THE 12 INTERVIEWS OF XMAS: Michael Healy-Rae on courting controversy

One of the most controversial TDs in the Dáil, Kerry deputy Michael Healy-Rae had plenty to get off his chest during a lively encounter with Hot Press. The forthright politician discusses his views on Donald Trump, his religious beliefs, his disdain for the Dublin media, why he doesn’t regret voting against same sex marriage, and why he’s against both euthanasia and repealing the eighth – but in favour of legalising medical marijuana.

Michael Healy-Rae is constantly on the go. So much so that it nearly did for him recently: the Kerry TD was wolfing down his dinner in such a lather – so he could dash off to do some constituency work – that he almost choked to death.

When I initially called him to ask if he’d like do sit down with Hot Press, the colourful politician said he was too busy to chat but would call back soon. True to his word, he was on the blower within five minutes. He would be more than happy to be grilled for the ‘Hot Press Interview’, he explained. There was a small problem, however: he’s so run off his feet, he had no idea when he could do it. “Leave it with me,” he instructed.

A few weeks later, out of the blue, sometime around 10pm one night, Michael Healy-Rae’s number flashed up on my caller ID. The 50-year-old was on a long journey home after being at countless meetings all day. He told me he had some free time to do the interview. I tried to explain that I wasn’t prepared research-wise, but he cajoled me by telling me that I was a pro and should be well used to doing interviews with politicians on the hoof. Besides, he added in an effort to twist my arm, he reckoned such spontaneity might help make it a great interview. It sounded like he might have something to get off his chest.

We spoke for close to two hours, as he drove through the dead of the night. Michael Healy-Rae certainly had a lot to say for himself. At one point, however, he became defensive with my line of questioning. “Can I just ask you one question now?” he said in his melodic Kerry accent. “You will be clinically fair with the answers that I’m after giving you. Because there’s some of the things there you can’t misrepresent. I want you to keep the tape, because every answer that I give you is factual and normal. And I do not want you to sensationalise things that I’ve said and try to paint me as something that I’m not. I hope you won’t.”

When I asked why he was so concerned, he told me: “Because some of the questions that you’re asking me now are really sailing close to the wind. But I’m not giving you some of the answers that you’d like me to give you – I’ll give you sensible, coherent, intelligent answers. So, don’t misrepresent the answers that I give you. That’s the only thing I’m asking you to do.”

I assured him that Hot Press has a reputation for being fair and balanced and that there is never a hidden agenda. This seemed to put him at ease. “Once we’ve that understanding you can keep asking me any question you like,” he adds. “Perfect. Drive on. You’re doing great.”

Jason O’Toole: Did you do your Leaving Cert?

Michael Healy-Rae: No. The year I should’ve been doing my Leaving Cert I went to agricultural college. The other thing I’ll tell you – because I want to highlight this for any people who would have any trouble in that department – I was profoundly dyslexic. When I was aged 9 or 10 and even going on 11, I could not read or write. I couldn’t write my own name. I strongly encourage others to get the help and advice that they need.

How exactly did you overcome the disability?

It was an awful problem. There was no such thing as diagnosing what was wrong with a person at that time. So nobody knew what was wrong with me. My mother took me to see a nun and she had a special gift for teaching people.

How did she help you?

The first day she met me, we had a big long talk. And she said to me, ‘The problem with your mind is there’s little small padlocks in your brain. I don’t have a key to open them. I’ll have to make a key for each lock’. Every day we were together, we worked and made new keys and opened new locks. And she said, ‘You’re going to be very happy with what we’re going to find at the end of it all’. When it came to secondary school, I was able to read, I was able to write. I went from somebody who wasn’t able to write my name to being extremely particular about my writing.

I presume your father Jackie – who was a TD himself – was the biggest influence on shaping your political career?

My mother and my father would’ve had equal importance. My father had a great head on his shoulders; very practical, intelligent and down-to-earth.

And in what way did your mother help shape you?

My mother could speak seven languages. She could speak and write Arabic. She was a very smart woman. She could see around corners. I like telling a story that she used to give me a book every year on Christmas Day. And in 1988, she gave me a book, and when I opened it I thought it was a very odd book to be giving me. I said to my mother, ‘Who is this person?’ She said, ‘He’s a property developer in New York. We will talk about it after you read the book’. So, I read the book. ‘What do you think of it?’ And I said, ‘He’s interesting. He ruthless. He’s an awful lot of things doing with his life’. And she said, ‘You watch him’. And she never mentioned politics. All she said was, ‘Watch him. He could finish up running the world yet!’ The man’s name was Donald J. Trump!

Really! What do you make of Trump?

You see, Donald Trump was fine, in my opinion, until he started insulting the Muslim community. For instance, I’m friendly with an awful lot of people from the Muslim community. To me, it’s outrageous beyond belief to go branding people as crooks because of their religion. When he started insulting religious groups – painting everyone with the same brush – I think that was outrageous beyond belief. I’m a Catholic but I don’t try to ram my religion down other people’s throats.

Who would you’ve voted for in the US election if you were an American citizen?

