Saturday 29 November 2014

Lunch with Oisin Quinn: No rest for the wigged as lawyer swaps court for Mansion House

The new Lord Mayor of Dublin is a practising barrister who intends to be a busy First Citizen

Tie cuisine: Oisin Quinn and Thomas at lunch in legal eagles' restaurant Hanley at The Bar.

Newly elected Lord Mayor of Dublin Oisin Quinn has a problem. His family moved into the Mansion House in Dawson Street last week, but dogs are not allowed and his three children are distraught at the thought of living without their pet for the next 12 months. Even if he ignored the rather churlish rule, the Mansion House lacks either a garden or a yard.

The dog is not the only sacrifice the family will have to make. Mr Quinn is taking the whole business of serving as the capital's 334th mayor seriously enough to give up his lucrative practice as a barrister to concentrate on the largely ceremonial role.

Family guy: Labour's Oisin Quinn with wife Elva and children Eoghan (13), Alannah (10) and seven-year-old Hugh

He has no qualms. "The person who is Lord Mayor gets paid a fair wage and has the honour of living in the Mansion House," he reasons.

While he can almost certainly afford it, the decision means he will be spending considerably less time eating at Hanley at The Bar, where he is on first name terms with the waitresses and chats comfortably about their wedding plans and the like.

Hanley at The Bar is a curious place near the Jameson Distillery. Linked by an interior door to the Bar Council's ugly headquarters in Church Street and near the city's bustling fruit market, it is full of legal eagles in wigs and dark suits. Despite this, the food is far from grand, and the interior is modern and comfortable rather than the leather and mahogany favoured by so many of our legal friends.

The Lord Mayor and many of the other customers eat here two or three times a week. We both start with the onion soup which tastes very French, though it has less cheese than usual. The food is hearty – the sort of stuff you can eat regularly without getting too fat or it costing too much – which is just as well for Mr Quinn who is training hard for the Dublin triathlon this autumn.

He sticks to his favourite sandwich, turkey and cranberry, while I try Asian prawns, which are delicious. The abstemious politician skips dessert but recommends the carrot cake. I plump for a florentine, which takes a long time to come and is adequate.

The 44-year-old, who swims in a club every Monday morning and gives the impression of being in good shape, has big hopes for the triathlon and hopes to make it a massive event in future, bringing in thousands of visitors from abroad.

Unlike many other politicians, he is both inquisitive and unguarded. That is a trait he shares with his uncle, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, and his father, the multi-millionaire banker and entrepreneur, Lochlann.

While it is unusual for a Labour councillor to grow up in a family headed by one of the country's wealthiest men and half-owner of the Merrion Hotel, the Lord Mayor says the household was non-political and he and his five brothers and sisters were always encouraged to follow their hearts. Besides, he adds, his father only became really rich when his children had grown up. The family were interested in politics but not aligned.

"My parents were in the category of typical middle-class floating voters," he says. He remembers growing up listening to family discussions about Des O'Malley, Charlie Haughey and Garret FitzGerald.

"They were remarkably non-directional," he recalls with obvious gratitude. That means he can count a fashion designer, playwright and South American-based businessman among his siblings. "There was always a lot of debate around the dinner table, but it wasn't personal."

The dapper mayor chose law, especially employment law, though there is no tradition in the family. "I Ioved studying it in college, I loved the politics of it all," he says. "I see from doing that work that there is a lot of tension between employers and employees, and the courts show that there are problems that are not intractable, they can be solved."

Mr Quinn became involved in politics in the late 1990s after getting married and having children. "I suddenly started looking around and realising it was about more than just me," he says. "Children need parks, schools. When I went to Ruairi and said I was keen to get involved, I was asked to draft a bill because of my legal background."

For Mr Quinn, however, the path was more arduous. He was forced to fight for a second council seat in Rathmines, where Labour has traditionally struggled.

While getting a council seat can be easy enough, the duties can be difficult for anybody working nine to five or those with children. That's why most councillors are either in late middle age or young, he says.

"It would be a bit of a concern," he says. "It would be very difficult to reasonably expect anybody in their 30s or 40s who has family commitments and a full-time job. I'm lucky being a barrister and I can control my time."

Irish Independent

Promoted articles

Also in this Section

Promoted articles

Top Stories

Most Read

Independent Gallery

Your photos

Send us your weather photos promo

Celebrity News