Be­fore the fall

Hot Press - - Hp Interview -

Bigly is much greater than small Shortly is smaller than tall,

Pride and hubris be­fore the fall

And the in­evitable im­peach­ment call.

Be­ware the fail­ing New York Times Re­port­ing the com­mis­sion of real crimes, The Wash­ing­ton Post is do­ing it too Telling its truths in plain view.

CNN, ABC, CBS and MSNBC And not for­get­ting the BBC, Pub­lic en­e­mies num­ber one Foxy News, se­cond to none.

Al­ter­na­tive facts and post truths Steam­ing tweets, pres­i­den­tially un­couth, Self ab­sorbed and self ob­sessed

Fake news de­ployed in me­dia slugfest.

Truthi­ness the only one

Shin­ing in the White House sun,

Oc­cu­py­ing the pres­i­den­tial suite

Facts ex­iled on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue street.

In­ter­na­tional lead­ers come and go All pre­tend­ing to be in the know, Strug­gling to grasp the ver­bal flow Of a fright­en­ingly real re­al­ity show.

Be­ware of po­lit­i­cal syco­phants

And of a base po­lit­i­cally en­tranced, Nar­cis­sism and hubris be­fore the fall And a fate­ful im­peach­ment call.

Alan Shat­ter

20 Fe­bru­ary 2017

op­pose the mar­riage equal­ity ref­er­en­dum. But my rec­ol­lec­tion was he didn’t op­pose it. But he wasn’t ac­tively en­gaged in try­ing to pro­mote a mar­riage equal­ity ref­er­en­dum – that fell to Jerry But­timer, who coura­geously went pub­lic on his own sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and the need to change the law. It was only be­fore the mar­riage equal­ity ref­er­en­dum that Leo came out.

Was Leo sup­port­ive of your ef­forts to in­tro­duce the Chil­dren and Fam­ily Re­la­tion­ships Act? There was no sup­port forthcoming from him that I ev­i­denced at that time – on that or the mar­riage equal­ity ref­er­en­dum. And that bill was not just of im­por­tance to het­ero­sex­ual cou­ples but it was of key im­por­tance to same sex cou­ples in deal­ing with the is­sue of sur­ro­gacy. In May 2014, the draft bill in­cluded ex­pressed le­gal pro­vi­sions to ad­dress the is­sue of sur­ro­gacy and to al­low both het­ero­sex­ual and same sex cou­ples to law­fully have chil­dren through sur­ro­gacy and to pre­scribe the le­gal re­la­tion­ships of the com­mis­sion­ing par­ents to those chil­dren. I had to fight a bat­tle with Enda Kenny’s spe­cial ad­vi­sors to re­tain that pro­vi­sion in the draft bill. I suc­ceeded in do­ing so. When I ceased to be min­is­ter, Frances Fitzger­ald an­nounced that those pro­vi­sions were be­ing dropped. And the next an­nounce­ment was that Leo was go­ing to deal with them as Min­is­ter for Health and a new bill would be pub­lished, ad­dress­ing those is­sues, in Jan­uary 2015. Well, that bill has still not seen the light of day.

It sounds like some­one buried it. The bill clearly got buried. I un­der­stand there are now prom­ises that it’s about to re-emerge. I don’t know in what form. It’s three years later. The leg­is­la­tion could’ve been en­acted and in place by 2015 had the orig­i­nal timescale been stuck to.

The Taoiseach has also been crit­i­cised for the lack of gen­der bal­ance in his Cabi­net.

Yeah. (Laughs). Well, that’s blindly self-ev­i­dent. I don’t think there’s any great com­ment re­quired.

There’s no love lost be­tween you and Leo. I have a par­tic­u­lar view of the type of pol­i­tics that Leo en­gages in. Peo­ple should be judged in pol­i­tics by sub­stance not im­age. Un­for­tu­nately, in the cur­rent cli­mate, per­spec­tive seems to be de­ter­mined by clappy happy me­dia re­la­tion events rather than sub­stance. I have a dif­fi­culty with the way Fine Gael is cur­rently op­er­at­ing. There’s some re­ally good peo­ple in Fine Gael, in the par­lia­men­tary party and at Cabi­net, but I do be­lieve in pol­i­tics you have to stand up for val­ues. You have to stand up for the truth – even when it’s dif­fi­cult. You have to not suc­cumb to the mob. You have to have par­tic­u­lar views about is­sues and not ba­si­cally check where the mob is go­ing – and then present your­self as their leader!

