- 15 Aug 18
A one-time contender for the Fianna Fáil leadership, Mary Hanafin still has plenty to say about the state of national politics. In a hugely revealing interview, she discusses the alcoholism of her late father, pro-life campaigner Des Hanafin, her husband’s tragically early passing, voting No in the Repeal referendum, and why she thinks the Irish media is anti-Trump. Oh – and that time she discussed hiring a hitman with Bono!
A few days after being grilled by Hot Press, Mary Hanafin mentioned to Fianna Fáil’s General Secretary, Seán Dorgan, that she’d done an interview with this magazine. “He looked at me and he said, ‘I hope you used a few expletives’. And I said, ‘Only about you and Micheál Martin,’” she says, laughing.
The powers-that-be within the party will be relieved to find out, reading this interview, that Mary was only winding him up. There’s no mud flung here at her party leader.
But the former deputy leader of Fianna Fáil certainly isn’t afraid to stray from the party line on a plethora of issues, during the course of this lengthy exchange with Hot Press.
Mary’s CV is impressive. She was, at one time or another, Minister for Education & Science, Minister for Social & Family Affairs, Minister for Tourism, Culture & Sport, Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Innovation, Government Chief Whip and even Deputy Leader under Brian Cowen.
Despite reaching such lofty heights, when the history books are written about modern Ireland, there’s a danger that Mary will be somewhat overshadowed by her father, the late Des Hanafin – one of the founders of the Pro Life Campaign.
He was anti-abortion, anti-divorce, anti-same sex marriage – all extreme, dogmatic, religiously defined stances that are antithetical to those espoused by Hot Press, a publication that has vigorously campaigned over the past 40-odd years for social and personal freedom in Ireland. Curiously, despite her high-profile career, there’s very little, if anything, in the public domain about Mary’s own stances on issues like abortion and same sex marriage. They say the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree. Let’s find out if it’s true or not, in Mary Hanafin’s case...
Jason O’Toole: You mentioned to me that you once discussed hiring a hitman with Bono...
Mary Hanafin: In 1983, Garret FitzGerald appointed Bono and myself to a youth policy committee. This was the ’80s when U2 were really only at the beginning of their career. I remember sitting beside him at a dinner after one of the committee meetings and we were chatting away. I didn’t know whether to call him Paul or Bono in those days. But I remember having a conversation with him about crime in the North Inner City. And I remember him telling me that you could hire a hitman for 100 pounds – and my jaw hit the table. I remember it well (laughs). He was so tuned in. I’m not suggesting that he knew how to do it! But he was so tuned in to the kind of social problems of crime in the North Inner City that he knew that. So, that was my claim to fame with Bono.
Did you ever feel like hiring a hitman during your political career?
Manys-a-time. I reckon the hundred quid is probably a lot more now (laughs).
I’m sure you know that there’s a perception out there of you as a goody two-shoes.
Nobody tells somebody that they’re a goody two-shoes! I’ve had two careers in my life: I’ve been a teacher, and a government minister and a TD. I think I’m held in fairly high regard for both of those. If people think I dress some way, or I speak some way, or I act someway that’s a bit goody two-shoes, well, I suppose it’s better than being told that I’m a fly-by-night and that I can’t be trusted, and I’m drunk or disorderly all the time. If it’s a choice between the two I’ll take it (laughs).
Do you enjoy a drink?
No. I never drank. I don’t miss it. I was never wild. I grew up in a house where we didn’t drink, we didn’t smoke, but it was a very political house. I remember even when I was in primary school canvassing the nuns! I started going to the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis when I was 15 – and speaking at it, about education.
Was there a reason why there wasn’t any drink in your house?
My father was an alcoholic. My mother used to be praying for him to come off the drink. She wanted something to happen that would get him off the drink but not kill him. So, he had a very bad accident in 1967 where he broke his legs, his hips, his toes – and ended up on the flat of his back for six months. And that got him off the drink. He used to say that he broke his legs to get back on his feet. He only died last year.
Do you remember your dad being drunk?
No, never. He ran a hotel at the time. He was a very gregarious fella with a great sense of humour. He loved music. When I was a child, the All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil was held in the Anner Hotel, which we owned.
It wouldn’t be ideal for an alcoholic to be running a hotel.
