The presidential candidates
We asked the six contenders about their personal favourites from the worlds of art, literature, stage and screen
Current favourite book I’ve read most of Stuart Wilde’s books, and I really like Life Was Never Meant to Be a Struggle. It’s a lovely little book that explains how once you get in tune with your energy, in tune with the universe, and that the universe provides. You can read it in an hour or two. I give it to my staff and my children.
I would eat Indian food seven days a week if I could. Bombay Bicycle is the best Indian in London. There are some nice restaurants in Dublin that I’m fond of too, I like Locks. It’s quiet and it’s lovely, I can walk to it from my house. It would probably be my favourite non-Indian.
That’s an easy one: Sacha Baron Cohen. He’s so amazingly disrespectful, I could watch him for hours. Borat would be an all-time classic of his, but all those Ali G movies are hilarious.
I’ve probably seen Phantom of the Opera about 10 times, that’s definitely my favourite.
My favourite artist is Steve Penley, and I collect his artwork. It’s so realistic. There’s huge big blobs of paint and you wonder how each could possibly have their degree of accuracy. I’ve never seen art like it. I got him to do a painting as a present for my wife of the Irish-American presidents; it’s a 10ft by 6ft picture of Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, JFK, and Ronald Reagan, and it’s a beautiful big oil painting.
I love Dublin. It has everything, and Dublin in the spring and autumn is absolutely stunning. Sydney would be a close second because I love beaches. When I was in Sydney, I would go four or five times a week to relax.
I adore all of Adele’s albums. My children download them for me, I’ve got every song she’s ever done on my iPhone. She’s got the best range, so Adele all day long.
John Wayne. I really like him in The Sons of Katie Elder. That was my father’s favourite film, I must have watched it with him two dozen times. John Wayne was the consummate good guy wasn’t he? He was solid, reliable, and always ended up on the right
I’m not into social media. I know that’s a terrible thing to say when you’re running for President, but I’m starting to get more into it now. I follow Trump just to find out what the lunatic is saying. You think he can’t be more outrageous that he was yesterday. And guess what? He becomes more outrageous.
I haven’t had too much time to watch TV over the year. NCIS is one that I tend to watch because it’s semi-serious, and I like watching Friends. If it’s late in the evening, I can just zone out with Friends. And I can watch it with the children, they love it.
The last one I went to was Philomena. Judi Dench just hasn’t made a bad movie. I found that very moving but also disturbing, and the unfortunate thing is that it’s still very relevant. I liked The Darkest Hour too, the movie about Churchill. He was an amazing leader, and the right man at the right time. I like finding out people’s philosophies and understanding how they’re able to achieve what they’ve achieved.
GAVINDUFFY Current favourite book
My favourite book in the past year was Wounds: A Memoir of War and Love by Fergal Keane. It’s the story of our Civil War in Ireland 100 years ago, told from a locality in Kerry, in Ireland. Keane’s a great storyteller, and this book gives you a great insight into the whole thing, sibling against sibling and so on.
The steaks at Monasterboice Inn in Co Louth are remarkable. It’s where I take business people. Their eight-ounce fillet is to die for. It’s not haute cuisine but I think anywhere that has maintained its standards and reputation for that long has something special.
Tommy Tiernan has been my favourite for a long time. I just love everything that he does, and I love the fact that he has mellowed with age. Everything I’ve seen him do, every stand-up show or television programme, I’ve enjoyed.
The most engaging production I came across last year was The Great Gatsby, where the Gate Theatre was transformed into the Gatsby House. What an innovative way to do theatre. It was particularly suited to the Gate, an old-fashioned venue with crystal chandeliers in the auditorium anyway. I believe it’s on again at Christmas this year, I will be bringing friends along to it.
I’ve always been a fan of our great Irish portrait artist John Lavery.
The city I love to visit on business or pleasure is New York. I have a lot of cousins in New York and sometimes I go to see them, and sometimes I go but avoid them. I’m an opera fan, so the Metropolitan, I would take in on a visit, depending on the productions.
Rattle and Hum by U2 was confirmation that a Dublin band was world class. And they toured The Joshua Tree again last year as well, so a new generation has heard the joy of that.
