Former Minister for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton sat down with Sam Smyth to talk about the highs and lows of her political career, her future in business, and her views on the outcome of the most recent landmark Irish election.

In this interview, Creighton speaks about:

  • Postponing a career in law for life in politics
  • Meeting Leo Varadkar at the Young Fine Gael Freshers’ Week stall in Trinity
  • How the Fine Gael meltdown in 2002 created an opportunity for her to get more involved in the party.
  • Designing a new electoral system for the leadership of the party
  • Resigning from the party due to her personal views, which made her vote against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013
  • Subsequently setting up her own party which she then left. Plus reflecting on comments of criticism from the present Renua members toward the founding members as “I think that’s, perhaps, the last sting of a dying wasp.”
  • Her views on the possibility of a United States of Europe and why she believes a common European defence force is a good idea
  • How there may have been some comments from Fine Gael members to rejoin the party after Varadkar was made leader
  • If Sinn Féin were to get into power, Creighton believes they get neither the housing or health ministerial portfolios
  • Who she believes will be the next Taoiseach
  • Her new business Vulcan Consulting


Sam Smyth (SS): Hello, I’m Sam Smyth and welcome to my podcast on The Currency. Today I am talking to a woman who lit up Fine Gael for almost a decade. Lucinda Creighton, a lawyer by profession, shone as Minister for European Affairs before stepping aside on a point of principle. She left politics, stayed close to public life and started her own company, Vulcan Consulting. We’ll talk about that. We’ll talk about her past, her future and the recent landmark election.

Lucinda, you’re from Mayo, you studied law in Trinity College, qualified as a barrister, but walked away from the law to become a politician. Why did you make that move?

Lucinda Creighton (LC): Since I can remember, I was always fascinated by politics. I was born in 1980, so I grew up in that decade of the friction and the intrigue around Charlie Haughey and Garret FitzGerald and that sort of fascinating period in politics. Then the arrival of the PDs on the scene, which I always followed with great interest and curiosity.

SS: No one in your family. No uncles, cousins?

LC: Nobody. I’m the daughter of a primary school teacher. My mother was always interested in current affairs and it was something that we discussed at home. But I come from a mixed family in the sense that part of my lineage would be Fianna Fáil, part of it would be Fine Gael. I don’t think I ever really knew how my father voted. I probably had a hint of it. But I just had a great curiosity and interest and a great belief in public service and a great belief that people have a responsibility in a democracy to participate, in whatever way. Whether it’s just voting or whether it’s campaigning or whether it’s putting themselves forward. I love politics and I still do love politics, even though it’s quite fraught in these turbulent times in this country and indeed around the globe.

I was very, in a way, lucky in that that meltdown for Fine Gael in 2002 created massive opportunity for young up-and-coming prospective politicians like myself, like Leo.

Lucinda Creighton

SS: You were doing the law. But the intrigue in politics, the late night meetings, the then smoke-filled rooms and so on, did that make the law seem a bit dull?

LC: Definitely, yes. Honestly, the reason I chose law, I remembered going to an open day in UCD, I ended up going to Trinity, but I remember going to an open day in UCD when I was doing the Leaving Cert and a barrister, I can’t even remember who it was, came to talk to us. And it just sounded like a lot of fun. The Bar in particular. So, I studied law. And obviously, I think for most people who are interested in politics, law is an obvious route. It’s good to have an understanding of the law.

But frankly, I found studying law pretty dull. I didn’t really love it and I spent most of my time in college involved in societies and becoming active in Young Fine Gael. And that’s where I met good friends of mine, including Leo, who is now Taoiseach. I was very active throughout the country in the national role in Young Fine Gael. And then I ended up working for Frances Fitzgerald before political advisers in Leinster House were actually invented. So, before TDs actually had parliamentary assistants.

SS: Unpaid?

