‘I don’t eat breakfast. I eat within an eight-hour window so my first meal is at 1pm’
In Conversation: Sonya Lennon and Lorraine Clifford-Lee
What is your average breakfast?
Lorraine: I grab a banana and eat it in the car. But at the weekends I have pancakes, it’s a thing me and my daughter do together.
Sonya: Controversially, I don’t eat breakfast anymore. I gave it up as part of a complete rejig of my diet. So I eat within an eight-hour window now. My first meal is at one.
Do you play a musical instrument?
Lorraine: I did, I don’t anymore. I studied music for my Leaving Cert and I played a treble recorder. The day I finished my Leaving Cert music exam my whole family turned around and said, ‘can you put that away now?’ I said, ‘ok’. But I did really well in music! I can read music, but I don’t play anything anymore.
Sonya: About a year ago I took up the ukulele with my sister. We’ve had fun. We’ve done two or three courses now, so I can play 14 songs really badly.
What was the last gift you bought someone?
Sonya: I brought my husband to Glover’s Alley for a birthday dinner. The food was amazing.
Lorraine: I got my husband a FitBit for Father’s Day.
When did you last cry?
Lorraine: A few days ago, in frustration, tiredness. My daughter had a big knot in her hair. It was just one of those days.
Sonya: I can’t remember.
What item do you always carry with you that you think other people probably don’t?
Sonya: I know a lot of women carry lipstick, but at worst I’ve counted 17 in the bottom of my bag. I’m a demon for lipstick.
Lorraine: Being a politician, I always have canvass cards in my bag. I do eight clinics every Thursday, a loop of the constituency, so I have cards with clinic times and locations.
What has a parent taught you?
To be tenacious, to never give up. One of my favourite phrases is a Winston Churchill quote: ‘when you’re going through hell, keep going.’
Sonya: My mother was a crusader for economic independence for women, so it’s not great shock that it’s such a vital issue to me. She worked all through my childhood. She led by example.
Lorraine: I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her when there wasn’t childcare at the time.
Sonya: I had my mother mummy, I was farmed out to another mum who had kids in the area, and that was fine.
What drink do you generally order for yourself at a bar?
Lorraine: A vodka. Nice and simple.
Sonya: Probably a gin and tonic or a flinty white.
Is there any artist you feel particularly connected to right now?
Lorraine: I’ve been looking a lot at Frida Kahlo’s work.
Sonya: Cindy Sherman. I’m so compelled by her. I love the way she transforms herself.
Lorraine: Richard Gorman as well. My screensaver on my phone is a print of his I got myself recently. His stuff is very cool, simple.
Sonya: Actually, speaking of Irish artists, I love Deirdre McLoughlin, the ceramicist. Years ago Dave [Sonya’s husband/] bought me to of her ceramic pieces, and due to a dodgy shelf they both smashed.
Lorraine: Did you fix the dodgy shelf?
Sonya: The shelf is gone. So are the ceramics. That hurt.
What was your favourite item of clothing as a teenager?
Lorraine: Bellbottom jeans, those Susst jeans that everybody had. I had a purple pair.
Sonya: I had a pair of plastic button earrings, and I used to paint them every night to match the outfit I was going to wear the next day.
Lorraine: There’s dedication for you!
Sonya: I was on a very limited budget, so they were a staple.
What is your favourite destination to visit?
Lorraine: I love London. It’s one of the best cities in the world, big, cosmopolitan.
Sonya: Years and years ago, myself and one of my best friends went to Therme Vals in the Swiss Alps. It’s a municipal spa. You spend four days there and you come back feeling whole again. I took my husband there subsequently. It’s just drool-inducing, a network of pools with different properties, and you can swim out under a glass wall into the Alps.
When were you closest to death?
Sonya: I was coming back from Tom Murphy the actor’s wake. I was heading down the north quays and got to one of the bridges, the lights turned green. Just as I was maybe 15 feet away from the traffic lights, a car came shooting down at high speed across the bridge. I slammed on the breaks, it was so close, I don’t know how I missed him.
Lorraine: When I was pregnant with my first child, I had a low-lying placenta which could present at lot of serious problems. It didn’t present any problems for the pregnancy, but it could have if it had gone wrong.
Is there any particular book you keep returning to?
Sonya: My journal. I journal every day, so I have no choice but to keep returning to that.
Lorraine: Do you go back and read what you wrote?
Sonya: Not really, but if I was having a really rubbish time, I’d go back – I box successes, I put a line around them – to remind myself of good things that have happened.
Lorraine: Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee is chairing a new cross-party group on workplace equality in collaboration with Dress For Success Dublin, founded by Sonya Lennon, who has been running an equal pay campaign.