Inside Politics

The Irish Times

The best analysis of the Irish political scene featuring Irish Times journalists, political thinkers and the occasional politician. Hosted by Arts & Culture Editor Hugh Linehan. See for privacy and opt-out information.

All Episodes

Depending on who you ask, Charles J. Haughey is either the great villain of Irish political life or the benevolent and forward-thinking saviour of a benighted nation. Professor of politics at Dublin City University, Gary Murphy, has written a biography of the former Taoiseach based on Haughey’s personal archives, as well as extensive interviews with his peers, rivals, confidantes and relatives. He talks to Hugh about writing about the man whose presence still looms large over Irish politics today. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Dec 1

1 hr 23 min

Years of being on the opposite side of difficult Brexit negotiations have unarguably damaged Irish-British relations. But how bad is the damage? To find out, this week's host Pat Leahy talks to former Irish ambassador to the UK Bobby McDonagh and our London editor Denis Staunton. They also discuss the latest developments in the standoff over the Northern Ireland protocol. But first it's Covid-19 and the rising tide of the fourth wave that is scaring governments across Europe. Pat gets the latest from Derek Scally in Berlin, where a newly-formed coalition must grapple with Germany's worst stage of the pandemic so far, and Jack Horgan-Jones in Dublin, where we're not ready to talk about new restrictions just yet. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Nov 24

47 min 11 sec

Once again, too many people are getting sick, and there aren't enough hospital beds. The Government is struggling to come up with a convincing plan to turn the Covid-19 situation around. Jack Horgan-Jones and Jennifer Bray tell Hugh what the thinking is about how to tackle the crisis and how the latest reimposition of restrictions on nightlife and extension of the use of vaccine certs came about. Plus: the Mother and baby homes redress scheme is facing sharp criticism from activists and survivors. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Nov 17

45 min 30 sec

For days now politicians in Ireland and the EU have been expecting UK Brexit negotiator David Frost to trigger Article 16, pausing the Northern Ireland protocol and creating a fresh crisis for EU-UK relations. But today Lord Frost made more diplomatic noises, saying negotiations had made some progress and still have longer to run. But if the threat was real, why the sudden reversal? Denis Staunton gives his analysis of UK government behaviour, and Pat Leahy explains how its being viewed here and in Brussels. Plus, the latest from Cop26 in Glasgow and Boris Johnson's sleaze crisis. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Nov 10

41 min 1 sec

At Sinn Féin’s ardfheis in Dublin last weekend, a motion in support of the non-jury Special Criminal Court was passed, representing a considerable shift in position and removing a significant hurdle to the party’s ambitions to lead the next government. Banners declaring it’s “time for change” adorned the walls of the Helix in Dublin City University, as party leader Mary Lou McDonald made clear her wishes to become the next Taoiseach. Hugh talks to Pat Leahy and Jennifer Bray about how those ambitions might be realised.  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Nov 3

41 min 24 sec

Europe correspondent Naomi O'Leary talks to Hugh about the rising Covid numbers in many EU member states, the rising energy prices that are dominating the news and the row between Brussels and Poland over the rule of law. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Oct 27

44 min 7 sec

Ed Brophy is a former chief of staff to finance minister Paschal Donohoe and to Labour’s Joan Burton when she was Tánaiste. Recently he stepped away from politics after ten years in the corridors of power. He talks to Hugh and Pat about the crises Ireland faced during his time as a government advisor, the challenges of governing under the watchful eyes of the Troika and what the future holds for Ireland’s economy. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Oct 20

51 min 10 sec

Author and academic Noam Chomksy talks to Hugh about the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the morality of Ireland’s tax regime and whether the human race can avoid the twin catastrophes of global warming and nuclear war.With thanks to the Institute of International and European Affairs for facilitating this interview. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Oct 15

39 min 51 sec

Pat Leahy talks to Seamus Coffey, Jack Horgan-Jones and Cliff Taylor about yesterday's budget and how the last-minute news that our economy has recovered more than expected played into spending decisions. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Oct 13

41 min 16 sec

The Government’s 10-year National Development Plan announced this week has been greeted with scepticism in some quarters and criticised by the opposition as more of a wish-list than a to-do list. The ambitious plan sets out to meet the needs of a growing population up to 2030. Can its goals be achieved? Hugh talks to The Irish Times political editor Pat Leahy and Dr Brian Caulfield of Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Transport Research. Presenter: Hugh  See for privacy and opt-out information.