He didn’t realise that the bar wasn’t for him! He literally drank it out and lost it then at a time when he had his accident. But I remember the Flead Cheoil. I remember The Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers and Johnny McEvoy, and all these people coming and singing. Long before you ever had the Trip to Tipp, you had the Fleadh in Thurles. And over the years I’d met people who’d go all glossy-eyed and say, ‘Oh! The Fleadh in Thurles’. The memories they had of it (laughs).
There’s a very famous musician in your family…
My mother is a Brady. Paul Brady’s grandfather and my grandfather are brothers. His music is just fabulous. And more than the music – the words. I go to a lot of his concerts. Vicar Street. The National Concert Hall. Wherever he goes I’ll follow. He’s a real Brady. My mother always looks at him and says, ‘Oh my God! He’s the cut of JP.’ He is the image of her father. Unfortunately, all the music is on his side of the family.
Apart from Bono, have you been impressed by any other musician’s grasp of politics?
I remember we did a gig for Hot Press when I was Minister for Culture and Bob Geldof was the main interviewee. It was a big a gig in the RDS. And I remember being with Niall Stokes. I think I did the introduction or chaired something. But I remember coming away so impressed with Bob Geldof because you normally see a different side. There was a depth to him that I’d never seen before…
What type of music did you like growing up?
I suppose there was always a lot of Irish music being played, particularly because my father loved the ballads. He was a great man to sing a ballad himself. I remember even Con Wilkinson saying to me that the best person he ever heard sing ‘Carrickfergus’ was my father because he was a storyteller, which was true. He used to sing it like a story. At school in the ’70s – you’d nearly be ashamed to admit it – you’d a big Saturday Night Fever time. Discos were big in my youth. And a little known fact: I was the disco dancing champion of Maynooth when I was in college. I’ve been known to dance (laughs).
Would you’ve had a crush on John Travolta?
No, (laughs) but I liked his dancing. The hand up in the air and on the thing with the hips.
So who did you have a crush on?
When I was a child had David Cassidy, Donny Osmond posters, and then later David Bowie. But, again, that was the music. And then I remember being totally obsessed with Bohemian Rhapsody, as a song. I remember even saying to one of the teachers, ‘That is going to be around forever’. And she’s looking at me. Now of course it’s on the Leaving Cert curriculum for music. I went to the Queen concert two weeks ago in Marlay Park – fantastic.
What type of music do you like these days?
I love live concerts. I like classic music. I like Irish music. I love The Gloaming. I love Martin Hayes. I used to love poor old Leonard Cohen’s concerts. His music was so soulful. As a performer, he was just so respectful of his audience and of his band. I’ve been to Bruce Springsteen concerts. I’ve been to U2 concerts. I like to go to The National Concert Hall. I brought my niece to Hairspray in the Grand Canal theatre there a month ago.
How important was chasing the opposite sex when you were young?
Not very important. But I was very lucky to meet a man that I love and loved forever – and still do even though he’s 15 years dead this year. We met through Fianna Fáil, actually, in 1978/79. We always got on very well because he had a great sense of humour. So, it took off from there. We were going out together nearly five years. We got married in 1985.
Your husband Eamon (Leahy) was very young when he passed away.
Yeah, he was 46. He was working in the Garda Tribunal in Donegal. He was Senior Counsel. He got a massive heart attack in his sleep.
It’s very young.
Could you imagine being widowed at 44? Particularly when I think there are so many marriages that are not happy – and yet we were so happy. And to have it snatched away like that – that’s something you never get over.
Where were you when news reached you about your husband’s death?
I was on my way to a United Nations conference. I was in the plane in Amsterdam and they came and told me to get off. My secretary Alice was with me. The plane was all locked. Literally, we were ready to go. And her phone rang. Mine was off. And I heard her say, ‘Are you sure of your information?’ I turned to her and I just said, ‘It’s Eamon – and he’s dead’.
What made you say that?
I just knew because I hadn’t been able to get through to him. You just had a sense that there was something. I just knew instantly. I had woken up at 4 o’clock in the morning with the view to getting the flight and I remember I sat at the side of the bed and I blessed myself. I actually asked myself, ‘What did I do that for?’ So, I said, ‘Maybe it’s because I’m going on the flight’. But I often went on flights and like everybody else you bless yourself when the plane is taking off – but I’d never done it like that. And that was the time that he died.
Does time make it any easier?
