- 19 Oct 11
It has been the most dramatic Presidential election ever, with seven candidates finally lining up to go before the electorate. Among them is former Minister for the Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Michael D Higgins. So who is the man about whom The Sawdoctors wrote ‘Michael D Rockin In The Dail’? And if he does find favour with the electorate, what kind of presidency can we expect from him?
It has been a fascinating Presidential campaign. Over the past two months the landscape in the race to become the ninth president of Ireland has changed utterly – and changed utterly again.
There was the drama of David Norris’ withdrawal after what smelt suspiciously like a smear campaign. As if that wasn’t enough, one of Sinn Féin’s most prominent personalities of the last 25 years, Martin McGuinness declared his candidacy.
In quick succession Mary Davis secured her place on the ballot paper, Dragon’s Den man Sean Gallagher gathered momentun behind his bid, David Norris re-entered the race on a wave of optimism and former Eurovision winner Dana made a late burst for inclusion. All the while Fine Gael candidate Gay Mitchell was revving up his campaign.
Thanks in part at least to Michael D’s intervention, instructing Labour councillors that he did not want David Norris’ candidacy blocked, the gay rights campaigner is now back in the game, while Dana, Sean Gallagher and Mary Davis have also secured sufficient support to run. There are now seven candidates standing for the office, more than ever before.
According to the pol-cors and the opinion polls alike, Michael D is the front-runner, but the former Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht is taking nothing for granted, pounding the beat from one end of the country to the other, fighting the campaign of his life. The challenge now is to keep the momentum going, to get every potential vote out on the day – and the only way you can do that is by dint of sheer hard work. No time to waste then...
OLAF TYARANSEN: At the age of 70, you’re the oldest candidate in this election. What’s your response to people who say you’re too old for the job?
MICHAEL D HIGGINS: Well, I have a long list of people who have achieved many things after the age of 70 (laughs). I’ve had the energy to run an internal campaign, within the Labour Party, for nine months and win against other very strong candidates. From the 19th of June, when I got the nomination, until now, I have travelled 23,000 kilometres. So I have no difficulty in terms of energy and capacity. I say to people when I’m asked, “they say that Picasso did his best work between the ages of 72 and 90.” And it’s true. Age shouldn’t be a barrier. I have been attending Irish international matches at which I have been very much in admiration of Signor Trapattoni’s energy on the sideline, and he’s a few years older than me. So I feel confident that I will be able to do a very good job.
You were born in 1941. What’s your earliest memory?
My earliest memory is probably of walking with my mother from William St in Limerick up towards the public park near Janesborough. I was very young at the time. And there are other memories associated with Limerick, where I was born. I do have a strong memory of the day that my father collapsed and had to go to hospital and I’ve written about these in poems like ‘Dark Memories’. These are Limerick memories, really early on, before the age of five. I have also written about another memory, which is about the drive at evening from Limerick City out to Co. Clare where I would spend 19 years – full of rural intimacies, cattle, and all the little tasks that go into small farming. What is interesting to me is how when these memories surface later, it is often the rural images that have come most easily to mind.
With a title like ‘Dark Memories’, I’m presuming they’re not especially happy memories.
I think that I realised much later how traumatic it must have been for my mother in particular to see myself and my brother leaving when I was five and he was four. My father’s health had been badly damaged by his part in the civil war and the war of independence, before I was born, because he and my uncle slept outside a great deal. He collapsed one day. My sisters who are twins are just a year and bit older than me, and my brother is just fifteen months younger. My uncle and aunt who had no children of their own – they’re from Co. Clare – said they would take the two boys to give my mother a chance to get on with things. Much later my mother and father and two sisters came to live with us in Clare. I think my mother had it harder than anybody else because her one aim in life was to have a house. I think she was more interested in respectability, perhaps, than my father, who I think held a certain amount of frustration and anger at all he had been put through. I still feel to this day very strongly about how his contribution and the contribution of others like him was sometimes forgotten.
How do you mean?
They were very idealistic people and they took risks with all they had – their jobs and their livelihood. If you have acted in Chekhov and in Ibsen, as my wife (actress Sabina Coyne) has, and see the powerful universal images that are in Ibsen’s plays, what is common to it all is the unrealised potential of humanity. And also the wastefulness that is in inhuman and unthought-out actions.
You must have seen an awful lot of that during your various travels around Africa and South America.
