Royston Brady's Miami advice: 'Something is fundamentally wrong'

Former Dublin mayor believes you cannot have a strong government 'cobbled together with leftists'

Former Lord Mayor of Dublin, Royston Brady, speaks about his new life managing hotels in Florida, how he misses Irish politics and his thoughts on the upcoming general election. Video: Simon Carswell


Royston Brady, the former lord mayor of Dublin, arrives in his flash black Mustang GT convertible, wearing dark sunglasses. He is impeccably dressed.

He pulls up at the valet parking spot on a sun-soaked Miami Beach on Wednesday morning in front of The Tides, a trendy hotel. It is one of four hotels in Florida he will eventually manage for two mega-wealthy New York brothers.

This is the former local politician who crashed and burned in the 2004 European election, fell out with many of the Fianna Fáil old guard and emigrated from recession-hit Ireland four years ago. Where did it all go wrong?

“Here I am in the sun in Miami,” he said, with a laugh. “If I’d been elected, I’d be in Brussels. It’s probably pissing raining there now.”

Post-crisis Ireland

Dublin City Council

He now manages the 500-room Bonaventure resort outside Miami. He is overseeing the construction of another 130 rooms at The Tides, the refitting of the historic Fairwind Hotel around the corner and a new hotel on the Miami Riverwalk. All told, he will be in charge of four hotels with more than 1,000 rooms.

“Of course I miss it,” said Brady, of political life in Dublin, sitting on the 11th-floor terrace of the hotel’s $2,000-a-night penthouse suite.

“It’s my city, it will always be my city. I am still passionate about what goes on there.”

He shows it too. The 43 year old grows animated talking about Ireland’s problems and, as he sees it, the failure of politicians to fix them.

“The situation at home seems to be deteriorating as opposed to getting better, economically, politically and even if you see this explosion of criminality in the last couple of weeks,” he said.

“When you see guys walking into a main hotel in Dublin on the airport road with Kalashnikovs, you have a serious problem. There doesn’t seem to be the political will or the ability to solve that.”

Brady is alarmed at the police state Dublin has turned into since then and is concerned at how far the violence will go, knowing the players involved. He knocked on many of their doors as a politician.

“I don’t think I’m over-playing the reality of it because these guys are fearless, and when you’re not afraid, where does it stop?” he said.

To address crime and the other problems in Ireland, he believes the only post-election option is a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil coalition, a suggestion that would have once branded him a heretic. “I would like to see Micheál Martin going in with Fine Gael. Somebody has got to step up to the plate in the country. He has to do so for the good of the country, not for the good of himself,” said Brady.

His view of Irish politics isn’t as sunny as his new climate. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is a “very nice guy” but “I just don’t think there are capable people there. The line-up is just shocking,” he says. That the country is still talking about a banking inquiry eight years after the crash saddens him. “That tells you there is something fundamentally wrong. They are still living in the past,” he said. “The public are completely divided and disillusioned.”

A coalition that included Labour and a smattering of Independents would, he predicts, be doomed, particularly with Ireland’s tax regime coming under the microscope in Europe and the US.

“You will be crying out for strong leadership and that is why you can’t have a government cobbled together with leftists,” he said.

Swagger survives

He believes there are “some very bright people in Fine Gael - the likes of the Leos [Varadkar] of this world.” He doesn’t like the number of teachers in government: “I am a big supporter of teachers but would I want a gang of them running the country? Not particularly.”

Independent Shane Ross is “only playing to the gallery”, Sinn Féin are hypocrites and Labour’s Pat Rabbitte has spent most of his public life on the opposition benches “throwing stones”.

Brady speaks warmly of Bertie Ahern – “the best campaigner and strategist you could learn from” – despite the former taoiseach picking his brother Cyprian as a running mate in Dublin Central in 2007.

He recalled advice Celia Larkin, Ahern’s former partner, gave him in Bertie’s St Luke’s constituency office in Drumcondra in 2002 when his political star was on the rise: if you start getting more column inches than Bertie, you will have a short career. Today, he insists there is no bad blood with Ahern.

“I was younger at the time,” he said. “I was obviously angry at things. But, like everything else, like good wine and age, you begin to mature a bit and you see things differently.”

He insists he never wanted to run for Europe but was persuaded to by Ahern: “Once he put his arm around you, that was it; you were a goner. You were under the Bertie spell.”

Running in the European elections was “a schoolboy error”, he says.

“Too much, too soon.”

Still, he is proud of the 38,000 votes he received and feels he badly mishandled the false claims that he made up the story about his taxi-driver father being held at gunpoint the night before the 1974 Dublin bombings to win votes.

“It cost me the election,” he said.

He regrets how “things went pear-shaped at the end” and his row with “Cyp,” and how his late mother was hurt by it all.

“It has never repaired itself fully or properly,” he said of their relationship. “He is not coming out here to see me – let’s put it that way. It’s not to say that I wouldn’t have him.”

Despite his admiration for Ahern, he was disgusted at the money the former Fianna Fáil leader took from businesspeople, as the Mahon tribunal showed, and how close he got to rich builders and developers.

“In my naivety, I thought we had turned the page on that chapter in Irish politics,” he said.

At the Galway Races in 2003, Brady remembers refusing a drink from a well-known builder at the bar of the Radisson Hotel.

Buy and sell

Despite all those past tensions, would he ever think of swapping the Miami heat for a night of canvassing on the soggy streets of Phibsborough?

“I loved the engagement of that. I loved the cut and thrust of that,” he said, not ruling out a return to politics, either in Ireland or the US.

“Would I love another crack at it, whatever side of the water I’m on?” he said. “Of course I would.”