I am actually an American citizen! But I’m an Irish citizen as well – I’ve dual citizenship. My mother’s family were from Ireland, but she was born in America and I’m an American citizen because of her. But I’m also an Irish citizen.

So, who would’ve you voted for?

The honest answer to that, when you look at Hillary and when you look at him, it was a very poor choice.

Which was the lesser of two evils?

The evil of two lessers! It’s a hypothetical question that I’m not answering.

But would you have any admiration for Trump’s political ideologies?

Forget about the politics for a minute. From a business point of view, his ability and his razorsharp mind were something else altogether. Some of the deals that he pulled off in his early years – his ability to see down the road when no one else could see – was absolutely amazing. And even though there’s things I don’t like now, I’d still have to say that I admire his business ability.

And what about his politics?

Politically, one thing that Trump did that somebody badly wants to do in Ireland, but we don’t have a President running the country who can call the shots and get away with it: Trump did something and it’s about Federal Law. He said that business was being overrun by bureaucracy and nonsense. Now here in Ireland, bureaucracy and nonsense are out of control monsters. The Health and Safety Authority is an out of control monster. The RSA is an out of control monster. What we need is somebody to clip their wings. Now Trump is after doing it in America.

Do you find it derogatory when the Healy-Raes are depicted as a sort of political mafia in Kerry?

I actually don’t, because when we were young the Blaneys in Donegal were known as the Blaney Mafia, and our family and the Blaneys were always close. So to me that’s not an insult at all.

If someone broke into your home and was threatening you, would you hesitate to shoot them?

I would abide by the law. The law says you’re entitled to use reasonable force to protect yourself and your family – and I would do that. My home was broken into at a time when I was out of home. I invited the burglars to come back again sometime when I’m there myself. And they haven’t come yet.

Do you have a shotgun?

Yes.

But should a person go to prison for shooting somebody while defending themselves and their property?

If it’s found that they’re acting responsibly and only used the reasonable force that was required at the time, I would uphold their right to operate within the law. The law says that you can use reasonable force to protect yourself. Can I give you the sort of comparison? Say Jason comes home tonight and it’s one o’clock in the morning and Jason hears somebody outside in the yard and he points a gun out the window and shoots them! Well, Jason is wrong. But if Jason is inside and hears somebody coming up the stairs and he turns on the light and he sees somebody with a balaclava with a baseball bat, or gun, coming towards him or his wife maybe inside in the bed – and Jason produces his gun and shoots that man dead. Now, isn’t there a completely different scenario painted for you there with those two dead people? In one of those cases the person is wrong and the other one the person would be right.

Are you sick of being depicted as a sort of an eejit from Kerry in the national media?

People worked very hard to send their children to school and to college and university. Some of those people became journalists. Many of those journalists are in Dublin and they are inclined to look down their noses at us. Now, that’s a terrible disappointing thing for their parents.

Why?

Because their parents sent them to school and if the best they can come out with is calling us names, calling us really dirty, insulting horrible things: they’re letting down themselves and their hardworking honest parents who got them through college. They’re letting them down most of all really. And that’s their own tough luck.

What do you mean by insulting things?

Some of them, for instance, called us the ‘Healy-Rae Peaks’. When those people retire – and I won’t be at their retirement parties – they can look back at their own careers and say, ‘My God! We’ve something to be proud of! We called the Healy-Rae ‘Peaks’! And we insulted children of the Healy-Raes.’ It’s only themselves they’re letting down. They’re only to be pitied!

Do you think it’s a case that the Dublin crowd don’t care about people in Kerry and elsewhere in rural Ireland?

Look, there are an awful lot of nice people in Dublin. But there are people in the media in Dublin who think that the world stops at the Red Cow Roundabout.

You don’t feel you get a fair shake from certain quarters of the national media?

They’ve said libellous things about us. They told lies about us which they had to retract. That is only a reflection on themselves – it’s not a reflection on us. Because when you insult us, you insult the people who vote for us – the people who trust us, and rely on us to do our jobs and work for them. It’s upsetting.

So why haven’t you taken any legal action?

I’m challenging journalists to try it again. Tell lies about me again and I’ll sort them. Because they’ll pay for telling lies about me in the future. I let them get away with it in the past. Sometimes journalists think if they keep repeating a lie it makes it the truth – but it doesn’t. If it’s a lie, it’s a lie. If it’s not true, it’s not true.

So you’re warning the media now that you’re willing to take legal action if lies are ever told about you again?

If people want to tell lies about me in the future, they’ll pay for their lies. Tell lies about me in the future and it will go to court and they will be fined for telling lies. Because I let them get away with it. I will never let them get away with it again. Never. I will stand up for my reputation and I’ll fight my corner any day against any journalist who wants to tell lies about me. In recent days, I saw articles that are sailing very close to the wind and that I’m not finished with yet.

You once brought up this subject of the so-called ‘Hum’ in Dáil Éireann.

I did, but I don’t want to talk about it because again I was ridiculed by the national media, who thought it was funny – because people in Kerry were having a personal problem with a thing that is actually out there and can affect people in certain areas. But I’m not going to talk about it.

But wasn’t it scientifically proven?

Sure, I know it was – but tell that to the gobshites above in Dublin that are laughing at it.

