Thursday 22 February 2018

How tireless Joan Burton sleeps with an iPad under her pillow

Miriam Donohue talks with the deceptively young-looking Social Protection Minister Joan Burton

Joan Burton has a confession to make. The busy Minister for Social Protection admits she sleeps with her iPad. It is usually the last thing she looks at before lights out and the first thing she reaches for (with apologies to her husband, Pat Carroll) at the crack of dawn. "I wake up with the farming programme on the BBC around 5.45am. Then I start reading briefs on the iPad," she says. What, in bed? "Yes, sometimes."

The Labour minister can relate to another early riser, cabinet colleague Alan Shatter who, according to a recent report, has been asked by Attorney General Maire Phelan to stop contacting her before 7am. "I generally would not ring people at that hour, but I might text or email them after 6am," says Burton.

The iPad-in-the-bed image will make great fodder for satirists who love to lampoon the minister on radio and TV. She has an image of being shrill, and a reputation as an ambitious, independent renegade focused on reaching the top. But she comes across as warm, open and good-natured, passionate about her brief and with a strong sense of humour. Her staff are astounded at her limitless energy and resilience and find it hard to keep up with her.

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