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Lemass interviews reveal he held racist views

A MYSTERY series of interviews conducted with the former Taoiseach, the late Sean Lemass, reveal a man who was anti-feminist and held views which were sometimes racist and bigoted.

According to a former Dublin hotelier, Dermot Ryan, who is now based in London and regarded Lemass as a "hero", the former Taoiseach was often forthright and certainly not 'politically correct' in his views.

Mr Ryan has 48 hours of unpublished taped interviews with the man credited with making modern Ireland.

Lemass was a director of Ryan's company, Ryan Hotels, which is now part of the Gresham Hotel Group.

Through an organisation called 'Save', which he has established in Britain, Mr Ryan is now actively searching for a publisher for the tapes.

He said Lemass admitted that he was a boring speaker and said that as a young IRA volunteer he had adopted an urgent but 'no-nonsense' persona which stayed with him for the rest of his life.

"Even when interviewing Lemass, I said: 'You admit that (a minister) was a crook -- why did you keep him in the cabinet?' and he answered, 'How would you know what the crooks in the country were doing if you didn't have a crook in the cabinet?'"

Lemass told Mr Ryan that as a 15-year-old he had been awake for seven days during the Rising and that he faced capture and possible execution -- which influenced him for the rest of his life.

He had also seen his brother Noel kidnapped and shot dead in the Dublin mountains during the Civil War by men he later met every day in Dail Eireann.

According to Mr Ryan he adopted a "formal bureaucratic" persona and "managed to make the huge excitement of his life seem mundane".

The now digitised interviews, which took place while Lemass was a member of the board of Ryan's company, were made more than 35 years ago and run to 900 pages.

The existence of the taped interviews has been known among historians and academics for many years.

Bryce Evans, the author of Lemass: Democratic Dictator, the most recent biography of the former Taoiseach, said he was aware of Mr Ryan's tapes but hadn't been able to arrange to hear them before publishing his book.

Another academic is said to have discussed getting access to them with Mr Ryan a number of years ago when he proposed to set up a 'Lemass Foundation'. However, nothing came of it.

Mr Ryan said that there had been an "unspoken" agreement during the interviews that he would not ask questions that were deemed inappropriate. But as nobody else has heard the tapes so far, it is not known exactly what they contain.

Sunday Independent