Departing TDs on public life, role models and Hollywood

With a slew of TDs having declared that they will not seek re-election, Mícheál Lehane asked each of them for their reflections on their time in office, and – should Hollywood come knocking – who they would like to portray them in a feature film of their political life.

Of the 14 TDs who are departing the political scene, all bar two responded to our questions, and offered advice to those contemplating running in the next general election.

They also spoke of their hopes for the political system as they get ready to bid it adieu.

Read on to find out how the political system must become more like the ‘Great British Bake Off’ and less like ‘House of Cards,’ and why those solely focused on personal advancement should not choose a political career.

Asked about the most apt soundtrack to their time in the Dáil, everyone from Oasis to Sinatra gets a mention, and TDs reveal who they most respect outside of their own political party.

If there was a feature film of your time in the Dáil, what actor would you want to play you, and why?

Brendan Griffin fancies himself as a gladiator

Brendan Griffin, Fine Gael: Russel Crowe, for the gladiatorial scenes with the Healy-Raes, or Michael Fassbender for the Kerry accent!

Brendan Howlin, Labour: Dustin Hoffman. Right height and able to play the variety of roles I’ve occupied myself.

Bríd Smith, People Before Profit: I wouldn’t expect any actor to try play me and I wouldn’t expect any self-respecting human to sit through a feature film of the Dáil.

‘You talkin’ to me?’ Robert De Niro’s next role, if Deputy Flanagan gets his way

Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael: Robert de Niro whose first film was when I did the Junior Cert. He has made landmark films consistently over the course of my career. He’s bowing out with me too!

Denis Naughten, Independent: If there were a film about my time in the Dáil, I’d love to be played by Robert Carlyle who I think did an excellent job as Prime Minister in the TV series Cobra. He made decisions he thought were right for people regardless of personal and political cost.

Fergus O’Dowd, Fine Gael: Danny DeVito, he has the acting skills necessary to portray my complex personality!!!

Joe McHugh, Fine Gael: Liam Neeson as he would capture the Ulster accent.

John Paul Phelan, Fine Gael: Greg Davies.

‘A challenge for the make-up department’. Michael Creed gives Cillian Murphy the nod

Marc MacSharry, Independent: Liam Cunningham. Why? He’s a no-nonsense kind of bloke.

Michael Creed, Fine Gael: Cillian Murphy. It would be a challenge for the makeup department, but I might get a sympathetic portrayal from a Cork man.

Richard Bruton, Fine Gael: It has to be Spencer Tracy from the Golden Age of cinema, and the great resilience of The Old Man and The Sea.

Seán Sherlock, Labour: Alan Cumming. He’d be mad enough to do it. He’d bring the serious, surreal and comedy together nicely.

What is your greatest hope for politics as you prepare to exit the Dáil stage?

Brendan Griffin: That misinformation is properly tackled and that the abuse of elected representatives is taken seriously.

After decades in the fray, Brendan Howlin retains the idealism that motivated him to enter poltics

Brendan Howlin: To keep attracting idealistic people to public service and find ways of distilling truth from falsehood in public discourse.

Bríd Smith: My greatest hope for politics is for Revolution to sort out the mess that our rulers have made of this world.

Charlie Flanagan: That the current wave of populism is repelled, and the centre holds.

Denis Naughten: That politics becomes less about theatrical one-upmanship and more about collaborative problem-solving. Think less ‘House of Cards’ and more ‘The Great British Bake Off.’ Competitive, yes, but ultimately working towards something everyone can enjoy.

Several deputies cited populism and Donald Trump as challenges to be overcome

Fergus O’Dowd: That moderation, decency and respect wins out in this increasingly Trumpian world.

Joe McHugh: That politicians will continue to be straight with people when hard decisions are needed.

John Paul Phelan: That the current era of hectoring and badgering those who don’t hold majority views will pass.

Marc MacSharry: First, that elected members of Government assume the executive responsibilities they are elected to hold rather than commentate on the issues and subcontract decisions to the corporate consultancy complex. Secondly, that our system embrace true democracy and reflect the views and contribution of the sum of the parts within the Dáil and Seanad, rather than the current presidential style where it all revolves around one view, and is dedicated only to the amplification of that one view, and the promotion and longevity of the one or few persons at the top of parties, and groupings, who hold that view. Thirdly, listen to dissenting voices!

Taking aim at the ‘corporate consultancy complex’ – Mark MacSharry

Michael Creed: Stick to your values and beliefs or else buy an Elvis outfit and a chainsaw.

Richard Bruton: That it can harness Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change for the good of humanity, no easy tasks!

Seán Sherlock: A return to simple civility in discourse. Respect for others’ point of view. Less feigning of anger. More tolerance. Less partisanship.