You get on with your life. But every year I have his anniversary mass and the same group of friends come every year. It’s so lovely that people want to remember him. And I meet people all the time that either he acted for them or he taught them criminal law, or they talk about his sense of humour. He was actually responsible for the CAB legislation. He drew that up for John O’Donohue. And John introduced it as a Private Members Bill and Nora Owen then took it on as legislation. She was the Minister, but it was actually introduced as a Fianna Fáil Bill, and it was actually Eamon wrote it.
Did you ever meet anybody else?
Would you like to?
No. I really appreciate the fact that I had such a happy marriage. As I say, so many don’t. I’m content with the life I had.
Do you still feel lonely now?
Yeah. Anybody who lives on their own, if they’re being honest, would have to admit, ‘Yes, it’s lonely.’ I was really fortunate in that I had my both my parents and my brother and his family who’re just so fantastic. And then I got a whole new appreciation of cousins. Mine became my sisters. They were just fantastic. It’s really a time for family to rally round.
Your father – Des Hanafin – died last year.
He was such a man of principle, which you don’t always get in politics. And he was willing to sacrifice a lot for his principles. He was also so alert and so interested – all the time he’d be on the phone: what’s the news? Planning the next election. Absolutely involved in everything. We were always very close.
What did your father make of the Ireland of today? He played a central role in campaigning against divorce and abortion…
He did, yeah. My mother was glad he didn’t live to see the result of the abortion referendum because he wouldn’t have believed that Ireland could’ve changed so much. I think he would’ve been shocked. I remember sitting with him when the results of the Citizens’ Convention came out and he couldn’t believe that they came up with these recommendations. For a man that was so religious, he couldn’t speak about the abuse in the Church and that. He was so horrified by it – a Church that he belonged to and believed in.
What did he think about same sex marriage?
He’d no problem with the civil partnership. I remember we sent that through government. Everybody was very supportive of it. But he said a marriage was between a man and a woman.
You would’ve come from a background where sex before marriage was a sin and same-sex marriage was a sin. But those are no longer perceived as sins.
I’m not sure now – but I think they probably still are sins, are they?
Same-sex marriage is legal but I’m not sure that it changed the position in the Church. I don’t know.
I interviewed the Primate of All-Ireland, Archbishop Eamon Martin – he said that being homosexual is not a sin but the act of homosexuality is a sin.
They’re matters for the Church, you know? The issues that I have been involved in, in my political career, were on the education and then cultural, social welfare, families, all of that. And they’re the challenges that I think still exist. The Church has their own issues. I’m a politician – I’m not a Churchman.
Did you agree with a lot of your father’s stances?
I never got involved in any of the campaigns or anything. I’d be strongly anti-abortion. Even with the results of the (Repeal the Eighth) referendum, I think Irish people still have a very strong moral code. And I think a lot of people voted in this referendum for a safe health care and for woman in crisis. But I believe, myself, that because of a strong ethical base Irish people have that you probably won’t see enormous numbers of abortions in Ireland. As they say, just because it’s legal it doesn’t make it compulsory.
So, how did you vote in the same-sex marriage referendum?
I’ve never told anyone how I voted in anything. I actually haven’t been to a same-sex marriage, but I have friends who are engaged. I have a number of friends who are happily in long-term relationships and civil partnership relationships – and those people are important to me too.
So you’re not going to tell me which way you voted?
You’re right – I’m not.
It’s unusual for a politician not to say what way they voted because most politicians would’ve been out there campaigning on it.
No, but I explained that I’d family on one side and friends on the other – and simply didn’t want to hurt either side.
I’ll rephrase the question then. Forget the way you voted, there’s nothing wrong with gay couples having sex, is there?
No (nervous laughs). No.
We now have married homosexual couples in Ireland. Are they unequivocally, in your view, the equal of married heterosexual couples?
Yes, that’s what the referendum was all about. By the way, the big political issues for me are affordable housing and healthcare. An affordable housing scheme would take people off the housing list who should never be on it and make the demands for social housing more manageable. Young couples have no chance of a home for the foreseeable future. There needs to be political accountability for the cervical cancer scandal. Women are dying.
Do you have any problem with gay couples adopting children?
I have more reservations about it than I have the act of marriage itself. But I’m also conscious of the fact that there are single people who have adopted and who are raring children – raring adopted children – very well. So, on that basis, I think it can and will work. But there are also a lot of issues around adoption. So, over the years, I think a lot of support structures have had to be put in place for all adopted children.
But generally speaking you see nothing wrong with it?
