Below is the full transcript for Leo Varadkar’s interview with Miriam O’Callaghan this morning.
Q: Leo Varadkar, Happy Birthday.
A: Good morning. Thanks very much, I’m the big 36 today.
Q: Will you celebrate?
A: Yeah, yeah, not doing special, I’ll probably just call into my sisters tonight and so on. I’m off alcohol for January as part of the Irish Heart Foundation’s ‘On the Dry’ campaign, so it’ll be well behaved.
Q: Health is never an easy portfolio, how are you finding it?
A: It’s tough. It’s really interesting having a background as a doctor. It’s been interesting having to learn all about medicine and healthcare again, having been away from it for a period of time. It’s very busy. There’s some sort of big issue come crisis almost every other week, but it’s something that I’m really enjoying getting stuck into. I only regret a little bit that it’s happening at the end of the term of Government, it’s the kind of thing you’d like to have maybe four or five years at, because changes you make now don’t necessarily show for a year or two.
Q: You got into a lot of hot water this month for your holiday in Florida, and one of the things you said is that even when were on holiday, you were in contact with Tony O’Brien from the HSE almost everyday, do you ever really regret taking on the department that Brian Cowen referred to as Angola?
A: I was away for a full three days. I managed to get that. The trolley numbers spiked the second day I was away and I came back the day after. And with modern technology, you’re always in touch, no matter what. No, I don’t regret it at all. I did love Transport, Tourism and Sport. I really particularly liked sport part of the brief, and I’ve a really good interest in aviation. I still find myself reading aviation journals and so on, but I think in any job in politics after three or four years, you start to become a little bit stale, a little bit institutionalised. You start to know the players maybe too well, and it’s actually a good thing I think to rotate and move on a bit and get stuck into something new.
Q: Take me right back, tell me about your parents?
A: Mum is from West Waterford, Dungarvan. She’s a farmer’s daughter. She’s a nurse, she left home very young, I think she was 18 and went off to train as a nurse in England. My dad is from India, just south of Mumbai. He was one of the first in his family to go to college and he went to England in the 70s, he emigrated there. He always tells us that he arrived in England with £50 in his pocket, the shirt on his back and nothing else, but he did also have a qualification in medicine which helped, and they met in Slough I think. He’s a doctor, she’s a nurse, so the rest is obvious. They lived in England for a while, my big sister Sophie was born over in England. Then they went to England for a while, he was a consultant pediatrician over there and, depending on whose side of the story you believe, it didn’t work out for one reason or another, and my grandmother got my dad a job in Drogheda, and he worked there for a while and then in Harcourt Street for quite some time. That was ’73 I think and then I was born in ’79.
Q: Then he became a GP I think in the end? What was your child home like? I think his practice was there? Was it very much like in the old days where the sitting room would nearly be where the patients would wait?
A: It was an old fashioned practice if you like on Bromptan Green, we moved to Roselawn road afterwards. Our garage was converted into a surgery, and initially for the first couple of years the patients came to the front door and our sitting room was the waiting room. So, it was very much living over the shop. My mum being a nurse was practice nurse, practice manager, relationship manager, pretty much everything other than seeing the patients, she did. It really helped me get out to the Daíl I think, the fact that my parents were so well known and so respected in the community. Having a funny surname isn’t usually an advantage in Irish politics, but it was for me for that reason. But, one thing I never got to do, which I still hope to do is learn how to play a musical instrument because I was never allowed to practice at home because my mother was always afraid it would disturb the patients in our sitting room. They are now retired. My dad worked up until his ‘70s and then my other sister had twins and my mum decided that they were more important then the surgery, and they retired at that point.
Q: Before the last election, there was a great TV documentary made and they followed a number of people, including yourself around, and at one stage you revealed that when you were only seven or eight, you had your heart set on being Minister for Health, why in god’s name?
A: Yeah, it’s true. I was with my mum in the shops, a ladies boutique or something, and I was asked what I wanted to be when I grow up. I think you’re supposed to say an ambulance man or a footballer or a soldier or something like that and I told all my mother’s friends that I wanted to be Minister for Health. She was mortified, needless to say. I don’t know why I thought that, probably because even when I was very young – I don’t really know why as I was probably only seven or eight at the time – I had an interest in politics, a passion for politics. I was really into seeing the election posters go up.