I did. In the period from 1979 to 1989 I encountered some of the worst situations imaginable. I remember Sally O’Neil – now Sally O’Neil-Sanchez – and myself in Salvador visiting the rubbish dump and recognising bodies. If the body was mutilated one way it was the Mano Blanco who’d done it, if people had their hands tied together it was the security forces. I remember travelling with relatives who were shown photographs and asked if they knew this person – and going to the morgues with them. And I learned something that was very important – in order to be of some value you cannot indulge personal emotion but at the same time you cannot look away – you have to give witness properly and you have to do it very professionally .
What was the worst situation you encountered?
I think the one that tested me the most was much, much later. It was in 1992 in Somalia. I was with a Trócaire team being interviewed about the Somalian famine. There were 250 people dying a day in Baidoa, where I was. In the journey from the refugee camp in the north down through the country we met a woman who had walked 200 miles with her twins and one of them had died – and just as we arrived at the top of the medical tent, the local bishop… the second child died as he handed it to me. At moments like that, you become aware of how privileged we are to live where we do. And you also realise that you should never, ever become immune to other people’s suffering. I hope those kind of experiences have given me a sense of perspective. We are at a very diffucult time in our history but we are very capable of achieving the renewal that is so important now for us all.
There were moments of political drama too.
I was involved with government transitions. I was the first observer to arrive in Chile, in defiance of Pinochet, to witness the vote which removed him from power. I watched the formation of the first Sandinista government in Managua, and I also watched the fall of that government. Those were extraordinary events to be a part of.
You wrote about all these experiences in your Hot Press columns.
I did. Hot Press was very important. I remember when Niall Stokes met me and he said “Rolling Stone includes political commentary” – so I got a bundle of Rolling Stones, spread them out on the bed, and decided that this was something I could do. I wrote for Hot Press from 1982 to 1993, and I used it as a kind of an intellectual diary. I wrote about all the campaigns: the divorce campaign, the campaign on family planning, all of these. And then I used it to record what happened when I was travelling abroad, often under the most extraordinary of circumstances because we didn’t have what I called telex at the time.
A fax machine?
Yes. I was trying to find a fax machine, and I would send the thing in handwritten and it would be a big discussion in Hot Press as Niall would ask Liam (Mackey), and Bill Graham occasionally, to decipher my writing. But Hot Press was a great experience. Later on, at nighttime, when I would be going home from the Dáil to my hotel or whatever, I would meet youngsters in the street in Dublin and they’d talk to me about Central America or Africa and other things I had written about.. But I think I only missed about six issues. I wrote every fortnight. Niall gave me total freedom as long as the piece was at least 800 words and if it went over 2000 to give him notice – that was it.
You stopped writing for Hot Press in 1993 when you became a government Minister.
Yeah, I sometimes regret that. I didn’t write at all from ’93 to ’97 because I was so focused on my work as a Minister. But after ’97 I wrote occasional articles.
I remember quite a famous photograph of you with Marlon Brando when you were Minister. Did you have many dealings with him?
Marlon Brando was one of the people I was almost afraid to meet because anyone who is interested in acting and had seen On The Waterfront – and the many other things that he did – knew how extraordinary he was. If you have a figure like that as a kind of icon, meeting them can be disappointing. But I went to see him down in the south when a film – one that hadn’t been certified by the Department incidentally – had fallen apart. He was hoping that it would still happen and I drove down and I remember being entirely overwhelmed by both his intelligence and his grace. It was pouring rain and there had been a young photographer for what would have been the Cork Examiner then and he was getting soaked while camped out looking for a photograph. I told Marlon Brando that there was a young man down at the gate who had been waiting there all day and he said ‘Send him up!’ And he took that photograph, which is now well-known, of Brando and myself talking. Later on, when we went for a meal I remember the incredible charm of him. And then later we began discussing that his grandfather was in the womb of his great-grandmother when they left Ireland and he was interested in discussing possible Irish citizenship.
You met him a few times, didn’t you?
Later when my initiatives in film were being really attacked by the British tabloids on a completely false basis, he turned up to meet me in Santa Monica and because I was having difficulty in getting a cab he came and collected me himself. We went back to his house and we had a long chat about the world of film. He also came to see me privately and we had a meal in The Gray Door and he sang all these songs that a nurse had taught him – songs like ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’ or whatever. He had a great sense of humour..