How can the cur­rent Fine Gael gov­ern­ment be good for the coun­try if what you are say­ing is true? My per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of Leo does not fill me with op­ti­mism. I know this runs counter to the pre­vail­ing pub­lic view and that within the Fine Gael party. I claim no mo­nop­oly on wis­dom. Ul­ti­mately the elec­torate will ex­press their view at the bal­lot box. Im­age and clever sound-bites may se­duce vot­ers, but it is sub­stance which ul­ti­mately im­pacts on their lives. Mak­ing and im­ple­ment­ing tough de­ci­sions that are in the pub­lic in­ter­est, but which do not re­flect pop­ulist views, nor which are de­signed to gen­er­ate the praise of com­men­ta­tors, is ul­ti­mately a test of

lead­er­ship. A com­mit­ment to so­cial jus­tice and re­form; hav­ing a real view of the world that is not based on opin­ion polling; know­ing the full facts and telling the truth about is­sues – these are im­por­tant. Jog­ging is not the is­sue!

You’re talk­ing about the fact that there have been pic­tures… I went jog­ging for many years but never felt the need to alert me­dia pho­tog­ra­phers and bring them with me. I sup­pose that was my mis­take. I also oc­ca­sion­ally wore strange socks. And once, in Le­in­ster House, I was briefly con­cerned I had de­vel­oped a limp – some­time later I re­alised I was wear­ing odd shoes. I now re­alise I should have turned all of those things into pub­lic­ity op­por­tu­ni­ties. I made the fun­da­men­tal mis­take of spend­ing too much time draft­ing leg­is­la­tion and do­ing other se­ri­ous stuff.

You clearly be­lieve there’s been a seis­mic shift within Fine Gael.

It’s dif­fi­cult to iden­tify cur­rently what the ac­tual val­ues of the Fine Gael party are – other than a de­sire to stay in gov­ern­ment. You have to be in pol­i­tics with ob­jec­tives. You have to still have some ideals. You have to sell those ideals to the elec­torate. There has to be a rea­son why you want to get re-elected that goes beyond sim­ply, ‘I want to be in gov­ern­ment’. You have to have a moral com­pass. I think to­day, show­man­ship and pop­ulism has greater im­pact than truth, de­cency, in­tegrity, re­spect for the law, fair pro­ce­dures, that type of stuff. Look, what at­tracted me to

Fine Gael was that it was a party com­mit­ted to sane eco­nomic and fi­nan­cial man­age­ment and so­cial jus­tice. I’m not sure where that so­cial com­mit­ment has gone. I’m not sure how iden­ti­fi­ably dif­fer­ent Fine Gael is to Fianna Fáil! It seems to me that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are cur­rently in­volved in some­thing of a phony war.


Do you feel you were per­se­cuted dur­ing your time as Min­is­ter for Jus­tice? That’s for oth­ers to judge. I went through a very strange pe­riod where the level of me­dia venom went beyond any­thing I’d ever seen in my life­time. It’s very dif­fi­cult to op­er­ate within an en­vi­ron­ment in which you know you’re telling the truth, but all your po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents, and the me­dia uni­ver­sally, bar­ring one or two hon­ourable ex­cep­tions, are tar­get­ing you as the near­est things to Darth Vader. It was a very stress­ful pe­riod. You can’t iden­tify a sin­gle al­le­ga­tion against me that three in­quiries – the O’Hig­gins Com­mis­sion, the Cooke En­quiry or the Fennelly In­quiry – dealt with that was up­held. Yet there’s still a nar­ra­tive that pro­motes some of these.

On the Garda whistle­blow­ers, is the truth not that you were played like a vi­o­lin by se­nior

Gar­daí? No. I wasn’t played by any­body be­cause I re­quired in­ves­ti­ga­tions to be un­der­taken – and very sub­stan­tial change and re­form re­sulted. The whole idea was that the Garda were do­ing favours for friends. That was never es­tab­lished and that’s never been proved to be true. What was es­tab­lished was enor­mous ad­min­is­tra­tive and over­sight dys­func­tion.

There was no ev­i­dence of Garda cor­rup­tion? There’s no sug­ges­tion of any Garda ever tak­ing a ha’penny for can­celling a ticket charge. And where are we in 2017? We have the ex­tra­or­di­nary and bizarre cir­cum­stance of 1.4mil­lion false breath tests recorded! Again, ev­i­dence of enor­mous dys­func­tional and man­age­rial fail­ure of a greater na­ture than any­thing that was dis­closed in the ticket charge is­sue – it hasn’t gen­er­ated one tenth of the heat or ex­cite­ment as the is­sues that I was in­volved in gen­er­ated.

