- 29 Aug 17
As a member of cabinet during the last government, Labour TD and ex-environment minister Alan Kelly was involved in some hugely controversial policy decisions, not least the imposition of water charges. However, he remains unrepentant on that issue and strongly defends his party’s record in office. In a hugely revealing interview, he also talks about the death threats he received while a minister, highlights Labour’s role in the marriage equality referendum, gives his views on the Jobstown controversy, and discusses his love of Irish rock bands
If everybody knows, as Leonard Cohen sang, the dice is loaded, it’s equally fair to assume everybody also knows that Alan Kelly is your stereotypical political animal. He eats, sleeps and breathes all that shit. We’re talking about a guy who went to his first Labour Party conference as a young pup and still carried on to study politics at university.
So, you’d be forgiven for lazily presuming that the former Minister for the Environment would be more in his comfort zone debating constituency boundaries, than being quizzed on the likes of Republic of Loose or The Radiators From Space. But you’d be wrong.
“I just love Irish rock bands,” enthuses the 42-year-old Tipperary TD. “I’m a Thin Lizzy nut. I’d be fanatical. That’s certainly a piece of me that most people don’t know.”
Dubious, I fire-off a string of trivial pursuit questions. Fair play to Kelly: he answers with aplomb, giving exact dates and names for landmark musical events. If he’s ever looking for a career change, Kelly could easily land himself a gig in the music industry.
“Lizzy’s first guitar player, Eric Bell, was a great,” continues Kelly. “I know every track on every album at this stage. I’ve all their bootlegs and everything, although I never got to see him because I was too young. I have the Hot Press in my attic from the anniversary of Phil Lynnot’s death. He died on the 4th of January 1986. I remember the day he died, I was only 11. I met his mother on a couple of occasions, and I used to go to the Vibe for Philo.”
But he isn’t stuck in a time warp. “Kodaline are fantastic,” he says. “I listen to a lot of their stuff at the moment. And I love The Riptide Moment and Little Green Cars.”
His tastes aren’t always mainstream. Far from it. “Whipping Boy were one of the best bands that lay undiscovered,” he reflects. “Brilliant albums. I have them.”
A little while after this interview, Kelly fires off a WhatsApp message to me: “Something we both absolutely agree on,” he says, with a link to an article by RTÉ’s Jason Duffy with the headline: “Whipping Boy – the most underrated Irish band of all time?”
Jason O’Toole: What was your childhood like?
Alan Kelly: It was a very happy childhood. I was raised in Portroe with my brother; there’s seven years between us. There’s only me and him. My parents had a small dairy farm. They both worked as well, because the farm wasn’t sufficient to keep us going. My parents both left school when they were 11 and worked very hard. I was born in ’75. My parents’ first house was lost in a fire in late ’74.
So, your mother was pregnant with you at the time?
Yeah. They built another house over the road. My four grandparents all lived in the same parish. It’s a great place to live – I live there now, where my father’s farm was. It’s a beautiful place on the banks of Lough Derg.
The fire must’ve been a devastating experience for your parents?
Yeah, they lost everything effectively. They’ve two pictures of their wedding still, because they were in my grandparents’ house. They got through it with a lot of support from family, neighbours and friends.
What type of child where you?
This might sound strange, but I was very content. I was quiet enough (laughs). I went to school at four. I ended up doing my Leaving Cert at 16. I went to the local school where my two kids are now. I played rugby, Gaelic football, anything. I used to watch sports fanatically. Read about sports fanatically. A lot of my childhood was based around sports.
Did you work on the farm?
My brother more so, because my father got out of milking cows when I was about 12. With the whole issue of (milk) quotas, by the mid-to-late ’80s, it wasn’t worthwhile. Dad packed that in and started working for the council. He worked on the roads for 20-odd years and filled potholes. My mother used to work in various other different jobs. My parents wanted to give us a chance in life that they didn’t have. Everything they had they put into our education. I think it paid off. They made the sacrifices for us. And you never forget that. Both of us are very driven.
