Mollie Malone, a statue.

ConanK: So, Mollie, how’s she cuttin’? I hear you're having a face or eh whatever lift somewhere.
MollieM: Part of the job Jimmy.
ConanK: Jimmy?
MollieM: Hoots mon the noo.
CK: I beg your pardon?
MM: Hoots mon the noo. It’s a Scottish greeting.
CK: Ah...I know...but I didn’t quite expect...and come to think...like I didn’t expect you to have a Scottish accent.
MM: Well you know quite well...where I come from...I was a character in a nineteenth century Scottish ballad...
CK: Oh I do, I do, I do know that,  but I’m an historian of the revisionist school.
MM: Does that mean you’re writing the history of the revisionist school, or that you are a member of the same set? It’s ambiguous, isn’t it?
CK: Ambiguity is my stock in trade. And as you well know, as you well know, tourism is important to the Irish economy. And it’s my job as a writer to perpetuate damn silly myths to amuse same tourists.  So. Ok let’s get down to them.
MM: Them what?
CK: Them breasts.
MM: I read a review of one of your books and the reviewer said you were obsessed with breasts.
CK: So you keep up with the world of literature then?
MM: I try, but it’s not easy. Standing here all day, the butt of photographers. And buggers dressed as leprechauns poncing around.
CK: Have you thought of a Kindle, to pass the time like, you could secrete it there in your barrow.
MM: I like the feel of a real book.
CK: The public like the feel of your breasts.
MM: Don’t talk to me!
CK: They climb up on your plinth and stroke them. Particularly women. Do you know why?
MM: Well at first I thought it was something to do with hormones in the water turning women into lesbians...
CK: That’s an interesting theory.
MM: Don’t knock it. The water is full of hormones, that’s why there’s gay marriages.
CK: I see, I see.
MM: Yes I thought it was that for awhile and then I heard the rumour.
CK: Perhaps more of an urban myth, wouldn’t you say?
MM: Whatever, for some reason people around the world have got the impression that stroking my breasts can save them from breast cancer, it’s ridiculous.
CK: Medicine is not an exact science. And even if it’s true or false, it does give your breasts a nice sheen. Implies a certain youthful tautness to the flesh.
MM: Ah. So you are obsessed with breasts?
CK: Well it’s you that’s hanging them out in front of all and sundry from far and wide, like come on, what’s that all about?
MM: Artistic licence.
CK: But Dublin fish sellers didn’t go round with their tits hanging out, certainly not in the nineteenth century. It was upper class women in the eighteenth century who dressed like that. Of course I forgot...
MM: What?
CK: You never actually did sell fish, cockles and mussels alive alive oh, all that?
MM: Well if you put it like that.
CK: Some people say you were a prostitute.
MM: People will say anything.
CK: Like if you weren't a character in a Scottish ballad you were a Dublin prostitute living in Fishamble Street.
MM: Yes but that was a fish market.
CK: Who're you telling. My ancestors lived in Fishamble Street. In the seventeenth century.
MM: We could be related so.
CK: Stranger things have happened. Tell you what...
MM: Tell me what?
CK: Those baskets, remind me.  I used like in South Africa and Zulu girls used come round the apartment block pretending to be selling hand woven baskets...but they were really prostitutes selling themselves.
MM: Were they pretty?
CK: Just ordinary baskets, much like that one you have there.
MM: I mean the girls, were the girls pretty?
CK: Of course they were pretty. That’s what Zulu girls do, be pretty. Very.
MM: And?
CK: I know what you’re asking, but you needn’t bother. If I told you I’d have to melt you down.