LC: Yeah. Trinity was in the Dublin South East constituency at the time. Frances was the local TD. So, I got very involved in the organisation. Councillor Edie Wynn, well she went on to become a councillor, she was the chair of the constituency at the time, and she was a wonderful, wonderful woman. A great role model, somebody who really encouraged me as a young woman to get involved in politics. She used to collect me, when I lived in a flat on Leinster Road, like most country bumpkins in Dublin, and bring me to constituency meetings. So, I got very involved in the organisation and with Frances as TD and I was really involved in the 2002 general election. The fateful general election. And I would have worked very closely with Frances on that campaign. I would have worked with her on her contribution to the Fine Gael manifesto at the time. She was the spokesperson on equality. And I just loved it. I lived and breathed politics and I sort of still do, to be honest.

SS: You were elected to the Youth of the European People’s Party and then when you finished college, were elected to Dublin City Council and then you became the youngest member of the Dáil. Were you the best girl in class?

LC: I don’t think I was ever deemed the best girl in class by my superiors in the party. I was very, in a way, lucky in that that meltdown for Fine Gael in 2002 created massive opportunity for young up-and-coming prospective politicians like myself, like Leo. People like Patrick O’Donovan and Terence Flanagan all stood for the council around that time, and Paschal Donohoe, and that created a new generation of politician for Fine Gael.

SS: Was Paschal at Trinity at that time?

LC: Paschal is a bit older than me, actually. Paschal, I think, was pursuing a career with P&G in the UK and had just moved back.

I got to know Paschal in the aftermath of the 2002 election where I was on the national executive of Fine Gael. I was involved in the sort of rebuilding of the party. I went around to constituencies in Dublin and consulting with members, organising, trying to recruit people for local elections. I ended up recruiting myself. That wasn’t part of the plan at the time. And that’s how I met Paschal.

SS: Is Paschal, the nicest man in senior Fine Gael?

LC: He’s the nicest man alive.

SS: Seriously?

LC: Paschal was a wonderful colleague on Dublin City Council. He was a wonderful colleague in the Fine Gael parliamentary party. He’s one of the most genuine people that you could come across.

SS: Honourable?

LC: Absolutely honourable and I have great time for him.

SS: The other thing, of course, which has been talked about a lot, is you had a very close relationship with Leo when you were at Trinity. Presumably him doing medicine and you doing law and so on.

It was reported back then that you and Leo were dating. Would that be correct?

LC: Well that’s news to me. I don’t remember anybody reporting that.

It’s funny, Leo was on the Fine Gael stand on Freshers’ Week on my first week in Trinity and I wouldn’t say we hit it off immediately. I wasn’t too sure about him. He probably wasn’t too sure about me. I did join. I would say he probably wasn’t the reason I joined at the time, but as the years went on we became very friendly and we served on the committee of Young Fine Gael together. We then both served on the national executive of Young Fine Gael, and we became very good friends.

SS: Oh, I knew you were very good friends. When people say a couple are dating, the implication is that there’s an element of playing doctors and lawyers as opposed to nurses I suppose. But it was that close?

LC: Absolutely. We were political allies, for sure. And we both stood for the council together. Leo had stood in ‘99. I was in first year in college at that stage. I wasn’t really involved in his campaign. I was becoming active in Fine Gael again at that stage. That wasn’t his finest electoral performance. But he came back five years later in 2004 to get the highest vote in the country, I think, if memory serves me. He and I, actually when we both were selected for the council, we ran a joint fundraiser together in the Trinity Boat Club. And we invited members from around Dublin. I remember Austin Currie came to our first fundraiser. I think Nora Owen might have been there as well. We got good support. We were kind of a duo. We shared a lot of political perspectives and vision for the party and all the rest of it. And we were then both elected. We were elected to different councils. He was Fingal, I was Dublin City. So obviously, in terms of our day-to-day work on the council we would have been focused on different things.

SS: When I say close, what I mean is would you be ringing each other two or three times a day saying “Listen, wait until you hear this, so and so was doing this…”? That sort of thing.

LC: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And actually, after the Fine Gael meltdown in 2002, Leo and I had together designed a new electoral system for the leadership of the party, which we had put to an Ardfheis. We successfully managed to get it through the Ardfheis, much to the chagrin of Tom Curran, the secretary general of the party, who’s still there. He’s certainly outlived me in Fine Gael that’s for sure.

SS: And did this involve the greater membership of the party?