I’ve simply loved everything that Saoirse Ronan has done, and that’s not just because she’s one of our own. She can capture an emotion that we as viewers can connect with, just by something as understated as dropping her eyes and looking at the floor. It’s not a big showy thing, but you get a great sense of the emotion she’s trying to share. She’s an outstanding actress.
TV show Film Social-media profile
@JamesMelville on Twitter has about 100,000 followers. He’s clearly a Remainer and he’s always able to come up with a funny take on the latest thing the Brexiteers are doing. I would have liked to see the United Kingdom stay in the EU. I respect their decision; it’s going to have a lot of implications for Ireland.
The last boxset I watched was Ozark, but The Wire is my all-time favourite. It’s a story of the drug world in Baltimore, portrayed with excellent writing and a brilliant cast, and it changed the movement and direction of TV. It was an acquired taste, and I had to go through a pain barrier first because I didn’t understand all of the hoodspeak. But once you get in on it, you’re almost indoctrinated into the story.
I love movies with a twist, like The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense. Tully came out recently, and it’s a really very unusual movie about a young American mother struggling with a new baby. It’s certainly a topic that I wouldn’t have rushed towards, but it’s just one of the cleverest movies I’ve seen in the last few years. It has a bit of a reveal also.
JOAN FREEMAN Currentfavouritebook
It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, but I love John Grisham, his books are escapism at its finest. An all-time favourite of mine is A Time to Kill. I loved it. I read it years ago, though and have since watched the film adaptation… the book was much better in my opinion.
I love traditional Irish food, and The Pig’s Ear on Nassau Street in Dublin never disappoints. Their food is the perfect blend of modern and traditional. They’re always making small changes and tweaks to their menu which I like, but their shepherd’s pie is a definite favourite of mine, as is the champ mash. And their bread is some of the best in Dublin in my opinion.
Spike Milligan was a comedic genius. I loved his eccentric humour, his performance style and his prose. He was also a great advocate for mental-health stigma reduction and wrote beautifully about his own struggles with bipolar disorder.
I saw Amazing Grace [with music and lyrics by Christopher Smith] when I was in New York a few years ago. It takes place during the American Civil War and centres around the peculiar life of John Newton, the reformed slave trader who went on to write that well-loved song. I found the score very uplifting and emotional, and the performances were excellent.
The mural artist Joe Caslin created a stunning mural for Pieta House a few years ago. I love his larger than life art pieces, and I admire him for using his medium as social commentary to engage with young people and communities around Ireland.
I love Cork. I lived there for six months many years ago and I felt very at home there. I find the people very welcoming, warm and hospitable. It’s a happy escape from chaotic Dublin sometimes. I recently visited the English Market, it’s a core part of the community in Cork City.
Songs of Love and Hate by Leonard Cohen. It’s almost 50 years old but, for me, his songs are timeless.
I love Anthony Hopkins’s energy, sense of humour and humility. I think these qualities have established him as a respected and loved actor. I still remember how terrified I was when I saw him as Hannibal in The Silence of the Lambs. It still terrifies me, even after all these years.
On Twitter, @lustforlife is doing great work to help normalise mental health. I admire the work that Bressie does for the community. He’s a great champion for mental health in Ireland.
I prefer going for a long walk over watching a TV series in the evening. However I did watch The Crown and found it compelling. Claire Foy is wonderful as Queen Elizabeth. The cinematography and art direction was dramatic and lavish, and I thought the costumes and the set design were beautiful.
SEÁN GALLAGHER Current favourite book
Life Lessons by the late hospice doctor Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, and David Kessler. She nursed people at the end of their life, and talked about the most important things in their life. Their regrets weren’t to do with the things they did but they things they left undone, so it’s about being brave. It’s incredibly inspiring. I start every day thinking “what would I do if I was brave?”
It’s the Olde Post in Cloverhill in Cavan, not far from where I grew up. I was only in it last week. It’s superb. Chef Gearoid Lynch is a great authority on being gluten-free, but the place is for all diets. It’s gorgeous, there’s a big open turf fire, great service, and lovely food. I love chicken so I’ll always try to have their chicken dishes, but I have a weakness for their chocolate desserts too.