Q: Where did that come from?
A: I don’t know. Neither of my parents are involved in politics or anything like that, but my dad is political, certainly and we would have always talked about politics and religion and money and all those things that you’re not supposed to talk about at the dinner table, we did. And there’s line, I think it comes from Bernard Shaw, but I think it was Robert Kennedy who said it best: “Some people see things as they are, and ask why. Other people see things as they might be and ask, why not.” I suppose that’s where I was coming from, even when I was working in the Health Service. As a doctor, I saw the way things were organised and set up, and I thought to myself, it doesn’t have to be this way. Or even living in West Dublin in a very sort of rapidly developing area, when we lived in Roselawn in the Blanchardstown/Castleknock area, it was probably the last estate in the city, and then all of a sudden everything mushroomed up around us and it wasn’t very well planned. I didn’t like the way the area was being planned, and that prompted me to run for Council. I guess it was a feeling that a lot of politicians have that rather than complain about the way things are, maybe try change them. At least, even if you fail, at least you tried and you’re less bitter about it all.
Q: Did the fact that your dad was originally from India, and the fact that I suppose you have a mixed ethnicity, did that attract any unwanted attention with you when you were at school? Were you conscious of it?
A: Not enormously. The fact that my dad was the local GP really helped in that sense, but people would – and still do – say funny things, which I don’t think they mean any harm but things like: “Where are you from originally?’ or “Do you ever go back to India?” and that sort of stuff, but I was born in the Rotunda, I’m a proper Northsider, I don’t go back to India. That kind of stuff, and with the advent of Twitter and social media there’d be a bit of stuff on twitter and on blogs and that kind of stuff, but I don’t really let it bother me.
Q: But since your dad is from India, you know, do you identify with India at all is that part of who you are – your identity?
A: Yeah I think it is on two levels, first of all because I knew there was a bigger world out there, that the world didn’t stop at Ireland or Dublin and that I had family in India and that there were different places in the world, and different religions, sort of things like that. I went there first when I was 14 on a family holiday, not being used to seeing poverty, you know not the kind of poverty over here in Ireland, I didn’t like it at all, but I went again, when I was a medical student I spent about two months their working in public hospitals, trying to get experience and got a lot of experience their. If you're not used to developing countries it takes about a week or two to stop seeing the bad things and start seeing the good things, And when you do see the good things it is a fabulous place, there’s nowhere like it, so it is part of my background, part of my identity but not something that governs it.
Q: What was your time like at school? Did you enjoy school?
A: Yeah it was good, I was in King’s Hospital which is a Church Of Ireland fee paying school in Palmerstown. Very good school, probably more of an all round school not exceptionally academic or sporty or musical, but there was a bit of everything, bit of debating things like that. I was probably a bit of a swot in school to be honest, I was very academically focused and maybe didn’t do other things I should’ve been doing, didn’t really get involved in sport until, really my twenties and so on, yeah it’s a great school I’m still in touch with a lot of people that went there, Kathryn Thomas was actually in my year we were in the same class.
Q: You went to Trinity and became a doctor, was it a difficult decision to leave behind medicine?
A: Not especially because I did kind of faze my way out, I was working as a junior doctor and a Councilor at the same time, they were actually the craziest years. That was really hard to do. And then I was training to become a GP when I was on the Council and then got elected to the Dail,so I kind of was working full-time, then two days a week and then sort of fazed my way out to about one session a month until I became minister and so it was never a sudden break.
I do miss it the odd time now, I remember playing a rugby match two years ago, It was us playing the house of commons – we won by the way – it was a really mucky day and there were a couple of injuries and I had to take the second half off to play doctor, so I still enjoyed dealing with trauma or accidents. so I do miss it but then at the same time there’s no more interesting job then politics, because every day is totally different. I’ve never woken up not wanting to go to work, sometimes medicine can be monotonous because you are seeing the same stuff everyday especially if you specialise.
Q: You’re 36 today, you are by all accounts very eligible but you haven’t settled down yet have you?