LC: Yes. And we campaigned hard to get the parliamentary party to adopt it. It didn’t succeed initially. We had a lot of fun. We got councillors. We caused a lot of trouble, we were students. We got a lot of councillors to co-author letters to The Irish Times demanding that the members have a say in the election of a new leader after Michael Noonan resigned and all this sort of thing. We didn’t quite succeed, but it was a lot of fun. Ultimately, the system of electing the party leader was adopted by the party and the first beneficiary of that was Leo Varadkar, ironically.

Lucinda Creighton spoke about her time in Young Fine Gael where she first met the present Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Bryan Meade.

SS: Enda Kenny was Taoiseach after that of course.

LC: Not immediately.

SS: When were you elected the first time?

LC: 2007. To the Dáil, in 2007.

SS: Were you part of the crowd in 2010? I know Leo was anti the leader. I’m trying to think were you in the gang against the leader?

LC: I was in the sense that I was very clearly supporting Richard Bruton at the time. And, that I think probably wouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody. But I wasn’t a member of the frontbench, so I wasn’t a part of the green aisle seven or whatever they were, which were the frontbenchers who planned to basically depart the front bench and demand a new…

SS: And Leo was.

LC: Yeah. That didn’t work out quite the way they had anticipated though, because Enda got wind of what was happening and then he sacked the front bench.

SS: I think Phil Hogan came in like the Mighty Avenger.

It was often said that back then in college that you held a different view. You would have been more liberal then and that Leo would have been more conservative. Now, I’m thinking on what later became crucial item for you on the 8th Amendment and so on. Would you have been ‘a woman’s right to choose’ type of person in college?

LC: Absolutely. You’d have to scour Trinity College high and low to find anybody of an alternative viewpoints. Yeah, I was. In many respects I still consider myself to be a liberal. But my view definitely obviously changed very fundamentally on the right to life. And actually, Leo probably would’ve played a part in that. They’re the kind of issues that we would have talked about.

SS: Would he have been opposed to your woman’s rights.

LC: Yeah, absolutely.

SS: Would that haven been from a medical perspective or a moral perspective?

LC: Both, yeah. He’s given very thoughtful and interesting speeches throughout his political career in the Dáil and elsewhere on that.

I think it’s not unusual for college students to be involved in liberal crusades. I think when I left college, I certainly spent a lot of time examining those questions and I came to a different conclusion. And I’m certainly now, as a mother of three, I would say that my view is even more firmly. One that supports the absolutely essential right…

SS: That’s a fundamental right for yourself. But does that go to other people?

LC: The question for a legislator is, do you vote essentially for something that you consider to be wrong ethically and every other way? I think it’s essential that we have legislators who vote according to their conscience on issues like this. I’ve obviously come originally from a very different viewpoint and I very much respect the fact that others have a different view to me. But I don’t believe that any legislator should be browbeaten into voting a particular way simply because it’s sort of the trendy way.

SS: There was a brilliant speech, I remember reading, in New York, and I know that you qualified for the Bar in New York. Mario Cuomo, when he was governor of New York, made the best speech I’ve ever read. I don’t know if you ever read it. It was about being a practicing Catholic, which he was. I think his family still is. His son is now the governor of New York. But he said that his thing as a legislator and as a Catholic, it was quoted around the world and so forth, on that. But listen, we can’t talk about that all day.

At that time, you were also very, very strong on Europe. Europe was always a passion of yours.

LC: Absolutely. And again, that’s something that Leo and I would have shared. So, he was the international secretary of Young Fine Gael, as was I afterwards. And both of us were involved in the youth of EPP. So, In my early days in and in Young Fine Gael I would have gotten involved in the dynamics of European youth politics. It was one of the most formative experiences of my political career. Because I worked with colleagues, peers, people my age from the Western Balkans, from all across Central and Eastern Europe. And it was a huge eye opener in terms of the importance of the European project. In terms of the hope it gave to those countries. I campaigned ferociously in favour of the Nice Treaty. I was really involved around the time of the Irish presidency in 2004 in the accession process and the celebrations in Ireland. Which was, I think, a really proud moment for the Irish government actually at the time. I am and have always been passionately pro Europe, while not being uncritical.We benefit already from collective European defence. We benefit from it in Ireland.