Oct 6

36 min 16 sec

Pat Leahy, Jennifer Bray and Jack Horgan-Jones from the Irish Times politics team join Hugh to discuss the major considerations for the government ahead of Budget day on October 12th. They also look at the divisive politics of the public service pandemic bonus and the latest on the Mica redress scheme. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Sep 29

47 min 39 sec

Berlin correspondent Derek Scally joins Hugh for a deep dive into the most interesting German federal election in decades, which takes place on Sunday. How did Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU, now under the leadership of Armin Laschet, blow its lead in the election race? And who are the other leaders and parties in contention? See for privacy and opt-out information.

Sep 22

39 min 3 sec

After a turbulent summer break for the coalition, the country’s political parties hunkered down for their respective think-in meetings over the last two weeks, before the return of the Dáil. Pat Leahy and Jack Horgan-Jones of The Irish Times political team report back to Hugh on the dominant narratives to emerge from the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin gatherings. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Sep 15

37 min 42 sec

Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin’s latest book, Defects: Living with the legacy of the Celtic Tiger, tells the stories of some of the thousands of people living in dangerous homes with serious fire safety and structural defects in different parts of Ireland. The book also explains how decades of light touch building regulation and the decisions of successive governments allowed this crisis to happen. Ó Broin talks to Hugh and Jack Horgan-Jones about the book in today’s episode.Plus: Jack has the latest in the ongoing saga of the UN envoy appointment of Katherine Zappone and Simon Coveney’s appearance before an Oireachtas committee on the issue on Tuesday. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Sep 8

52 min 58 sec

Hugh is joined by Pat Leahy, Jennifer Bray and Cormac McQuinn from the Irish Times politics team to discuss the Government's roadmap for the easing of pandemic restrictions, as revealed by Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday. They also look ahead to Minister Daragh O'Brien's much vaunted 'Housing for All' plan, the hurdles the Government is likely to face with October's budget and the welcome return of Leinster House. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Sep 1

35 min 30 sec

Patrick Radden Keefe is an American writer and investigative journalist. His new book, Empire of Pain is a detailed history of the Sackler dynasty and their role in the American opioid epidemic. Known for their dedication to cultural philanthropy, the family built their wealth on pharmaceuticals, starting with tranquillisers like Librium and Valium, before eventually moving on to the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin. In this episode, the award winning author talks to Hugh about the origins of the addiction crisis, the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy trial and the mark the family left on the world. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Aug 25

49 min 50 sec

As one of the world's most respected newspaper editors, Lionel Barber spent over a decade at the helm of The Financial Times. His tenure coincided with some of the biggest events to shape the early part of the 21st century including the rise of China, Brexit, the tech boom and the crisis of western liberal democracy. Barber has documented his time in charge of the FT in his book, The Powerful and the Damned. In this episode, he talks to Hugh about the book, about how he transformed the FT for the digital era, the media's role in the financial crisis, why he got Brexit wrong and lots more. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Aug 18

42 min 1 sec

Jack Horgan-Jones and Jennifer Bray join Hugh to assess the damage done by the recent Zappone controversy. Now that the dust has settled, what will it mean for Coveney, Varadkar and the future of the government. The team also discuss the easing of Covid restrictions and the recent UN Climate Change report, which signals a ‘code red’ for humanity. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Aug 11

41 min 58 sec

Suzanne Lynch arrived in the US to take up her new role as Irish Times Washington correspondent ten days after Donald Trump's inauguration. As she prepares to leave the US capital this week for a new role in Brussels, she talks to Hugh about what it was like to report on the most extraordinary presidency in US history. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Aug 4

48 min 15 sec

This week, London Editor Denis Staunton engaged in a brief, yet courteous Twitter exchange with former Downing Street advisor Dominic Cummings. Here he tells Hugh the details behind their interaction and about Cummings’ latest musings on Brexit and the Northern Ireland protocol. But first, Hugh is joined by Jennifer Bray and Jack Horgan-Jones to discuss the last Cabinet meeting of the Summer, the next stage of the vaccine rollout, Katherine Zappone’s new gig and the recent stirrings within the Social Democrats. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jul 28

38 min 1 sec

With the Dáil term drawn to a close, Pat, Harry and Jen join Hugh to answer our listener's questions about politics. But first, Pat recalls the influential political career of former minister and founder of the Progressive Democrats Des O'Malley, who has died aged 82. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jul 21