Were you involved in student politics?
I wasn’t big into student politics. I was involved in the Labour Party since I was very young. I went to my first conference when I was a child.
You studied at UCC and UCD. Did you go to America on a J1 visa?
No. I worked every summer to be able to go to college. I went into the local AIBP meat factory when I was 15. I told a lie – I told them I was 16! Because I was a big guy and I played rugby, they believed me. It was like lifting weights for seven hours a day – it was permanently lifting pieces of meat. I saved up that money to go to college.
Did you have a rebel streak in you?
Ah, no. I’m not a conformist, but I don’t rebel for the sake of it.
But did you ever get into any trouble?
Yeah. I used to get into trouble playing rugby, hurling and football. So, I would’ve seen my share of red cards. I’d be pretty expressive on a pitch! I was pretty competitive.
Would you’ve been a dirty player?
I wouldn’t have been classed as the cleanest (laughs)! We played soccer. My best friend used to play centre back beside me. The lads in college used to call us Though Shalt Not Pass! In other words, ‘You’ll never get past the two of them. If you’re going to score you better score in front of them.’ (Reflective pause) My best friend’s name was David, Dave. He passed away from cancer five years ago, at a very young age.
That must’ve had a profound impact on you.
It did. We had a great friendship. He went to secondary school with me, and to college with me in Cork. We were groomsmen at one another’s weddings. He was a larger-than-life character. And his death had a very significant impact on my life. He was such a good friend, he didn’t get the opportunities that I have.
Do you think about him a lot?
When you’ve young children, which I have now, you hold them tight and you remember. I even talk. My son was born a month after he passed away. But my two kids know about Dave because we talk about him so much. Look, it was just a very sad time. Myself and a couple of his other friends meet up regularly and we never stop talking about him – you have to take good memories and use his friendship to shape you in the future.
On the night of the referendum, during a live interview with Miriam O’Callaghan, you mentioned that you were wearing a tie given to you by a gay friend.
Damien O’Brien was one of my best friends when I worked in Bord Fáilte and Fáilte Ireland. Damien was gay: he was a really good guy to be around. He was a great entertainer, great fun. I was flying to the States in 2008 and got a phone call from a friend who worked with him to say that he was missing and a couple of weeks later his body was found in the bottom of the canal. We don’t know what happened – presumably, he accidentally fell in. But Damien was a great buddy of mine. He’s very sadly missed. I carried his coffin to his final resting place.
Why did you have his tie on you during the interview?
We had been out a couple of years earlier and I was admiring his tie. He had a great fashion sense. I annoyed him so much about his tie he said, ‘For God’s sake! Here. Take it. It’d be easier to give it to you than to listen to you for the rest of the night’. I actually wore his tie on stage that night to remember him. It was an important day. It would’ve been a brilliant day for him, but he wasn’t alive to enjoy it. I still have it. I still wear it in the Dáil frequently.
Was that why you supported marriage equality?
Lots of my friends are gay. A very symbolic moment for me was: a few years before the referendum my godchild, my first cousin, she came to me and told me she was gay. She came out to me. For me, it was just an added dimension because I love her so much that I wanted to see her have every opportunity in life. And she came and she participated in events and campaigned with me. So, that was a nice moment. I believe in it full stop. I believe everyone, whatever their sexuality, is entitled to the same happiness as anyone else.
Marriage equality legislation is one thing the Fine Gael-Labour coalition will always be praised for…
Do you know what really drives me mad? Fine Gael have had this conversion on the Road to Damascus in relation to marriage equality. Only for the Labour Party, we still wouldn’t have marriage equality in Ireland. And only for Eamon Gilmore, you wouldn’t have had a referendum.
10 years ago, Enda Kenny told me twice during a Hot Press interview that he was against same-sex marriage.