“We’ve had lots of scaremongering during European referenda with images of tanks and armies and so on.”

SS: It seems to me that what the final goal of what your thought was a United States of Europe.

LC: Not necessarily. But I am a big believer in federalism. I am a big believer in subsidiarity. And I think that there are certain objectives which can only be addressed at European level. Like climate change, for example. It’s something that no one member state can do on its own.

SS: One that would be controversial is defence, of course. Should there be a common European defence force?

LC: I don’t see it as controversial at all. Of course there should.

SS: Lots of people in this country do.

LC: Yeah. I think we’ve never really had a full debate. I mean, we’ve had lots of scaremongering during European referenda with images of tanks and armies and so on. That’s not what defence is. We benefit already from collective European defence. We benefit from it in Ireland. We are privileged to live in a peaceful island where we are secure and we are not, objectively speaking, at risk of attack from any third country. And that is, in a large part, because of the fact that most of our European neighbours, including our biggest neighbour, are a part of NATO. And because there has been a shared approach to defence and to our common security. And I think that’s right.

SS: Is Nato not a more logical defence position than a United States of Europe with the defence?

LC: I think it’s a bit of both. If you listen to what the President of the United States has said for example, in recent times, he has advocated that the European partners in Nato contribute more and do more. And that’s what’s happening. And we see this is a big debate in France. It’s a big debate in Germany. And I think one of the big questions, post-Brexit, will be how does the United Kingdom continue to participate, not just through Nato, but through cooperation with the European Union, in security and defence, and in internal security, and counterterrorism and all of that. Which is obviously a big internal threat within the European Union. And we’re not immune from any of that. We can slap ourselves on the back and tell ourselves that we’re great.

SS: In the middle of all this, and your European dream and so on, the Protection of Life uring Pregnancy Bill in 2013, you could not support that. And you clearly felt that you had no political home in Fine Gael at that time. That’s a big, big decision to have to make.

Women who have strong views that don’t toe the party line or kowtow to whatever the prevailing wind is get punished. And that’s what happened.

Lucinda Creighton

LC: Yeah, in a way it wasn’t because it was very clear one for me. I think it’s important to remember, because there’s a lot of whitewashing that happens in politics, of history, and other things. But the party’s position going into the 2011 general election was extremely clear. Enda Kenny made explicit commitments, as did several members of the party’s frontbench and several people who went on to be ministers. Including, for example, Simon Harris, who wrote out to pro-life groups, which I never did, seeking support. And nearly offering to do more in terms of going beyond the party pledge. All I did was keep to the position that the party had set out before the election. The party chose to change its position, or the leadership of the party did. And I just felt that that was not tenable. We’d made a clear statement in terms of what the party stood for. I was part of that and I stuck by it. And I was expelled from the parliamentary party for that. My resignation was demanded by Enda Kenny at the time, and that was at the end of the Irish presidency, which I had spent two and a half years planning for and working on. I think and I hope that I discharged my duty properly and professionally during that time.

SS: I think during that time, the man who is now the European Commissioner, was particularly hostile to your position in the party at that time?

LC: I’m sure that’s the case. But, I suppose, in a way that’s history. Often, certainly my experience. women who have strong views that don’t toe the party line or kowtow to whatever the prevailing wind is get punished. And that’s what happened.


“I think I had a sense of obligation in setting up a political party. I felt there was an appetite for something different.”

SS: When you left. The Renua walkabout, which was a strange time in life. You started this political party. You had very limited experience. Founding and administering a party is very different, I think, from being a member of an established party. You did that with somebody, which some find curious. Eddie Hobbs who was a TV money man.

LC: Look, I suppose there are so many hurlers on the ditch. In fairness to Eddie Hobbs, he stepped up and he said he wanted to be part of this. And I said, “Okay, well, good. Let’s see what we can do.”

I think if I were doing it again, I would have a better view, perhaps, of what was required. In a way, I think I had a sense of obligation in setting up a political party. I felt there was an appetite for something different. I still think there is and some of that has been brought out in the general election result this time around. But the moment was wrong probably for a centre-right party.

