'Amy Winehouse appealed to something in me... You could hear the pain in her voice'
what is your favourite... MOVIE?
What is your favourite... MOVIE?
I really enjoyed 'Lincoln'. It was so political – I went to see it with a political guy and his wife and we all thought it was great. Daniel Day Lewis is something else; all six foot four of him! But as for my favourite film of all time, I could pick a number of them, maybe the 'Guns of Navarone' with Gregory Peck, or 'Gone With The Wind'. Or more recently, I thought 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' was a terrific film, the acting in it was very good and it was about Irish history, of course.
My own book! That's a joke. When I was younger, I remember loving the 'Anne Of Green Gables' books. There were marvellous and they made me want to go and live in Prince Edward Island, off the Canadian coast, where they're set. When I was training to be a teacher in college, the governor of Prince Edward Island came to Ireland looking for teachers. I was entranced with the idea so I went along to a job interview. And then I got a letter saying I'd got the job, so I went home to my father and said I am going to Prince Edward Island. And he said, indeed you're not – you're staying right here. And I did.
When I was young I loved the books of Annie MP Smithson, an Irish author who wrote historical romantic novels like 'The Weldons of Tibradden'. I also like Charles Dickens, particularly 'Great Expectations'.
I love poetry as well and my two favourite poets would be Patrick Kavanagh and Emily Dickinson. Kavanagh had the ability to make the ordinary appear extraordinary. He went out into a damp field and saw people sowing potatoes, and he was able to make poetry. He could make it out of anything.
Emily Dickinson was a recluse, who lived all alone in an upstairs bedroom. I was in her museum in Massachusetts, and when she died they found 1,700 poems she'd left behind.
I'm not that musical, and I probably wouldn't willingly go along to an operatic concert. But I do like listening to music on the radio. Somebody who I liked recently is Amy Winehouse – she appealed to something in me. She seemed so lonely, and so mangled up in her mind, and yet she had such a powerful voice. I heard a radio programme where she was singing in Dingle at a concert in the church there and her voice was unreal. You could hear the pain in her voice.
I also love Sinead O'Connor – her voice has a bit of the same quality. There's a lovely song she sings called 'The Foggy Dew'. She sings it so hauntingly. I love Irish music, like the Clancy Brothers. I like their song 'The Parting Glass'.
I love 'Downton Abbey'. Last Christmas we were all in my son's house and his four kids were there, and I wanted to watch the episode and I was shushing them. They wanted me to go into the other room, but I wouldn't. I just told them to be quiet while I watched it. Of course, I love all the political programmes on TV as well, 'Question Time' on BBC One is great.
I really enjoy Michael Portillo and the programmes he makes about railway journeys. I like his style and the history he gives you, and he can talk to anyone he meets. He's someone that was very successful in turning his life around. When he was an MP, he always seemed to be sneering at people, but now he's all gregarious.
John Murray. He doesn't go the usual route. He would often have people who would be quite left of centre or right of centre, but he always has great empathy.
When I'm in Dublin, it has to be Chapter One. I love the service there – I think that service is a noble thing, and they really make the effort. The food is great – it is just a lovely place to be.
I'm in Dublin a lot, so I know it very well. It's a great place to meet people. But apart from that, I'd have to say Barcelona.
I have a photo with my six grandchildren and I love it. Then the wedding photos of Enda and me, and another one of the two of us a year or so before he died. I love those. And I have a very nice one of my nephew Brian Lenihan, with Miriam O'Callaghan and myself on the day that we did the 'Miriam Meets' radio programme.
I like cats and dogs. We used to have a cat called Ginger, but she was killed on the road. Then we got a beautiful Basset hound, with big eyes, called Jason. He was just gorgeous. He was 18 when he died – he got ill, and it took him a year to die, and he got to the point where he'd only eat if I fed him from my hand. Then one beautiful day in April, when he was really unwell, we took him out and laid him on the lawn at the back of the house to enjoy the sun. He stretched and he rolled and he stretched and he loved it, and when we went to take him in that evening, he was dead. He died on his own rug, on his own grass. We never got another dog after that.
In my living room, there's a very nice painting of a scene in Connemara, with the stone walls and the lakes and the blue sky. I have another that I bought for myself after I opened an exhibition in the Oriel Gallery, the painting is of Drumcliff and Ben Bulben; my mother was from Sligo so I have a connection. Then I've a lovely one that I got from Robert Ballagh when I was Minister for Education of a child in a courtyard.