46 min 41 sec

The 2020 election marked the end of an era in Irish politics, with Sinn Féin winning the most votes for the first time ever and the previously dominant parties reduced to a fraction of their former strengths. In today’s episode Hugh is joined by Pat Leahy and UCC’s Dr Theresa Reidy to look back at the last general election and how it broke the mould. You can read the full story of the 2020 election in the 9th edition of the ‘How Ireland Voted’ series of books, edited by Theresa Reidy, Michael Gallagher and Michael Marsh, out now. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jul 14

48 min 49 sec

Labour’s Ivana Bacik looked on course to top the poll in the Dublin Bay South byelection since tally figures on Friday morning put her on 30%. She went on to top the first count more than 1,000 votes ahead of Fine Gael’s James Geoghegan. Bacik’s win gives her party its first moment of electoral good news in a decade and leaves the government parties licking their wounds.Hugh gets the analysis from The Irish Times political team at the count centre: Pat Leahy, Cormac McQuinn and Harry McGee. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jul 9

22 min 11 sec

The Government is coming under increasing pressure from all angles, as it wrestles with the toughest decisions for months on how to manage the pandemic. The hospitality sector desperately wants indoor dining to resume on July 19th, but there is growing concern among public health advisers at the prospect of a surge in cases driven by the Delta variant. Meanwhile, all eyes are on England as Boris Johnson ploughs ahead with his country's reopening. Hugh is joined by Paul Cullen, Pat Leahy and Cormac McQuinn to discuss the difficult decisions facing the Government in the coming days. Plus: The final analysis of the runners and riders in the Dublin Bay South byelection, before polls open on Thursday morning. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jul 7

39 min 16 sec

On Thursday July 8th, voters in Dublin Bay South will cast their votes in a byelection, triggered by the resignation of former Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy. What might the results tell us about the wider political picture here in Ireland and will this be an early indicator for the next general election? To take a look back through some pivotal byelections and their impact over the years, Harry McGee is joined by Gary Murphy, Professor of Politics at DCU and author of the forthcoming Charles Haughey biography. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jun 30

38 min 37 sec

The DUP will have its third leader in the space of two months when Jeffrey Donaldson is officially appointed on Saturday. Can he lead the party out of crisis? Pat Leahy talks to editor of the Slugger O’Toole website, Mick Fealty, about the challenges he faces. But first, Pat is joined by Jennifer Bray and Jack Horgan-Jones to discuss the threat posed to the July 5th reopening by the rise in Delta variant cases here and the latest in the ongoing saga over who owns, and who governs, the National Maternity Hospital. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jun 23

47 min 55 sec

21 years on from her book Northern Protestants: An Unsettled People, Susan McKay revisits the lives of that community in her new book Northern Protestants: On Shifting Ground. She talks to Hugh about the strong forces now acting on northern Protestants, Unionists and Loyalists. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jun 16

46 min 15 sec

Five months on from the final report of the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation, controversy still surrounds the methodology used by the three inquiry members, the treatment of witness statements and the conclusions reached regarding the culpability of church and state. Members of the commission have not replied to calls to appear before an Oireachtas committee, despite the appearance of Prof Mary Daly at an online Oxford seminar last week. In today’s episode, Hugh is joined by Pat, Jen and archivist Catriona Crowe to talk about the shortcomings of the investigation and what needs to happen next. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jun 9

46 min 25 sec

Historian Niall Ferguson’s new book 'Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe' offers a sweeping compendium of the many appalling catastrophes that have befallen mankind, and how we have dealt with their aftermath. He talks to Hugh about his book, Covid and the possibility of a war between China and the US. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jun 4

55 min 26 sec

With the Dublin Bay South byelection looking likely to take place in early July, Harry McGee and Jennifer Bray join Hugh for a deep-dive on the competitive constituency, as parties vie for the seat left vacant by the former housing minister Eoghan Murphy. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Jun 2

47 min 31 sec

Today the team take a look at what role Sinn Féin will play in forming the next government. Although there is a widespread assumption in political circles and elsewhere that Mary Lou McDonald’s party will take the majority, will their path to power be that straightforward? And if there is a Sinn Féin led government, what will it look like and how will they tackle issues on their change agenda? Joining Hugh to discuss this is Jen, Pat and Aidan Regan, Associate Professor of Political Economy at UCD. See for privacy and opt-out information.

