In 2011, Jason O’Toole carried out an interview with Martin McGuinness that was never published. Here, we draw on that interview, as well others conducted for Hot Press, to paint a fascinating picture of the late leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, in all of his complications.
Walking home late one evening in the early 1970s, Martin McGuinness noticed a silhouette hovering under the lamppost at the foot of his street in the Bogside. He was initially apprehensive. When he realised it was his Donegal-born mother, Peggy, he smiled. The grin soon vanished from Martin’s baby-face.
Without uttering a word, Peggy took his military Sam Browne belt and IRA beret out of her apron pocket. She had discovered them earlier that day under his mattress. Peggy belted him up the road to the family’s home, as she pleaded with him to stay away from the armed struggle. “She was very worried and annoyed,” Martin said.
But the future IRA leader went on to break his mother’s heart again – and again. In his tribute to Martin McGuinness, when the former IRA leader’s death was announced on March 21, Gerry Adams observed that Martin McGuinness didn’t go to war – war came to him. “I would rather have lived an ordinary life. I didn’t choose this life,” McGuinness himself insisted. But that he ended up with a gun in his hand is not in dispute.
In the long run, Martin McGuinness may well be seen as one of the most influential figures in Irish history. He made the extraordinary journey from gunman – freedom fighter or terrorist, depending on your political leanings – to peacemaker.
Martin ultimately opted for a 9mm Browning pistol over a set of rosary beads. But there was a strongly religious aspect to his upbringing. Born on 23 May, 1950, he was christened James Martin Pacelli McGuinness. Pacelli was the surname of the then Pope, Pius XII. According to the former Hot Press columnist, Nell McCafferty, who grew up only a stone’s throw from him, Martin’s neighbours once thought that the cherubic young boy had the “makings of a priest.”
One of seven children, Martin grew up in a tiny council home – with an outside toilet – on Elmwood Street. It was only 50 yards from Celtic Park, the home of Derry GAA. Martin’s brother Tom would go on to represent his county – reaching two All-Ireland semi-finals – and winning an All-Ireland medal at Under-21 level.
“There were seven of us – six boys and one girl. We lived in a two- bedroom house. It had a kitchen the size of your downstairs toilet! It was an alcove really,” Martin told me back in 2011, when I spoke to him during the presidential election. “How my mother and father coped rearing seven of us on the wage he earned was absolutely incredible. He was a foundry worker; he was a foreman there.
“But my mother was a very innovative person, someone who could turn her hand to anything to in terms of making clothes and darning socks and all the rest of it. It was a very humble upbringing.”
STREET FIGHTING MAN
Martin McGuinness’s parents were staunch Mass-goers and the family came together every night to say a decade of the rosary. Indeed, he never abandoned his Catholicism. But he did see it in a wider context.
“I am a practising Catholic,” he said, during one of our in-depth interviews. “I also believe that if I had been born on the Shankill Road, I’d probably have been a practising Protestant. Or if I had have been born in India, I would have been a practising supporter of Buddhism. Or if I was born in the southern states of America, I might have been a Mormon. I actually have a very broadminded view of religion.”
His father instilled respect in him for other religious beliefs. “My father died in 1973. He went to mass and communion every day of his life. But he was one of the most broadminded people I ever met. His closest friend was a fellow worker – he was a Protestant – and the two of them were like brothers. There wasn’t a sectarian bone in his body. Their friendship had a very big impact on me.”
Martin was adamant that all religions should be considered equal. “We were brought up to respect everybody’s religion,” he said. “And to respect those who don’t believe in anything. I have to say that I respect all of them. There are times I sit in Protestant churches for different events that I am invited to, and I feel as comfortable in a Protestant church, or Church of Ireland, or Methodist church, as I would in a Catholic church.”
In some ways, I was astonished with what he said next. “I haven’t got a sectarian bone in my body,” he stated.
When I said that many Protestants in Northern Ireland might assume differently, McGuinness insisted that he never held any animosity towards the Protestant community. It was the British establishment and army at which he directed the telescope of his ire.
“I was 18 years of age when the conflict broke out on the streets of Derry,” he recalled. “People of my generation went through a very traumatic period when the city we were born in was turned upside down – with people being murdered on the streets by the British army.