A: No, not at all! I suppose I’ve always put the career, the job and politics, all of that first. I have a good social life but I probably didn’t give much time to my personal life, at least until the last couple years now that all my friends are getting married and having kids and I'd say every kind of month now I’m at a wedding or a christening or something like that and I suppose now its only in the last two years that I’ve really given the time to personal life or given thought, I always thought I’d be alone for whatever reason I was kind of happy with that, its only in the last year or two I’ve sort of re-thought that and made time for relationships and other people.
Q: What kind of relationship would you be looking for?
A: Well you know I’m a very private person and I still am. I keep my private life to myself and that’s going to continue. I always think that friends and family are off bounds, I went into politics they didn’t, but I am a gay man it's not a secret, but not something everyone would necessarily know, but it isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before now.
Q: I think that I mean maybe within your close friends, and I suppose some people in the media, but I don’t think most people would know that you are a gay man?
A: I think that a lot of people wonder, and a lot of people don’t, its not something that defines me, I’m not a half Indian politician or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter I’m just part of who I am it doesn’t define me but it is part of my character I suppose.
Q: As you say you’re quite a private person though, so why have you decided to talk about it, why do you feel it’s important to say publicly that you are a gay man?
A: Well in part personal reasons because I’m sort of comfortable to talk about it now, wasn’t always but I have been in the last couple years, it’s not a big deal for me anymore I hope it’s not a big deal for anyone else it shouldn’t be. But then also there are political and policy reasons I am now the minster for health. There are decisions coming up that Are not entirely my own but I will be involved in them. We’ve legislation coming forward this year about surrogacy for example, also a decision has to be whether we lift or relax the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. There was a report on my desk I read about a week ago on that issue and I suppose I want people to know I’ve always tried to be honest with people and I’ve always been a straight talker, I trust people to the extent that I feel I can be honest with them. I just want people to know that whatever decisions are made on any issue I will make them according to what I believe is in the public interest in my own conscious I wont be allowing my own background or my sexual orientation to dictate the decisions I make.
Q: The downside I suppose of being a public person is that you feel you need to talk about your sexual orientation, which is obviously very private. Why do you feel you need to talk about it?
A:I suppose for that reason because of the issues that are coming up, there is a referendum on marriage equality coming up too, and I want to be honest with people, I don’t want anyone to think I’ve a hidden agenda or that I’m not being fully honest with them and I wasn’t going to dwell to much on the referendum I know this is not a political program, but that’s obviously coming up in may and I was thinking of the arguments I might make. That’s what politicians do you rehearse your arguments you write them down, run them by a few people, and all the arguments that I was going to make, were sort of detached I was going to say that’s it was important for the LGBT community that you know gay couples should have they’re relationships recognised equally and all those kind of arguments. That wouldn’t have been entirely honest, because what I really want to say is that id like the referendum to pass because id like to be an equal citizen in my own country that country I happen to be a member of government and at the moment I’m not. And actually it’s not for me about getting married because I’ve no plans to do so whatsoever it is about that and I’m not going to be leading the campaign or anything like that. That’s for other people to do. But anytime I am asked I want to be able to answer a question honestly.
Q: For anyone listening who would respect your courage for speaking out today but would not be for a yes vote in the same sex referendum they it would feel it would undermine family and marriage, what would you say to them?
A: Well look it I totally respect their views, a lot of people I know hold that view and I think its important we respect where their coming from and allow those opinions but in my view whenever the campaign does happen, it shouldn’t be run by politicians it should be a conversation people have around their family and friends. Whether people realize it or not there’s probably a LGBT person in every family and every group of friends and maybe this is the opportunity to have this conversation.
Q: Did you tell your parents and the people close to you, that you were going to do this interview?
A: Yeah I did, they know about me for months or years at this stage but yeah I obviously gave them heads up, I wouldn’t have them being asked on mass in a few hours time or anything like that.
Q: Did they react or say go for it or any reservations about coming out publicly gay?
