Featured Readers

Each month we sit down for a chat with a ‘Featured Reader’, to find out about their favourite books of all time, their literary preferences, recommendations, revered authors, & the likes...

This Month

Paul Mc Auliffe at table with book

Paul McAuliffe

Finglas

Lord Mayor - tell us a bit about yourself - where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in a place called Finglas. Both sets of Grandparents settled there in the fifties, in a little development set up by the Church of Ireland to provide affordable housing for Protestant workers coming to Finglas to work in the local factories. The scheme aimed to bolster the local Church of Ireland community and attract good quality workers for the factories: Gateaux, Jeyes Fluid, Butterkrust.

Neither of my Grandparents, on either side, were Church of Ireland but one worked for Gateaux and the other worked for Guinness so that was how they were involved in that Church of Ireland family. They heard about the chance to buy a house and that’s what they did and I suppose without those two houses our whole family wouldn’t be where they are today.

Has where you’re from shaped you?

I think I am very much marked by Finglas, it being a deprived area. At that time we were very aware and Ireland was becoming more confident but in school we were still being told ‘don’t put Finglas on your address, just put Dublin 11.’ I believe that’s part of the reason I went into politics. I was involved in ‘The No Name Club’, a youth club, firstly just looking for somewhere for teenagers to hang out and have something to do but ultimately got involved with the campaign to build a youth centre in the area. I was frustrated with local politicians and decided I should be doing it myself. I was just a kid in a youth project pushing for this and when I became involved in politics I wanted to support this kind of work.

As Lord Mayor of Dublin - is there such a thing as a typical day on the job?

No there isn’t, but I suppose there’s what’s common and that’s events and functions. There could be between eight and fourteen in a day. It’s incredibly busy and you’re also trying to keep an eye on local issues, the people who got you here in the first place. There might be issues in your constituency.

So every morning starts with my clinic in Finglas and I always say that’s the best research you’ll ever do - you could be a researcher for Joe Duffy just by being in a local councillor’s office. I think that’s really important. Politicians get criticised for being parochial but it’s often in the individual case you see the need for policy changes.

Then it’s onto functions and I could be reading my speech on my way in the car to an event. I like when an event pushes back and disrupts your day and your way of thinking.

The recent Lord Mayor’s Awards was an interesting list - would you like to say a little about the reason you chose the people you did?

It’s so hard to pick and they are with you forever. I wanted to have an international as well as a local dimension to them so I did a lot of talking to people to test the waters.

I got a lot of surprising reactions when the list was published. Some of the negativity surrounding Greta Thunberg, for example, really surprised me. We have a long way to go to persuade people about climate change.

What is your earliest memory of reading? Do you have a favourite book from childhood?

I remember a book shelf in my bedroom when I was four or five. My Mam was great with the sticky back plastic, everything was covered with sticky plastic. There was this shelf covered with bits of wood sticking up through the sticky plastic and there were these two series of books that my Dad got somewhere - maybe in a book club or something. One was Sesame Street and the other was The History of the Olympics and to this day I’m fascinated with the history and the magic of the Olympics. In fact, when I went to meet the Mayor of Athens I visited the original site of the first Olympic Games.

Do you still get time to read? What are you reading right now?

It’s really difficult to find the time when you’re reading so many briefs and speeches but that’s not something new. I decided to get fit recently, and to make time to do more things for myself. I was surprised at how much difference it made to my concentration.

I love political biographies. I am fascinated by the Clintons and read both of their biographies - well I listened to them on audiobook, is that reading? When I’m on holiday it tends to be fiction, easy reads and page turners like Jeffery Archer, pure distraction. My next read is The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall by Marie Elise Sarotte.

Do you have a book you use or read again and again?

We Declare: Landmark documents in Ireland’s History by Richard Aldous and Niamh Purcell. It’s a great read. It has documents from the proclamation to the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, Dev’s ‘comely maidens’ speech to the Good Friday agreement. I would go back to that again and again; it’s great to dip in to when you have ten or fifteen minutes to spare.

You have a long history of working with young people. Do you think reading and books still have a place in their lives?

Yes I do. Even if they consume them in a variety of ways. I remember Emily Logan taking a book off a shelf in St Lawrence’s Detention Centre and telling the young people that although they were in detention they could travel anywhere in the world by reading. It was a powerful experience and I think that’s what reading can do for you, it can really expand your horizons.

If you could give one book to a child what would that be and why?

That’s a hard one, I was talking to Ciara,my wife, about it and she said The Gruffalo and I thought maybe The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. But I think The Famous Five. We read Five Go to Smuggler’s Top to Millie and then it became her ambition to read all of them - she’s a great reader. There’s a reason why they have lasted the test of time, when you read one you’re buying into the whole lot of them.

My son loves being read to. He loves David Walliams, and gets me to do the voices. It’s about spending time together as well as the story. My Mam had a play-school years ago and she made a book called Alphabet House in a scrapbook. A few years ago myself and my brother David self published and gave it to her for Christmas. Needless to say, she bawled! Each of the grandchildren got one too and a while ago Millie brought it into school as her favourite book and it’s lovely to see it through a new generations eyes.

We asked you to read The Dublin Marathon: Celebrating 40 Years, by Sean McGoldrick - what are your impressions of it and of the Dublin it portrays?

It tells the story of the oldest marathon in Europe and really captures the changing face of Dublin. At the marathon breakfast here in the Mansion House I met some of the runners who had competed in all 40 marathons. That takes real determination or madness - I’m not sure which! It’s a community in itself.

Ailish Smith who used to work here won the marathon one year so we have a big connection to it. One of the great things about the book is that it was a response to a public call out so people responded with their own personal photographs and stories. A great record of the vision of people and the evolution of an institution out of an annual event, a bit like the Liffey Swim.

Finally, tell us about your book-related legacy as Mayor.

Attending the Dublin Literary Awards, a few weeks into the job I asked if we could give a library card to every child in the city. The City Librarian, Mairead Owens, agreed and now we are working with numerous fourth class students to design a new library card for Dublin City Libraries.

As Mayor, I am given a book a day and I decided I wanted to keep them together as a collection, catalogue them with where they came from and present them to my old school, Beneavin College.

Note: This interview has been condensed and edited for brevity.

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The Books

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