Do you feel the Gar­daí mis­led you – and it cost you your job? I’ve no ev­i­dence that any­one de­lib­er­ately lied to me. I do be­lieve there were lev­els of in­com­pe­tence and dys­func­tion within the Gar­daí. It be­came clear as we got into 2013, which is why I asked the Garda In­spec­tor to pro­duce a com­pre­hen­sive re­port on all as­pects of polic­ing in Ire­land. I don’t think they ac­tu­ally pro­duced it un­til 2015. I think it has over 160 rec­om­men­da­tions and most of them haven’t yet been im­ple­mented.

Were you not wrong – or mis­taken – not to lis­ten to Mick Wal­lace and Clare Daly? Well, that’s one of the great fic­tions. I took the ticket thing very se­ri­ously. I asked the Garda Com­mis­sioner to re­spond to the al­le­ga­tions. The per­cep­tion that I didn’t deal with that prop­erly, is all part of a nar­ra­tive that ran at that time.

The im­pres­sion you give is that Enda Kenny was dis­hon­est with you... Kenny was very sup­port­ive through the ini­tial pe­riod of the con­tro­ver­sies. Things started to go pe­cu­liar around the time of the Guerin In­quiry. I ad­vised Kenny that the crit­i­cism was wrong, that I dealt with is­sues cor­rectly and that Guerin had reached the con­clu­sions he reached with­out ever talk­ing to me! It’s a very ba­sic prin­ci­ple that some­one is not con­demned with­out be­ing given a fair hear­ing. I ex­plained to Kenny I got no fair hear­ing. Guerin him­self pub­licly stated that he hadn’t read what he de­scribed – and in quotes – as ‘vo­lu­mi­nous’ doc­u­men­ta­tion of GSOC.

So why did you re­sign? On the day I re­signed, I be­lieved that Kenny was as much a vic­tim of this re­port as I was. I be­lieved Kenny had no choice but to ac­cept those con­clu­sions. He put me un­der pres­sure to re­sign. I also re­signed be­cause I could see the con­tro­versy that would arise from the re­port: it would be hugely dam­ag­ing to Fine Gael and Labour in the forthcoming Eu­ro­pean and lo­cal elec­tions. But I didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate not hav­ing an op­por­tu­nity to fully read the re­port and un­der­stood that Kenny would fol­low-up the flawed na­ture of the in­quiry. I dis­cov­ered sub­se­quently that Kenny had done noth­ing to fol­low them up. He was merely man­ag­ing me.

Yours was the head on the plate, used to quell the mount­ing po­lit­i­cal cri­sis... Yes. Iron­i­cally, I was the only Min­is­ter whose ev­i­dence was be­lieved by Fennelly, which is a



great irony of our time.

What changed your mind about Enda Kenny? As a re­sult of an FOI, some 19 months after my res­ig­na­tion, I dis­cov­ered that two weeks be­fore Guerin pro­duced his re­port, he sent cor­re­spon­dence to Kenny, which was a copy of a let­ter he sent to GSOC in which he in­formed GSOC he was go­ing to com­plete his in­quiry with­out read­ing GSOC’s ‘vo­lu­mi­nous’ doc­u­ment. Kenny was aware that the Guerin In­quiry was flawed and that not all of the doc­u­men­ta­tion would be read by Guerin, as he was re­quired to do. He had no in­ter­est in the fact that I was con­demned with­out a hear­ing.

He was hardly alone in that. Frances Fitzger­ald was Min­ster for Jus­tice: she ig­nored the en­tirety of what I had to say. I felt I had no choice but to take court pro­ceed­ings, which I won in the Court of Ap­peal, hav­ing lost in the High Court. The Court of Ap­peal unan­i­mously con­cluded there was a lack of fair pro­ce­dures. But be­fore the Court of Ap­peal de­ci­sion, the O’Hig­gins Com­mis­sion of In­quiry es­tab­lished that all of Guerin’s con­clu­sions in re­la­tion to me were wrong. I would’ve as­sumed that should’ve been the end of the matter.

In your view, Kenny was dis­hon­ourable in the way he treated you. He was en­tirely dis­hon­ourable in the man­ner in which he dealt with these is­sues.

Did you con­front him about it? The con­fronta­tion took place in the Fennelly Com­mis­sion of In­ves­ti­ga­tion in which we each gave our ev­i­dence. There was ex­tra­or­di­nary lit­tle fo­cus by the me­dia on those par­tic­u­lar find­ings of the Fennelly Re­port. Fennelly clearly didn’t ac­cept some of the ev­i­dence given by the former Taoiseach, nor did he ac­cept some of the ev­i­dence given by the former At­tor­ney Gen­eral, Maura Whe­lan. I have a par­tic­u­lar view of the

That’s a nice way of putting that he lied.

(Laughs) Well, it’s all there in the Fennelly Re­port.

