The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, was in town yesterday and Prime Time sought and was given an interview with her. It was in fact the only interview she gave to Irish media during her visit. The IMF chief was in Dublin to take part in a special conference reviewing Ireland’s experience of the international bailout, along with other members of the Troika.
The location for the interview was the President’s Room in Dublin Castle and the time we were due to begin the interview was 5.45pm. As always with these location based, out of studio interviews, myself and the crew arrived much earlier to set up so that when our interviewee walked into the room, we were ready to start immediately. Time is always of the essence, as frankly the time allotted for interviews with individuals as high profile as Christine Lagarde, is always very short. Her entourage were very friendly and helpful but we knew the time I had with her was limited – in the end we got fifteen minutes.
I liked her from the moment she walked into the room. A former very successful lawyer, Christine Lagarde was the first woman to become Finance Minister of a G8 economy and is the first woman to be in charge of the IMF. As female role models go, she would be right up there for me. Sometimes when you meet people you really admire, you are disappointed, but not on this occasion. Warm, friendly and direct, she chatted with all of the crew. From the outset of the interview though, I had to challenge her, especially in relation to our enormous debt burden and the unfairness of that, as perceived by most Irish people. In relation to her comments during the day that Irish people were the ‘great heroes’ of the crisis, I suggested that many Irish people might not feel it’s very heroic to endure years of austerity in order to pay back someone else’s debts.
A skilled interviewee, the IMF Managing Director was well able for all of the questions, difficult or otherwise. She has perfect English, despite it not being her first language. At one stage off camera, she spoke very fondly of the late Brian Lenihan, saying how much she liked and respected him.
Tonight on Prime Time we have only time to run about half of the interview, so we are putting the interview in full up on our website. I could not interview one of the most powerful and successful women in the world without asking her how she has managed to circumvent all ‘glass ceilings’ and her answer is powerful. I also knew that one of her favourite sayings in life is also one of my favourites, Madeleine Albright’s great line that ‘there is a very special place in hell for women who do not help other women’ – she talks about that at the very end.