Yeah, so, now we have a situation where – I get on well with Leo (Varadkar) – we have a gay Taoiseach. And we have Fine Gael claiming that they brought in this referendum. They did not. It was absolutely nothing to do with them. It was the Labour Party who ensured that it was in the Programme for Government.
Leo himself told Hot Press a few years back that he was against same sex marriage.
I’m not surprised that this was Leo’s view a few years ago, but I’m glad that he has changed like so many in Fine Gael. They did so because the Labour Party and Eamon Gilmore, in particular, made sure that the marriage equality referendum was in the Programme For Government in 2011. The people of Ireland made their decision in the referendum subsequently, but it was the Labour Party that supported the marriage equality for many decades and ensured that the referendum happened.
Are you religious?
I don’t judge people. Everyone’s entitled to their own religion. I respect religion. I respect people’s views. I’m not a fan of crossing over religion and politics. My mother is devoutly religious and I respect her for that. Am I a practising Catholic? I am, I suppose, to some point. There’s some very good things about all kinds of religion. Obviously, there’s loads of bad things: we’ve a lot of legacy issues in this country from religion and that needs to be dealt with. The whole sense of community that comes from Church-going is a great thing. Do I believe in the sermons that some priests give out? No. Do I take direction in any way? No. But I do like the sense of community.
You wouldn’t see sex before marriage as a sin?
Not at all! Ah, no. Don’t get this wrong. I’m very liberal on most issues. But no, no, no, I’m not. Oh my God, no! Jesus, no! There seems to be a view that some people wanted to develop for political purposes that, in some ways, I’m conservative. I’m the most un-conservative person you’ll ever meet on most issues. I just don’t believe in shouting from the rooftops all the time. Also, my political views are very much about bread and roses. I talk an awful lot more about the bread, because unless you have the bread, I’m not sure you can have the roses.
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Do you believe in an afterlife?
Do I believe that our souls go to either heaven or hell? I’ve no idea. And I doubt that anyone you’ve ever interviewed has any idea either (laughs). Look, it’s beyond any of us. No one has a clue: but I like the idea that if you behave well in life, there is an afterlife and that you get rewarded. I think that’s plausible. But the one thing, which no one can ever explain, and that always gives me a belief that there is something else, is conscience. Conscience is intangible. We all have one. I believe in living by conscience. If you do that you’ll live a good life.
Growing up, how important were chasing women and sex for you?
(Laughs) Like any young lad, chasing women was always a priority. But I met my wife in UCC and we got together in 1998. That’s a long time ago now. It’s 20 years ago since I was on the market. So, I barely remember it. A funny story: I was in number 10 College Road and Regina was in number nine. The same people owned the two houses and they were redoing the front of the houses. They’d scaffolding up – and let’s just say I didn’t always use the front door to get into her house! I sometimes used to come up the scaffolding and get in the window (laughs).
How old were you when you lost your virginity?
I’ll plead the fifth!
How did you meet Regina?
I met her on the side of the street. There was a conversation with a group of people. And there was a big debate in political circles at the time about some politician who got a million pounds, remember? And I stuck my head into a conversation and said it was Haughey! And that was the first time I think she ever laid eyes on me.
Was it love at first sight?
Yeah. I might have had goggle-eyes on, but it was love at first sight (laughs).
How long before you proposed?
We got married in 2004. So, we’re married 13 years. We’ve two children. I think I got engaged in 2002. I did something quite romantic: I went down to Cork, and I stopped a taxi and got out and asked her to marry me, on the same spot I first met her and first started talking to her. It’s not a story that’s publicly known.
Have you ever tried marijuana?
No. I’ve never even smoked cigarettes.
Would you be in favour of legalising marijuana for medicinal purposes?
Definitely. I think that should be looked at.
And legalising marijuana in general?
Yeah, I think that’s something we could look at. But under certain conditions: because if you legalise it for medicinal purposes you’re opening a can of worms anyway. So, you might as well look at it in a broader sense. You’d have to look at volumes: what would be allowable and all that.