It’s an invasive frequency-humming or drowning noise…

There is such a thing and it can affect persons in certain areas. It’s a known thing around the country. But because I raised it in the Dáil, people in certain parts of our journalists’ elite thought that it was something to make fun of and to mock and laugh at.

Your brother Danny was criticised for his proposal for permits that would allow people to have a few drinks and then drive home. Is there any harm in having a couple of pints and then getting behind the wheel?

The one thing I have to tell you is: we can’t advocate breaking the law. So the answer is: at any time in any country that they have a limit, you can drink to that limit and the law says it’s okay for you to drive home. I’m not advocating that anybody breaks the law. If we did what you said there, and had that many pints and drove home you probably would be breaking the law – so we can’t say that. But what I do say is, I’m against Minister Shane Ross’s proposal now, because my opinion is that the rules, the limits, the regulations that are there are adequate and there’s no need to change them.

But would you agree with your brother Danny’s proposal to be able to have two or three pints and drive home?

The long and the short of it is: that’s not ever going to happen, right? To be talking about changing the limits in an upward direction – that will not happen, so there’s no point.

Have you ever had a pint or two and driven home yourself?

No.

Anti-alcohol campaigners try to insist that Ireland has a huge problem, to the extent that you’d think we were the biggest drinkers in the world – whereas in fact we are No.20 in the OECD charts. Is there not a deliberate attempt to hoodwink us all?

In my opinion, we don’t have a problem. Irish people are friendly; they like the art of conversation. When I was young, I used to work at the bar at home and I used to love being behind the counter listening to the forestry workers and council workers that used to come in. It was better than going to any university. They used to engage in greater banter about politics. They were meeting friends, neighbours, people that they could have an argument with. People that they could have a great conversation with, or get advice or assistance – and that’s why our pubs and our pub tradition was so important. The fact that people like going to the pub is nothing to be ashamed of.

Are you still opposed to the smoking ban?

Of course I can see the benefits for people working in pubs. We’ve all had the experience of being in a pub on a night, and everybody was smoking and your clothes would stink of cigarettes the following day. I think that there was other ways it could’ve been handled. At the time, I thought it was a very disrespectful thing to put elderly people outside in the cold and in the rain. I still have this reservation about seeing elderly people having to go outside the door to smoke a cigarette.

Have you ever tried marijuana?

No. But I hope I’ll be alive for a long time yet – and, you never know, I might yet! But I haven’t yet.

What’s your thoughts about legalising it?

Oh, I wouldn’t be for that at all. I’m fine with it for medicinal purposes. On a serious note, there’s a lot of people who have medical problems and who require different types of marijuana purely for medicinal purposes. And I would absolutely fully support those people, and have doctors or consultants or medical people deem that a person would be better off availing of something like that. I would be fully in support of it. And legislation should be put in place to help people in those situations. But not to make it freely available to the likes of you and me and everybody else who would want to use it for what I would call recreational use.

What’s your stance on the so-called Swedish model that would make it illegal for men to pay for sex?

At the end of the day, the protection of people who work in that industry is of paramount importance. I mean their physical well-being, their general safety and all of that. People find themselves in difficult economic situations that they feel very sadly and unfortunately forces them into a way of life.

There was a great documentary on RTÉ a few years ago about a guy with a disability who talked about going to a sex worker, and he described it as a wonderful experience. Shouldn’t such views be taken into account? Do you know what I’m saying?

I do. That’s a whole different subject that I’ll not go into.

So are you going to vote in favour of the legislation of the so-called Swedish Model?

I would have to see what exactly is being proposed. I’m never voting in a magazine or a newspaper – I vote in the Dáil.

Do you the think Church is out of touch by saying condoms are a sin?

There are certain things like that I’d raise an eyebrow to, and I’d sort of say religion should move on a little bit with the times. And of course, I would have reservations about the teachings of the Church when it comes to issues such as that.

What about sex outside of marriage being a sin – would you agree with that?

I couldn’t agree with that.

There’s fear that kids these days are becoming sexually aware too soon. But what was it like in your day?

I’ll tell you one story about things like that and it will sum everything up for you. It was many years ago: a very nice man installed a condom machine in the bar at home. It was located on the way to the bathroom. He installed it on a Friday evening and I think what used to go into it at the time was a punt coin. But he put no condoms in it because he didn’t have them. He came back on Monday morning to install them. There were 86 punts in the machine but not one person had complained to behind the counter! People wanted to make that purchase, but when they put in the money and the goods weren’t there for them it was such an era that they wouldn’t complain. So, that was the type of a world we were living in. To show how we moved on: if a customer put money into a machine today for condoms and they weren’t there, they’d complain to the proprietor. So that’s the way society has evolved. It’s only an example for you. A little funny story.

You voted against same sex marriage…

I was the only TD in Kerry to vote against it.

Did you get much hate mail over it?

No. I believe people took me for what I was, because I wasn’t saying to people that were on the other side, I was not telling them I thought they were wrong or anything. What I was doing was: I was quite simply saying, this is my opinion. I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t agree with it. I was true to myself and to the people who agreed with my position – and that’s why I was the only TD from Kerry to vote against gay marriage.