“In many ways, the situation in Derry was different to the situation in an awful lot of other places,” he insisted, “because in Derry it was a street conflict between the British army and the IRA. I was involved in standing up to the British Army and battling with them on our streets.” He had no apology to offer for his decision to become an IRA man.
“The thing people in Dublin have to ask themselves is, if they happened to be 18 years of age on the streets of Derry and saw people murdered by the British army, what would they do? Some of them would not become involved in the IRA, but no doubt a large percentage of them would.”
DEATH OF A FATHER
Martin McGuinness dropped out of school at 15 and went to work as an apprentice butcher. He was in his late teens when he originally joined the Official IRA, but soon switched to the Provos when he realised the differences between their ideologies. The sinister moniker he was given, The Butcher of the Bogside, derived from the fact that he used to carve up dead carcasses for a living.
When the British Army introduced Operation Demetrius – a mass arrest and imprisonment without trial of suspected IRA members – in the summer of 1971, Martin was already a leading local player in the Derry Brigade of the IRA. He was tipped off about the planned raids on IRA members’ homes and did a disappearing act.
It would be a long time before he would spend a night in the family house again. It happened in 2008, when his 84-year-old mother was discharged from hospital with an inoperable brain tumour. He, along with his siblings, would take turns sleeping over with their dying mother. “I slept on the sofa and I reflected that it was the first time I had slept back in my old house since the 9th of August 1971 when internment was introduced,” he told me, shaking his head.
Until she fell ill, his mother would read the Irish Times every day. How did she feel, seeing her beloved son being depicted in the media as a cruel and sadistic monster?
“She never believed a word of it. She knew the sort of a person that I was. She knew that some of the stories were a total misrepresentation of the reality of what happened.”
While internment was in operation, Martin would occasionally sneak in through the back garden to visit his parents. On seeing his son approach, Martin’s father would quip to Peggy: “Here comes Patrick Pearse!” I asked if his father – who took part in the civil rights marches – was against him joining the IRA.
“He was very philosophical about it,” Martin said. “Obviously, his concern was for the safety of his son. And he knew I was taking a big risk.”
McGuinness was second-in-command of the Provisional IRA in Derry – it is the only position he admitted to ever holding – during the Bloody Sunday massacre, which saw 14 innocent civil rights marchers butchered by British Army paratroopers. The British authorities attempted to whitewash the slaughter by making the unsubstantiated claim that McGuinness had fired the first shot, sparking off what was indiscriminate shooting on the part of the British troops. It was a lie: all eyewitness accounts vigorously rejected the British Army version of events.
Questioned about this allegation, during the course of a Hot Press interview, McGuinness was adamant that it was – in his language – a cock and bull story. “Nobody in Derry is under any illusions about what happened,” he said. “14 people were murdered, and 13 or 14 others were very badly wounded.”
In July 1972, Martin was one of a delegation of a half-dozen republican and IRA representatives – which included Gerry Adams – who went over to London for ultimately failed secret peace talks with the Northern Ireland secretary of state, William Whitelaw.
He was still on the run in 1973 when his father became sick and died suddenly. “It was heartbreaking,” he told me. “At the time, my mother was worried sick because of my father’s deteriorating health. I was determined to go to the hospital and even to face the prospect of arrest, but my family told me if I did that it would have a very bad effect on my mother – that she may even take a heart attack and die. So, I was very badly torn.”
When his father died, the family decided to hold the funeral of his Northern-Irish born father at the church in Donegal in which he and Peggy had married. “So, we met the cortège on the Derry/Donegal boarder,” he explained.
Did Martin have any regrets about not being able to say goodbye to his father? “Absolutely,” he said. “But I had seen him. The period I was released from military detention and him dying was a very short period. I had seen him a couple of times, but I never felt for one minute that he was in imminent danger of death.”
Martin fell silent for a moment. “He became ill and was dead within a day or two,” he said. “He had an enlarged heart and died very quickly. He was 60. It was very young. It was a sore blow. It was very difficult. I have very fond memories of him.”