Yeah, on the basis that there are single adults doing it. I mean, I’d obviously prefer to see a woman in the picture, or a man in the picture where it’s a same sex couple. I like children to have role models of both genders. And I think that’s really important. So, I think where you have a gay couple who have a family, I think they’d need to go and make a special effort to ensure that there are role models of the other gender.
To be consistent, you won’t tell me how you voted in the abortion referendum either.
No. If I want to be consistent I have to, you know. What I’ll tell you: the same-sex marriage was probably more difficult, in as far as I had family on one side and friends on the other. So, I kind of kept out of it altogether. But the abortion one was much clearer for me – so I will say I voted ‘no’ on the abortion one.
You’ve said that you are anti-abortion. Am I right in saying that you would not want a victim of rape or incest, who became pregnant as a result, to be allowed to terminate the pregnancy?
This has now moved on since the referendum, right? So, the legislation is now going to deal with that. So, how I think about that at this stage is not relevant. But, for me, I am pro-life and against abortion. All those issues have now been resolved, or will be dealt with in the legislation.
But on a personal level you don’t want to give me your answer?
No. Those arguments are done now. They’ve been tossed around. They’ve been debated and decided upon, that’s the way to put it.
And what about fatal foetal abnormalities?
All that has now been decided upon.
Fine, a decision has been made in the Referendum – but the questions are relevant to the kind of person you are. The Hot Press Interview is about trying to get to know the person themselves as well as the politics.
I know, but it’s actually asking a question that is no longer relevant. Because it has just so recently been dealt with. There’s no point in reopening the whole debate and argument again. So, I’ve made it clear why I voted on it.
The questions are relevant to how you see women in Ireland, and how they were being treated before the referendum.
Yeah, but I said I think a lot of people voted for better healthcare for women, which was fair enough. And there weren’t a lot of people necessarily voting for abortion but were voting for women and voting for better healthcare.
Has Irish society changed to the extent that you’re becoming uncomfortable with Irish society?
No, I’m not uncomfortable with Irish society. I would absolutely say that the people of Ireland and the country we live in cannot be matched anywhere.
Are you a very religious person?
No, I wouldn’t say I’m a very religious person. But I go to mass every week. I taught in a Catholic school for years. I chair a Catholic school. I suppose I follow a Catholic values system, but that doesn’t mean I’m counting rosary beads every day – but my religion is important to me. And yes, I will go see the Pope.
You believe in heaven and hell?
I certainly believe in heaven. I want to believe in heaven because I want to believe that the people I loved are somewhere that I’m going to meet them again. So heaven has to be that place.
Hell would be not seeing them again.
But do you think there is a hell for bad people?
I just hope that they’re not going to be in the same place that I’m going to be (laughs).
I know you’re being funny. So without trivialising it with a laugh or a joke, do murderers who fail to repent go to hell?
I think what I’m saying to you, Jason, is that for me heaven is where the people I love are. So, for me, then hell is to be in a place where those I love are not. So, I think hell probably means different things to different people. You can definitely say that people who have caused terrible sorrow and hardship and horror should be in hell. And people who have done a lot of good should be in heaven. But, for me, my definition of how it impacts on me is where the people I love are, or are not.
As a Catholic you must think that Muslims, Jews, Scientologists, atheists and all the rest of them are just plain wrong?
No, I don’t. What we were growing up with was respecting everybody’s religion. I think everybody respects everybody’s religion. It’s the extremists we don’t like. And the people who are extreme in the name of a religion when that religion would never have been so violent and so – what’s the word I’m looking for? – lacking empathy and understanding.
You said that you respect all religions as equal. Does your religious tolerance extend to the likes of Scientology or Moonies or Jehovah’s Witnesses?
Oh, I don’t call them religions at all – they’re cults. And I think you have to distinguish between a religion and a cult. Scientology is a cult. And anything that is focusing on vulnerability and on money is not a religion. As I said to you, I’ve close Jewish friends. I’ve worked with Muslim women. As Minister for Education I worked a lot with Muslim schools, Church of Ireland schools, you know? It all has to be respected. But, I mean, the big difference is between a cult and a religion – and I’ve no time for cults. I’ve no time for cults, but I do have time for religions.
People were trying to run the Scientologists out of Jobstown. You wouldn’t say that was unfair or wrong?
No. They were also trying to do it in Meath, I think. No. They don’t deserve the respect of a religion. Because they’re only preying on vulnerability.