May 26

47 min 8 sec

Jennifer Bray, Pat Leahy and Kevin Cunningham join Hugh to talk about how the government is struggling to come up with a coherent response to the housing crisis. See for privacy and opt-out information.

May 19

47 min 4 sec

British broadcaster and writer James O’Brien has built a loyal listenership on his LBC radio programme, dissecting the opinions of callers live on air every day. In his 2018 book, How To Be Right... in a World gone Wrong, he set out his opinions on Islam, Brexit, political correctness, LGBT issues, feminism, Trump and other flash points. Now his latest book, How Not To Be Wrong, is a personal account about the importance of being able to change your mind. In today’s podcast, O’Brien talks to Hugh about some of the things he’s been wrong about. See for privacy and opt-out information.

May 14

40 min 3 sec

The political focus has shifted from the pandemic to the housing crisis, with Taoiseach Micheal Martin this week declaring it the Government’s “number one priority”. Jack Horgan Jones and Pat Leahy join Hugh to discuss the political decisions and policy failures that have led to the crisis and the resulting generational divide.But first, not escaping Covid entirely, the team take a look at the debate surrounding the role and reliability of antigen testing, the possibility of accelerating certain reopening plans and the progress of the vaccination rollout. See for privacy and opt-out information.

May 12

39 min 23 sec

Denis Staunton talks to Hugh about the results of last Friday's local and regional elections in England, Scotland and Wales. The results have thrown up many stories, including how Labour's leader Keir Starmer contrived to turn a setback into a leadership crisis, and how pro-independence politicians increase their dominance of the Scottish parliament. See for privacy and opt-out information.

May 10

30 min 38 sec

What led to Arlene Foster's ouster this week, who will succeed her and what will it mean for politics on the island? To find out we talk to Sam McBride of the Belfast Newsletter. Then Pat Leahy and Jennifer Bray look at the other big political news of the week: the major moves towards reopening the country, and the surprise resignation of Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy. The former housing minister's departure means an intriguing byelection will happen later this year. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 30

44 min 2 sec

For much of the pandemic, the Independent Scientific Advocacy Group (ISAG) has recommended that Ireland should aggressively suppress virus transmission as part of a zero-Covid policy. That strategy has, however, failed to find favour with either the Government or health officials. As we prepare for the next phase of reopening in May, ISAG spokesperson, professor Aoife McLysaght, talks to Hugh about what the group would do differently, why one wrong step now could quickly lead to disaster again and why ISAG's zero-Covid campaign has been worth it, even if it fails. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 28

52 min

To what extent can political beliefs and behaviour be understood through the science of psychology and the study of human cognition? In today’s episode, Hugh talks to award-winning political columnist and host of the excellent Politics on the Couch podcast, Rafael Behr, about the way our minds respond to politics and how psychology drives everyone’s political thought and behaviour. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 24

46 min 29 sec

Since coronavirus, governments around the globe have abandoned traditional concerns about deficits and enacted emergency measures in the interest of saving countries from the devastating effects of lockdowns. But in a post-pandemic Ireland, what should the role of the state be? Will the Covid crisis help bring to an end the old economic orthodoxies, or will there be return to a smaller state, balanced budgets and deficit reduction? Economist and The Irish Times columnist David McWilliams joins Hugh and political editor Pat Leahy to discuss. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 21

48 min 15 sec

CBS News political reporter, Slate Political Gabfest panelist and proud Irish-American John Dickerson talks to Hugh about the office of President of the United States, which is the subject of his book "The Hardest Job in the World". He explains how the role has evolved in complexity and now places impossible demands on whoever holds it. They also discuss how the Trump presidency warped political journalism, and the significance of President Biden's Irish-American identity. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 16

45 min 11 sec

The Government's Covid-19 policy was dealt a double blow this week, as it was forced to pause the mandatory hotel quarantine system and issues with two vaccines threw the planned inoculation programme into doubt. Hugh is joined by Jennifer Bray and Jack Horgan-Jones from The Irish Times political team to discuss the latest hurdles the coalition must overcome to keep its coronavirus plan on track. Also on today's show: what does the future hold for the Fianna Fáil party? See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 14

41 min 18 sec

It's not just Brexit, or the Bobby Storey funeral, or the constant talk of a border poll. Many factors fed into this week's violence and rioting on the streets of Belfast. The violent clashes involved youths from loyalist and nationalist areas, but today's conversation with Newton Emerson focuses on the roots of the anger and disillusionment felt by the working-class loyalist community, and the role of criminal gangs in fomenting violence against the PSNI. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 9