ANATOMY OF A MARRIAGE
Martin McGuinness was arrested in 1973, when the Gardaí discovered him beside a car containing 250lb of explosives and nearly 5,000 rounds of ammunition. As an IRA man, he refused to recognise the jury-less Special Criminal Court in Dublin. “We have fought against the killing of our people… I am a member of Óglaigh na hÉireann and very, very proud of it,” he said.
He was given a six-month sentence for IRA membership. Now based in Dublin, his near neighbour in the Bogside, Nell McCafferty, was in court as a reporter for The Irish Times. Immediately afterwards, she phoned Martin’s mother. “She gave me – someone who had never shopped for a man – a list of underclothes Martin would need, complete with sizes, and the sizes also of jumpers for him. He favoured big woolly jumpers,” Nell wrote in the Irish Daily Mail. “Peggy also climbed scaffolding at the Guildhall, which the IRA had just bombed, demanding her son’s release.” In all, Martin was imprisoned twice.
“I spent a lot of time in interrogation centres,” he said, “and I was in prison. I was in Mountjoy prison, I was in The Glasshouse in the Curragh, I was in Portlaoise, I was in Crumlin Road. The only prison I wasn’t in was Long Kesh. The first time I was in prison I got six months; the second time it was a year. Now, I was consistently arrested by the RUC’s Special Branch in the North and brought for interrogation to Castlereigh, and sometimes released after a full seven days, and brought back a week later for another seven days. And obviously, during all that time, I was able to keep my mouth shut!”
How did he manage that?
“Whatever was thrown at me, whatever abuse was offered, I sat there and that was it. So, I didn’t spend a lengthy period in prison. But that doesn’t prove anything. Absolutely nothing,” he beamed, laughing. “It proves that I was well able to handle the interrogations, and there were many of them over a course of a number of years.”
After his release from prison in November 1974, Martin married Bernie Canning, with whom he would have four children. They’d gone on their first date together when Martin was 21. It had been set-up through a mutual friend, Colm Keenan. On March 14, 1975, a few months after the nuptials, Keenan and another IRA member, Eugene McGillan, were murdered by the British Army.
Martin occasionally got drunk during his teenager years, but he was a non-drinker at the time of their first date in The Bogside Inn. As he would say himself, loose lips sink ships! “I was a non-drinker, but I just went for the craic and the date. And it took off from there,” he recalled.
“I had seen Bernie previously at different events. Obviously, I was attracted to her but when you’re that age,” he paused to laugh and shrugged, “you’re attracted to many young women. But there was a special bond between us. I had a sense from the very beginning – and I think she had too – that we were going to be together for the rest of our lives.”
He proposed to her in dramatic circumstances. Bernie had been arrested and imprisoned in Armagh Prison. And while she was incarcerated, Martin had a friend go and visit her. “He put the ring on her finger on my behalf in prison,” Martin recalled.
Bernie was not convicted of any crime and was duly released. Martin himself was then released on November 11, 1974 and the lovebirds married nine days later. “We got married in Cockhill Chapel in County Donegal – the same chapel where my parents were married and both are buried,” he said. “We travelled the length and breath of Ireland for our honeymoon. We were in Dublin, Sligo, Limerick, Galway. We had two fantastic weeks in our own country.”
The Troubles put a huge strain on the marriage. “It was very difficult. In the early days,” Martin recalled, “our home was raided regularly by the British Army and the RUC and she was put under intolerable pressure – but she came through it all.
“She’s a very strong person. I have a huge admiration for her. I think the world of her. What she has done, raising our family under tremendous pressure, has been extraordinary.”
The couple remained married for 42 years. “How we managed to do that against the backdrop of the circumstances we had to deal with is a bit of a phenomenon. But we’ve survived,” he said.
THE WAR MUST GO ON
Martin McGuinness insisted that he walked away from vicious cycle of violence as far back as 1974. But the IRA had a mantra: “Once in, never out” – and even the dogs in the street knew that he was first Northern commander of the IRA in 1977, after a revolt against the southern leadership. He was the IRA’s chief of staff from 1978 until he was elected to the Northern Assembly in 1982. He stepped down – albeit reluctantly, well-informed sources have told me – because the IRA Army Council bridled at the thought of their commander holding a seat at Stormont. But intelligence sources insist that he rejoined the IRA in 1983.