I saw Michael McIntyre when he came to Ireland earlier this year and he was very enjoyable. His timing is great, his observation of simple daily things is interesting and I love his energy.
I love anything by Ross O’Carroll-Kelly. He’s really funny. I never laugh so much as when I go to his shows, and I most recently saw Postcards from the Ledge, which was very witty.
More than any one artist, I love paintings of landscapes, mountains, woods, and the traditional Irish cottage that you find in coffee shops and local art fairs. It’s less about the aesthetics than the nostalgic feeling it creates in me.
I live just outside Dublin and that’s a vibrant, dynamic, cultural melting pot. It’s a mix of old and new, traditional and modern. I love Stephen’s Green, it’s wonderful that you can be walking on the busies street in Ireland then within seconds, strolling through the park with its pigeons and ducks. But my wife is from just outside Cork so if I say Dublin, I also have to say Cork. The English Market has interesting stalls, and there’s such a mix of things at the Grand Parade and Patrick Street.
I’ve a five-year-old called Bobby, and he’s a fan of Ed Sheeran. So if we’re in a car, we have to have his album Divide, and we have to listen to Perfect. He’ll play it over and over again. It’s a good way to get quiet in the car.
My wife and I like inspirational quotes around mindfulness. Instagram and Pinterest are the best for this, though I like the wide range rather than any particular account. One quote I always share with young people to tell them to pursue their dreams is: “a ship in the harbour is safe, but that is not what a ship is built for”.
Because I have a five-year-old and a two-yearold, if the TV is on in our house, it’s wall to wall Peppa Pig and Uncle George.
Tom Hanks has such depth to him, yet he’s so incredibly funny as well. I loved him in The Green Mile, and more recently Sully.
The last film I went to see with my boy that I also enjoyed was Ferdinand. I wasn’t expecting to like it but I’d recommend it even for adults. There’s a poignant message in it because Ferdinand the bull was peace-loving rather than fighter, and he stood up for his values.
MICHAEL D HIGGINS Current favourite book
I have found myself returning to Hannah Arendt who examined the act of remembering and forgiving, particularly in her book, The Human Condition. She reminds us that the act of forgiving can remove the capacity of an event of the past to deprive us of the possibilities of the future. This book has influenced much of my work throughout our commemoration period in 2016 and beyond. Sarah Bakewell’s At The Existentialist’s Café was also a recent read.
I like Italian food, and have always loved the warmth and atmosphere of Da Robertas in Salthill, Galway. After walking the prom, having a meal there with Sabina and my family is a lovely treat. The Cedar Tree on Saint Andrew’s St would be a Dublin choice for excellent Lebanese food.
Tommy Tiernan is incomparable as comedian, philosopher or human being. But then there is Mario Rosenstock, who has been imitating me since before I was elected president. And he’s very good at it.
The late Tom Murphy, my close friend, was for me one of our greatest playwrights; the playwright of the emigrant experience. Recent circumstances have reminded me of The Gigli Concert of “dynamatologists”. Most recently, I really enjoyed Jimmy’s Hall – Lisa Lambe with a multi-talented ensemble cast infused a wonderful energy into highlighting the life of Jimmy Gralton, one of Ireland’s great emancipatory figures.
I admire so many artists from all backgrounds, so many happily still living, between whom I will not choose. I’ve always loved Van Gogh, the vivid colours and intensity of emotion are mesmerising. One of my favourite paintings hangs in my study; Sean Keating’s portrait of Noel Browne, one of my mentors. In terms of design, the work of the Furniture and Wood Skills College in Letterfrack is inspiring, and the way the students transform fallen trees from the Áras into such beautiful and practical pieces is a collaboration that I’ve been very proud to have played a part in. Caravaggio’ s The Taking of Christ is my favourite painting in the National Gallery.
I love all our cities in Ireland, but being from Limerick and having spent most of my life in Galway, they are both very special to me. It has also been a great pleasure for Sabina and I to spend more time together in Dublin and connect with its communities, and the decency and humour of its people. But my heart will always be in Galway.
I find myself returning to Leonard Cohen’s albums quite often. He was a troubadour with a great sense of romance, mischief, and hope who reminded us that “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.
