- 09 Jun 16
In a wide-ranging interview with Hot Press, the 'super junior' Minister for Disabilities also talks about a wide range of personal issues; about the bruising formation of the new Government; and about following the Portuguese model on decriminalisation of drugs...
Finian McGrath, the Super Junior Minister for Health with responsibility for disabilities has declared his support for legalising majijuana in Ireland for medical use.
In a remarkable and wide-ranging, in-depth interview in Hot Press (published Thursday June 9 with James McClean on the front cover), the Dublin North Central TD, is asked what his thoughts are on legalising marijuana for medicinal purposes.
"I agree with it for legalised medicinal purposes, especially for cancer patients,” the Minister says unequivocally.
Finian McGrath’s wife Anne died as a result of cancer in November 2009. In a very personal and moving part of the interview, he discusses the devastating impact of the loss of Anne, on both him and his family.
"It’s very, very difficult,” he says. "We’re living each day and the pain is getting lesser, but you never actually get over it. My two daughters (and I), we’re all really missing Anne. But, at the same time, I’ve now got a granddaughter as well, baby Anna. So, we’ve a lot of good times.”
That comment, of course, only scratches the surface – the interview goes into real depth on personal issues, of a kind that affect individuals and families throughout Ireland – and leave many families inconsolable.
“It is impossible to relate just how movingly the Minister speaks on what are really sensitive issues,” Hot Press editor Niall Stokes says. “You have to read his own words. What comes across in the interview, I think, is that he is a very nice, good, decent and honest man. He has had an extraordinarily difficult time personally – and come through it. But I think that people will be fascinated to see how he has dealt with all of these issues himself and what his outlook on life is overall. It is a great interview by Jason O’Toole. But it wouldn’t be that, if the Minister hadn’t been so honest and so forthcoming."
In a statement that will infuriate anti-drugs hard-liners, the Minister – who entered politics in support of the late North Dublin independent TD, Tony Gregory – also says, on drugs in general, that he would lean towards the Portuguese model, where the possession of small amounts of narcotics, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, has been decriminalised.
"I think we have to use the Portuguese model in relation to dealing with the drugs issue," the Minister says. "We need a more of a health care model rather than a criminal justice model. I’ve an open mind, but I’m not saying legalise it tomorrow morning!"
He is asked specifically if he is advocating decriminalisation.
“Yes,” he says. "I would be in that zone. I’m still waiting – I think there should be a broader debate about it because I’d like to hear everyone’s views before I make up my mind.”
He also makes a robust defence of the position he took recently on smoking, dismissing those who attacked him as ‘puritans'.
"All my constituents in Dublin North Bay know I smoke,” he states. "They know I’m addicted to nicotine. I try to get off them every day of my life. And all of a sudden, I was a pariah – and I was attacked by puritans. I was lambasted because I was a Minister under the health portfolio, but I’m actually (minister) in charge of disabilities. I thought there was a lot of huge, unnecessary negativity and misrepresentation.”
Asked if there is a danger that Ireland is becoming a ridiculously self-righteous society, he agrees. “There’s an element of that, yes – and I don’t like it,” the Minister says. "It makes me very uncomfortable. There’s a certain kind of attitude about anybody who’s not going with the cosy consensus and that concerns me. But I do feel that the vast majority of people are decent and fairly understanding."
The full interview appears in the new Hot Press, out Thursday June 9.