During one interview, I tried to get the truth about all of this from him. Isn’t your denial of IRA membership post-1974, I asked, simply because such an admission could effectively see you facing criminal charges and open you up to being sued by victims of the Troubles? “You’re into a legal quagmire there in terms of who could or who couldn’t sue you. But it is strange that, if people admitted they were members of the IRA, they could be arrested.”
But isn’t that true with you? I asked.
“No, it’s not true with me. I have made it absolutely clear that I have never distanced myself from the IRA. And I’ve made it clear that I engaged with the IRA. I mean, some people are a bit surprised whenever I remind them that the first election I stood in was 1982, which is 30 years ago next year.”
I told him that his denials seemed unbelievable.
“But is that based on newspapers articles written by journalists or tittle-tattle? I was arrested in 1976 by the RUC, on the basis of stories journalists had written in the newspapers – that’s what was offered as evidence. It was ridiculous. And the judge threw it out of court.”
Can you understand why people see your denials as silly?
‘I don’t think they do. I stand in a very proud Irish constituency and have been returned at each election since 1997 with an increased majority.
This is made up of very proud people of South Derry and East Tyrone. And so they understand my past, but, more importantly, they understand the work I have done in assisting the process of bringing peace to the North so that they and their families can live normal lives and move about without fear.”
I repeated a quote of his from 1986 to him. “Our position is clear and it will never, never change,” he had said then. “The war against the British must continue until freedom is achieved…” That sounds like an IRA man speaking.
“I think you can read it two ways. I was speaking as a member of Sinn Féin,” he insisted. “I was elected in 1982. But in the course of the ‘70s and ‘80s many things where said by many people. I can’t remember every single quote that’s attributed to me.”
VICIOUS CYCLE OF INJUSTICE
I have little doubt that Martin McGuinness would have admitted to being an IRA member post-1974 if it hadn’t been illegal for him to do so. I also believe he was uncomfortable dodging the bullet on this question.
“It’s a bit of an anomaly, in my view,” he told me, “that people can still be arrested for things that they would be accused of happening way back 30/40 years ago. The difficulty with it is that the only people who seem to be arrested are republicans. We don’t see too many members of the British Army or the old RUC arrested.”
Martin also admitted to me that he assumed his life would be a short one: that he too would become a martyr to the republican cause.
“To be honest, I thought I would’ve died by the time I was 25,” he said. “Many of my friends lost their lives because of the conflict. On a number of occasions I came very close to losing my life. I don’t intend to go into the details of it. Suffice to say, it wasn’t for the want of trying on the part of the British Army. Particularly in the early days.”
His wife Bernie was the official breadwinner during the ‘70s, as she toiled away in a café, where she worked for 20 years before purchasing it outright. Having been elected to the Northern Assembly in 1982, he failed get elected to Westminster in 1983, 1987 and 1992. He was elected an MP in 1997 and, despite abstaining, held onto the seat until 2012 when Sinn Féin disallowed the dual mandate. It was towards the end of the 1980s that McGuinness started to get his head round the idea of peace talks. “There was an acceptance by the British Army that they could not militarily defeat the IRA,” he remembers. “That, in turn, posed a huge question for Irish republicans. Did the IRA have the military capability of defeating the British Army? And if you answered ‘no’ to both those questions, that leads you into what I consider to be a vicious cycle of injustice, discrimination, inequality, domination, violence and death.
“So, my thought processes and others – including Gerry Adams – turned to, ‘How can this vicious cycle be broken in a way that would see negotiations take place?’ So, we were involved in discussions amongst ourselves about how we could bring that about. It took until 1994.”
Almost as an afterthought, he added: “Of course, in the run up to that we were engaging with the IRA – trying to convince the IRA that they should call a ceasefire.”
DID HE HAVE BLOOD ON HIS HANDS?
During the height of the troubles, Martin McGuinness was banned from entering Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. At the time, he was described by unionists as the “IRA godfather of godfathers”. Reacting to this title, he told Hot Press:”It sounds like someone who absolutely believes in demonising Irish republicanism. I don’t know where the quote came from – but it probably came from some leading unionist politician.” At the time, he famously said, “My war is over.”