Well, it would be true to say that my wife Sabina is a wonderful actor. As a founding member of Focus Theatre, she has had a lifetime passion for theatre.
@theirishfor is such an innovative humorous but substantial project to promote our love and interest in our native language.
I don’t get much time to watch TV but on those rare occasions I enjoy watching Ros na Rún or Fair City to relax – though the travails faced by the people of Carrigstown can be quite stressful! Mostly, I haven’t kept up with the storylines, but I like to see how actor friends are still going strong.
One of my favourite films is Babette’s Feast, a film that brings the creative capacities to gather a community together. More recently I saw The Square at the Irish Film Institute, a beautiful filmic piece.
LIADH NÍ RIADA Current favourite book
The Woman in the Fifth by Douglas Kennedy was full of turns, and quite funny at times. It’s about a man whose life completely turns upside down, and he has to recreate a whole new life for himself. He ends up having an affair with a woman who doesn’t actually exist. Kennedy is good at bringing the feminine side to things as well; I thought that he was a female writer, but no.
For a special family occasional dinner, we’d go to the Gougane Barra Hotel. They serve really nice food, it’s just at the foot of a forest, and by the lake so it’s terribly romantic. It’s very olde worlde.
When I have a chance to switch off with the kids, I watch Jack Whitehall’s Travels with my Father on Netflix. I haven’t watched any of his stand-up shows but it’s interesting to see the relationship that he has with his dad, and their unusual banter. I also like Tommy Tiernan. I think he stretches it a bit far but I really like his wild sense of humour, and it’s in touch with the Irish psyche.
I don’t have a chance to go; there’s no theatre near me and I’m a mother of three kids. If I’m not campaigning for the presidential election, I work as a member of the European Parliament, so I’m back and forth to Brussels and Strasbourg every week. When I get home, I don’t want to see a plane, train or automobile if possible, so I chill out at home with my kids and read bedtime stories and watch nonsense TV and it’s brilliant.
I love the art of my uncle, Walter Verling, who’s in his 90s now. I lived with him and his wife for a few years when I went to school in Limerick. He produced a massive amount of work and there was always the smell of paint in the house. Naturally enough, I’m going to be promoting my Uncle Walter, because his stuff is really quite something.
Cork. It’s naff to be tribal but what I particularly like about Cork is when you’re driving in from my place to Cork and it opens on a vista and you see the expanse of the Lee. And I absolutely adore the city itself. It could badly do with investment, but there’s something terribly continental about it and it’s full of character. I’m delighted I have an office right on the quay, and feel connected to the city.
There’s not one album, but I find traditional music very grounding: Altan, the likes of Seamus Begley, Steve Cooney, séan-nós singers as well, like Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh and Nell Ní Chróinín. I like classical music too. When I’m in my office in Brussels, I quite often take charge of the music system and put on John Field or Bach, just to make the whole office zen. I like Massive Attack, Laura Mvula and two girls from London called Ider, so I have an eclectic taste.
TV show Film Actor
I’m starting to sound Cork-centric, but I like Cillian Murphy. Brendan Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan are brilliant too, we have a plethora of really talented actors from Ireland. Internationally, Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie is a great a role model. When women hit a certain age, even the dress style becomes invisible, but here’s this woman who’s 80 and she’s more energy than people I know in their 20s.
I’m old-school. I’d rather engage with people in real terms rather than looking on gadgets.
I like The Big Bang Theory, because I like nerdy stuff. And I like Frasier as my kind of laugh-a-minute show to relax completely; re-runs are great on a Saturday or a Sunday morning, if you’ve time.
I really like O Brother, Where Art Thou? – the soundtrack might be something I’d pick as my favourite album actually.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s alter ego Borat; Adele; John Wayne
The Usual Suspects; The Great Gatsby at the Gate Theatre in Dublin; comedian Tommy Tiernan
Tom Hanks in Sully; Ross O’CarrollKelly; Peppa Pig
Claire Foy as a young Queen Elizabeth in The Crown; comedian Spike Milligan; mural artist Joe Caslin
Jenny Dixon, Martha Fitzpatrick and David O’Sullivan in Fair City; Babette’s Feast;
The cast of The Big Bang Theory; actor Cillian Murphy; singer Laura Mvula