You’re still em­broiled in a le­gal dis­pute with Guerin, who is ap­peal­ing the de­ci­sion.

I find my­self in this very bizarre Kafkaesque po­si­tion. It was clear that Enda Kenny and oth­ers dis­ap­proved of my mak­ing waves by chal­leng­ing Guerin in the courts. Varad­kar has main­tained the same stance as Kenny. De­spite my vindi­ca­tion in the O’Hig­gins Re­port, he has con­tin­ued as Taoiseach to in­dem­nify Guerin’s le­gal costs for his ap­peal to the Supreme Court in which he is es­sen­tially ask­ing that court to stand over con­clu­sions he reached, which O’Hig­gins – in a sworn in­quiry – es­tab­lished were en­tirely wrong. I found it in­cred­i­ble that once I was vin­di­cated by O’Hig­gins that the State con­tin­ued to fund this lit­i­ga­tion for Mr. Guerin. I’ve been pay­ing my own le­gal costs, which in practical terms for bar­ris­ters alone ex­ceed €200,000 at this stage.

It’s com­pletely mad, com­pletely in­sane.

You feel let down by some of your former col­leagues?

The man­ner in which the Guerin In­quiry was con­ducted for me was the equiv­a­lent of a kan­ga­roo court. Un­for­tu­nately not a sin­gle Fine Gael cabi­net min­is­ter or as­pi­rant min­is­ter had any in­ter­est in ad­dress­ing my con­cerns and I was left to fight a lonely bat­tle. What Mr. Guerin’s ac­tu­ally ask­ing the Supreme Court to do now is to en­dorse con­clu­sions damn­ing me that have al­ready been dis­cred­ited by the O’Hig­gins Com­mis­sion. It is a very bizarre cir­cum­stance in which to find your­self. I don’t know what the val­ues of the cur­rent cabi­net are, if this is ac­cept­able.

What about Mr. Guerin him­self… If Mr. Guerin had any con­science, or any shame, in­stead of con­tin­u­ing to lit­i­gate this into the Supreme Court he would by now have pub­licly apol­o­gised to me for his mis­taken con­clu­sions.

We may get to a point where a fur­ther in­quiry may be nec­es­sary into how he did con­duct that in­quiry. I’ve no wish to pro­long this is­sue, but I find it quite as­ton­ish­ing that he’s in­ca­pable of pub­licly ad­mit­ting that when he con­ducted his in­for­mal in­quiry, he reached mis­taken con­clu­sions in re­la­tion to me, and how he can­not find it within him­self to apol­o­gise for the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on my life and my rep­u­ta­tion of the con­clu­sions he reached.

Would you want Enda Kenny to pub­licly apol­o­gise to you? I won’t hold my breath. He told the Dáil the day I re­signed about (me) ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for all the fail­ures that Guerin had at­trib­uted to me – which was en­tirely un­true, be­cause I said to him that I hadn’t dealt with the mat­ters in the man­ner Guerin said.

If you came across Enda Kenny in a bar would you have a pint with him? I’d prob­a­bly go to the bar next door. I’d have no in­ter­est in get­ting en­trapped into a hail­fel­low-well-met false con­ver­sa­tion in­tended for pub­lic ap­proval. At the end of the day, if not for his in­ter­ven­tion in the last elec­tion cam­paign, I would’ve been re-elected to the Dáil.

Have you ever re­ceived any death threats? I was a reg­u­lar re­cip­i­ent of death threats dur­ing the pro-life amend­ment in 1983 – to ex­tent that we took our phone num­ber out of the tele­phone direc­tory. Some of it was just pure hate stuff, not nec­es­sar­ily anti-Semitic. On one oc­ca­sion, I was speak­ing late night at a meet­ing in Drogheda and I got home at 1.30am to dis­cover that my wife had re­ceived a phone call about an hour ear­lier anony­mously from some­body ask­ing, ‘Is he still alive?’

And more re­cently? There was a big in­ci­dent amid all of the 2014 con­tro­ver­sies. Around March of that year, some pow­der ar­rived in our home in an en­ve­lope. There was a con­cern it could be an­thrax! It was ac­com­pa­nied by anti-Semitic lit­er­a­ture: pic­tures of Jews go­ing into con­cen­tra­tion camps. It turned out that the sub­stance was ashes. It was sup­posed to be sym­bolic of Jews get­ting burnt in con­cen­tra­tion camps. There was a sim­i­lar par­cel in­ter­cepted in the post of­fice.