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Anthony Cronin

ConanK: So, Anthony, how does it feel?
AnthonyC: What, how does what feel?
CK: How does it feel to be described as Ireland's foremost surviving man of letters? Like in the Sunday Indo. There you were. I quote. Ireland's foremost surviving man of letters. End quote.
AC: I see what they're trying to say.
CK: Well so do I, but it's a funny way of  saying it, isn't it?
AC: It is the Sunday Independent.
CK: I suppose there is that. But tell me. Why isn't Ireland's foremost surviving man of letters writing in The Irish Times? Like the Sunday Indo is kind of man of letters free territory really. Apart from yourself and Declan Lynch of course.
AC: I used have a column in The Irish Times.
CK: I remember it. Yourself and Myles na gCopaleen.
AC: Well it was rather after his time.
CK: Well old newspaper columnists have kind of all merged in my mind. It was a long time ago. I was very young. A different country. And the wench is dead. Like that.
AC: Indeed. I actually don't think The Irish Times have ever forgiven me for being artistic advisor to Charles Haughey.
CK: Well at least he wasc a Taoiseach who had an artistic advisor. Who's artistic advisor to Enda Kenny?
AC: I'm not sure if...
CK: Exactly. Exactly.
AC: It might be Jimmy Deenihan.
CK: You could be right, that would explain a lot of things.
AC: So what did you want to ask me, I'm a busy man.
CK: I'd like you sneak me into Aosdana, I hear its a great gig.
AC: Sneak you in?
CK: You know, word in ear stuff. Say no more, nudge nudge, wink wink, scratch my back etc.
AC: But we're a bunch of no hopers.
CK: Not feeling that optimistic myself. And I’d be hoping eventually to get a canoeist.
AC: Canoeist?
CK: Yes I’ve heard that certain members of Aosdana get a canoeist. I’ve always liked girls in lycra wet suits.
AC: You know quite well, the word is Cnuas.
CK: Yes of course I do. We’re an Irish speaking family. But I’m a satirist. I’m part of a noble tradition. We go way back, us satirists. There were satirists in Ireland long before there were writers in residence. Us and great elks. Is that great elk still in the dead zoo?
AC: I think it was a great Irish deer.
CK: Must drop in some day. Check it out.
AC: Good idea.
CK: When it’s raining.
AC: A very good idea.
CK: So tell me, about getting in to Aosdana?
AC: You have to wait til someone dies.
CK: Oh. I see. Um. How’re you feeling yourself?
AC:Fine thank you.
CK: Well, how can I put this,  are there any other literature people on the way out, so to speak?
AC: Not that I’m aware.
CK: Could I get in on visual arts panel?
AC: But you’re a writer.
CK: My sister went to DunLaoghaire School of Art. And I studied architecture in UCD.
AC: Have you produced anything of note, architectural?
CK:I designed the wall of Fitzwilliam Tennis Club that runs up along the Appian Way.
AC: I’m not sure if that...
CK: Music then? Could I get in on the music panel? Some music guy is sure to die soon, they're all on drugs. And I have all Johnny Cash’s records. Serious vinyl collector stuff. Got them years ago when I lived in America.
AC: You’d want to be a composer, or performer, or conductor.
CK I was a conductor on the Sussex buses. Southdown Motor Service. One of England’s most famous bus companies.
AC: Again, you know quite well what I mean. You play with words too much.
CK: Tell me about it.

 [ Next interview...next week. Earlier interviews, including with 
Sheila Pratschke, Arts Council, and Kevin O'Sullivan, Editor of The Irish Times, 
scroll on down ]

