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'Boxer' Moran: 'Yes, I have difficulties with reading, but I am as clever a man as you will ever meet'

Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran says he has been inundated with messages of support from people since his appearance on the Late Late Show.

Kevin 'Boxer' Moran
Kevin 'Boxer' Moran
Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

WHILE IT’S DAY one for Leo Varadkar, another TD is also starting a new job today.

Independent Alliance TD Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran is taking over as Minister of State at the Office of Public Works (OPW).

The switch-over between the current junior minister Sean Canney and Moran was part of the agreement reached during the discussions on the formation of government.

Canney, a Galway TD, has held the ministry since last May.

It’s understood the pair flipped a coin to decide who would take up the first stint. In another unorthodox move, the official handover is being done at an event in Moran’s local pub in Athlone tonight.

“Sean is coming out to do the official handover, so that will be a bit of craic. I am very grateful for that,” Moran told TheJournal.ie.

Relatively unknown to many outside his Longford-Westmeath constituency, the TD was recently thrust into the spotlight after a raw and candid interview he gave to Ryan Tubridy on RTÉ’s Late Late Show.

Moran spoke openly about how his struggles with dyslexia and depression led to a suicide attempt when he was a young man.

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

Since his appearance last month, he has received overwhelming support from the public. He believes Irish people appreciate that he is a straightforward guy.

“People said to me after the Late Late Show, that they like that I am a normal spoken person. I speak ordinary language. What causes problems for TDs is when people don’t know what they are talking about. Why do they use a 15-page speech when it can be done in two?” he added.

Since raising the issue of illiteracy, Moran said a lot of people have been in touch to tell them their stories.

“A guy rang me who recently went for a job to be a driving instructor. He has severe dyslexia. He needs to get something like 63% in the written exam – all he got was 41%. He tried again and all he got was 43%.

“He can’t get the next bit. There is nobody there to help him, and he is just one example. That is what puts people like him back and he stays on the Dole. We need to reach out to people like that.”

He said this is just one example that he is raising with his Independent Alliance colleague Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

‘We need to help these people’

“We have the best qualified people out there that have small little problems and we need to reach out to them. He should be able to say, ‘I have a problem, what is there out there to help me to overcome this?’ We need to get these people out into the workplace.

Our own people want to work and we are stopping them because we are not helping them.

The new minister said the interview was motivated by a wish to address gossip circulating around Leinster House regarding his education.

“Since I’ve got to the Dáil, I’ve heard rumblings on and off in relation to my education. People have been condemning the government, and I heard one particular person saying (on the radio) ‘if you want to sum up this Dáil, we’ve an incoming minister that hasn’t even got his Junior Cert’.”

He told TheJournal.ie that he spoke out about his issues with literacy to show people it shouldn’t hold you back in whatever you want to do in life.

“Yes, I have difficulties with reading but I am combating that. I work on it every day. It’s hard work. For people who are out there who have it, they know what it is like. But I am not going to let it get me down as a minister. I am streetwise – I am as clever a man you will ever meet,” he said.

Help of a great team

So, what are the practical tasks that can make each day harder, and how does he overcome them?

I have a great team around me and my advisor, Eugene, who has been with me right through my career in politics. He was there for me, he got to know me. And also my own staff. I have great staff working for me, who know the issues I have. Yes I have issues, but it hasn’t stopped me.

Moran said he also owes a debt of gratitude to his wife.

“Michelle would sit with me all night if she had to to get things right,” he explains.

“We do a lot of reading and we do a lot of back research, putting stuff down on paper and reading it out loud. We choose the words to suit Boxer,” he explained.

One of the challenges Moran faces consistently is standing up and reading a speech in the Dáil.

The big issue I have is – before I go into the Dáil to make a speech – I have to have it three or four days before anyone else. There is no issue with that. But I make mistakes, I made mistakes speaking in the Dáil yesterday. A friend rang me and told me: ‘I am going to kill you. I told you, one page for you.’
She’s right. She told me that I am in charge of my own ministry, and to do what’s right for me. I can’t hide that there is an issue there, but I can’t but get on with my job.

Source: The Late Late Show/YouTube

His suicide attempt 

Since speaking publicly about his suicide attempt, Moran said he has been inundated with people getting in touch to commend him for being so open. They are also sharing their own experiences.

He said both a mother and her son who watched the Friday night interview together wrote separate emails to Moran, not knowing about the other’s correspondence.

The son wrote and told me that his marriage broke up, he lost his house, he lost his job, everything went wrong for him, he was in a very bad place. He had bad thoughts. He explained to me in his email that he felt like ending it. He told me he had sat down to watch the Late Late Show that night and it helped.
“On the same night, his mother, who is nearly 90, wrote the email to me to say her son was in a very dark place. But they both sat down to watch the Late Late Show that night, she said. The next day she [was] awoke by a lawnmower going in the garden. Her son was up and out in the garden. He then came up to her and asked for the keys and he went down to the local gardening shop and bought a load of flowers and window boxes. He rang two of his mates he hasn’t talked to in six months, and he went for a pint with them.
That woman contacted me a week and a half later to say that everything is still going well for him. She said to me, ‘All I can say to you is thanks.’

Moran said other people have confided in him to say his words allowed them to be frank with their own families.

One man came all the way from County Meath to tell me he had done something similar – only he [had] done harm to himself. He told me the night of the interview was the first time he had told any of his family what he had done.

Moran explained his decision to appear on the country’s most-watched show meant he had to be honest with a lot of people he is close to.

“I had to sit down and tell my own family, to tell my own kids. Some of my own brothers, who didn’t know – that is how much we kept this quiet. But by telling the country what happened, I have now opened doors,” he said, adding:

I am not saying this for any glory for Boxer… Some people give out about politicians – maybe they’re right – but other people know the hard work we do… I have to give credit to Leo [Varadkar] as well. He spoke in one of the papers about the worry he had when he first came out that he was gay. To me that is what we are about. If we all talked more, if we all reach out to each other, we can overcome this.

So what next for the new minister?

He has a long to-do list.

His top priority is dealing with the flooding issues around the country and works along the River Shannon, as well as ensuring that children are allowed in free to Ireland’s heritage sites (something he is in discussions about with the OPW) Moran said he also wants to investigate the UK system of flood insurance (which imposes a levy on insurance companies) to see if it is workable in Ireland.

“A lot of people went for this job – I just have to get on with it now.”

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