Did you ever fear for your safety or your life? I was con­cerned dur­ing one par­tic­u­lar pro-life amend­ment. We used to keep a file in my former so­lic­i­tor’s firm. I got so many death threats in the

’80s. In the be­gin­ning, I used to look at them as let­ters from nut­ters and throw them away. I had a sec­re­tary who de­cided if I was bumped off maybe we should keep them be­cause the Guards may want to see them. So, we opened a file called the ‘Mur­der File’, which was some­thing of an in-house joke at the time in which we put all of the var­i­ous death threats. Cer­tainly, the crescendo reached dur­ing the 2014 ex­cite­ment, I had real con­cerns for my fam­ily safety. But hap­pily ev­ery­thing worked out ok.


What should Ire­land do now about Brexit? Avoid fan­tasy pol­i­tics! I’m con­cerned we’re now en­gaged in some de­gree of self-delu­sion be­cause in cir­cum­stances in which the United King­dom is com­mit­ted to ceas­ing to be part of the cus­toms union, com­mit­ted to ceas­ing to be part of Europe’s open mar­kets, I don’t see how we can have a 'seam­less' boarder on the is­land of Ire­land. The fact that both the Ir­ish gov­ern­ment and British gov­ern­ment say, ‘We want an in­vis­i­ble seam­less boarder’ doesn’t pro­duce that re­sult.

So, I have an enor­mous con­cern that we’re head­ing down a very dan­ger­ous route. Brexit is the most ex­tra­or­di­nary act of self-de­struc­tion and self-in­flicted dam­age I’ve seen a demo­cratic Eu­ro­pean State en­gage in.

So, you be­lieve there could be a bor­der? I’m enor­mously con­cerned that there is an in­evitabil­ity in some type of bor­der, in re­la­tion to trade and tar­iffs. And in cir­cum­stances in which the North­ern Ire­land Assem­bly has ceased to func­tion, and the talks be­tween the DUP and Sinn Féin have col­lapsed – be­cause each of those par­ties in the Brexit con­text has a vested in­ter­est in their col­laps­ing – I’ve huge con­cerns that we’re go­ing to see a re­turn to vi­o­lence on this is­land. I don’t see how this is go­ing to be re­solved in cir­cum­stances in which a com­pletely dys­func­tional and delu­sional UK gov­ern­ment is propped up by the only party in North­ern Ire­land, the DUP, who are pro-Brexit.

You re­ally feel there could be a resur­gence of vi­o­lence in the North? If any­thing is done on this is­land to recre­ate the symbols of a bor­der, there’s an enor­mous dan­ger the Na­tion­al­ists, young peo­ple in North­ern Ire­land at the ex­treme edges, will see that as a provo­ca­tion that jus­ti­fies vi­o­lence. And there’s a dan­ger that within the Loy­al­ist com­mu­nity there’ll be other groups who feel the need to de­fend the bor­der. And this is a very dan­ger­ous

slip­pery slope. The Brex­iters in Bri­tain gave no thought of any de­scrip­tion to Ire­land prior to the ref­er­en­dum. I don’t see a happy end­ing to any of this – un­less a re­think re­sults in Bri­tain re­vers­ing course as re­sult of a fur­ther ref­er­en­dum aban­don­ing Brexit.

Is there any pos­si­ble post-Brexit so­lu­tion? It seems to me the only al­ter­na­tive is that the whole is­land of Ire­land is ba­si­cally a free trade zone with no cus­toms bar­ri­ers post-Brexit.

What was your re­sponse to the email on be­half of David Davis which said that he would like to meet ‘Kenny’, who was Taoiseach at the time, and when would ‘Kenny’ be avail­able? It’s part of the delu­sional ap­proach of the cur­rent Con­ser­va­tive lead­er­ship to deal­ing with the is­land of Ire­land. But the dif­fi­culty that cre­ates will be in re­la­tion­ships be­tween com­mer­cial en­ti­ties in North­ern Ire­land and the rest of Bri­tain, and how the Union­ist pop­u­la­tion view it. I think at our peril we ig­nore the emo­tional im­pact and dan­ger on this is­land of flags and symbols and bor­ders.

Hon­estly, what do you think of Boris John­son?



Were you of­fended by the in­fa­mous Kevin My­ers ar­ti­cle, and its ref­er­ences to Jews? No (laughs). Sim­ple an­swer. I re­garded it as Kevin try­ing to be a lit­tle bit too clever by half, us­ing very un­for­tu­nate lan­guage that he didn’t give ad­e­quate con­sid­er­a­tion to. I think what he wrote was ill con­sid­ered. He gave a very con­trite apol­ogy when it dawned on him how aw­ful it was. I heard the broad­cast where he suf­fered some el­e­ments of foot in mouth dis­ease! That should’ve been the end of the matter. It’s very pop­u­lar to­day to launch a lynch mob. And even after he was con­trite and apol­o­gised, the lynch mob went after him. I think that was re­gret­table.