Do you have any regrets?

Absolutely not, no. I would’ve been a hypocrite if I’d done anything else. There were plenty of politicians who didn’t believe in it, but they were holding up their finger and wondering which way the wind was blowing, and they were afraid to vote the way they wanted to vote. If you look at the vote in Kerry, it’s true to say that the Yes side won by a very small amount. Technically, the Yes side won out and they did fair and square. But I represented like 49 or 49.5 percent of the people on my own ticket.

Some would argue that voting against same sex marriage is homophobic…

Nobody ever accused me of that. I’m no such thing. It was a referendum. A referendum means you can vote yes or no. I didn’t try to ram it down anybody else’s throat. I didn’t go on the radio or television telling people that they were wrong, or trying to canvass for one thing or another. But when I was asked the question, I answered it honestly.

But you have nothing against gay people in general?

Absolutely not. I’m very good friends with gay people. I would be very good friends with people who would be both lesbians and gay. And I would socialise with them and get on with them. They know my personal opinion. But they don’t blame me for that. Because when we’re out, I’m not trying to say that they’re wrong or saying anything against them.

Should gay couples be able to adopt?

I was never in favour of that. My own opinion was that the best place for a child was with a mother and father, if that was possible.

But there’s an argument that a child could be raised better by a loving same-sex couple rather than with a dysfunctional, so-called traditional family of a man and woman.

I’m not going to give you a post mortem on my answer. I’ve given you my answer.

What’s your stance on the Eighth Amendment?

I believe from the moment of conception to the moment of death the unborn child is a person. It has an identity. It’s a human being. Again, I’m not ramming my views down anybody else’s throat – but it’s my own personal belief that that little person is a human being and should be protected.

What if a woman is raped – should she be forced to carry the baby?

There are different things for situations like that.

So, if a woman is raped it’s acceptable for her to take the morning after pill?

Well, that is an option that would be available… (inaudible).

What’s your stance on euthanasia?

I’d vote against it.

Even if a person was suffering a lot?

I’d be very sympathetic and understanding of that type of a situation. But, in my opinion, there’s only one man that brought us into this world and there’s only one man to get us out of this world: God himself.

Would you describe yourself as a very religious person?

Well, I wouldn’t be saying I’m very religious. I’ll put it to you this way: I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Holy Mary. I believe in heaven. I believe in hell. I believe there is evil in the world and outside of the world. And I believe that there are very good people in the world. I believe in the faith. I believe in people like mother Theresa, who did great work. I believe in Saint Anthony. I believe in all those types of things because, at the end of the day, you have to believe in something. But I also preface my remarks: I respect people who believe in other religions and I don’t judge them or anything like that. My attitude is about those people: My God is fine, they believe in something different to what I believe in – but isn’t that great: they believe in something.

So, it doesn’t matter what religion you are because at the end of the day all good people go to heaven?

Yes. I would certainly believe that.

So you believe in an afterlife where people who do bad things go to hell?

I believe there’s a place for people who do bad things. There are evil people in the world. There are evil people beyond belief who do horrible things to children, who do horrible things to elderly people, who commit awful crimes. They are evil people. I know God is forgiving but, at the end of the day, there’s a place for evil people and there’s a place for good people.

Do you think those IRA guys who were bombing and killing will go to hell?

Oh, my God! You’re going down a different road altogether. That’s a different type of a question. Look, again, it isn’t for me to judge. You’re asking me the question, I’ll give you an answer: again, that’s a job for a different man to judge – and that man’s name is God and not Michael Healy-Rae.

Do you think God is male or female?

I was always brought up to believe God was a man. Holy Mary was a woman.

So you believe in the immaculate conception?

I believe in all the teachings that I was taught going to school about religion and I’ve no reason to doubt it today.

So you do believe that God is in charge of the weather?

I believe that God is in charge of the world. For me to say that God is in charge of the weather, it’s underestimating God – because God is in charge of everything. If you do go back over the years, like, we all know our history, we all know our geography: the whole world was covered in ice at one stage. Like, what’s changed that? We’ve had climate change back over the years. Our climates are changing. Now, what causes that? Look, at the end of the day, there are various different reasons. There’s scientific reasons. There are reasons that are beyond us. We have an ever evolving world and we are not going to be able to change that.

Your brother Danny said Noah Ark’s was an example that God was in charge of the weather.

The point of view I have: I wouldn’t just go attributing the weather to God and that he’s responsible for that. Because I’d look at it in a broader way. If you’re any type of a half-practising Catholic, you believe that God is in charge of everything and that God is everywhere. And that he always has existed and that he will always exist. And I believe in that. But I don’t try ram it down anybody else’s throat. I’m not telling any scientists that they are wrong or that I don’t believe in their findings. It’s the exact opposite: I have an awful lot of respect for people who study and who give their time to research. But why have the scientists got good brains? Because God created them in the first place.

Do you believe in an interventionist God who sees what happens on earth and responds?

Well, I would hope that he would always help people, particularly in their hour of need. If something fell on top of your head this minute or on top of your back, nearly 9 times out of 10 the first reaction a person would have is, ‘God help me!’ When people are in distress or in trouble, 9 times out of 10 they call out to God for help.