SS: This party that you founded were seeking votes in the most recent election. They have been bad mouthing you by saying that, “Renua has been struggling to recover from the incompetent manner in which the party was first established.” Ouch! Do you know those people?

LC: Honestly, I don’t. I haven’t been involved in Renua since 2016. I haven’t had any dealings with anybody. I don’t know who those people are. I’ve no idea. I think that’s, perhaps, the last sting of a dying wasp.


“I wouldn’t have been particularly inspired by the direction of the party.”

SS: When Leo Varadkar became Taoiseach in June 2017, he was a breath fresh air. He was in Fine Gael. He certainly was an old friend of yours who would have shared many of your views. Would you have hoped at that stage that there might have been some sort of olive branch coming out of Fine Gael where you might have found some accommodation to come back?

LC: No. Honestly, I’ve moved on. I left politics in 2016. While I was very pleased for Leo to take over the leadership of Fine Gael, and very proud of him in terms of how he conducted the campaign and the fact that he had reached the position of Taoiseach, I had no interest in going back and re-joining the party or running for the Dáil. None whatsoever.

SS: Were there any suggestions made?

LC: There may have been.

SS: There were other people around then, of course, there were other young ministers. There was Eoghan Murphy, Simon Harris, and so on. This cult of youth in Fine Gael, did you get any inspiration from that?

LC: That’s a loaded question. Not so much. No, I wouldn’t have been particularly inspired by the direction of the party.

SS: Were you inspired by the minister for health? Health was such an important part of our most recent election. As was housing. And they were the two glamorous young Fine Gael ministers there. Was that a major failure?

LC: On a personal level, I like both Simon Harris and Eoghan Murphy. They wouldn’t have been my choice for those portfolios. That’s not a personal attack. It’s simply a factual statement.

SS: Who would you have put in instead of them?

LC: I think Simon Coveney certainly didn’t have long enough in housing, for starters. And I would like to see what he might have done. He had a plan for housing and never really had an opportunity to implement it. I think if I were really to try and sort out the health service, the person in the cabinet who would have the competence to try and do it would be Paschal Donohoe. But, whether it would be possible in a minority government scenario I think is questionable.

SS: Is Paschal the next leader of Fine Gael?

LC: I have no idea.

SS: Do you think he’s the best qualified?

LC: I don’t know. Leadership qualities are not necessarily the same as qualities that you want for certain cabinet portfolios.

SS: Or a friend.

LC: I think Leo has qualities that make him a very good leader. I think a lot has gone wrong, obviously, in the last months. But it seems to me that Leo is going to continue on and lead Fine Gael in opposition. And I think if he refocuses the party on its core purpose in life as a centre right party, a party that’s about ensuring that people feel in their pockets the benefits of the economic recovery. Well, then I think he could do very well. But I don’t think that that’s how people feel at the moment.

SS: Was his sexuality, do you think it was a factor in recent times? Do you think the public were conscious of it? Were they very proud of it? Were some people suspicious? How do you think the public reacted to that? It was actually a big surprise to a lot of people at the time when he came out and spoke about his sexuality.

Lucinda Creighton talks with Sam Smyth about her political career, her exit from politics and what she think of Fine Gael’s situation after their defeat in the most recent election. Photo: Bryan Meade.

LC: I think it was enormously courageous of him, particularly in advance of running for the leadership. Because I don’t think he could have known how it would be received by the public or by the party. But I don’t think it actually had any bearing. I think his popularity soared after he took over the leadership of Fine Gael. I don’t think anybody really cared about his sexuality at all. And I don’t think it’s a factor in the election outcome. Genuinely I think Leo’s strength has always been that he was direct. He’s a straight talker. And people felt they could trust him. And I think that’s still his strength. And I think everything else is just it’s sort of irrelevant.


“I believe when parties go into government in this country, they tend to be domesticated fairly quickly.”

SS: Well, Fine Gael just had a disastrous election. Fianna Fáil had a woeful election, not sure if it was quite as bad, but it was bad too. Tell me, who is going to form the next government?