A: With my sisters and my friends, not at all, nothing there. With my parents it was a little bit different I know when you watch these Hollywood movies, somebody comes out they all start crying and they sort of hug it out. That’s not the way my family works, I don’t think any Irish families work like that but for my mum it was more of an issue of concern. She had some gay friends nursing in England they’d got a hard time and she was concerned id get beaten up on the street or concerned about losing my seat or people using it against me in politics but that’s a good start, it was concern for me and nothing else. That was the first conversation and second conversation she had talked to my sisters and had kind of come around and said the only thing she wanted for me to be happy, she was fine about it. My dad something similar he comes from an Indian background India is a very conservative society still and family and the traditional family is everything so, again, a little bit difficult for him initially, but it didn’t take long. So its been a good experience in that’s sense for me, I know that’s not the case for everyone I do know people who have been rejected by their families and treated badly in the work place and things like that. I guess I’m lucky it’s been okay for me and I’m fortunate as well to be in a country where we can have this conversation in studio, that wouldn’t be the case in Russia for example or other countries.
Q: when did you know you were gay?
A: Looking back now I always knew, but I didn't know in my own mind really until maybe, maybe until a year or two ago. I'm not sure why that is or why that was, but that's just the way it is.
Q: Was it in a way that you didn't want to accept that you were gay? I mean that sounds like I am being critical, but I'm not but, was there a part of you that didn't want to face up to the fact that you were gay?
A: Yeah I guess so, yeah, I think that's probably the truth.
Q: What changed you, what gave you the courage to change?
A: I suppose it was just the fact that I got to a certain place in life where you start to care a little bit less about what other people think. People talk about the best days of their life being in college, or when you're in your early twenties, actually for certainly for me and for a lot of people you can be very insecure at that age and you're much too concerned about what other people think and in reality they're thinking very little about you but you think they are. And then the second thing was just the fact that all my friends are either getting married, or having kids and are settling down and I was starting to wonder 'what does the future hold for me?', 'do I really want to be alone?' and that just had me open up to the idea that life could be different.
Q: And when you said it originally to your parents or the people close to you maybe, your sisters or...who did you tell first?
A: Who did I tell first? Friends first, then my sisters, then my folks.
Q: Were they surprised or did they say?
A: It was a mix actually. You can be surprised by the ones who knew already and surprised about the one’s who didn't cop on already. And for some was just an "ah yeah we kind of figured" and yeah "why did you tell us?" And for others it was a big surprised, but certainly nothing negative or unsupportive.
Q: Was your mum surprised?
A: Not really...she said she kind of suspected already.
Q: When you were at college though, it's well known that you were very friendly with Lucinda Creighton, would she have known?
A: Yeah! Ah yeah well we never, we haven't had that conversation explicitly, but yeah I think so.
Q: Did she know you were going to do this today?
Q: Interestingly, recently talking about the same sex referendum, she was saying that she softened her view and that it was partly because there were friends of hers who she knew and were very fond of that were gay. Would you have been one of the people at this stage she would have might have been referring to?
A: I am not sure really, I guess you'd have to ask her that. We did meet up over Christmas we always do, we don't talk much about politics anymore. We do from time to time, we had a discussion about marriage equality and I don't know if that had any influence on her thinking at all but I know she has other friends obviously who are gay, but I think a lot sometimes see Lucinda as you know a very strong woman, you know a Margaret Thatcher figure or an Eva Peron, actually behind that there is a warm heart and kind person. Whatever her views may be on social issues, she is very compassionate person and people should know that.
Q: Have you had a conversation with the Taoiseach about you being gay?
A: Yeah I did, yeah I rang him and just the last couple of days, and told him I'd be here. I thought he deserved a heads up but it was fine, I kind of barely had to tell him.
Q: What did he say?
A: He said "it was my private life and it's a private issue" and "it was none of his concern, he wouldn't be commenting on it and nothing would be different and nothing would change". He asked me if I'd "ever been to the Panti bar"? Which is the bar he visited in the last couple of weeks, and I actually said "no I haven't" (slight laughter) so he said "there you go Varadkar I'm ahead of you already".
Q: When did you tell him?
A: Just this weekend.
Q: Do you think he would've known beforehand you were gay?
A: Oh yeah he did, he did know. Just from the conversation that I didn't even need to say it, I just kind of started of awkwardly and a little bit embarrassed that this person I needed to talk to this about and so on.