A lot of bad things are happening in the world – starving children, ISIS, etc – so why doesn’t God intervene in those scenarios?

That’s a very hard question to answer because God didn’t make this world to be perfect. He put the people on it and he’s after letting it up to the people and their own devices to make what they could of it. There are evil people in the world who do bad things. Is God to blame for that? I really don’t think so.

What makes you convinced there is a God?

Because at the end of the day life is very shallow if you don’t believe in something. You start off at zero – if you live to be 100, which would be a great achievement, it is still a very short amount of time. Isn’t it all meaningless if it’s all going to finish in a puff of smoke and there’s nothing else after it?

 

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Currently pursuing her love of acting in the UK – where she garnered rave reviews for her role in the play Not Dead Enough – Laura Whitmore’s hugely successful media career has seen her conquer MTV and compete on Strictly Come Dancing. In her most revealing interview to date, she opens up about life in the media spotlight, the pressures of high-profile relationships, interviewing superstars and professional ambitions. Plus her in-depth views on sex, religion and Repealing the Eighth. Interview: Jason O'Toole

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EXCLUSIVE: Aslan Working On New CD

Aslan, who are planning to release a limited edition vinyl of their seminal 'Made In Dublin' live album this October, are back in the studio working on new material, Hot Press can exclusively reveal.

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The Full Hot Press Interview with Labour's Alan Kelly

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

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The Hot Press Interview with Irish Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty

In an exclusive interview, the new Minister for Social Protection talks openly about how much her views have changed, explaining that she supports Repealing the 8th and euthanasia – and also discusses the numerous controversies in which she has been embroiled.

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The Hot Press Interview with Liadh Ní Riada MEP

The daughter of legendary Irish musician Sean O Riada, Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has carved out a niche for herself as a no-nonsense champion of the working class. In a highly revealing interview, she discusses the pain of losing both her parents at an early age, coping with the tragic death of her first husband, her views on terrorism, sexism in politics – and much else besides.

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The Hot Press Interview with Jack O'Connor, the General President of SIPTU

As General President of SIPTU – and now also as Chairperson of the Labour Party – Jack O’Connor has for many years been one of the most influential people in Irish left wing politics. In a revealing interview, he defends Labour’s record in government, reflects on his run-in with Vincent Browne, addresses the controversy around his salary, explains why he thinks Brexit was a mistake – and says that the Irish left needs to overcome its divisions to achieve real social change.

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Liam Gallagher Opens Up About Needing Help To Pen "Big Songs" For Solo Album

Most of the red tops will probably focus on the fact that the ex-Oasis singer (once again) pokes fun at his older brother in his latest interview. But the usual boastful Liam Gallagher has humbly admitted that he needed to recruit Adele's producer to help with his solo album because he can't pen "big songs" on his tod.

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Independent's Day: The Full Hot Press Interview with Michael Healy-Rae

One of the most controversial TDs in the Dáil, Kerry deputy Michael Healy-Rae had plenty to get off his chest during a lively encounter with Hot Press. The forthright politician discusses his views on Donald Trump, his religious beliefs, his disdain for the Dublin media, why he doesn’t regret voting against same sex marriage, and why he’s against both euthanasia and repealing the eighth – but in favour of legalising medical marijuana.

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In The New Hot Press: Michael Healy-Rae Has Plenty To Get Off His Chest...

One of the most controversial TDs in the Dáil, Michael Healy-Rae has plenty to get off his chest during a lively encounter with Hot Press.

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The Full Hot Press Interview with Former Gate Theatre Director Michael Colgan

As artistic director of the Gate for 33 years, Michael Colgan was one of the most powerful and influential people in the world of Irish theatre. Having departed the post recently, he reflects on his extraordinary career, his youthful rivalry with Paul McGuinness, the pain he experienced over his ex-wife’s death, getting to know Samuel Beckett, and relaunching Harold Pinter.

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Book Review: Paula Hawkins, Into the Water

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The Hot Press Interview with Spanish/Irish Writer Ian Gibson

Though unknown in his homeland, Irish writer Ian Gibson is celebrated in his adopted Spain, particularly for his books about the poet Lorca – widely known for being Leonard Cohen’s chief literary inspiration – and Salvador Dali. In a fascinating interview, Gibson discusses falling foul of the Franco regime, Dali’s wild hedonistic excesses, his role in getting corporal punishment banned in the UK, his interest in sadomasochism, Irish attitudes to sex – and why he both loves and despairs of Spain.

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Rowing His Own Way: The Full Hot Press Interview With Gavan Hennigan

Having rowed solo across the Atlantic in under 50 days, Gavan Hennigan is one of Ireland’s most remarkable athletes. But that’s just the start of his extraordinary life story – which encompasses a strained relationship with his troubled father, addiction and recovery, working at one of the world’s most dangerous jobs, traversing the globe in numerous adventure challenges, and coming to terms with his sexuality.

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Up Close and Personal - Our Final Interview With Martin McGuinness

In 2011, Jason O’Toole carried out an interview with Martin McGuinness that was never published. Here, we draw on that interview, as well others conducted for Hot Press, to paint a fascinating picture of the late leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, in all of his complications.