Was it a step too far in fir­ing him? I wouldn’t have fired him. I can’t take se­ri­ously any­one within the Sun­day Times stand­ing on a moral soapbox and pre­tend­ing that that pa­per op­er­ates on the ba­sis of prin­ci­ple, in which truth is given some real mean­ing. It was sim­ply op­por­tunis­tic, based on the pub­lic­ity around Kevin Myer’s ar­ti­cle, that they fired him. They should’ve done a better job edit­ing what he wrote.

Is the en­mity and vi­o­lence be­tween the three great re­li­gions of Abra­ham not one of the most pro­foundly stupid things you could dream of?


You don’t re­ally be­lieve in God, do you?

No (laughs)! I’d be de­lighted to be proved wrong.

So there’s no heaven and hell? I wish I could be­lieve that this was only a pre­lim­i­nary to some fan­tas­tic af­ter­life. I’m afraid I be­lieve this is our once-off en­gage­ment and you should try to make the most of it, whilst be­ing as kind as you can to those around you.

How does it feel to see a White Su­prem­a­cist in the White House? I don’t think you could have any more bizarre be­hav­iour by any Pres­i­dent in the United States than we’ve seen from Don­ald Trump. I marvel at world lead­ers vis­it­ing the White House pre­tend­ing that they’re en­gaged in some mean­ing­ful ex­change and who try to main­tain a se­ri­ous pre­sen­ta­tion of the na­ture of the meet­ing they’ve had and ig­nore some of the in­san­ity that floats around this cur­rent White House.

What’s your re­sponse to the fact that Trump is in­ti­mately tied in to the resur­gence in Nazi­ism, in the US and glob­ally? Trump is more com­plex than that. Trump has played to a base of in­di­vid­u­als who are prej­u­diced, who are racist, who are anti-Semitic, who have no in­ter­est in so­cial jus­tice. But, at the same time, he has in­sights into other as­pects of pol­i­tics in which you couldn’t pos­si­bly la­bel him as anti-Semitic. So, I think Trump is a very pe­cu­liar po­lit­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion. But he’s a very dan­ger­ous po­lit­i­cal pre­sen­ta­tion. I’ll come back to some­thing we were dis­cussing ear­lier: Trump’s pol­i­tics is all about pop­ulism and self-pro­mo­tion. He sees be­ing in the White House as some sort of pres­i­den­tial TV re­al­ity show! He’s used to TV re­al­ity shows and that’s the man­ner in which the cur­rent presidency’s be­ing con­ducted.

What is your re­ac­tion to Larry Flynt’s of­fer of $10 mil­lion to any­one who comes for­ward with ma­te­rial that would lead to the im­peach­ment of Trump? I’ve never yet had any great re­ac­tion to Larry Flynt. So, I’m not go­ing to have one now


Stay­ing on theme of things con­cern­ing Larry Flynt, what’s your thoughts about porn?

I try not to think about it!

Grow­ing up how im­por­tant was sex and chas­ing women for you? Like ev­ery young healthy teenage boy, girls were fascinating and enor­mously in­ter­est­ing. I don’t think I was too dif­fer­ent to any of my friends.

You wouldn’t have had the bur­den of so­called Catholic guilt. Ah, now, there you go! Catholic guilt and Jewish guilt are two en­tirely dif­fer­ent things. Catholic guilt is all about sex. I better be care­ful in the con­text of Mr. We­in­stein: he’d want to have a lot of guilt for his con­duct. But Jewish guilt seems to ex­tend to all sorts of things. I feel guilty at the end of the day if I don’t think I’ve done some­thing that’s worth­while or use­ful (laughs).

Younger Hot Press read­ers might be amazed to dis­cover that condoms were banned in Ire­land dur­ing the ‘70s.

That was one of the great Ir­ish jokes. But condoms were get­table. Ei­ther you went up to North­ern Ire­land and got them, or peo­ple flew in with them, or they were posted to you. It wasn’t il­le­gal to use them: once you got your hands on them you were fine. It was un­law­ful for peo­ple to sell them –and un­der Haughey’s bill it was un­law­ful to ac­quire them here un­less you had a pre­scrip­tion. You had the mad cir­cum­stance where if you wanted to law­fully pur­chase condoms you were sup­posed to get a doc­tor’s pre­scrip­tion. It left doc­tors with the in­ter­est­ing dilemma of try­ing to work out how many condoms per month they should pre­scribe to guy who called into their clinic. You know: what type of condom and should it be smooth or ribbed and should it have a par­tic­u­lar flavour and what should the colour of the condom be?! It was all

com­pletely mad stuff.

