembered for his haunting cover version of the late Leonard Cohen’s elegiac song ‘hallelujah’, which was released posthumously to much acclaim – would’ve been celebrating his 50th birthday today on 17 November … if only he hadn’t been taken away so tragically young at just 30-years-old.Read More
To paraphrase one of The Beatles’ most popular tunes ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, John Lennon definitely felt he had been let him down by his ex-band members - as demonstrated in an angry letter addressed to Sir Paul McCartney and his then wife Linda about the iconic band's split in 1970, which has resurfaced and will be auctioned off.Read More