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From Addict to Adventurer: Gavan Hennigan talks drug-dealing, sexuality and rowing the Atlantic in exclusive Hot Press interview

Featured in the new issue of Hot Press, Gavan gives a revelatory new interview with Senior Editor Jason O'Toole.

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Bloody Sunday, reconciliation, the IRA & heaven/hell were all up for discussion when Hot Press met Martin McGuinness in 2007

Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!

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Bloody Sunday, reconciliation, the IRA & heaven/hell were all up for discussion when Hot Press met Martin McGuinness in 2007

Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!

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Bloody Sunday, reconciliation, the IRA & heaven/hell were all up for discussion when Hot Press met Martin McGuinness in 2007

Our man Jason O'Toole had to hum 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' before he was let into the Deputy First Minister's office!

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Legendary Director John Boorman talks morality, living in Ireland, and 50 years in film

Based in Wicklow for nearly 50 years, legendary film director John Boorman is celebrated for classics like Point Blank and Deliverance. In a fascinating interview, he reflects on the making of those movies, his experiences in Hollywood, the changing face of Ireland, coping with personal trauma, mortality – and his recently published debut novel, Crime Of Passion.

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Hot Press Legends Series: Jason O'Toole Goes One-On-One with Tommy Tiernan

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Long Live The Revolution: Hot Press Sits Down With Cuban Ambassador Hermes Herrera Hernandez

Fidel Castro has passed away, and relations between Cuba and the United States have thawed somewhat. But it would be wrong to expect things in Havana to change overnight – not least because the spirit of the revolution remains strong and resolute. That is the clear message from the Cuban ambassador to Ireland, Hermes Herrera Hernández – a man who knew both Fidel himself and Che Guevara, and who insists that “many people in the world, if they knew exactly what is happening, would like to have the same level of human rights that we do in Cuba.”

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About The Boy: The John Boyne Interview

John Boyne had already penned a clutch of novels when he wrote his first book for young adults. Published in 2006, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas went on to become a literary phenomenon, selling seven million copies. But behind that remarkable success lies a very different kind of life story. Now, with the publication of his latest novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, the best-selling writer feels that he can talk honestly and openly about his past: about growing up in Ireland, his sexuality, the break-down of his civil partnership, depression, drinking and a lot more besides.

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The Hot Press Interview with Stephen Donnelly

With no background in politics, and a paltry five weeks to canvass, he was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 as an Independent. Since then, he co-founded and then left the Social Democratic Party. Throughout all of this, he has retained a boyish enthusiasm and a sense of humour – which is unusual in Irish politics. So what lies behind the cheerful demeanour and liberal attitudes of the TD for Wicklow? Well, he’s a long-time fan of Hot Press for a start…

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The Hot Press Interview with Gino Kenny

Dexys Midnight Runners’ hit single may not have been written about him, but there’s lots of reasons right now to chant the name of the People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny. Chief among them is the fact that he has got a Bill legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes through its first stage in the Dáil – an extraordinary achievement for a man who only became a TD in February 2016.

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U2 Party Weekend With Cover Band Planned To Celebrate Croke Park Gig

U2 fans will get the chance to party away in the company of a great tribute band at a special two night event being organised at The Church Bar venue in Dublin on the weekend of the historic Croke Park gig to celebrate the seminal classic album 'The Joshua Tree' in July, it has just been announced.

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LEONARD COHEN TRIBUTE: IRA prisoners adopted 'Bird On A Wire' as their freedom anthem

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly tell us what Leonard meant to him during his Long Kesh incarceration...

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THE 12 INTERVIEWS OF XMAS: Christy Dignam on Aslan, Assisted Suicide and Depression

Christy Dignam bravely opened up in an extensive interview with Jason O'Toole back in October.

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THE 12 INTERVIEWS OF XMAS: Danny Healy-Rae on Church and State

Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae sat down with Jason O'Toole back in September for an extraordinary interview on his religious and political views.

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THE 12 INTERVIEWS OF XMAS: Roz Purcell on Trump, Food and Repealing the 8th

Just ahead of the US Presidential elections, Jason O'Toole caught up with the former Miss Universe Ireland, who went to the States to take part in the Trump-led international beauty competition, to talk about modelling, politics and cuisine.

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Communication Breakdown: Catholic Church Denies Amnesty International Banned From Schools Over Views On Abortion Laws!

Amnesty International is not banned from any primary schools in the Waterford district – despite a letter being circulated that appears to claim otherwise, the Catholic Church diocese of Waterford and Lismore has insisted today.

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Kourtney Kardashian Gives Irish Company Massive Profile Boost

An Irish company’s cheerful little product is receiving some major international exposure thanks to Kourney Kardashian.

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Hilarious TV Interview Voted Most Memorable Irish Sporting Moment of 2016

The O’Donovan brothers’ humorous comments about their brilliant silver medal achievement at the Rio Games has been voted as the most memorable Irish sporting moment of 2016.

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Donald Trump's War of Words With Magazine

President-elect Donald Trump took to twitter yesterday to attack Vanity Fair’s editor after the magazine gave one of his restaurants a negative review in their latest edition to just hit the newsstands.