Did you ques­tion your sex­u­al­ity grow­ing up? I’m afraid I was a mad, ram­pant het­ero­sex­ual

(roars laugh­ing). I don’t think there’s ever been any great need for any self-ex­am­i­na­tion.

How old when you lost your vir­gin­ity? Now, there’s some­thing be­tween me and the per­son re­spon­si­ble (laughs)! De­spite my en­thu­si­asm for writ­ing Life is a Funny Busi­ness, one of the things I was care­ful about was to en­sure that I didn’t cause grief or em­bar­rass­ment or stress to any of the very nice peo­ple I grew up with in my teen and late teenage years by some un­nec­es­sary rev­e­la­tions of go­ings-on (laughs). It would’ve made the book too long!

There was a hul­la­baloo over the graphic sex scene in your novel, Laura. There were two para­graphs of in­ti­macy in it, which were re­quired for the story and no more. When I be­came Min­is­ter for Jus­tice, a num­ber of journos, who were too young to no­tice Laura get­ting pub­lished in 1989, thought they’d dis­cov­ered some great rev­e­la­tion in this book con­tain­ing two para­graphs of in­ti­macy – and then pro­ceeded to make fun of it. Which was very sad be­cause, one, it took away from what was a good story, but, se­condly, it sug­gested that when it came to in­ti­macy I had an ex­traor­di­nar­ily lim­ited imag­i­na­tion, which would’ve been ex­tremely sad if it were true.

The scene de­scribes a TD hav­ing sex with his sec­re­tary on the floor of his Dáil of­fice. For­tu­itously, it wasn’t on the plinth of Le­in­ster House – that’s only there for peo­ple to drive cars over ap­par­ently!

Would that have been a fan­tasy of yours? Hav­ing sex on the floor? No, as I said, I would’ve hoped that my imag­i­na­tion would’ve ex­tended beyond that if it were a fan­tasy. I think the floors in Le­in­ster House are not clean enough, frankly, to be en­gaged in that type of ac­tiv­ity!

Some­body must’ve shagged in the Dáil. I am very re­lieved to say to you: one, yes, it may have hap­pened – but the re­lief is I’ve never caught any­one in fla­grante delicto in the con­text of that! Not a sight I want to see, frankly, in the con­text of some of my former col­leagues in Le­in­ster House.

In the book, you talk about the char­ac­ter sleep­ing with a vir­gin…


… And ‘the over­flow (of se­men) on her

slen­der body’. Would that have been a fan­tasy of yours?

Do you know the great things about fan­tasies? You don’t al­ways have to share them.

The Har­vey We­in­stein sex scan­dal: dis­cuss! The man’s con­duct is in­de­fen­si­ble and ap­palling. I think what’s sad is that it went on for so many years. And be­cause he’s in a po­si­tion of power, those women sub­jected to his con­duct felt un­able to give voice to the im­pact of his be­hav­iour on them un­til now. I would an­tic­i­pate that that isn’t unique to him. We all know ex­actly what’s meant by the cast­ing couch.

Might a sim­i­lar kind of bul­ly­ing, ma­cho cul­ture have ex­isted in pol­i­tics in Ire­land? I don’t have an an­swer to that. We­in­stein is some­one im­pos­ing him­self on oth­ers in cir­cum­stances that are en­tirely un­ac­cept­able and in­de­fen­si­ble. I don’t think we’ve ever had any­one in Le­in­ster House whose con­duct has been of that na­ture, or pub­licly known to be of that na­ture.

There’ve been a good few ladies’ men. In ev­ery walk of life there’s ladies’ men and there’s men’s ladies. In hu­man be­hav­iour and re­la­tion­ships you get ev­ery com­bi­na­tion and per­mu­ta­tion of pos­si­bil­ity when it comes to how peo­ple in­ter­act.


Did your mother’s death shape your at­ti­tude to­wards women? I ask my­self that ques­tion. I gen­uinely don’t know the an­swer. I think that it made me, I hope, sen­si­tive to dif­fi­cul­ties that other peo­ple ex­pe­ri­ence in their lives.

Did her death have any other ef­fect on you? Look­ing back, be­com­ing in­volved in the Free Le­gal Aid ad­vice cen­tre; my in­volve­ment as a lawyer in fam­ily law; rep­re­sent­ing wives and hus­bands in my FLAC days; and deal­ing with so many law cases in­volv­ing bat­tered wives, de­serted wives, un­sup­ported wives and deal­ing gen­er­ally with fam­ily prob­lems – maybe it had some im­pact on my go­ing down that road. I came from home where so­cial is­sues were al­ways dis­cussed and there was a view of mak­ing your con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety. Per­haps my in­volve­ment was in­flu­enced by my mum’s death. But I think prob­a­bly my views on the world were sub­stan­tially shaped also by my fa­ther’s in­sights into the world and the dis­cus­sions we tended to have about so­cial is­sues and po­lit­i­cal is­sues.

