Gearóid Ó hEára is the Sinn Féin candidate for Foyle in the upcoming Westminster election. An Irish language activist, Gearóid is also chief executive of Derry Irish language organisation Cultúrlann Uí Chanáin and was the chairperson of Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann 2013.
Happiest childhood memory?
I have lovely memories of spending summers at my grandmother’s house at Coshquin, which was then the “country” and I spent hours fishing in burns for small trout. I love gardening. My grandfather kept a garden and grew most of their food so I learned it all from him.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a costing clerk in the Derry Development Commission which preceded the new Derry City Council. We were based in Lanes Building at the bottom of Orchard Street and I sat opposite Stan Cauley and learned a lot from him.
My favourite book is “Four Letters of Love” by Niall Williams. It’s all about the inevitability of fate. ‘Tread Softly On My Dreams’, by Gretta Curran and ‘Strumpet City’ by James Plunkett come close. The first book that I was able to read in Irish was “Mo Bhealach Féin” by Seosamh Mac Grianna from Rann na Feirste and it was like philosophy in Irish.
I like ‘Singing in the Rain’, partly because Gene Kelly’s grandfather Curran, came from Derry and I’d like to think he got his dancing skills from the Irish sean nós dancing. ‘Blazing Saddles’ is a hilarious film, which is why I still love beans!!! , but the real favourite film is somewhere between ‘The life of Brian’, (what did the Romans ever do for us?) and ‘Man About Dog’. Man About Dog is a local film, including a cameo part for Gerry Doherty and when I first saw it some years ago I nearly peed.
Favourite television programme?
I love watching programmes about the natural world. David Attenborough’s ‘Life on Earth’, ‘Countryfile’ and all things to do with nature, wildlife, fishing and gardening. From my childhood, I still can’t resist a western – and I’m always on the side of the Indians.
Favourite method of relaxation?
I love to work in the garden and have just finished turning my beds. I’ve just put my first earlies, (trying out Sharpes Express), in the shed to chit and will get planting soon. The bees are hibernating at the moment but working with bees is very therapeutic. I get great pleasure out of tying my own flies and love to go fly-fishing in the dark out at the Faughan, as per Hugh Falkus. I go to my Taí Chí class on a Saturday morning and chill out with a bit of Chí Quong.
Favourite holiday destination?
I love to go camping in France and have camped all around the country. Just love their way of life and get a chance to practice my French.
Who would you most like to meet?
I’ve always been fond of the Franciscans since meeting Colmán O hUallacháin and after reading about Francis and visiting Assisi I I’d like to have a conversation with Francis of Assisi. Apart from his philosophy I also like his affinity with nature which for me is somewhere between native American Indians and Buddhism.
What was the worst thing to happen to you in your life?
Getting sent to the Brow of the Hill primary when I was eight !
How would you like to be remembered?
As some-one who left things in better shape than he found them.
What is your most treasured possession?
I don’t really value possessions, they’re just things. The valuable things are the people who love and support me, family, friends and colleagues (but my first Hardy reel comes close).
If you could be granted one wish in life, what would you ask for?
To go trout-fishing in Colorado.
If you could write your own epitaph what would it be?
(“What happened to my trout fishing in Colorado idea”) - written in Irish of course.