What do you consider your greatest achievement as a Minister?
Establishing TG4 was one because there were institutional forces against it. The other was rescinding Section 31 of the Broadcasting Act – that was even more important because there was a political atmosphere around. I never believed that it was of any assistance at all in relation to public order. I saw it as censorship and I wrote about that. Conor Cruise O’Brien had a different view to me. In Mary Corcoran’s book on censorship (Political Censorship and the Democratic State: The Irish Broadcasting Ban, published in 2004), you have Conor’s view and you have my view.
There were other less controversial issues.
In a way I was very lucky that I had an agenda in my head from day one in relation to what I would do in the cultural area. I had to start negotiating immediately for the draw-down of funds from Europe and that’s where the funding came from for the purchase of Collins’ Barracks. In the first two months there was the movement of the Chester Beatty Library to Dublin Castle. There was the building of the fourteen theatres, in places like Galway, Longford, Letterkenny, Blanschardstown. They were all part of a strategy to create access. If I had waited to start constructing a policy after my appointment, I would have lost time. I had an advantage both in that I was married to Sabina Coyne, who had brought me into the artistic communities –– and also the experience I had practically, through the local authorities, having been chairman of a group that had brought murals and other art into schools. .
You’re also a big sports fan and honorary chairman of Galway United FC.
I’d say that those experiences I’ve had are ones that will be of great value to me in the Presidency. I’ve been a supporter of Galway United since it was Galway Rovers. When I came to Galway first I remember going down to watch soccer in what was then called The Swamp in Galway. I think I might have been Vice President of Galway Rovers, but I continued on as a supporter of Galway United. I was once a director and now I am the honorary president of the club. I remain that. We’re having a rather bad period. We recently established a record for the longest sequence of losses in a row, We’ve passed 23 (sighs sadly and covers face with hand).
Do you think Mary McAleese has been a good president?
I think her contribution has been very valuable in making sure that we didn’t lose the momentum in relation to peace in Northern Ireland. I have no doubt that in the public mind, when you talk about her Presidency, people will also mention the success of the Queen’s visit. That was interesting because there was a view early on as to how will this go – but by the time it came to Cork and the people were out on the streets, people were quite celebratory. I’ve just come back from meeting with Irish emigrant groups in London and the media in Britain have been all complimentary about the experience. I think Mary Robinson, her predecessor, took a very important step in extending the scope of the Presidency. The Presidency involves constitutional obligations, reading through bills that have been passed from a constitutional perspective. You have ceremonial duties that you must perform with dignity, not representing yourself, but the country. And then is a third space, where you use your discretion.
What does that involve?
What topics do you take on? To whom do you speak and how do you do it? You can highlight the difficulties that particular groups or communities are having. And how they are responding to that. Mary Robinson did that very much in relation to homelessness, shelter and inclusion, for example by talking to the Simon Community. In my own case, in addition to focusing on issues that I believe are important I have also said that I would follow with interest the review of the constitution – the Constitutional convention’ - due to take place in 2012. I’ve also stated that I intend to run a series of Presidential seminars that are wider than the topics of the day and have commited that the very first of these will look at what it means and how it feels being young in Ireland right now.
How do you feel about David Norris finally getting the nomination?
I’m glad that the whole saga of the list is now over and that the candidates are all there and that we can concentrate on what are our qualifications for the position, what we are proposing to do for the next seven years and how we are proposing to do it. I would have preferred if David’s name had been on the list from far earlier. It’s as simple as that. I also think the system is archaic, and should be examined when the constitutional review takes place – for example, the restriction on citizens under 35 standing is something that should be looked at. But we are in the system as we have it and on October 27th, the people can now make up their minds between the seven candidates.
Are you not worried that he’ll split the vote and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness will get in?
No. My approach was always to stand on the strength of what I have to offer. It doesn’t matter who else is in the race: I welcome them all. I think that as the campaign goes on, the specific invitation for the vote from the candidates will take on a character of its own. The questions are now ones about what does the presidency do? The very interesting thing is that the public are far more advanced than maybe the media thought, because the public are interested in both the limitations and the possibilities of the office and, as a candidate, you wouldn’t get away with saying you can do something that you clearly cannot do. Everything that I have proposed for the Presidency is achievable within the Presidency.
Do you welcome Martin McGuinness into the race?
