My parents were Northern Ireland Labour party people. We read the 'Guardian' and the 'New Statesman,' listened to the BBC. The house was full of books. We didn't get a television until 'That Was The Week That Was' started. There was nothing to do but read.
'Ulysses' is the greatest anti-racist text in the English language, and it challenges right from the beginning the vicious racism which lies near the foundations of the Irish Free State and of the Irish republic.
I think ideas should be flying about and banging into each other. It is a kind of energy. If you occupy static positions, then things sort of ossify.
Look, you're either a Zionist or an anti-Zionist: there's no middle way. Everyone who supports the state of Israel is a Zionist.
Is the biographer an artist who can and should exist on equal terms with the dramatist, fiction writer and poet? The short and robust answer is, 'Certainly not.'
I do think culture is an argument, and that was part of the way I was brought up. People at a social occasion in Ireland will start shouting and arguing. When the Yeats family lived in Bedford Park, they had to go round to the neighbours to say, 'You might think we are fighting, but this is the way we talk to each other.'
A truly vibrant and creative culture depends on a system of education which is not divided along class and sectarian lines.
Teachers are the ministers and priests of culture, its practitioners and its emissaries.
In my view the European culture carries a very heavy responsibility for the creation of Israel… it is a product of both British and Stalin's anti- Semitism, but the British never faced their own complicity in its construction.
This sympathy is not translated into force against the British government because it is not like the anti- apartheid movement which had a high profile here and Mandela is a more engaging figure than Yasser Arafat.
Again and again, I find something eerie in many Irish occasions – the unrelenting whiteness, the emotional tribal attachments, the violent prejudices lurking beneath apparently pleasant social surfaces, the cosy smugness of belonging.
I always feel freelance writers are leading a heroic life. I think that is the real writer's life. On the other hand, it's good to have another job. It gives you something to do.
I think protest and actions have to be organised against the Israelis and their backers. There needs to be a concerted high profile campaign to raise awareness of the people in this country.
Unfortunately, in the north and the south of Ireland, intolerant habits are part of the fabric of emotion, part of the identity crisis which afflicts the population of the country.
Hitler bombed London into submission but in fact it created a sense of national solidarity.
Many black people I know are proud of the Irish part of their heritage – an Irish grandparent, say – but they recognise that many people believe in a form of racial purity. And it is from that belief that prejudice starts.
I went to a grim Victorian school with classes of 40 or 50 children. It was a very rigid and unimaginative education, but it did teach us the three Rs.
All I do is read books, really. I worry about that sometimes. I don't seem to have a hobby or anything.
One of the strongest features of Puritanism is its autobiographical tendency, its passionate self-regard.
It's ironic that early on in the war with Afghanistan, the Americans and the British were saying, 'We recognise there must be a Palestinian state,' then they rapidly forgot about it. I think history will show that that kind of amnesia will come back to haunt you.