On My Culture Radar: Josepha Madigan

The Minister for Culture on the ‘talented’ Saoirse Ronan and ‘very funny’ Oliver Callan

Favourite current book

I've just finished a book of 16 fascinating short stories called The Far Side of Happiness by Gerry Boland, which he gave me when I met him at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Co Monaghan. The stories are very Irish and have a nice twist to them. The book I'm going to start this evening, because the only time I get to read is in bed, is The Blamed by Emily Hourican. It's about a girl who falls in love in her teenage years, but there's a story behind the story. So it looks like it will be really compelling.


I regularly go to Michael’s and The Merrion Tree in Mount Merrion, but I also love Riba in Stillorgan. The food is Michelin star to me but it’s bistro-style so you can wear your jeans if you like, or dress up for a nice evening. The have lots of specials that they put up on the blackboard every day, so there’s always something new. It’s a treasure in south Co Dublin. I love the lamb shank, and my husband loves the chicken wings.


We've a great sense of humour in Ireland so we have a full complement of comedians. But as a politician sometimes we have to be self-effacing about what we do, and in that vein, Oliver Callan gets the award for taking politicians to task. He's a great mimic, and although he's irreverent and acerbic sometimes, he's very witty, you can't help but laugh. I was at the Law Society's spring gala and he mimicked about 10 or 11 politicians in the space of 30 minutes. Not every politician likes him, but he is very funny.


The play that sticks out in my mind is Sive, written by John B Keane and directed by Garry Hynes, which was on at the Gaiety at the beginning of the year. Tommy Tiernan starred in it and Gráinne Good as Sive was extraordinary. It's about a young, impoverished woman who's being forced to marry an older man. There's a great black sense of humour in it but it's quite sobering, too, because it's about them trying to get out of dire circumstances. It was the first time I'd seen Tommy as an actor rather than a comedian, and he definitely stole the show, not to take away from the other incredible actors.



I lived in Vienna for a year in my early 20s when I was studying German at Trinity. Stephansplatz has a great cathedral and the beautiful Heuriger, which are taverns typical of Austria. As a student you could buy ticket for the Opera House for £10 and you’d be able to stand and watch these incredible productions. I lived in the 19th district, which was a little like Blackrock – quite suburban. It was unusual because most people there owned their homes, although in Austria most people rent. That opened my eyes, because in Ireland we tend to want to own.


We're very lucky, we have a lot of talent here. I've been a fan of Saoirse Ronan from the early days, in Atonement and her performance in Lady Bird was stunning. She's a role model for young women, especially after winning a Golden Globe and earning three Academy Award nominations.


I met Mary Robinson at the British embassy during Prince Harry and Princess Meghan's visit, and she was telling me about her Mothers of Invention podcast with the comedian Maeve Higgins. It discusses how climate change affects women, and they talk about it in a really relatable way. And I love Desert Island Discs – you really get an insight as to who the subject is because it's an extended interview.


I don't get a chance to go to the cinema much as most of the time I'm working, but I saw Mamma Mia 2 and I want to see the Pope Francis documentary, as it will give an insight into who he is. I loved The Killing of a Sacred Deer, even though it terrified me. The acting was so superb. Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan were fantastic. It's about a normal family of two married doctors, Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, who have a perfect-looking life. He befriends Barry and it's about how he infiltrates their lives. It's kind of Hitchcocky and unsettling to watch, but compelling viewing.