One of the most unsavoury allegations to surface about McGuinness was that he lured an IRA member to his death. In 1986, Frank Hegarty – who’d left the North after it was rumbled that he was working as an informer for British intelligence – was shot dead on his return home. It was widely believed that McGuinness had a phone conversation with and reassured him, “It’s okay to come home, nothing will happen to you.”
“No. It never happened,” he told me.
I pressed him: did you kneel down beside his mother and reassure her – as she claimed in an interview before her death – that nothing would happen to her son?
“It never happened. The only person I would kneel to, if I had the opportunity, was my wife to hand her an engagement ring,” he said. “I’ll tell you what I did: at the time Frank Hegarty disappeared, reports came back through his family that he was claiming that he was kidnapped by British intelligence. I was made aware of this. I was an elected representative for a number of years previously, so I was seen as a leading figure within Sinn Fein.
“I spoke to the family. What is being attributed to me never happened. I’m not going to go into the details of how I could rebut what was said because to do so, I think, would be hurtful to a family who have already suffered enough. But I can assure you that what’s being put forward as a representation of what happened is a total misrepresentation.”
Since his death, many commentators have pointed out that McGuinness never once expressed any repentance for his own violent deeds. In one interview, I pushed him hard. You said you’ve never killed anybody: are you saying, then, that you’ve no blood on your hands?
“I’ve never distanced myself from the IRA,” he responded. “I’m not saying that we escape from all of this scot-free.”
Did he accept, metaphorically speaking, that he’d blood on his hands? He seemed to be saying yes.
“Well, it depends,” he started, “on what sort of a headline you’re going to…”
I interrupted him. “I’m not looking for a headline: I’m trying to get into your soul.”
It sounds grandiose now, but it was what I felt at the time: I wanted to get beyond the cliches. He responded with the official line about Derry being besieged by British paratroopers and that it was a street war. “I see very little difference between what I did,” he added, “and what Eamon De Valera and Michael Collins did, and indeed many others.”
So, was he saying that he accepts responsibility for what happened when he was second in command in Derry?
“I accept that as a member of the IRA, I’m not in a position to say that I have no responsibility for what happened during the time when I was a member of the IRA. I can’t distance myself from that. I would not under any circumstances distance myself from that.”
I asked him, did he not feel guilty at all?
“I didn’t feel any conscience problems,” he answered, “about standing up to the British Army and battling with them on the streets of Derry.”
And what about the innocent people who died during the Troubles?
“There were many things that the IRA done which were terribly wrong. And which I could not give any support to. Everything that happened was terrible and an awful lot of people suffered and lost their lives. There was nothing romantic about what happened. I lost close friends of mine. Members of the British Army lost their lives. Members of the military forces that were supporting the British Army lost their lives. And many innocent civilians lost their lives. There’s absolutely nothing glorious about conflict and war.”
THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC
Martin McGuinness went on to become Sinn Féin’s chief negotiator in the 1990s and helped secure the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and, ultimately, the St Andrew’s Agreement, which led to power-sharing in 2007. He built up a strong rapport with the then British PM Tony Blair, whose mother also happened to be from Donegal.
“I have to give credit to Tony Blair for being the first British Prime Minister to do the right thing by Ireland,” he said.
McGuinness once insisted to Hot Press that even though the Good Friday Agreement was a “compromise”, the IRA were “not defeated.” He believed Ireland was on a “countdown” to eventually be united.
In 1999, McGuinness took up his first major role in the Northern Ireland Assembly as Minister of Education – which was funny considering he failed his 11-plus exams and dropped out of school at 15 without any qualifications. It must’ve given him some satisfaction to scrap the 11-plus exams.
When McGuinness took up his first ministerial position in 1999, he didn’t have a suit to wear on his first day. On the night before he walked into Stormont for that historic occasion, his mother Peggy was frantically altering a pair of trousers and a suit jacket that belonged to one of his brothers. Peggy proudly watched the event unfold the next day on TV with her friend, Lily McCafferty (mother of Nell).
“Ah, mother of God! Lily, I let one hem down longer than the other,” Peggy moaned.
“My mother laughed,” Nell reminisced recently.
McGuinness had held secrets talks with an MI6 agent on several occasions prior to the lead-up to the 1994 ceasefire – and in 2006, bizarre allegations emerged that McGuinness was a British spy.