In Portugal, if you’re caught in possession of any drug for personal use, you don’t get a prison sentence: they send you on a course instead to educate you about drugs.
Again, that’s about volumes. How much is a volume for personal use? Is it a gram or a tonne? Are you buying in bulk (laughs)? I don’t think somebody should do time in prison if it’s a tiny amount of a drug. Our prisons are clogged up enough without that. However, if it’s something that they get constantly caught with, and they’re in distribution mode, then definitely they should.
You’ve never tried any types of drugs?
You enjoy a drink?
I like craft beers. I’m a big promoter of the craft beer industry. I have legislation going through the Dáil at the moment to allow them to sell their own produce onsite. It’s insane: if you visit a vineyard in Italy, Spain or France, if you want to buy a bottle or have a glass of wine you can. But if you go to a craft brewer in Ireland, you can’t actually buy drink or consume it onsite. So, I’ve legislation that will create a tourism product and help them to grow their business.
Bertie Ahern once told Hot Press that it was no problem having a couple of pints of Bass and then driving home. Have you ever rowed the same boat?
I’m sure I did. But I’ll tell you it’s a long time ago. Please don’t tell the Guards! Especially at the moment!
Danny Healy-Rae says that you should be able to have two or three pints and drive home.
No. But the Bill that Shane Ross is bringing forward is complete and utter rubbish! This is a ‘nice’ piece of legislation he’s bringing in for the wrong reasons. He has issues with the Road Safety Authority. He’s not giving them the resources, they don’t have enough directors, and he sees this as a way of dealing with that and equalising the problems. It’s wrong. It’s going to be defeated in the Dáil, in my opinion. I don’t think anyone should drink or drive – but I don’t think that the limits should change. In this scenario, if you had traces of alcohol in your system, you’re going to be off the road. The parish priest wouldn’t be able to have wine at mass! The legislation should be left the way it is. The issue is enforcement.
What’s your view on the Eighth Amendment?
It’s madness that this is in the Constitution at all.
Are you pro-choice?
I don’t tolerate the two phrases: pro-choice or the other extreme of pro-life. I’m in favour of getting rid of the Eighth Amendment and I’m in favour of legislating for the rights of women. A lot of these choices should be based on the relationship between a woman and her doctor, in consultation with her family. We need to get rid of the Eighth Amendment. We need to allow the people who are elected to represent the public in Dáil Éireann to make the choice on what form of regime will be put in place once the Eighth Amendment is gone.
And what about in cases of incest and rape?
Of course they should be allowed abortions. I’m in favour of legislating. I’m in favour of abortion in all of those cases. And I’m in favour of a regime thereafter that basically allows doctors and women to make their own decision.
It’s a woman’s body and she’s entitled to do with it what she wants…
Yeah, obviously. Look, you have to have conditions here. I wouldn’t accept or be in favour of late term abortions in any way, shape or form.
I don’t think anybody is…
Well, you’d be surprised.
What’s your stance on euthanasia?
I’m open to persuasion in certain circumstances. Certainly, it’s something that we can look at.
If you had a serious illness yourself and you were going to die…
That’s my whole point: if a loved one was in serious pain – put yourself in that situation? You can’t really judge unless you look at the cases. It’s fraught with difficulty, legally. But, certainly, I’m open to discussion on it and persuading on it.
What’s your views on the so-called Swedish Model for prostitution?
Do I believe that prostitution should be legalised? No, I don’t. I think that it would open up other issues, which could be quite dangerous for society. Having said that, I could be open to persuasion.
But does it make sense to criminalise the purchaser and not the seller?
It doesn’t. I don’t believe in the Swedish Model.
Is there anything wrong with sex between two consenting adults if money is exchanged?
I move in a direction which protects vulnerable women and protects against trafficking. There’s nothing wrong with sex between two consenting adults. Absolutely not. It’s about where you draw the line: is it a case of where somebody advertises these services and the consequences that they would potentially have for broader society, families and all of that?
