In October 2014, Paddy Kehoe spoke to Gay Byrne during a visit to Our Lady's Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin
The second volume of The Meaning of Life interviews, edited from the transcripts of the television programme, had just appeared in book form and Ian Paisley was one of the subjects. Here's what Gay said:
"One person was the Reverend Ian (Paisley) - and if ever a man went to meet his maker firmly, utterly and totally in the knowledge that his redeemer doth liveth, it was Ian Paisley... and if ever there was man went to meet his maker knowing that there was a warm, comfortable, little place reserved for him in the celestial halls, it was Ian Paisley.
"He astonished us in the course of the interview because he was the only man I ever met who actually believed that the Old Testament is literally true, that there was a garden, there was a serpent, there was an apple tree, there was an apple and the serpent did say, "have a go at the apple there and you' ll be as good as he is. And he believed that that was absolutely true."
"I don’t think you will find many theologians in the world today who would go quite that far but nonetheless that was his belief and he would give way to no man or no woman in that belief. So if he didn’t encounter what he expected to encounter at the Golden Gates, there will be one very disappointed man, that’s all I can say. But he was absolutely certain that he was going to meet that."
He acknowledged the success of the first and second volumes of The Meaning of Life books which reprouced the text of the interviews. "We didn’t expect the first one to do anything like as well as it did, and I’m delighted it did. I suppose the reason is we are all looking for the same thing, we are all searching for some kind of certainty, some kind of assurance and a beacon to guide us through life and we are all in the same boat.
"So people are generally interested in the interviews to see (he paraphrases) `has this guy any secret that we don’t know about, has this woman got any secret that we don’t know about? Maybe their approach would be this, that and the other... ’ I think that’s the attraction of the programme."
The peculiar dynamic of the deep-delving interviews of course was that there is still no resolution, despite the focused questioning. "There is no resolution, I’m not there to convince anybody that they are right or wrong. I’m not there to question them or confront them, and we make sure that they understand that before they go on.
"I think that’s part of the reason that people are agreeable to do the interview, because they are not given questions beforehand, they are not given any indication. In so far as they may have seen other people doing the programme, they know what’s expected of them. They have to take it on the hop, they have to think while they’re doing it, what do they actually believe?
"What you do find is that, confronted with the questions, so many people have never actually sort of resolved this in their minds – 'what do I believe, and what do I not believe?' Increasingly you will find, certainly members of the Christian churches, including Catholics, including Irish Catholics in large numbers, they are now a la carte Catholics. They pick certain things, 'I’ll take that and I’ll take that, I’m rejecting that, rejecting that, that’s nonsense, I don’t believe that' – all of that is going on all the time and that is increasingly an aspect of people’s lives."
He was looking forward to the third series of The Meaning of Life. "I did a lovely interview with Charles Spencer (The brother of Princess Diana) and he is a very pleasing man and a very honest man and he is very straightforward in the interview. He’s written an interesting book about the assassination of (King of England) Charles I and what followed when Charles II came to the throne, to get his revenge in unspeakable ways on the people who murdered his father. Who would blame him, I ask you?
"Apart from that, Charles Spencer was reluctant to do interviews because it always devolves around Diana and all of that. We said, 'Princess Diana will certainly come into the conversation, but the interview is not, not, not about her.' Nor was it, and in an edited form I think it will be a very nice interview."
A guest who would prove controversial through his comments on the next season was Stephen Fry, who attracted more interest than any other guest on Gay's The Meaning of Life series.