conankennedy.com                 @conankwrites


Sheila Pratschke, Chair of The Arts Council

ConanK.: Hi Sheila.. I’d like a grant for my mother please.
Sheila P.::What does she do?
CK: Installation art.
SP:I see. What sort figure would you have in mind?
CK: I’m thinking in the region of fifteen and a half thousand euro. Ballpark. But I’ll leave the details up to yourself.
SP:  I see...well...can you elaborate on the whole proposal?
CK: Certainly. I’d like to present my mother’s iconic performance  as innovatively contextualising her role in the community.
SP: Fair enough. Where’s she based?
CK: Glasnevin Cemetery.
SP:Oh, does she work there?”
CK: Not...as such.
SP: Well what...eh...
CK: OK, while she doesn’t actually work there, I would see her role as being intrinsic and indeed essential to the public perception of Glasnevin Cemetery as being part of what we are, as a community, where we come from, and where we are going. It’s all about contextualisation, isn’t it?
SP: Yes, very important, context.
CK: Good, we’re on the same page then.
SP: Indeed. So your mother, eh, well, what exactly...does she do?
CK: Nothing, really, not really. She just sort of lies there.
SP: Lies there?
CK: Yes she’s dead.
SP: Hmmnn. Tell me, how did you get this idea, of applying for a grant for your mother?
CK: Well I was reading the Irish Times...I know, I know...and I saw this article about the Arts Council giving grants to people’s mothers.
SP:People’s mothers?
CK:Well more precisely, to one person’s mother.
SP: Oh?
CK: Yes, I saw you gave a grant to the mother of one of your executives. A grant of fifteen and a half thousand euro. 
SP: Well there are several points here. That particular matter is under review, and I cannot possibly comment on it. Though I will say that, in the wider context...
CK: Context is very important.
SP: In the wider context, I have to point out that our executive’s mother was, in fact, alive.
CK: So you’re discriminating against people who are dead?
SP: It’s not a question of...
CK: Huh. If my mother was black or a lesbian you wouldn’t refuse her a grant. In fact you’d go out of your way. But just because she’s dead. I dunno. It’s not really very satisfactory, is it?
SP: We have to operate within certain parameters.
CK: The Impressionists didn’t.
SP: Your point being?
CK: My point being that when they first started painting in that style they were laughed out of court, nay mocked, indeed reviled by, by who?
SP: Who?
CK: By the arts establishment, that’s who. The hidebound fuddy duddy conservatives who wouldn’t know innovation if it came up and bit them in the arse.
SP: Well there’s no need to...
CK: Oh yes there’s every need. Here am I making a legitimate application for a grant for my mother, my mother who is presenting an iconic performance, an iconic performance  that innovatively contextualises her role in the community. And presenting, let me add, the said performance on a twenty-four seven basis. Without payment. Free gratis and for nothing. Surely it’s the role of the Arts Council to recognise and encourage such dedication?
SP: But everyone is dead.
CK:I’m not dead. I don’t know about you, are you dead?
SP: What I mean to say is, everyone eventually does die, eventually. And while I will admit that individual deaths do contextualise the role of death in the community, it would be impossible for us...we just don’t have the funds...we have to be selective in our decisions as to who to grant aid or not.
CK: What is the basis for such decisions?
SP: Oh, innovation, relevance. Many things.
CK: Context?
SP: Oh certainly.
CK: Like the context of the applicant being the mother of an Arts Council executive?
SP: I cannot possibly comment on matters which are under review.
CK: I quite understand. I’m all for responsible journalism and am quite aware of the limitations of free speech. But tell me this...
SP: Certainly.
CK: Does the context of an applicant being the mother of an Arts Council executive weigh heavier than, say, the context of an applicant being the friend of an Arts Council executive. Or lover? Does a friend rank higher than a lover? What I mean to ask, is there some kind of classification system?
SP: Certainly not, in the terms you are suggesting anyway. We have an independent selection panel.
CK: Who, I read in The Irish Times, are appointed by the sons of the mothers who get the grants?
SP: Have you any more questions, I have an appojntment.
CK: Just one, any jobs going?
SP: The Arts Council has no current vacancies, why do you ask?
CK:I just thought there might be one coming up. Silly me.

 [ Next interview...next week. Earlier interviews, including with 
Kevin O'Sullivan, Editor of The Irish Times, 
scroll on down ]
*Conan Kennedy's online partwork novel CHRISTMAS.EVE is now up and running right here.

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Kevin O'Sullivan, Editor of The Irish Times