But just to be clear on this point: if all religions are the same and they’ve all got the same values…
They’re not all the same – but all religions are to be respected as being kind of equal. But, I mean, distinguishing between religions and cults.
So Christianity is superior to other religions?
Yeah, for me, as a believer. But I respect the fact that Muslims, for example, respect Mary and the respect Jesus – it’s just that Mohammad came after him. So, they choose the later one to follow.
If Jesus is the son of God, then Islam is wrong.
No, no. It’s just that there are other followers. For me, this is the one I follow. And I wouldn’t reduce it to be so trite as to say, I follow Fianna Fáil and somebody else follows Fine Gael and somebody else follows Sinn Féin – but they’re all legitimate things to do. And religions have their own followers with their own belief system.
But, for you, Christianity is a superior religion to the other religions?
No, I didn’t say. Christianity and Catholicism is the one that I follow. But I respect those who decide to follow others – and none, indeed.
Christianity or Islam: one of them has to be wrong.
They both have millions of followers all over the world. I mean, reducing the argument of religion to right and wrong is what has given rise to religious wars over the years. So, you can’t do that.
Do you think the Dáil prayer should be scrapped?
I don’t, no. What is wrong with the Dáil asking God – your God, my God, anybody’s God. But there should be a prayer that asks a God to bless the work of a parliament. But there’s some people in there and they just want to be negative about absolutely everything. That’s no way to live your life.
Would you agree that blasphemy should be taken out of the Constitution?
Yeah. That’ll go. That’ll go.
To be clear, do you specifically want the blasphemy law to be removed?
Oh, yeah, I think if that’s put to a referendum it will be removed. It’s not like I’m campaigning for it or against, but I think it will be removed.
The Catholic Church discriminates very obviously against women.There really isn’t equality in the Church, is there?
No, but I mean most people even in the census would say that they have a religion. It might guide your values but it doesn’t affect your everyday work. You are who you are. Now I’ve even forgotten the question you asked me. What did you ask me?
About the lack of equality in the Church…
The bit I don’t understand in the Catholic Church is now they are accepting married men as deacons, which is a lovely development because you’re getting people with families who are able to bring a whole new perspective to their sermons and their work. I’ve been to the ordination of a deacon, a married man who is a friend of mine, with a family – his first sermon was just so tuned in to all of the issues of woman. I can’t understand why they don’t take women even as deacons. That should be the first step.
Why did Jesus not include women among his apostles?
Because I think it was the culture of the time, rather than a choice. But it was a culture where women didn’t have a status or a standing.
But he was the all-knowing son of an all-knowing God. He must have been able to foresee the havoc that choice would wield in the future.
I don’t think he looks forward 2,000 years. He only lived 33. How is he supposed to know what was going to happen in 2,000 years’ time. But it’s still around – so it must be good.
Homo sapiens had been on the earth for between 100,000 and 200,000 years. Why did God wait for such a fantastical amount of time before sending his son down to redeem people?
Things must have been pretty bad when he decided to send someone then. If we all knew the mind of God now, I tell you, we’d win every election.
But why choose to come among the Jewish people in Galilee, rather than say among the Japanese or the Native Americans…
(Laughs) I don’t speak for the Catholic Church. You’re a hoot! I’m not even a theologian, you know? I’m a politician, Jason. I’m not a nun!
Do you believe that Christ was nailed to a cross, died and three days later was resurrected? And that he ascended into what they call ‘heaven’?
This goes back to what I think of heaven. I accepted the Church’s teachings, right? And I believe in those teachings and they are a pathway for me to follow.
And you would believe to the same extent in the Virgin Mary?
Well, in fact, even historians, rather than theologians – historians have talked about what happened that time in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. A lot of it based on history and not just based on religion.
But you wouldn’t go as far as Danny Healy-Rae who said during his Hot Press Interview that he knew for a fact that God was in charge of the weather because of Noah’s Ark.
(Laughs) And John Halligan said (in his Hot Press Interview) that he believed in aliens, but he doesn’t believe in God. How do these people get elected (laughs)! I think I’m a reasonably balanced person. People have tried to label me as being extreme right wing, Catholic, and that, which I’m not. And I don’t impose my beliefs on anybody else either.
Why did you decide to return to politics?
I never actually left politics. I was really disappointed in 2011 when I lost my seat because even though Fianna Fáil TDs were falling, all over the place, I thought I had worked enough in Dún Laoghaire to get there.