Q: Did you call him?
A: No, I rang him.
Q: You rang him. That must be an awkward conversation to get started?
A: Yeah it's just a little bit embarrassing and I imagine people have to have that conversation in their workplace all the time. But he was really absolutely fine about it, and I know I knew he would be. And there are other members of the Dail too, and I'm by no means the first and he was really sound about it.
Q: The rest of the party, your colleagues, even the cabinet do you think they're aware of your sexuality and your sexual orientation?
A: I don't know
Q: Will you meet them all tomorrow?
A: It won't be tomorrow now, it'll be Tuesday (slight laughter). Cabinet sub committee tomorrow, so I will meet some of them tomorrow. A lot of the people do know, some people don't. Like I say, I am a private person it's not something that I go around talking about and I still am going to stay a very private person. Everyone knows now so see how it goes.
Q: Do you worry that you said earlier that you've never been defined by ethnicity, the fact that your father is Indian. Do you worry that coming out and saying you're gay, that people might look at you differently. Define you as a gay minister or a gay Taoiseach?
A: Well I suppose the only worry that I do have is that people would treat me differently. I know it'll be fine with family and friends, my only kind of worry is that people will see me differently or treat me differently in some way. That's just something I am going to have to figure out over the next little while. I hope they don't because, I am the same person, I am going to wake up tomorrow morning, go to work and do everything that I planned to do. And to me it's not a big deal; I just hope it's not a big deal for anyone else.
Q: Did you think long and hard about just telling people publicly? The people that don't know that you're gay, is it something you thought about for a long time?
A: Yeah something I kind of decided to do in the last six months and it was just a case of trying to find the right time and it's hard to find the right time in politics because you know people always ascribed motivations to anything you do, so...I didn't want to do it at such a time, fair is fair for an example towards the reshuffle people might have thought it was something to do with that I was maneuvering or pitching or something and then the last couple months I was trying to find a time that there was something, a major issue going on in health, and I was afraid people would say that I was just trying to take attention away from that. And they will say that, and that's just the reality of politics, and in health there just is never a time that there is something happening.
Q: But Ireland has changed a lot in recent decades but I mean it was when you were a teenager, that homosexuality was decriminalised. I mean it's not that long ago, it has changed a lot as a society.
A: Yeah it's changed enormously I think, eh as a country in the last, in the last eh 10 or 20 years and again that's where I am pretty fortunate. A lot of people have gone before me, people that were a lot braver than I can ever be, at a time when yeah things were criminal offences, and there was huge stigma in society. I think there probably still is a bit, but Ireland's a much more comfortable place for diversity now than it was in the past and that's a good thing.
Q: You have been spoken about as a possible future Taoiseach; do you think Ireland is ready for an openly gay Taoiseach?
A: Yeah, I think Ireland probably is. But I don't think it'll necessarily be me, it might be someone who isn't even born yet. At the moment, I'm really so busy with health and so focused on trying to turn that ship around that I just don't think about that. I know people don't believe that. People are convinced that in politics, all we're interested in is moving up the greasy pole. That isn't the case. Most of us are very busy focused on our jobs, just trying to find enough hours in the day to deal with what's coming at us. So that's something for someone else in the future.
Q: Are you in a relationship at the moment?
A: No, not at the moment.
Q: So, that's not one of the reasons why you've done this?
Q: Would you like to be?
A: Yeah, I suppose so yeah, but like I say I'll be keeping all that private.
Q: Interestingly, what about your own leadership ambitions? Would you like to be leader, and obviously how are relations with Simon Covney because it's the two of you who are often spoke about as future leaders?
A: Yeah, if you read the papers, Francis is in the mix too. I think both either Francis or Simon would both make really excellent leaders. They've really proven themselves really well in cabinet the last little while. We all know each other really well actually, Francis is a family friend, she's friends with my parents, and her husband is a physiatrist, he's a doctor. When I was a Transition Year student I did part of my work experience in Francis Fitzgerald TD's office at the time, so we go back a long time. Simon I know very well too, we're very like-minded. We don't see other as much as we used to because again we're so busy, but one thing I think FG is fortunate to have is a lot of talent, and not just around the cabinet table but a lot of young TDs coming up as well, any of whom I think could offer the country leadership.