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Paul McCartney Album To Be Reissued

Paul McCartney’s critically acclaimed 1989 album ‘Flowers in the Dirt’ is to be reissued next March, it has been confirmed.

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Watch Bruce Springsteen Get Into The Festive Spirit

A video has just been uploaded onto YouTube of The Boss getting a packed Carnegie Hall into the festive mood with some Christmas tunes at Sting’s biennial Rainforest Fund benefit gig.

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Watch Lady Gaga’s New Music Video

Lady Gaga’s fans will no doubt have a million reasons to be excited to learn that the latest music video from her new album ‘Joanne’ has just been uploaded on YouTube.

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Key Music Industry Players Pen Open Letter to Donald Trump

Some of the most influential figures in the music industry are urging President-elect Donald Trump to radically shake-up laws concerning intellectual property rights.

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Obama Promises Not To “Vanish” During Donald Trump’s Presidency

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has said that he will not be afraid to air his views when Donald Trump is in the White House.

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Virgin Media launches Netflix on Horizon TV

Virgin Media’s Irish customers can now watch all their favourite Netflix shows seamlessly on their TV using their Netflix subscription on Virgin Media’s Horizon TV service.

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National Web Archive Preserves 10 Irish Websites

Ten websites that are believed to best record “Irish life in 2016 and remember the events of 1916” as chosen in a public vote have been revealed by the National Library of Ireland.

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Watch Arcade Fire Perform ‘Reflektor’ From New Concert & Documentary DVD

Arcade Fire’s powerful live performance of ‘Reflecktor’ in London back in 2014 has just been uploaded on the Internet as a preview of the band’s new two-disc DVD/Blu Ray concert and documentary, which will be released on 27 January.

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Robbie Williams Gives 1D Star Some Sound Advice

Ex-Take That star Robbie Williams has reached out to One Direction singer Zayn Malik, urging him to be strong in the aftermath of his debilitating anxiety that forced him to cancel some upcoming shows.

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Netflix releases The OA

The original Netflix series The OA, which is from visionaries Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij (Sound of My Voice, The East), will air on the online streaming service from 16 December.

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Elton John Launches Contest For Would-Be Filmmakers

Elton John has teamed up with YouTube to give you the opportunity to create a brand new pop video for one of his seminal classic tracks.

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Bob Dylan On His Shock Nobel Award: “Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, ‘Are my songs literature?’”

Music icon Bob Dylan said it was a great honour to receive “such a prestigious prize” – but confessed that he always thought he’d just about the same chance of going to the moon as he did of being the first singer-songwriter to be deemed a worthy enough winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

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Simon Cowell Applauds Louis Tomlinson’s "Bravery"

He’s best known for tearing musicians apart with his outspoken criticism on The X-Factor, but Simon Cowell had nothing but praise for Louis Tomlinson after the 1D superstar found the inner strength to go on with the show and perform his new single just days after his mother lost her battle with leukaemia.

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Comedian Tina Fey On Why Donald Trump Is No Laughing Matter

Tina Fey has opened up about how she believes that Donald Trump’s negative presidential campaign and his shock victory has alarmingly fueled an increased level of misogyny in the US.

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The Jesus and Mary Chain Confirm New Album's Release Date

It’s 18 years since we last hard new material by the Scottish band, but The Jesus and Mary Chain has just confirmed that they will be releasing a new studio album early next year.

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New Education Resources To Support Next Generation Of Irish Entrepreneurs

Fourteen “enterprising teens”, ranging in age from 12 to 17, had an audience with the Minister for Employment and Small Business, Pat Breen when he visited their school in Wicklow yesterday to launch a new teacher resources package to help support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

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Michelle Obama Breaks Her Silence Over Shock Trump Victory

As most of the world stayed up late watching the dramatic US presidential election count unfold, the First Lady Michelle Obama has now revealed that she was tucked up in her White House bed fast asleep!

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Stephen King Hails Bob Dylan As Worthy Winner Of Nobel Prize

Best-selling author Stephen King has dismissed any criticism of Bob Dylan becoming the first singer-songwriter to win the Nobel Prize for Literature as nothing more than “just plain old sour grapes”.

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Fiona Apple Attacks Donald Trump In Christmas Song

Fiona Apple has put an anti-Donald Trump spin on a cover version of a classic Christmas song!

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Ryan Adams Opens Up About Emotional Pain Behind New Album

Ryan Adams has opened up about having to force himself to "keep my chin up" while recording his new album because his marriage was coming to an end at the same time.

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Lady Gaga Opens Up About Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder From Rape Ordeal

Lady Gaga has courageously spoken on US national television about how she has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since enduring the horrible ordeal of being raped as a teenager.

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The Three Patrick’s Charity Festive Concert!

Composer Patrick Cassidy and actor Patrick Bergin are teaming up to perform a concert at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin in aid of The Friends of St. Luke’s Cancer Care on 14 December from 8pm – 9:30pm.

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Irish Soprano Celine Byrne To End Year On High Note

Internationally acclaimed soprano Celine Byrne – who was recently asked to perform for Pope Francis – will end the year on a high note with a Christmas Gala at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre in Dublin on 18 December.