Martin McGuinness has every right to be a candidate. He has qualified under the rules. His is an interesting candidature – however I believe still that I have more to offer to the Irish people as a candidate, But I have to say, as the person who removed the order under Section 31, I am glad that he will be able to speak for himself and it won’t be an actor doing it for him.
There’s a possibility that some of the recordings in the Boston College archives, as used in Voices From The Grave, could come back to haunt him if he becomes President. If he was to win, it could be embarassing for the country, not just for him personally.
Well these are issues upon which people might speculate but I am certainly not going to. There is one point I have been addressing – before I decided to stand for the Presidency at all – and that relates to what do you do in a conflict situation? I’m familiar with this in Uganda and I’m familiar with it very particularly in Nicaragua, where the Contra and the Sandinista fighters had to pass within 100 yards of each other. But more importantly they both had to exist in a post-dictatorship new society. One point worries me about Northern Ireland and that is those who suggest you can start with a clean sheet. You really can’t say morally to a person who has lost a partner, or who loved a person who has been dismembered, or one of whose family is in a wheelchair as a result of violence, that they “must forget this now and move on.” That would be morally indefensible. But what you can say is: let us perhaps agree that you will consider this to be completely unforgivable, you park these perspectives as a kind of amnesty, but not in any way an amnesia, to enable you to move on. But none of this is easy and timing is important and also I think the question of full disclosure is important. You know, where has the transition taken place? Is there a transition at all? If you are involved in conflict and you decide to take a political road, are the aims still the same? Or has some transition occurred to you, to say that the civilian casualties in this struggle are no longer justifiable? Or that they mightn’t be sustainable? Is the transition tactical? Is it moral? Is it political? These are issues I am sure will be discussed.
How do you think he has done so far?
I think in the discussions we have had so far, and in the debates, Martin McGuinness speaks with a certain assurance. He is a person that has had considerable achievement to his credit in relation to working with Unionists, as well as with people from extremes in Northern Ireland and he is one of a large number of people who contributed in their different ways to the peace process. But people are entitled to make up their own minds as to his history in the same way that they will be making up their minds about mine and all the other candidates. This is a democracy.
RTE have just announced that they won’t be playing any of Dana’s music for the duration of the campaign. Do you welcome that move?
One of her numbers which people really associate Dana with is ‘All Kinds Of Everything’. But do you know her other number ‘Totus Tuus’, which was the song for the Pope? You hardly ever hear it now! Again Dana has a certain view. I am not clear frankly about the message. I don’t think it is simply an appeal to tradition, I think it is an appeal to a specific kind of conservatism. I am not sure where its roots are. But I hope we will have a debate on ideas – because ideas do matter.
Are you sorry that Bertie Ahern isn’t running?
I can’t say I am. I think that the circumstances are such that it would be difficult for him to be a viable candidate. I was prepared for him standing, I have to tell you. I felt that we represented two very different versions of Ireland, in every sense. But it wasn’t to be.
Have you been personally affected by the recession?
Not directly. I don’t have investments and my mortgage is from a long time ago: it is now about £250,000. I do feel terrible for the younger couples and people who were taking out mortgages for properties that were very grossly overvalued. The last few years have been very difficult for so many people, especially young families.
You had to take a pay cut.
I was very happy to take the cut in salary, it was only fair in relation to my Dail income. I also chose not to claim my Ministerial pension while I was still a TD and have said that, in relation to the Presidency, if I am fortunate enough to win the support of the people and be elected, I don’t intend to draw either a Dáil pension or a Ministerial pension while I am in office, and if the Government decides that the salary for the President should be further reduced I’m very happy to live with that too. I do think that it’s very important that this be done in a way that is very transparent, that you don’t have a candidate making a play of offering to take a particular cut or whatever – because that could mean that you could then have a very wealthy person offer to do the job for nothing, and that isn’t very democratic.
The recession is still hurting people badly.
On so many levels it has been devastating. Workers losing their jobs. People emigrating again because they feel they have little other option. And at the heart of it all are failures in the banking system and in regulation, something I spoke against. I was for example, one of only 17 TDs who voted against the unlimited bank guarantee of 2008. I have great sympathy for people who have tried to keep their businesses afloat in incredibly difficult times. I have been all round the country twice now, at least. I know owners of businesses who have kept the door open and turned on the light in their shops, even as they have had to let their staff go. The courage of those who set up small businesses and employ staff, is often underestimated. And I am appalled at the way many have been treated by the financial institutions in this country. I do feel that in every part of the country, there is anger against the perceived impunity that people who had duties of care and due dilligence and didn’t exercise them seem to enjoy. But the country now has to move past this point of justifiable anger and recrimination and start looking towards future possibilities.
