Andrew Hozier Byrne
In this, the 11th series of The Meaning of Life, we get a glimpse of the human side of An Tánaiste Joan Burton, as she talks to Gay Byrne about her adoption, her upbringing, the influence of the nuns on her life and what made her into the politician she is today.
She speaks candidly to Gay about the impact of being adopted by Bridie and John Burton and the deep influence they had on her outlook on life. She recalls her childhood in the close knit community of working class Dublin and the way in which the neighbours all rallied around to ensure that her official adoption would be sanctioned by visiting social workers.
She describes her adoptive parents as being "typical Catholics" however she says the Burton household was "religious but not clerical". As a girl, Joan was educated by the nuns who ran a tight ship. Despite receiving a great deal of religious instruction, she always had an inquiring mind. In fact, one nun told her "If I didn't watch out I was in some danger of becoming a Protestant." But throughout, Joan says that the nuns were actually very ambitious for young girls and women. She believes this may be why she associates education with a "sense of opportunity" and she explains how this has informed her subsequent community and political involvement throughout her life.
In the interview with Gay, Joan opens up about the untimely death of her adoptive mother, Bridie, and its effect on her. We discover how she got involved in the Labour Party and how through this, she met her husband Pat Carroll, whom she married in 1975. She also shares with Gay, how an awkwardness around a missing document for the wedding, led to this the working class Dub discovering her rural South Carlow farming roots