You were only 14 when your mother, who suf­fered from anorexia, com­mit­ted sui­cide. It was a very stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, there’s no other way of de­scrib­ing it.

Did you have a happy child­hood be­fore that? I grew up in a very happy house­hold for the first ten years of my life. I had a fairly idyl­lic

child­hood, with two par­ents clearly in love with each other. I was prob­a­bly some­thing of a spoiled child. There were no bat­tles or fights or prob­lems be­fore I reached the age of ten. I al­ways un­der­stood that what hap­pened to my mum was a con­se­quence of her hav­ing se­ri­ous men­tal health is­sues. What I was never sure of – and I’m not still to this day – is what was the cat­a­lyst to those dif­fi­cul­ties. Did some events hap­pen in her life? Or was there some ge­netic back­ground? I don’t know the an­swer to that. I think part of what I was do­ing in writ­ing this book was ex­plor­ing what shaped me as a per­son.

Have you ever suf­fered with de­pres­sion? No, for­tu­nately. I won’t say I haven’t suf­fered from de­spon­dency. We’re all de­spon­dent on oc­ca­sion. And cer­tainly the cir­cum­stances in which I found my­self in the last three years have been ex­tremely un­pleas­ant. But, for­tu­nately,

I’ve never suf­fered from de­pres­sion or any other ma­jor men­tal health is­sue. But I’m sure I have a few friends who think I’m bonkers!

What mu­sic did you like as a teenager? Prob­a­bly the same mu­sic as ev­ery­one else: The Bea­tles, The Rolling Stones and, as you progress from the 60s into the 70s, most of the then pop­u­lar mu­sic. One of my odd favourites – I still have their LPs – was Jethro Tull. In later years, Leonard Co­hen’s mu­sic would be a par­tic­u­lar favourite. In more re­cent years, one of my favourite songs was ‘Won­der­wall’. Go fig­ure!

Would you’ve been a Hot Press reader? Yeah. It was one of the pub­li­ca­tions I dipped in and out of. I was in­ter­ested in re­ports on is­sues of so­cial in­ter­est and the Mid­dle East and gen­er­ally what was go­ing on glob­ally. I had a healthy cyn­i­cism of much that went on in Ir­ish pol­i­tics.

You must have tried drugs along the way...

Fun­nily enough, I didn't ex­per­i­ment with drugs.

You never tried mar­i­juana? Oh, I once tried, I think in my for­ties, smok­ing some ganja in the Caribbean! And after tak­ing two puffs on it, and cough­ing my guts out, I de­cided this was not a good idea. I know a lot of peo­ple think I’m a very se­ri­ous per­son be­cause a lot of the is­sues I’ve been in­volved in over the years have been re­ally se­ri­ous. Those who worked with me know that I laugh a lot, crack a lot of jokes.

Would you sup­port the Por­tugese model? I’m not par­tic­u­larly fa­mil­iar with that. I have a view of drugs, which is that you need to ed­u­cate peo­ple not to become drug de­pen­dent. I do be­lieve the law has a role to play in the con­text of the re­ally se­ri­ous drugs that can do enor­mous dam­age to peo­ple.

If some­one was found with, say €50 worth of co­caine in their pocket for per­sonal use, should they be do­ing time in prison? I per­son­ally wouldn’t have them do­ing time in prison. But I would have them do­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice be­cause I would be con­cerned that in­gest­ing co­caine is go­ing to have huge detri­men­tal im­pacts on their health – and hav­ing it in their pos­ses­sion might re­sult in them se­duc­ing oth­ers to try it. Ed­u­ca­tion and com­mu­nity ser­vice would be my rem­edy for in­di­vid­u­als who are in­gest­ing, or us­ing, se­ri­ous drugs. For those who are push­ing the drugs I'd have no hes­i­ta­tion in jail­ing them.

Life Is A Funny Busi­ness is pub­lished by Pool­beg, priced €16.99



Life Is A Funny Busi­ness.

So Enda Kenny lied ba­si­cally? Fennelly clearly took the view that some of the ev­i­dence did not truly de­tail the ev­i­dence that oc­curred. world, which is that you tell the truth about is­sues. (Clock­wise from left) Alan Shat­ter as a child with his late mother; flick­ing through the pic­tures in his mem­oir; and the cover of

Alan Shat­ter: through a glasshouse darkly

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