From his pad in Mallorca, wearing a colourful shirt and with his slicked-back mane of hair falling over his shoulders, Johnny Ronan looks more like the veteran lead guitarist in a heavy metal band than Ireland's most creative, controversial and contrary property developer.
Just like a rock star, he goes at full tilt, belting out a chorus that has become familiar to anyone prepared to listen to him: why do the Dublin planners hate me so much?
"It's mad," he says. "Dublin City Council is stopping the provision of housing. It's their little power play."
Of course, it's not just any housing, it's Ronan's spectacular Waterfront South Central, a proposed 1,000-apartment development near The Point in Dublin's docklands, which rises to 45 storeys and would dominate the entrance to the city for the foreseeable future.
"You have to increase supply - it's that simple," he adds about the housing crisis.
"How do you stop a fire? You throw water on it. Even during the Economic War, the 30s, 40s, 50s, the government and the local authorities built houses. A house is a house. Even when we had f*** all, at least they were building houses."
Cork, unlike Dublin, is embracing a 34-storey development on the docks in the heart of the city, but Dublin, Ronan says, stubbornly throws every obstacle - including highly-paid barristers in the Four Courts - in the path of his towering ambitions.
"I want to build high-rise in the docklands," he continues. "It won't solve the housing crisis, but it would contribute to the solution. I've built headquarters for Amazon, Google, Facebook, Salesforce - they're employing high-earners and I'm targeting that end of the market. Housing at the lower end has to be subsidised. The Government has access to cheap money. There must be a way for them to build social or affordable houses."
What he's trying to do will free up other areas of the market, he believes.
"I think it is a disgrace that the Corpo is doing this to young people. The key thing they are doing is preventing people getting housing. They should be ashamed of themselves," Ronan says.
He may own a Wicklow estate, lunch in Patrick Guilbaud's and live a gilded life, but his Tipperary roots and his frenetic energy keep him focused on what's happening on the ground. He has tapped into the discontent over young people's exclusion from the housing market and its political consequences.
"Every single family I know is talking about how they can get their children a house," he says.
"I believe there will be uproar unless we sort out this generation with houses. The next election could deliver a Sinn Féin government, it's coming down the tracks, and some of them are smart f***ers. They're not my cup of tea, but they couldn't do any worse than what we have now."
For a man who went down in flames with debts of €2.7bn, there's no shortage of irony that Ronan is now doing business with his much-criticised nemesis, Brendan McDonagh, chief executive of the State's 'bad bank', Nama.
With his American partners, Oaktree Capital, he plans to build 3,800 homes on the Irish Glass Bottle Site in Ringsend, owned by Nama. With various partners, he's developing the Facebook HQ on the old AIB site in Ballsbridge, the Salesforce tower in the docks, 400 apartments behind it in Spencer Dock, the 23-storey Tara Street Tower and the Cherrywood town centre in south Dublin.
"I actually paid it all back," he says, a little defensively, when I raise the incredulity of many taxpayers at his Lazarus-like resurrection from a busted flush to this avalanche of commercial and residential developments that has put him centre stage in the Irish property market again.
"It's not how much you owe, but what it's like when we were faced with the total collapse of the financial system. We were all part of it, but with the collapse of Lehmans [the US merchant bank deeply involved in sub-prime mortgages] it became a global problem.
"Worrying about what I borrowed was a waste of f***ing time. Of course bankers over-lent on property, all the big banks did, but we were f***ed no matter what.
"People don't seem to have noticed that the banking rules that applied to us are gone because of Covid. All that austerity wasn't necessary - we got stuffed, and so did the taxpayer. They tried to destroy the property industry - and they wonder why we haven't got any houses."
Ronan has gone on the offensive lately, largely triggered by an article in the Irish Times by respected journalist and author Frank McDonald, who attacked the height and scale of his 45-storey Waterfront development. He has also put his hand in his pocket to pay for a string of full-page newspaper ads in an effort to highlight what he sees as an outdated approach by council planners to high-rise buildings in the capital.