“Obviously it really annoyed me and my family,” he told Hot Press. “That said, most of my friends just regarded it as typical – I think I described it as ‘hooey’ at the time, which it clearly was. But, I mean, the allegations were rubbish – total and absolute, confounded rubbish. And the vast majority of people, I think, understood that.”
He also believed the spy allegation was made to endanger his life. “I don’t have any doubt that this was a militant force within British intelligence, or someone who had previous connections to British intelligence, who – with whatever information they had – added up two and two and got nine. But I was always conscious that my role within the leadership of Irish republicanism would be a very dangerous role to play.”
The power sharing agreement with the unionists was also the first time McGuinness had ever uttered a single word to his long-time political foe, the Rev. Ian Paisley Snr. To everyone’s surprise, the two men – soon dubbed the chuckle brothers – learnt to begrudgingly respect and admire one another. McGuinness hated being described as a chuckle brother. “I think it was Danny Kennedy of the Ulster Unionist Party who coined that phrase,” he once told Olaf Tyaransen. “It was done to score a political point or to demean us.”
“All of the meetings I have had with Ian Paisley have been very cordial, very courteous, very positive, and very constructive. So, you have to take people as you find them,” he told me back in 2007, a few weeks after he took up office.
Despite his reputation as a feared IRA man, up close and personal, McGuinness was an affable character: it was difficult to conceive that such a quiet, laid-back, jovial grandfather played a central role in the IRA’s bloody campaign.
He was in playful mood when we were first introduced at the door of his gargantuan office in Stormont. As we shook hands, the Deputy First Minister insisted that I hum a few bars of a song. “Hum ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. Otherwise I won’t let Hot Press into my office,” he cajoled. As I declined to make a spectacle of myself, in front of his half-dozen aides who were congregating at the door to see a ‘Free Stater’ humming out of tune, McGuinness revealed to me that that he was passionate about music and how he used to enjoy reading Hot Press.
“I love ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. My favourite tune – not because some people say I looked, when I was younger, like Art Garfunkel. I have a lot of friends who thought that,” he laughed. “I like Mozart. I like a wide range of music. I love to hear music from all parts of the world. Traditional Irish music, the odd pop song. I like Snow Patrol. I like Mary Black and Frances Black, Christy Moore, Planxty, Hothouse Flowers. You thought I knew nothing about all these people.”
I mentioned to him that Nadine Coyle of Girls Aloud once mentioned to me that she dated one of his sons. “I’ve met Nadine on a number of occasions and she was friendly with my son Emmet. It’s obviously fantastic to see how well she’s done in her career,” he said.
“I came into the house one night and she was sitting in the front room with my son and a number of their friends. They weren’t there on their own – my wife was in the other room, so it was all very carefully managed! She’s a lovely girl and really down to earth. She always was a fabulous singer. We’re very proud of Nadine.”
OF HEAVEN AND HELL
His Wikipedia profile classifies Martin McGuinness as a Pioneer. “That’s wrong,” he said. “I don’t consider myself a Pioneer. Every now and again I would take a glass of red wine with a meal. But that would be it. It doesn’t happen that often. I don’t go to the pub. I don’t drink beer. I’m not critical of anybody who does, it’s just I would prefer to be in my own house with a cup of tea watching The Sunday Game.”
“I did drink in the early days,” he added. “But the situation in Derry was so serious, in 1972, I took a decision that I would cease drinking. I’ve never really regretted it.”
McGuinness also professed a hatred for TV soaps and said he liked to unwind by watching documentaries; he loved GAA; had a lifelong affinity with Derry City; and was a supporter of Manchester United since he was eight, the year of the Munich Air Crash. “A number of Irish players were playing for the team,” he said.
His favourite pastime was to fish in the dark. “But don’t read any alternative motive in that!” he quipped. “It’s because it’s the best time to catch sea trout. Sea trout have magnificent eyesight and if you use the tiniest of flies with a little hint of silver on it, you’ve a far better chance of catching sea trout at night than during the day.” He detested being away from home. “I’d think nothing of finishing up in Dublin at 11 o’clock at night and going home to Derry,” he said, “and getting up the next morning at 5.30am and going to Belfast. Friends of mine said I should’ve had an apartment in Belfast, but I said no. I went home every day.”