Is it wrong to want to be a prostitute?
I don’t judge people that way. But I wouldn’t be comfortable with walking down the street and having advertising for prostitution services up on the wall, beside an ATM machine! It’s not a black and white issue: it’s on a spectrum.
So, you believe that sex workers views should be heard and taken before a decision is made about any new laws?
Absolutely. Without a shadow of a doubt.
Do you think Labour has to reach out to others on the left?
I would like to see the Social Democrats, in particular, and the Labour Party coming together.
You’d like to see a merging of the two parties?
Yeah. There should be a naturally coming together. They have many fine members. It’s hard to distinguish between Social Democrats and Labour. And there’s others: there’s Independents and people across other parties. And really for the future of social democrats – which we all are – and the future of democratic socialists, really, there needs to be that coming together to forge a block not just in Leinster House but across the country.
What about the so called ‘far left’?
There is a big difference between the likes of us and the far left, who are really not interested in ever being in government or achieving anything. It’s permanent protest. I’m not into that. Permanent protest is utopian rubbish. It’ll never materialise into anything. They basically lead people up the garden path and abandon them all the time. It’s the politics of promoting misery and not seeing anything positive in life.
What’s your reaction to the Jobstown verdict?
It was manna from heaven for Paul Murphy and his colleagues, because whether they lost or won, they were going to portray themselves as victims. I’m glad it’s over for Joan Burton and Karen O’Connell, because they never asked for any of this. What happened to them was thuggery. It was a disgrace. It’s very important that people understand: Joan Burton didn’t take this case. It was the State. And it was a bad decision by the DPP. It’s outrageous the cost of this trial to the State. There are questions to be asked and answered by the DPP. I believe that another route should’ve been taken. But I’m glad it’s over. That it went on so long was only giving oxygen to people whose behaviour on that day was disgusting, disgraceful and thuggish.
How do you respond to your nickname AK-47?
That’s only a recent acquisition, by the way. It’s only in the last three or four years. I think that’s very much driven by political media. I don’t mind it. I’ve had so much stuff written about me in the media and, to be honest with you, it doesn’t bother me. I don’t take criticism too bad. I don’t get over-excited about praise either. I’m not in politics to be popular. I’d rather be respected than popular.
Did you feel shafted when you weren’t allowed to contest the leadership?
Yes. I was pretty annoyed about what happened. It was a difficult period but I’ve moved on. There are no issues. I don’t bear grudges. But you don’t forget. You put it inward and you use it for motivation – and you move on.
Do you feel you would’ve won in a vote?
All I’ll say is, I’ve a very good relationship with the membership of the Labour Party. Because, remember, I’ve been amongst them all my life. I’ve been born into the Labour Party. I’ve been at conferences since I was a child. One thing that people don’t doubt about me is my dedication to values of the Labour Party.
Many felt that it was undemocratic that Labour’s grassroots couldn’t have a say.
It was wrong – and I’ll always think it was wrong. I believe the people were entitled to it. You had a situation where there seven TDs. The outgoing leader and the chair of the parliamentary party felt they had to be independent so they were staying out of it. There where two candidates, so that left three people to make the decision for thousands of people. It was decided by three people! I’m sorry now, but that’s wrong.
How was that allowed to happen?
Brendan (Howlin) made it clear that under no circumstances was he going to do a contest – that really annoyed me. He wanted a consensus decision. We discussed it at length. I told him that was never going to happen, that I was always going to put my name out there. But there was no way he was going to take part: he made that clear to me and to my colleagues. And, as a consequence, we couldn’t have a contest. Not becoming leader of the Labour Party isn’t the big issue for me: not allowing the membership to decide was the biggest issue for me. And it was a big issue for the membership. But, as I say, we’ve moved on.
Do you see yourself as a future leader of the party?