Q: And yet and yet, as you know, the polls indicate that the electorate is really unhappy with the Government you're part of, is it difficult be part of a very unpopular Government?
A: Yeah well as you know, in the last set of polls, we're going in the right direction again. Being in Government isn't difficult, it's actually an enormous privilege, because you get to do things that no one else could possibly do. I'm not here to do the party political, but the fact that we've got 80,000 people back to work, the fact that we're balancing books again, and we're able to cut taxes and put some money back in people's pockets, all that makes it worthwhile. In fact, even in my last job, a lot of the time it doesn't really matter, as Minister things would just happen anyway, but there were a few things, whether it was linking up the Luas, or the Gathering or Sports campus or giving Shannon it's independence, those are the kind of things that really make politics worthwhile, things that maybe wouldn't have happened had someone else was in the hot seat.
Q: People are very sick they say of traditional politics, would you ever consider going into your friend Lucinda's new alliance? Did she ask you by the way?
A: No, I'm still waiting on the invitation! No, I'm very happy in FG, it's been a party that's been very good to me, and enormously accepting of me as well. I've had wonderful opportunities, again, I'm not someone who comes from a traditional background, I'm not somebody who comes from a political background at all, and yet this big old relatively conservative party, was able to find space in it for me, so it's a very good home.
Q: It is a big traditional, but would be regarded as, a conservative party, do you worry that they will treat you differently now that you’ve said you’re gay?
A: Everyone's an individual, so maybe some will; you know FG is a broadly conservative party. We're not trying to turn the social order upside down, and I don't think we should, I think Ireland should try and conserve that. But we’re also a fairly progressive party too, we are the party that brought in divorce, gave people a second chance at marriage, but not quickie divorces. We were I think the first party to propose Civil Partnership. So even though we are a conservative party, who doesn’t want to revolutionise the party, or turn the world upside down, we’re a progressive party and there’s lots of room for lots of different types of people.
Q: You were saying in the very beginning almost, that a lot of people would know. I don’t think a lot of people would know except in your own little circle, and one or two in the media?
A: Maybe, more broadly no, I hope it doesn’t make a difference.
Q: Did you sleep last night?
A: A tiny bit, but not enormously because I have bee thinking about this for a couple of months now and talking to friends and staff, and family about it so you know, it is kind of nice, nice to just have it done.
Q: Interestingly my producer is just saying there is a lot of messages from parents of gay children who are thanking you for coming out this morning actually. Have you thought about that maybe coming out could help some younger people who are worried about coming out, worried about facing up to own eventuality?
A: It's very much a personal thing for people and, if people want to come out they should and if they don't want to well then they shouldn't have to and they shouldn't feel under any pressure to. The only time that I maybe felt a tiny bit of personal responsibility around it and it's a funny story; I was listening to Live Line and I'd usually avoid listening to it, but it must've been the summer time or something because I was at home and in my apartment and I had it on, I had the radio on and it was around the time you know around Panti, and Panti Bliss?
Q: Yeah Rory, Rory O'Neill?
A: Yeah Rory O'Neill and all those issues and the speech that he made, and there was kind of a woman that rang into live line and she said that her son had emigrated. He had gone to England cause he didn't feel that he could succeed as a gay man in Ireland. And I just thought that was so awful, and I thought I am a member of the government and there are plenty of people in senior positions in politics and business and all parts of media or course, and all parts of Irish life who are lesbian or gay or bisexual, and you know I kind of always wanted to ring him up or ring her up and say "some back to Ireland, it's actually a good country."
Q: But is that also a moment where even you would have thought, "I need to come out and tell people who don't know, I am gay". Did you almost feel a responsibility to do that?
A: Well that to be honest that really was the only time. Again I think this is a very personal issue for any individual and I don't think anyone should feel under any pressure or any obligation to share their private life with anyone else. Nobody has to come out as heterosexual, so you know why should it be any different?
Q: Is there any feeling, I mean resentment is probably too strong a word on your part, that you're a public figure but because you're a public figure you felt you needed to come out and talk about your sexual orientation.