Kevin O'Sullivan

ConanK.  So Kev, how’s things going down at The Irish Times?
Kevin O’S:  Not well, I’m afraid, not well at all.
CK:  Well I’m sorry to hear that, what seems to be the problem?
KO’S:  We’ve had an Annus Horribilus. In fact we’ve had several of them.
CK: Anni Horribili?
KO’S: Whatever. D’you know what. In recent times we lost our best people to the grim reaper, including our literary editor . And our top sports writer was brought up on sex charges, and just last year we also lost Seamus Heaney and Maeve Binchy. Not to mention Madiba.
CK: These things happen. But tell me, how do you mean we, as in we lost Seamus Heaney and Maeve Binchy? And Madiba?  Who is this we? Like they didn’t actually work for The Irish Times.
KO’S: They were part of our world view. It’s like...like as if someone had built a block of flats in front of our window. Our view has changed for the worst.
CK: Hey that’s rather neat. You seem to have a flair for words. Do you ever think of taking on that  literary editor role yourself?
KO’S: Are you mad?
CK: Not in the conventional sense.
KO’S: Would you want to spend your days trying to avoid John Banville and Colm Toibin?
CK:I take your point. .
KO'S: Like they may be literary giants, but one man's literary giant is another's  poison dwarf. Annoying  little men. Open your emails every morning and there they are, pitching ideas for puff piece articles about themselves. It’s disheartening.
CK: So you don't want to be in charge of the literary end of things.
KO’S: Certainly not. I gave the job to Fintan O’Toole. He’s been annoying me. Still hankers after my job.
CK: Doesn’t he do other things in there?
KO’S: Well we’ve all got to muck in, our circulation is in free fall.
CK: The print media is in general decline.
KO'S:And that remark helps?
CK: Well I was being sympathetic.
KO'S: I don’t need your sympathy fella.
CK:Sorry. What do you need?
KO'S: I need people who can write.
CK: Well why do you have Roisin Ingle then?
KO'S: Good question. I’m not sure why we have Roisin Ingle at all, to be honest, I just inherited her. Much like the clock.
CK: The clock?
KO'S: The Irish Times clock. It’s a landmark. Every time we move offices we bring it with us.
CK:So every time you move office you bring Roisin Ingle with you too?
KO'S: Well we don’t really mean to. We move now and then to make a fresh start but the journalists get wind of it, Roisin Ingle and Frank O'Donnell and Miriam Lord and all that class of person, they find out where we’ve gone and hey presto, there we are in the nice new offices but with the same old crowd. It’s depressing.
CK: Well that explains them...but what explains Kitty Holland?
KO'S: She’s family.
CK: Oh so you’re related?
KO'S: Not me personally, I mean she’s Irish Times family. Her mother was Mary Holland.
CK: Isn’t that nepotism?
KO'S: Oh people are hired on their own merits, even if they are family.
CK: Wouldn’t that be the problem, hiring your people on their own merits? Like they’re not really much good, so wouldn’t it be better to hire them on someone else’s merits?
KO'S: I don’t quite...
CK:Like shouldn’t you apply the standards of The Guardian or the Dally Telegraph or the New York Times or the Washington Post? In all honesty, aren’t you more like The Lagos Loudspeaker?
KO'S: Is there a paper called The Lagos Loudspeaker?
CK: Could very well be, I’ll ask my next taxidriver.
KO’S: You can afford taxis?
CK: It's all about priorities, I don't heat my house.
KO'S: I see.
CK: Tell me now. You have this thing called a trust, which is more or less in charge of things, in there.
KO'S: We do. And it is.
CK Well I have to say that I took the trouble to look up the trust, and most of the members seemed to be internationlal bankers or EU funded academics and apparachiks. Plus a trade unionist and Tom Arnold. Who is Tom Arnold by the way?
KO’S: You have me there, I’m none too sure. He would’ve come along before my time. I suppose he’s just of these blokes who sound good on a board, or a trust. His name has that image.
CK: Is he anything to do with the park?
KO’S: The park?
CK: There’s a place called Arnold Park. In Sallynoggin. Though the people there describe it as being in Glenageary. Or Killiney. That sort of place. Border land. Which reminds me...how’s your property section doing these days?
KO’S: Madeleine Lyons is doing a fine job.
CK:Who she?
KO’S: Special reports editor.
CK: What’s that got to do with property?
KO’S:Well she’s property editor too. We’ve all got to muck in you know.
CK: Well we’re more or less wrapping up now. Do you want to talk about John Waters?
KO'S: No.
CK: Ok. So tell me, what would you say was the essential problem of your newspaper?
KO'S: Well I’ve thought long and deep about this. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not really to do with the standards of our journalists. Or to do with our politically correct world view and our endless hammering on about the Catholic Church and the benefits of on demand abortion and sex abuse by priests  and the necessity of liberalising immigration and same sex marriage and the essential fine and noble qualities of our traveller community and the evils of Israel and the suffering of Palestinians and how its all America’s fault and......
CK: Sorry for interrupting, but you’re hammering on.
KO'S: Um, yes, maybe. What I mean to say it’s none of that. It’s a question of our readers.
CK: So you’re blaming your readers? Isn’t that rather like Minister Phil Hogan’s habit of blaming the citizens for the fact that’s he’s a big ignorant lummox who couldn’t run a tap?
KO'S: I’m not blaming them in that sense. It’s just a question of who they are.
CK: Who are they?
KO'S: Well, professional people, and middle class people, and intellectual and artistic people drawn from all social classes...
CK: And what’s wrong with them?
KO'S: Well they’re all in rackets. The law is a racket. The medical system is a racket. The creative industries are a racket. The top civil service is a racket. This country is essentially a series of interlocking rackets.
CK: Run by your readers?
KO’S: Yes, I’m afraid so.
CK: So you’re saying that your newspaper, which does its best to address the problems besetting Ireland, is read and supported by the very people causing those problems?
KO'S: Precisely.
CK: I see. Another sherry?
KO'S: A small one.
CK: So what’s going to happen to Irish rugby now that Brian O'Driscoll is gone?
KO'S: I have no idea, I told you, our top sports writer has left, he's up on sex charges.
CK: Bottoms up.
KO’S: Something like that..

                             [ Next interview...next week. Earlier interviews, scroll down ]

conankennedy.com       conan.kennedy(at)gmail.com      follow on Twitter@conankwrites

*Conan Kennedy's online partwork novel CHRISTMAS.EVE is now up and running right here.

*Those interested in the peaceful world of very interesting old photographs and genealogy and stuff could do worse than taking a relaxing few minutes at his CONNECTIONS site..