You were quite vocal in the Dail in your opposition to American rendition flights.
Yes. I believe extraordinary rendition is a breach of every kind of international law and humanitarian law.
If you were to meet Barack Obama as president of Ireland, is that something that you’d bring up with him?
This is an interesting question. Knowing that I represent Ireland, as President I must do what is best for Ireland, mindful that it is Ireland that I represent rather than myself. I am not required to be an inauthentic person, not for this campaign or for the office of Presidency. However I have to give primary consideration to the dignity with which I hold a conversation with another elected head of a State and that requires a sophistication and judgement which I believe I have acquired. Possibly an advantage of the age that I am (smiles).
You’ve also been quite critical of US foreign policy in South America.
I have in the past been critical about Nicaragua and Salvador. But let me point out that I became interested in the massacre in Salvador, the very first piece I wrote, because my attention had been drawn to it by material published by the US bishops. When I went there and when I came back it was people in the United States who asked me – as a friend of the United States, because that is what I consider myself to be and that is how I was and am viewed – to speak about this situation, which was something that was neither legal nor representative of the heart or mind of the United States citizens. Indeed, when I came in 1984 to lobby about putting an end to the Contra violence , the person who proposed the resolution was Teddy Kennedy. I have been priviliged to both work and study in the United States and was honoured to accept the recent invitation of the United States Ambassador to a moving 9/11 commemoration ceremony.
Some people would see you as anti-business. Or at least as someone with no business experience.
Actually, I believe I have some very practical experience in this area. One small example might be my chairmanship of Galway United which gave me an excellent experience of the difficulties people face daily in a small business, because it includes every challenge – from dealing with axed players to managers to pitches to governing institutions, and so on. And we have even sold the odd player on!
What were your thoughts on Man City’s Carlos Tevez refusing to get off the bench the other day?
Well, my first reaction would have been probably inaccurate because I thought he seemed like a spoiled brat on £200,000 a week. But I loved the very Irish response given on his behalf later – that there was a breakdown in communication between the manager and the bench. Frankly, I wouldn’t be putting my money on him being an impact player in the short term (laughs). But returning to the question of of business, may I say this? The first thing is, that recognising the connectedness of things is going to be our greatest advantage as we make our way out of the situation that we are in now. One of the finest reports ever printed on the Arts in Ireland was Professor Ciaran Benson’s Access and Opportunity and I had my mind made up that if ever I had an opportunity I would implement as much as I could of that. This meant that if you wanted, for example, rock bands you needed places for them to rehearse. That’s why I was on the committee of the City Centre Arts and why when I came into office, I immediately set up a mechanism for building theatres in places like Blanchardstown, Tallaght and Mullingar – because building those spaces made new things possible, not only in terms of communities but in terms of jobs and in terms of business..
A lot of peple don’t see the arts as a business.
The arts are far more then a business certainly, they are an essential part of citizenship, but they also have huge economic potential. For nearly a decade before I became Minister, I had been talking about the film industry. And so when I was appointed, I set out a number of practical measures including changes in the tax incentive scheme and changes in the way in which people could invest. And by doing that I changed the business itself. I set about trying to create jobs in the film industry, I studied it and realised that for a million spent in the film industry, you had 52 skills requirements that would have to be met – so I got Údarás na Gaeltachta to start running audio-visual courses. I got FÁS to do training courses, and negotiated money for that. Then when I started funding the Irish Film Board, I decided I would start up TG4. All this happened between the day I was appointed and four months later. I also went to Los Angeles and met with the studios there. So I am in no way vague about the nature of industry nor short on experience of talking to people internationally about the wonderful potential that Ireland offers as a centre of excellence or a location for investment and so on. I have done it before and could certainly support similar initiatives in a different capacity.
The Irish presidency is basically a ceremonial role. Would you not feel somewhat limited in terms of what you could actually achieve?