Listening back to one of my taped interviews with him, a shiver ran down my spine when I came across this question: do you believe in heaven and hell?
He may have described himself as a Catholic, but Martin thought long and hard before answering. “That is a difficult question. I don’t have the answer,” he told me. “I don’t believe there’s a heaven, and I don’t believe there’s a hell. I don’t know what’s out there. I would like to think that there is some place where people go, where they will be happy.”
He paused. “But I would hate to think that there are people out there who would be condemned to an eternity of suffering and torture and abuse,” he added. “I don’t think that the God that I believe in believes in that type of punishment. I think that I have an open mind about all of this.” Was Martin McGuinness really saying that he hoped that whatever unspeakable things he might have done would not prevent him from entering through the pearly gates, if there is indeed a heaven? We can only speculate. And besides, that’s a very big if.
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The daughter of legendary Irish musician Sean O Riada, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has carved out a niche for herself as a no-nonsense champion of the working class. In a highly revealing interview, she discusses the pain of losing both her parents at an early age, coping with the tragic death of her first husband, her views on terrorism, sexism in politics – and much else besides.Read More
As General President of SIPTU – and now also as Chairperson of the Labour Party – Jack O’Connor has for many years been one of the most influential people in Irish left wing politics. In a revealing interview, he defends Labour’s record in government, reflects on his run-in with Vincent Browne, addresses the controversy around his salary, explains why he thinks Brexit was a mistake – and says that the Irish left needs to overcome its divisions to achieve real social change.Read More
Most of the red tops will probably focus on the fact that the ex-Oasis singer (once again) pokes fun at his older brother in his latest interview. But the usual boastful Liam Gallagher has humbly admitted that he needed to recruit Adele's producer to help with his solo album because he can't pen "big songs" on his tod.Read More
One of the most controversial TDs in the Dáil, Kerry deputy Michael Healy-Rae had plenty to get off his chest during a lively encounter with Hot Press. The forthright politician discusses his views on Donald Trump, his religious beliefs, his disdain for the Dublin media, why he doesn’t regret voting against same sex marriage, and why he’s against both euthanasia and repealing the eighth – but in favour of legalising medical marijuana.Read More
One of the most controversial TDs in the Dáil, Michael Healy-Rae has plenty to get off his chest during a lively encounter with Hot Press.Read More
As artistic director of the Gate for 33 years, Michael Colgan was one of the most powerful and influential people in the world of Irish theatre. Having departed the post recently, he reflects on his extraordinary career, his youthful rivalry with Paul McGuinness, the pain he experienced over his ex-wife’s death, getting to know Samuel Beckett, and relaunching Harold Pinter.Read More
Though unknown in his homeland, Irish writer Ian Gibson is celebrated in his adopted Spain, particularly for his books about the poet Lorca – widely known for being Leonard Cohen’s chief literary inspiration – and Salvador Dali. In a fascinating interview, Gibson discusses falling foul of the Franco regime, Dali’s wild hedonistic excesses, his role in getting corporal punishment banned in the UK, his interest in sadomasochism, Irish attitudes to sex – and why he both loves and despairs of Spain.Read More
Having rowed solo across the Atlantic in under 50 days, Gavan Hennigan is one of Ireland’s most remarkable athletes. But that’s just the start of his extraordinary life story – which encompasses a strained relationship with his troubled father, addiction and recovery, working at one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, traversing the globe in numerous adventure challenges, and coming to terms with his sexuality.Read More
In 2011, Jason O’Toole carried out an interview with Martin McGuinness that was never published. Here, we draw on that interview, as well others conducted for Hot Press, to paint a fascinating picture of the late leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, in all of his complications.Read More
Featured in the new issue of Hot Press, Gavan gives a revelatory new interview with Senior Editor Jason O'Toole.Read More
Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!Read More
Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!Read More
Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!Read More
Based in Wicklow for nearly 50 years, legendary film director John Boorman is celebrated for classics like Point Blank and Deliverance. In a fascinating interview, he reflects on the making of those movies, his experiences in Hollywood, the changing face of Ireland, coping with personal trauma, mortality – and his recently published debut novel, Crime Of Passion.Read More
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.”Read More
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