34 October/November 2023 October/November 2023 35
I believe in giving people
opportunity and working
with others in a spirit of co-
operation and collaboration;
being decent and having
good values in that sense
Michael Smith conducted a wide ranging
interview with the Minister
MS: How were you infl uenced by your
childhood?
MMG:
We’re all a refl ection of where we come
from and our childhood experience. I had a
fantastic childhood and come from a very
humble background. And I suppose I was
really determined growing up to take the
opportunities that I had and which my parents
didn’t have by virtue of their own life
experience and their journey. I think itd be a
hunger and a drive to do well but also it gave
me a very good sense of perspective about
whats most important in life and it defi nitely
helped to lead me to a life of public service.
Because I think there’s great meaning and
great value from public service and I get huge
enjoyment from it; and I think that concern can
be traced back to my background.
MS: What do you consider your main
achievements in politics so far?
MMG:
I really think it’s for others to come to a
view about what your achievements are and for
me much of the satisfaction comes from the
quiet, private moments that you have
interacting with constituents in your o ce on
sometimes extremely sensitive and personal
issues and helping them through those issues;
and I know I and my team have changed lives
for the better in many, many instances.
MS: Could you mention an instance of
that?
MMG:
In our role you come across all kinds of
circumstances: serious illness and
bereavement and tragedy and financial
di culty — just instances where the system
has let somebody down. I have had cases
including just recognition of birth certs and
recognition of parentage — things like, that
that have been really life changing for people.
MS: How would you describe your political
philosophy and your vision for Ireland?
MMG: You know it would be it would be
centrist by nature. I believe in giving people
opportunity and working with others in a spirit
of co-operation and collaboration; being
decent and having good values in that sense.
And so my philosophy is a pragmatic one but
it is it is certainly about working towards a
country that is fair and that aff ords opportunity
to people.
MS: And a vision for Ireland specifi cally?
MMG: I think there is very good economic
opportunity in Ireland and I think we have
work to do to bring the quality of our services
up to match where our economy is at and
where public expectations are rightly high,
particularly in housing and that is undoubtedly
the number one domestic priority as far as I’m
concerned.
MS: Who are your political heroes,
nationally and internationally?
MMG:
Brian Lenihan had a huge infl uence on
me. I did work closely with him in those latter
years. I was only a backbench TD, newly
Mild cenris
in freneic nd
frciousimes
elected but came from a fi nancial background
and so Brian would have taken me into to
confi dence. I’m very proud to have a portrait
of him hanging in my o ce in the Department
of Finance because I have a huge amount of
regard and respect for him.
MS: Anyone internationally?
MMG:
No, I’ll leave it at Brian. I’m happy with
the one.
MS: So just in terms of your political
philosophy or your politics would it be
fair to describe you, as has been done, as
socially and economically conservative?
MMG:
I’m not really into labels. Judge me by
my response on any given issue. I don’t think
I’m conservative when it comes to ambition
Conor Lenihan and Michael Smith interviewed
Michael McGrath, Minister for Finance, a few days
before Village went to press. He was attended by
his advisor, Kevin Barrett. There was some delay in
confi rming the interview in the busy run-up to the
budget, but in the end the interview lasted
a full hour. The Minister was charming and good-
humoured to the point of serenity.
THE VILLAGE
INTERVIEW
34 October/November 2023 October/November 2023 35
for Ireland and the need that I see for us to
improve the services we provide. I get very
frustrated at the experience of many families
who have a child with a disability. I just think
we can do far better. I’m not conservative
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