If there was a song or a piece of music that would be an apt soundtrack to your time in politics, what would it be?

Brendan Griffin: Bohemian Rhapsody…the rough and the smooth, the highs and the lows!!

Brendan Howlin: Days Like This by Van Morrison. For the numerous good days when you don’t meet a chancer and avoid the Judas kiss.

Bríd Smith: One Way or Another by Blondie.

Charlie Flanagan: Take it to the Limits by The Eagles.

JFK with Frank Sinatra in Los Angeles, 1960.
Denis Naughten chose Sinatra’s ‘High Hopes’

Denis Naughten: It would be ‘High Hopes’ by Frank Sinatra. I’ve always believed in tackling big challenges with perseverance and a positive outlook. It’s a reminder that with high hopes and hard work, even the most daunting obstacles can be overcome.

Fergus O’Dowd: Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell!

Joe McHugh: Only Human by Ryan Mack.

John Paul Phelan: Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve.

Marc MacSharry: Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

Michael Creed: Given all political careers supposedly end in failure; Don’t look back in Anger (Oasis) or I Walk the Line (Johnny Cash).

Enda Kenny survived a heave Richard Bruton (r) supported, but the gambler still landed a Cabinet post (Pic: Rolling News)

Richard Bruton: The Gambler by Kenny Rogers: “You got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away know when to run.”

Seán Sherlock: The Killers, All These Things That I’ve Done. (It was our team’s theme song for the 2011 election.)

Which current politician outside of your own party do you most respect?

Brendan Griffin: An Tánaiste Micheál Martin. Did a great job as Taoiseach during a difficult time for the country and is a solid Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Brendan Howlin: Paschal Donohoe.

Bríd Smith: Michael D Higgins – he is honest, courageous and principled.

Charlie Flanagan: Brendan Howlin for his resilience, versatility and ever good cheer.

Fergus O’Dowd: David Norris because he is brilliant activist and campaigner and brought about fundamental change in our society.

‘Honest, courageous and principled’ – President Michael D Higgins gets Bríd Smith’s vote

Denis Naughten: I have a lot of respect for Eamon Ó Cuiv. He has shown integrity and a commitment to the public good that transcends party lines. As a minister he was always someone who would take up a good idea and implement it, even when it came from the opposition. It’s like finding a four-leaf clover in a field of politics – rare and worth appreciating!

Joe McHugh: Stephen Mathews (Green Party). He is sincere.

John Paul Phelan: Michael Fitzmaurice. He’s never afraid to say the right thing, even if it’s unpopular.

Marc MacSharry: Alan Kelly TD, Labour Party, because he is straight talking, honest and direct.

Michael Creed: Any of the roaring Independents for their searing analysis and thoughtful policy responses.

Richard Bruton: Brian Leddin (Green Party) because he plays cards from the top of the pack. I have worked closely with him in the negotiations to form the government and on the Climate Committee. He is committed but also able to compromise.

Seán Sherlock: Kieran O’Donnell (Fine Gael) is a very underrated politician. A keen sense of social justice and always very close to where the mood of the country is.

‘If you can dream…’ Would-be TD’s could do worse than consult Rudyard Kipling, Michael Creed suggests

What is your advice for anyone considering running in the next general election?

Brendan Griffin: Always do your best for people seeking your help. Do your own thing and don’t be distracted by your competitors. Keep thinking for yourself. Ask the questions that need to be asked, and no matter what, don’t take yourself too seriously- we’re all just passing through!

Brendan Howlin: Listen to people, especially those whose views you disagree with and then be vigorous in advancing your own considered beliefs.

Bríd Smith: Be open and honest and don’t play their games.

Charlie Flanagan: The essence of politics is real people in real time. Tiktok alone won’t cut the mustard.

Denis Naughten: My advice is simple: always listen more than you speak, never lose your sense of humour, and remember that in the grand theatre of politics, sincerity is the best performance of all.

Fergus O’Dowd: Give me a call and I’ll tell you about the pitfalls!

‘It’s a privilege’ – Seán Sherlock

Joe McHugh: You have to want it, and if you do, you will enjoy it.

John Paul Phelan: The more haste, the less speed.

Marc MacSharry: If the blind pursuit of personal position and advancement at any cost is your ambition do us all a favour and don’t run. The bus is already full of those!

Michael Creed: Read “If” by Rudyard Kipling. If it resonates then go for it!

Richard Bruton: Be yourself and ignore the begrudgers and keyboard warriors. Politics is still one of the most important jobs to be done and we need good women and men to take it on.

Seán Sherlock: Give it a go. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t underestimate yourself. Enjoy the experience. It’s a privilege.

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