LC: That’s a million dollar question. At the moment there are two probable outcomes. One is that Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin, along with possibly the Greens or Independents, form a coalition. The alternative is that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael come together with the Greens or independents.

Mary Lou McDonald is going to receive more votes than any other potential Taoiseach that’s a fact.

Lucinda Creighton

SS: Oh yeah, there’s all those combinations. But how would you feel about… Which is worse? A Sinn Féin Minister for Finance or a Sinn Féin Minister for Justice? If you had to make that choice.

LC: Whichever party is negotiating with Sinn Féin around a potential government and programme for government, I think neither ministerial portfolio will be on the table for Sinn Féin. I think Fianna Fáil, obviously is the one that’s most likely to be pressurised into coalescing with Sinn Féin. And I do not believe, if it’s possible for Fianna Fáil to coalesce with Sinn Féin, and I’m not sure if they were to, I do not believe that they would agree to either of those portfolios falling into Sinn Féin hands. So, I think Sinn Féin will be looking for housing, possibly health and other public service delivery focused portfolios. But I can’t see them in finance or justice.

I think that Sinn Féin’s bark is probably worse than its bite.

Lucinda Creighton

SS: If either of the parties, and it’s unlikely to be Fine Gael, but if Fianna Fáil went in with Sinn Féin, would it be the first time that the larger party in the coalition came out the way smaller parties traditionally did, i.e. that they were the ones who suffered?

LC: This is the big calculation for Fianna Fáil, and I don’t envy them the challenge that they face because obviously Michael Martin opened the door to coalition with Sinn Féin on Sunday as the votes were being counted. But that was when it looked like Fianna Fáil were going to win forty-something seats. They ended up with 38, one of them as the Ceann Comhairle.

SS: One seat more than Sinn Féin.

LC: Yeah. And that one seat is the Ceann Comhairle who was automatically returned. So, you could say in terms of elected seats in the Dáil, it’s actually level pegging. It’s 37/37. And Sinn Féin obviously have a greater portion of the popular vote. So, it’s an extraordinary position to be in for Fianna Fáil. Obviously, we’ve seen frontbenchers in the last 24 hours coming out and saying that they will not countenance coalition with Sinn Féin. So that’s it. There’s going to be a split or a very clear divergence within the party. And I think what’s going to happen now is that they will just try to let Sinn Féin go off and talk to the smaller parties. There will be a vote for Taoiseach on the 20th of February in the Dáil. Mary Lou McDonald is going to receive more votes than any other potential Taoiseach that’s a fact because she will have the Sinn Féin votes plus certain left-wing votes. And I think, after that, discussions with Fianna Fáil would probably commence. But it’s an invidious position to be in. Fianna Fáil will not be the dominant partner in that potential coalition if they join it. They’d much rather sit it out in opposition, but Fine Gael have beaten them to that perch because Fine Gael certainly won’t be going into coalition with Sinn Féin at the moment.

I believe when parties go into government in this country, they tend to be domesticated fairly quickly.

Lucinda Creigton

SS: That’s politics. Tell me, you work very close with business. How will the business community judge Sinn Féin sitting at the cabinet table?

LC: I think the business community are nervous for sure. They did not expect this outcome. They are windy about Sinn Féin and Sinn Féin’s potential agenda.

SS: Yeah, they’re taxing people…

LC: Yeah, around taxation, taxing people and business, I think. That’s a cause for concern. Having said that, business gets over these things. And I think the crucial test will be, what type of coalition is formed? Will it be a stable coalition? Stability is what business craves. I think we’ve seen Sinn Féin move from the extreme left to the not so extreme left in recent years. Sinn Féin once upon a time wanted huge wealth taxes and wanted to hike up corporate tax. They’ve abandoned most of that stuff.

SS: Foreign affairs, for example, they’ve always admired Venezuela, Cuba and countries that…

LC: So has the President of Ireland, but it hasn’t halted his electoral success.

SS: But he doesn’t have his hands on the money either does he?