In terms of running for election in the Local Government elections, there’s no gender quotas.
Gender quotas don’t apply for the Local Elections next year and I think they should. Because it’s very hard to get people elected to the top if you’re not getting them elected to the bottom.
Will you run in the next General Election?
Yeah, I’ve been selected by the party to run again. Unfortunately, the last time Dún Laoghaire was a four-seat constituency and I came fourth – but the Ceann Comhairle is automatically re-elected, so there was only three seats. But it’s back to a four seat now. It’s never easy but there’ll be a better chance.
What do you think of Fianna Fáil not running a candidate for the presidency?
We’re a political party and what we do is contest elections. I can understand why the party wants to support Michael D. because I genuinely mean he has been a fantastic president. But we shouldn’t have been the first out of the traps to do that…
Because now I think we’ve been wrong-footed because there is going to be an election and we’re not going to be a part of it. I think because there is going to be an election we should be running a candidate. Michael D. may well win it. Sinn Féin will get the opportunity to at least get their views across and to debate. But we’re a major political party and we’re going to lose the political coverage, the opportunity to debate, all that goes with a presidential election.
Your old mate Bertie Ahern is always harping on about how he’d love to be president.
I don’t think he will run. And certainly I don’t think he should because I don’t believe he’d get it. And I wouldn’t like for him to be defeated. Bertie was very good to me. Eamon died when I was Whip. So, I worked very closely with him. And he appointed me Minister for Education. He was very kind to me – and I will always remember him for that.
In terms of coalitions, will Fianna Fáil reach out to Sinn Féin if they need the numbers?
No. I think Fianna Fáil would turn to Fine Gael and Fine Gael would turn to Fianna Fáil faster than they’d ever turn to Sinn Féin. We could end up with the same again the next time. Maybe in reverse, or maybe the same again. But certainly you won’t see Sinn Féin in it.
What do you make of Mary Lou?
I think Mary Lou set herself up as a strong feminist during the referendum. But the election will be about other issues and her Tiocfaidh ár lá comment at the end of her speech at her first Ard Fheis will come back to haunt her – and we’ll make sure it does.
In the context of Brexit do you fear they’re could potentially be a return to violence?
I would’ve thought the whole generation of people now in Northern Ireland would’ve have grown up for 20 years in peace and have known nothing else and will do everything they can to cling to it. On the other hand, you only have to scratch the surface and you’ll see the difficulties that arose around the 12th. There’s still huge youth unemployment – and if the problems like that aren’t solved than that gives way to violence.
The renowned chef Clare Smyth, who is from the North, said in Hot Press that Northern Irish politicians are making a pig’s ear of it at the moment.
The political leaders in the North of Ireland should be dragged over the Westminster and forced – by way of taking away their grant aid or whatever – to re-establish power-sharing. It is an absolute disgrace and derogation of their responsibilities to their voters that they do not have a voice and representation at the most critical time of political history in the whole UK alliance.
Is Donald Trump a bit of a madman?
I think in Ireland we only listen to East Coast America. We listen to New York and Boston and Washington. All the commentators that we know – it’s all Democrats, anti-Trump. And yet you go into the middle of America and they think that there’s nobody like Trump. Because he was saying what people want to say.
But he’s always putting his foot in it…
Now, I think it’s embarrassing watching him this week go, ‘Oh, I meant to say wouldn’t instead of would’. On the other hand, when I saw him with the leader of North Korea and they’re both looking at the big car and they’re eating Häagen-Dazs ice cream and it’s like big boys with big toys. And I just thought to myself, ‘Do you know what? Maybe this is what works with someone like him’ – not Trump but Kim Jong-Un. Maybe something completely different is what’s needed because diplomacy has failed over the last number of years with North Korea. I’d given him the benefit of the doubt with that one. But you can’t play games with Iran.
It sounds like you admire him?
No. I’ll tell you: I’d have admiration for somebody who’s elected the President of America. I wouldn’t vote for him. But we certainly have to respect the people who did. And we also have to work with him. Would you like him to turn around and say, ‘We’re not drinking any Irish whiskey!’
You once threw your name into the hat for the Fianna Fáil leadership. Would you still like to lead them one day?
That’s not going to happen (laughs). There was a time, yes, absolutely, I would’ve liked it. I think I could’ve done a good job. But I don’t see it happening now. But I will be active and involved for a long time yet – I promise you that.