The affirmation that the President makes taking office is – I will dedicate my abilities to the welfare and interests of the Irish people. But under the constitution, there is also the discretionary space that I spoke about. If you want to address the nation, or address both houses of the Oireachtas, you get the permission of the Government to do that – so they effectively see your text. I am full of praise for Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese particularly, but I also admire Paddy Hilary. I thought he behaved with great honour when he was challenged with the business of what had happened in the Dáil at the time. For example where there’s such a significant shift of economic sovereignty as we have undergone recently, that it affects the capacity to legislate for your own people, that might have been an appropriate time to address both houses of the Oireachtas and thus the Irish people. You are President not only of those who are over 18 and who voted you in – and it is a powerful mandate, because no Taoiseach and no minister has as many votes – but you’re also responsible for all of the children, for the next generation. You’re responsible for those without the capacity to vote, and you are responsible to the founding memory of the State, and also to the State’s future – in relation, for example, to the image of Ireland abroad. So you do have a very important role.
Is there a specific stamp that you would like to leave on the Presidency?
I can tell you where I think I can make a very specific contribution over seven years, and that is in validating the importance of ideas. No country benefits from the assumption that there is but one, inevitable, single model of society. I am running my Presidential campaign with the explicit message that what happened for the last 15 years should not be repeated. I say that the previous collapsed model was based on very definite values, which failed us – with devasting results not only in Ireland but right around the world. We need to get to a new place in which there is an openess to ideas and alternatives, a place that draws on the best of tradition but also opens up to innovation. – because as I said there is a connectedness in all of these things.
Can you give an example?
Who would have thought that people at the top end of physics would recognise the close similiarity there is between musical composition and advanced software design? And I recently attended the launch of a computer made by an Irish company which is constructed from wood – it is winning European awards for sustainability in terms of what is a lateral approach. Ireland has been badly served by a narrow model of economy and society – but I also see a country that is brimming with creativity and possibilities and openness. As I was talking to students in UCD last night, I made a point that there are people telling you that ‘you should study this so as to be useful to the following’. Whereas, I say you should study what you want to be, develop with flexibility and make 4 or 5 career choices over the course of your life. More importantly, try to have the resources within yourself to deal with the ups and downs of life and with loss and so forth. Also it is crucial for us all, and for young people in particular, to develop the ethics of friendship and loyalty. There was, in the last 15 years, a not very pleasant version of Irishness around. An Irishness which went to Europe and said, “we’re the second richest people in the world”.
Charlie McCreevey was a particular culprit, if I recall.
I don’t want to personalise these things. It is on the record that Charlie McCreevy went to Stockholm and as good as told them to privatise their industries and abandon their social services. Their neighbouring country, Norway, is actually somewhere which has recently shown really great examples of heroic and constructive thinking, In response to the disaster when so many young people were murdered, they said immediately – “We will be more open, we’ll be more democratic, and we won’t be intimated.” These are high moral points and my respect for that stance is something I conveyed to the Norwegian ambassador when I met him. I think in our own Presidency we should seek to emphasise those values of generosity of spirit.
Do you believe in God?
I have always had respect for belief systems. Really I don’t have any time for authoritarianism or dogmatism in those belief systems. But I do think it’s important that people reach beyond the isolated biographical life and think beyond the present time. Actually that is what makes literature so spiritual. For example, can anyone say that Dostoyevsky or Chekhov are not deeply religious writers? So in that sense, yes, and that’s enough for me. I think it’s very important to recognise that other people have different approaches to their beliefs, and you have to respect that, and I do. If a person gets great pleasure from singing a hymn, who am I but to hope that it’s being sung happily?
You’re tweeting quite regularly in this campaign. Do you actually send the tweets yourself?
I do bits and pieces, but what I’m doing now is one or two people meet me and they say “What are you doing today?” and I give them one or two sentences. The odd time there will be a direct one from me, which I’m sure you would recognise!
What would you say is your greatest strength as a man?
I would say compassion based on my own vulnerability. But also an ability to stick to what I believe. Being open, that’s important. Being tolerant is not enough, but being compassionate is essential. In a way I’ve gone past sentiment but still believe in passion, as something that can be channelled in constructive ways. All of this, of course, requires courage.
What’s your greatest weakness?
I’d say that it is a certain impatience at times with people who want me to reduce complex issues to simple answers I do sometimes have to restrain myself sometimes from saying “No, the world is not always reducable to appropriate soundbytes”.