LC: True. But look, who would have ever imagined back in the mid-90s that John Bruton would enter a coalition with Democratic Left, the Workers Party effectively? And I think people were extremely nervous at the time and it actually turned out to be a particularly restrained government with balanced budgets and all the rest of it. So, let’s see. I think that Sinn Féin’s bark is probably worse than its bite.

SS: It was very eurosceptic at one stage.

LC: It was. Further evidence that Sinn Féin is doing everything it can to become part of the respectable middle ground. You know, Sinn Féin has been sort of championing the European Union and EU membership for the last three years. Mainly to mark itself out as being different from the DUP and the Conservative Party. But still, I remember meeting Martin McGuinness outside the European Parliament in Brussels a couple years ago where he was doing the rounds and meeting with all sorts of stakeholders and policymakers in Brussels. And they were really keen to engage.

Ideologically, I’m no fan of Sinn Féin for all sorts of reasons. But I’m simply saying that I believe when parties go into government in this country, they tend to be domesticated fairly quickly.

SS: And pragmatic?

LC: And pragmatic.


“Most of our clients would be multinationals, larger companies.”

SS: You find yourself, of course, at the business end of things with your company Vulcan Consulting. Was there a lot of business in your background? I was going to say that I knew your uncle Andy, Andy Creighton, who managed the Royal Blues, a very successful showband. Was there a strong connection between business and your family?

LC: Yes, absolutely. So, all of my family on my Dad’s side would have been business people in different ways and different types of business. My dad and his brothers ran a bakery for many years, a really successful business around the west of Ireland in Mayo, in Claremorris where I’m from. It pre-dated me. My Dad then opened a betting office and that was his business for as long as I can really remember.

SS: Entrepreneur?

LC: Yeah. They were all self-employed business people and I definitely always wanted to be in business. And I guess the opportunity was thrust upon me perhaps sooner than I might have hoped in 2016.

SS: You could have stayed in Claremorris. You could have raised a family there and run a business of some sort. Maybe opened a shop.

LC: Who knows?

I don’t have any interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future. None whatsoever.

Lucinda Creighton

SS: Were you ever attracted to do it? Or were you always looking to get away to Dublin and the bright lights in the big city?

LC: Yeah. Certainly when I was younger I was more interested in city life. That’s for sure. But now, I have my own family and kids and I live in Kildare. We’ve moved a little bit outside the city. But my business is in Dublin. We’ve offices in Brussels and Dublin. So, I’m shuttling between the two all the time. And I’m traveling around Europe and I’m in the US quite a lot as well.

SS: And you’ve got three children.

LC: Yes.

SS: So how does a successful international career interfere, or not, with family life?

LC: It’s a challenge. It’s a massive balancing act. We obviously have very good support at home in terms of childcare. My husband Paul, also a former politician, we met through politics, he works in the business with me. He looks after more of the domestic work. I look after more of the international business.

SS: Is he registered as a lobbyist?

LC: Yes, of course. And the company is.

SS: You have to register as a lobbyist now?

LC: Yeah, you do. Absolutely.

SS: It’s like registering as a drug addict, I suppose.

LC: Yeah. It’s a requirement. Once you’re in the space of public affairs at all, you have to be registered. I don’t really do…

SS: What exactly do you do in Vulcan now?

If I run a small company in Sandymount in Dublin and I come into you Lucinda to do business in Europe. What can you offer a potential business?

LC: Most of our clients would be multinationals, larger companies. So, we would not tend to work with smaller businesses, or it would be rare shall we say, other than through trade associations. So, we would work on policy issues, public policy, regulation, we would do a lot of advisory work and a lot of monitoring of political dynamics. We do a lot of intelligence reporting for clients and we would advise them on government relations strategies as well.

SS: So, you advise them on who you speak to in government and in some departments it may be better speaking to a civil servant in there and others perhaps to the minister. Is that how you do it?

LC: Some of that. And a lot of analysis of regulatory dynamics, policy changes, particularly at European level. The majority of our work would be focused on EU policymaking. We do some work on domestic as well. But a large portion of our business now would be focused on Brussels.

SS: One thing that was fascinating me recently was President Macron and his policy of harmonising taxes across Europe is one that terrifies a lot of people here. You’re in the belly of the beast, so to speak, in Europe. Do you approve of Macron’s policy?