Whenever there’s an opportunity again I’ll put my name forward – if the people of Tipperary still elect me, that is!
They elected Michael Lowry! People are perplexed by that!
Well, I shouldn’t comment on that!
There’s a rumour that you considered leaving Labour and joining Fine Gael.
Where were you reading that?
Ah, sure! As you know, you should always believe everything you read in Phoenix (laughs)! I never contemplated leaving the party. I will never be in any other political party.
Were you approached?
I was approached by many people across different political parties, particularly Fine Gael. But I never considered it – ever. It didn’t even enter my head. I’m a Labour person. I’m reared in that tradition. I believe in it. I believe in the values of the Labour Party. And that’s the way I’ll always be. Loyalty is my favourite word in the English language. I believe in being loyal. If you were in politics just to get elected, you can flip from being Labour to Independent to Fine Gael or whatever – that’s mercenary stuff. You’re not in politics to change society to the values you want: you’re in it just to get an income every week. And to be honest with you, that’s never what I’m into. There are other ways you can get an income.
So, you won’t go the Independent route?
No. I always envisage myself being in the Labour Party. This is a fundamental issue – we’re getting deep here, but here it goes: I’m not in politics just to be a TD. Obviously there’s a duty to the public, otherwise you shouldn’t be doing it. But I’m not in it for personal gain. I’m not in it to be popular – if I am, I’m probably not going about it the right way! I’d rather be respected than be popular. I despise populism. I’m in politics to push through my and the Labour Party’s vision of how society should be and how society should change: socially, economically and everything.
In a pre-election interview with the Sunday Independent, you said power was like a drug.
But I don’t now if you noticed: the headline is one thing, but the interview is a different thing if you read it. The dots-dots-dots in the middle: no one ever asks, ‘What’s the dots-dots-dots?’ It wasn’t a full sentence. ‘Power is a drug... it suits me.’ But there were dots-dots-dots in the middle, and the dots-dots-dots were a lot of conversation that was omitted.
What were the dots-dots-dots?
You look at the government: they’re afraid to make a decision. I stood behind my decisions when it came to all the issues, controversial that they were. It suited me because I was prepared not to be a populist: I was prepared to do what was right for the country. The whole essence of that conversation was about was that power is a drug. I did say that. The power I was talking about was being in government. Being in power, being in government – they’re interchangeable. And when I said that it suits me, I meant government suits me. I’m not one of these people who’s afraid to make a decision. Of course, to the millions of people who have now quoted it, it’s got its own meaning. But, sure, that’s life (smiles).
I presume you’d like to be Taoiseach. But Labour has never had a majority.
Things can change very quickly. I’d love to be Taoiseach. If you’re going to answer that question: you should also put down what I really mean is that I’d love to maximise where the Labour Party gets to. That’s more important to me. I don’t want another headline: ‘Power is a Drug... It’s Suits Me!’ ‘Alan Kelly Wants To Be Taoiseach!’ For God’s sake! I went through a period of not doing interviews – obviously, you’d know that (laughs)? I’d love to be Taoiseach. Whether I think it’s going to happen or not is a totally different question! But do you know what? Rather than it being about me, most of all, I’d love to see Labour in majority in government and a Labour Taoiseach in my lifetime – whether it’s me or somebody else. .
You received death threats when you were Minister.
Yeah. It became a daily struggle. My movements had to be watched. I was regularly followed. It was a very difficult time for my family and the people who worked for me. I’m a public figure and it’s not about me, but the people who worked for me, and my wife and my parents and all of that – it was horrendous.
Did you have any scary moments?
Yeah, loads of them. I was genuinely concerned for my safety and that of my staff – and particularly anyone who was around me when I was in a public place. I learnt a new way of how somebody in that situation has to live their life. Did I fear for my life? I wouldn’t go that far. But did I fear for my safety and that of my staff? Yes.
As a former environment minister, let’s hear your take on the water issue.