A: I wouldn't say "resentment" but I suppose I'd like to get to the place you know where, where the next generation of politicians don't have to do an interview like this that it's just not a big deal, you know blonde hair black hair, whatever, it's not something you should necessarily have to make a big deal of.
Q: There’s an election campaign coming up, when is it going to be?
A: April 2016 is the date though!
Q: You said in the past that you dread elections, how are you feeling about the next election?
A: I represent Dublin West which would be a fairly left wing constituency, it’s not a strong seat for Fine Gael. In a bad election we have none and in a good election we have one. And so, I am always a little worried about not holding on to the seat, as much for the people around me and for the people that campaigned for me and for the members of the party as for myself. All I can do now is work hard as a minister and work has a constituency TD, and allow people to be the judge.
Q: If you did lose your seat, would you ever think of that as a real possibility that you could lose your seat?
A: I do yeah, and a lot of politicians do. In my constituency alone, both Joan Burton and Joe Higgins have lost their seat and done other things and then come back. I have my exit strategy I’ve kind been thing, one would be to do an MBA or go back to college overseas or abroad. I’ve never properly lived abroad; I’d like to do that. And maybe go into a management role or a business role or the other thing I’d really love to do, is something overseas using my medical and political skills. I did a short placement with VSO voluntary placement in Mongolia and there’s a guy now in my department who was working in Sierra Leone with MSF and come to work in the department now. That’s you know doctor’s without south frontier. So I’d love to do a year or two but as things stand I’d definitely love to run for the Dail again, but I have to get selected by the local party in Dublin West first and then elected by the people. And I’d love to serve another term, but even after another term I’ll be 41 and I don’t see myself in politics at 51. I definitely want to do other things.
Q: Would you as well as maybe going abroad as VSO, would you return to Ireland in medicine full time or is politics so much in your blood that you’d find that less interesting, more boring?
A: I think I’d have to do something different. Again you know I have practiced as a doctor for eight years, I am in politics now for 10 years, so whatever I do next will be different but it would, I’d like it to combine what I’ve learned. So sort of experience and politics and public administration and also a medical background too. One of the things I actually found really interesting in sport was I was on the board of the world anti-doping agency and now I attend WHO meetings. You know so I am sort of interested in all that space.
Q: You’re described as someone who is quite honest, you tend to shoot from the hip and that can get you in to trouble sometimes for unguarded remarks. Are you ever worried that could affect your career?
A: Not really. My general thinking on this, is that politicians should trust people with the truth, and one of the reasons people have a low opinion of politics is that often we don’t trust people with the truth, and we now have a very educated electorate, and for better for worse we have quite a cynical electorate as well who see through the rubbish in a way they didn’t in the past, and the false promises and platitudes, so I decided very early on that I would try to be honest and try to trust people with the truth, and that’s definitely worked for me as a policy so far. I’m also a crap liar, so it’s best not to try.
Q: What about you social life? In that documentary, you were saying you were a bit of a loner. Do you spend a lot of time on your own?
A: I now love the opportunity to spend time on my own, it very rarely happens. I’ve good family, very good friends, and a really busy job. What's different now is getting a day to myself. I still enjoy that. I probably was more introverted in the past, but particularly with the job in Tourism where you’re with people in big groups all the time, it’s helped me to become a better person a little bit more outgoing
Q: You didn’t come out till quite late in life, could that have been the reason you were a bit of a loner?
A: I was never a loner! I was never hanging around the house all the time; I’m in politics so I was around people always. That’s not what I meant. I suppose you mature as you get older, and things that might have bothered you in the past, just don’t any more.
Q: Do you have good friends in Cabinet? Do you socialise with colleagues?
A: Yeah, we’re so busy now, that we’d maybe only see each other once a week. And as well the cabinet as changed and half the ministers I know are no longer ministers. But I know people going way back. All the ones on the FG side, I would know very well, and I have some friends on the parliamentary side too.
Q: Do you feel you’ve a weight lifted from your shoulders or not?
A: Yeah, short answer yes, but I hope that next week that people will treat me just the same, that’s the only thing I would ask.