25 min 35 sec

The debate surrounding mandatory hotel quarantine rumbles on between government departments, but what are the logistical, legal and diplomatic issues at stake? Will the introduction of a vaccine passport or a digital green certificate be enough to smooth over the cracks? And with the long promised ramp up in vaccinations now on the horizon, will the government be able to keep up with their ambitious targets? Our political team made up of Jen, Pat and Cormac join Hugh to discuss. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 7

40 min 2 sec

Behavioral economist Pete Lunn and political correspondent Jennifer Bray join Hugh to talk about the government's major moves in the Covid-19 fight this week: the easing of some restrictions, particularly around outdoor activities, and the simplification of the vaccine rollout, favouring older people over particular groups such as teachers, Gardaí or carers.  Pete, who advises Nphet on how the population might respond to Covid-19 regulations, explains why the hope is the relaxing of particular rules could actually lead to a reduction in risky indoor behaviour, while Jennifer takes us inside the political discussions around these controversial changes. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Apr 2

38 min 19 sec

Last week was a very good one for the Green Party, but you could be forgiven for getting the opposite impression. Today, Hugh and guests spend a little time on the party's dangerous internal divisions (as demonstrated by the spat over party member and Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu's unsanctioned run for a Seanad seat) and more time on the significance of the Climate Action Bill, the piece of legislation published last week that is a major achievement for the party and its leader Eamon Ryan. Guests: political editor Pat Leahy and Sadhbh O'Neill, policy coordinator of the Stop Climate Chaos coalition. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 31

42 min 21 sec

In his new book Free Speech and Why it Matters, Andrew Doyle questions a new form of social justice activism, which as he puts it, casually disregards the principle of free speech for the sake of what is perceived to be a higher social priority. In today’s episode, the author and podcaster joins Hugh for a discussion on 'wokeness' and cancel culture, self-censorship and where the limitations of acceptable speech should be drawn. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 26

54 min 9 sec

The EU is set to tighten export controls in a bid to prevent Covid-19 vaccines leaving the bloc. It comes as Europe looks destined for a showdown with the UK over a stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccines, said to number up to 30 million doses, and coveted by both sides to shore up inoculation campaigns. As shortfalls and supply issues hold back the rollout in many European countries, including Ireland, can we expect any relaxation of the rules here on April 5th? Hugh is joined by Jack Horgan-Jones from our political staff and Europe correspondent Naomi O'Leary. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 24

40 min 48 sec

In today’s episode Irish Times Berlin correspondent Derek Scally joins Hugh to speak about his brand new book: The Best Catholics in the World. Having spent the last twenty years living and working in Germany, Scally has witnessed a nation engaging earnestly with their past, and asks why the same cannot be said for his native Ireland and the legacy left over by the Catholic Church. Speaking to campaigners, survivors, writers, and historians, Scally embarks on a quest to unravel the tight hold the Catholic Church has had on the Irish. In this conversation, they discuss the origins of the book, the intersection of church, state and people and the strands of religion still intertwined in Irish society. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 22

40 min 10 sec

In today’s episode, Pat and Jen join Hugh for a special edition of “ask me anything”. From the zero Covid strategy to concerns around global vaccine supply, the team tackle your questions on the politics of the pandemic.Thanks to everyone who sent their questions in. Happy St Patrick's Day. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 17

41 min 19 sec

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan dominated the news headlines all this week. The most watched programme on RTE so far this year, it shone a light on the inner workings of the long standing British monarchy. Allegations of racism and maltreatment now lead to bigger questions surrounding the legitimacy of the monarchy in a diverse and multicultural Britain. Joining Hugh to take a look back at the history of the royals from an Irish perspective, the potential fallout from the interview and how monarchies adapt to modernity are Irish Times London Editor Denis Staunton and John Gibney, Assistant Editor with the Royal Irish Academy’s Documents on Irish Foreign Policy and the editor of Ireland and the Monarchy. Next week, we’ll be recording another Ask Me Anything episode, which will take a look back at a pandemic year in politics. If you would like to put your question to the team, send it in by voice note to before Tuesday, March 16th. The episode will be released on St Patrick’s Day. See for privacy and opt-out information.

Mar 12

36 min 5 sec