If you look at what’s happening up in Drogheda and Meath: there’s almost a 100,000 people who have no water or very little water. This country is going to suffer as a result of the populist stance of people when it comes to water. Three quarters of people in Ireland were paying for water. And for one spin on the merry-go-round, Fine Gael abandoned all principle and got into bed with the most irresponsible politician in Ireland in Barry Cowen. They got rid of funding of €271 million, which if you allow for borrowing, was creating up to €1 billion a year. And now we’ve a situation where Irish Water is saying over the next number of years we need €13 billion! I don’t know where any government is going to get that. And there was a mechanism there to contribute to that.
The Minister for the Environment, Eoghan Murphy, fears the crisis in Drogheda is only the tip of the iceberg…
I’ve been predicting this for years. What’s happening in Drogheda is going to happen all over the country. Mains are going to burst all over the country. Sewage is going to leak. We are going to have issues with pollution. We’re going to have contamination of water supplies. We are going to have issues in relation to supply because of drought, because of pipes breaking – and this is going to happen all over the country, over the next decade. Drogheda is very symbolic. It’s a wake up call for the public. It’s a wake up call for other politicians. We’ve really got to stop this rubbish, populist policy, and actually make the decision for the future of the country that matters.
What’s the bottom line?
I believe the decision taken by the government is illegal. European law will catch them out. We’ll end up paying fines. But the most basic bottom line is that working people are paying for everything now. PAYE workers, self-employed, farmers, business people – they’ll all have to pay through the nose through their taxes for a system that is broken. And they’ll have to pay more, because they’ll have to pay for everyone else’s. Working people are being screwed. That’s wrong. Irish Water has a capital investment plan: I don’t know how it’s going to be funded. Politicians were afraid of the electorate. They were afraid of populism. They were afraid to do the right thing. And future generations of the country will pay for it.
What are your thoughts on Donald Trump?
The same as everyone else’s!
That he’s a lunatic?
Ah, look: I’m not a fan. It’s an incredible story. It’s mesmerising. He’s brought the whole presidential situation to a different level: management by tweets! I don’t know where it’s going to end. It’s scary stuff.
Your brother Declan is very close to the Clintons.
Yeah, he worked for Hillary Clinton for two years. He was a special envoy to Northern Ireland. I met them on several occasions. Bill Clinton was extremely charismatic. With Hillary Clinton, you could see the energy around her. You can see why they’re such dynamic people.
Would you like to see Michael D. run again for President?
Yeah. Michael D’s an incredible human being. He is unique. He is such a good representative for Ireland. I think it would be a travesty if he didn’t.
Did you read his column in Hot Press?
Yeah. Particularly when I was in college, Hot Press was cool and you’d read it and you’d get an idea of what was coming down the track. It was informative. Music is a big part of my life. When I’m driving late at night, I listen to music. If I’m in a gym, I listen to music. If I’ve a spare hour it’s music. I remember some of Michael D’s columns. I always liked the fact that even if somebody was left wing they were given really hard questions (in Hot Press), but if somebody was right wing I always knew they were getting even harder questions. You always knew the leanings of Hot Press on issues.
I heard you like Damien Dempsey and The Frames.
Yeah (nods). Who told you that (laughs)? Also, I was into Rory Gallagher. I spent a lot of time listening to Marillion and Supertramp. The Jam. I’m very interested in Scottish rock music as well: Big Country, things like that. I was actually lucky: in the late ’80s/early-to-mid-’90s, there were a number of Irish bands on the scene, whether it was The Stunning, The Frank and Walters, or Power Of Dreams – they were all very good. It was a great time for Irish music. I still listen to them. I was at a Stunning concert only a few weeks ago. I’m going to The Frank and Walters in a few weeks. My music tastes are usually based around some form of double guitar type of band. But I often come back to Irish bands. I just love Irish rock bands. I really like discovering bands, which is why I love Apple Music, because you find whatever you want. Streaming music suits me.