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Kells Announces New Chapter For Literary Festival

The annual summer literature festival in Kells, County Meath will rebranded as the ‘Hinterland Festival’ in 2017, it has just been announced.

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Watch New Teaser Trailer Of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Sequel

It’s not set for a US cinema release until next May, but a brand new teaser trailer for Marvel’s eagerly awaited Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 has just been put up on YouTube.

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Trump Compared As “Closest Thing” To Hitler By TCD Professor

“Do not deceive yourselves: Trump is no ordinary conservative Republican. He is the closest thing to Hitler Americans have ever seen.” That’s the stark warning from an Associate Professor of US History at Trinity College Dublin.

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Madonna “Ashamed To Be American” Following Trump’s Shock Election

Madonna has spoken about her anger and dismay over President-elect Donald Trump’s shock defeat of Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House.

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‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ Comes To Netflix

It’s hard to believe that it’s exactly 20 years since Will Smith’s hit TV show came to an end, but Netflix is now bringing all six seasons of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’ to the streaming service on New Year’s Eve for its Irish members.

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Fawlty Towers Star Andrew Sachs Dies

Actor Andrew Sachs has died at the age of 86 following a four year battle with dementia, it was confirmed late last night.

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Drake Crowned Spotify’s Most Streamed Artist of 2016

Drake was the most popular musician played on Spotify for the second year running in 2016 with an astronomical 4.7 billion streams on the music service.

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Coldplay Ban Selfie Sticks At Gigs

It looks like selfie sticks – along with more than a dozen other “undesirable items” – could be banned when Chris Martin and Co takes to the stage in Croke Park next summer, as part of their world tour.

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Jennifer Aniston Reveals Why Friends Reunion Would Never Work

FANS of the popular US sitcom Friends will certainly be disheartened to hear that Jennifer Aniston feels a reunion movie or TV show will never happen.

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Bernie Sanders Feels He Could've Defeated Trump in Presidential Election

Bernie Sanders has confessed that he's left wondering "what if" if it was him instead of Hillary Clinton who ran against Donald Trump.

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Neil Diamond Announces World Tour To Mark 50th Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that Neil Diamond is celebrating his 50th anniversary since he became a household name with his first major hit single with ‘Solidarity Man’ all the way back in 1966.

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Government Won’t Oppose Medicinal Cannabis Bill

It appears that the door is now finally being opened to making cannabis legal for medicinal purposes in Ireland.

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Star Wars Live Stream Event on Twitter

Star Wars fanatics are in for a treat.Twitter has teamed up with Disney and People magazine to live steam an exclusive special ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' event with a behind-the-scenes sneak peek from the hugely anticipated new movie on Friday.

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Bowie, R.E.M, and Nirvana Tracks Listed Amongst 25 Great Recordings

Nirvana, R.E.M., Elvis, Rod Stewart, along with David Bowie and Prince - who both sadly passed away this year - are among 25 artists going to have one their songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, it has been announced.

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The Contraceptive Train On Track For Abbey Theatre!

The critically acclaimed musical ‘The Train’, which is inspired by a remarkable true story involving a former Hot Press writer and has a score composed by Bill Whelan of Riverdance fame, is to be staged at The Abbey next spring.

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Michelle Obama “Will Never Run For Office”

The rumour mill has gone into overdrive with recent speculation that the First Lady Michelle Obama was planning to run for the presidency in the future. But outgoing US President Barack Obama has now debunked the notion of his wife making history by becoming the first woman elected to the White House

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Robbie Williams Opens Up About Needing Meds To Battle Inner Demons

Ex-Take That star Robbie Williams has bravely admitted that he started taking anti-depressants this year after a “weird summer”.

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Paul Simon’s Ex-Wife Carrie Fisher Still Loves His Music!

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher has revealed that she still loves her ex-husband’s music – even if she feels he has personally insulted her in some of his lyrics.

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Trump’s Wife Threatens To Sue YouTube

The US's First Lady-elect is threatening YouTube with a major lawsuit over a video on its site that claims her son Barron is autistic.

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Lady Gaga Opens Up In Revealing TV Interview

Lady Gaga wore her heart on her sleeve on Sunday in an interview on US TV in which she touched on the subject of love following her break-up with actor Taylor Kinney after being together for five years.

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Dublin Vigil To Honour Revolutionary Leader Fidel Castro

There will be a vigil to mark the death of Fidel Castro in Dublin this evening (Monday, 28, November) at 6.30pm at The Spire on O'Connell Street, according to a tweet put out yesterday by Sinn Féin's newspaper, An Phoblacht.

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RTÉ Announces Partnership with RTÉ Choice Music Prize

RTÉ has announced a new partnership with the RTÉ Choice Music Prize for next year's event, which will see both RTÉ2 and RTÉ 2FM play a lead role in supporting what has become one of the highlights of the Irish musical calendar as part of a new agreement.

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Jeremy Clarkson’s New Motor Show Gives Hothouse Flowers Unexpected Hit

Hothouse Flowers are riding high in the iTunes charts with one of their old hit singles – and it’s all thanks to Jeremy Clarkson and Co’s new Amazon online streaming show, ‘The Grand Tour.’

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