"Nobody wants to hear what Johnny Ronan has to say," he says, "but the IDA and An Bord Pleanála carry a lot of weight. I just happen to be saying this as well. We're not making it up - there's extraordinary frustration there."
He's referring to last Wednesday's ruling by An Bord Pleanála that Dublin City Council needs to reconsider the "height and scale" of docklands development, which Ronan in the past has referred to as "stump city".
The Government eased the height and density restrictions to try to get more housing units built, but "Mr Kayak", as he calls Dublin City Council manager Owen Keegan, and the council are resisting, claiming the rules don't apply in the docklands.
"Everybody wants to protect Georgian Dublin, but there's no conflict between protecting the Georgian squares and building higher in the docklands and down at the mouth of the Liffey. It's not one or the other, you can have both. Saying otherwise is bullshit," he says.
"We don't build crap. High buildings are expensive and we don't need Manhattan by the Liffey, but the beautiful ones are a signpost to the city and we should have a few.
"Higher density is much more important and, of course, you need transport. People spend two hours a day commuting - that must be completely head- wrecking and a waste of time."
Ronan says he doesn't want or need publicity; he has already had enough to last a lifetime. Before I know where I am, our Zoom call has his various advisers clustered around the screen.
"Every great city is taking advantage of its docklands, where you can have optimum development to regenerate the city without doing harm to the central core," says London-based city design expert Richard Coleman. "It's dawning on the people of Ireland as they see what the government guidelines have been since 2018. Other Irish cities are embracing the guidelines."
Paul O'Brien, chairman of architectural practice Henry J Lyons, adds: "What makes the modern city unique is its skyline, and Dublin doesn't have a skyline. There's a demand for taller buildings worldwide."
Citing a Vox EU Research paper, he continues: "It's not surprising that, given years of central and local government failures, Ireland last week won the ignominious title - number one worldwide - of having the lowest height of buildings per head of population."
Ronan interjects to say: "We tried to meet the minister on it. We were told he won't meet us because he can't discuss any site that's the subject of a planning application. We don't want to talk about specific sites, we wanted to talk about the height restrictions in the docklands and the damage it's doing to Ireland's reputation regarding foreign direct investment, which has been acknowledged by the IDA."
Ronan's planning consultant, Tom Phillips, refers to last week's decision to grant permission to build a 34-storey tower in Cork.
"We're being vilified for trying to do the same thing in Dublin," he says.
Dublin City Council has told An Bord Pleanála it doesn't have the authority to grant permission for Ronan's latest development because it contravenes the docklands planning scheme.
However, An Bord Pleanála ruled last week that the "fundamental intention" of government policy is not to introduce height for height's sake, "but to introduce and consider increased heights and densities as a means of accommodating greater residential populations", in particular where there's public transport, employment and other services nearby.
Ronan regards this as a major victory in his seemingly endless legal tussles with the council, because his docklands projects comply with these criteria - but he also knows it isn't the end of the saga.
"You couldn't make it up," he says. "One arm of the State fighting with the other."
A mere mortal might be tempted to throw in the towel in the face of such sustained opposition. The Castleknock College-educated Ronan, who began his career as an accountant with Coopers & Lybrand and will be 68 in December, certainly has accumulated enough personal wealth to do so. While he has a chief executive, Rory Williams, and has delegated power to his daughter Jodie and his sons John and James, he remains master of ceremonies at the Ronan Group.
"I'll never retire, you'd go off your head," he says vehemently. "I love what I do. We're blessed to be in a creative industry. We actually build things. You see what you've created, whether it's a big tower or a stump."
His other love is cycling with his pals, who include Sean Kelly. He was a keen cyclist long before it became the national sport of the Covid era. "I fell off the bike six weeks back and hit my head," he says. "Luckily, I was wearing a helmet. I'm just getting back into it now."
Like or loathe him - and he tends to provoke both emotions - Ronan has a vision for Dublin. "Twenty-five years ago Kevin Roche [the renowned Irish architect] told Dublin City Council they should be giving planning permission for higher density in parts of the city that can take it. He said that if we don't, we'll have congestion from Arklow to Athlone.
"They wouldn't listen to him then and they're not listening now."