LC: No, I don’t. This has always been a sort of an existential question for Europe. If you cut off the economic advantage of the peripheral countries like Ireland. Those of us that have open economies, that attract FDI, that have competitive taxation. You effectively create a Europe where France and Germany have to subsidise everybody else. And that, of course, is not what Macron has in mind. They want the benefit, but they don’t want the responsibility.

I wouldn’t get carried away by it. This is not the first time. I recall in 2011 coming into government and Enda Kenny was really almost beaten up by President Sarkozy at the time about the Irish corporate tax rate. And this has been a Punch and Judy thing for a long time. But in reality, at EU level, there isn’t a general agreement that there should be harmonisation of taxes. I think what we need to look at now is more of what’s happening at OECD level. So, for example, the Irish, along with others, managed to block a digital tax last year. And a digital tax would have disadvantaged countries like Ireland for sure, and because of the high proportion of companies that are invested here. But it was agreed that this couldn’t really be done successfully at EU level. So, it has to be done at a global level. And that’s what’s happening. And it’s happened before with BEPS. And BEPS was something that was not particularly popular here in Ireland. But when it happened, actually, it has generated a pretty substantial revenue boom for Ireland.

SS: Oh, it has. But, Germany at the minute has a problem. Finding a successor to Angela Merkel is proving much more difficult than they thought originally. President Macron is jumping up and down. He wants to be the boss there. His idea is for a United States of Europe if he can get it.

LC: Yeah, I don’t think he can get it, though. That’s the trouble, I suppose. It suits his narrative domestically to push in this direction. But if you look at the at the makeup and the composition of member states around Europe, the Nordic countries, the Baltic states, Ireland, the Benelux. There is a very different view of how this will work. It’ll be played out in the budget negotiations later this month. The multiannual financial framework, the big EU budget for seven years, where there would be a lot of discord. And, as usual, there will ultimately be a compromise. The compromise won’t be all that France wants, it won’t be all that Denmark wants, but it’ll be something in the middle. And that’s how the EU has succeeded over the years.

SS: I just see something here now. Vulcan is keen to get the medicinal cannabis industry into Ireland. Have you been retained by an Irish, or other international, company to lobby for that?

LC: We advise a company that is in the business of medicinal cannabis.

SS: Do they wear ties to business meetings?

LC: Pardon?

SS: Do they wear a collar and tie to business meetings?

LC: This is something that the government has already said they intend to pursue. It’s really a question of what sort of regulatory framework is put in place. Countries like Canada have done it already and have done it fairly successfully. It’s really a question of how it’ll be done rather than if.

SS: And the United States I think too.

Not quite Frank Sinatra and ‘I’ve done it my way’ and so on, but you have so many close friendships and former colleagues in politics, would you ever be tempted to use your experience from your legal business and political experience? Is that not what the Senate is for? For somebody who has built up a wealth of experience to come in there and give that to the country?

LC: I’m sure there are plenty of potential senators who can, and have, and will, continue to do that. I am really enjoying working in the private sector at the moment.

I love politics and I love watching it and observing it and commenting on it. I get it off my chest once a week in my Business Post column, but I don’t have any interest in running for elected office in the foreseeable future. None whatsoever.

SS: If your Dad gave you a good free bet, who would you say is going to be Taoiseach on, shall we say, October 1, of this year?

LC: Oh, that’s a good question. I think we will probably end up with a rotating Taoiseach or another general election. Which would definitely, in my opinion, see Mary Lou McDonald as Taoiseach. It’s one or the other. I think one way or the other, she will be close to the Taoiseach’s office.

SS: An each-way bet on a three-horse race.

LC: But I think a second election is quite likely.

SS: In the first or the second half of the year?

LC: Probably within six months, yeah.

SS: Okay, we’ll watch out for that one. We’ve run out of time, so I’d really like to thank you Lucinda Creighton for coming in here to talk to me today and a big thank you to all of you who took the trouble to listen to this edition of the podcast with The Currency.

Lucinda Creighton rules out any possibility of returning to politics while speaking with Sam Smyth. Photo: Bryan Meade.

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