The politicians who spot Aoife Moore roaming the corridors of power with headphones in probably couldn’t predict what she’s listening to if you gave them 1,000 guesses. Here’s a hint if they wish to try: what’s coming through those earbuds has probably nothing to do with politics.
“I think sometimes when people see me walking around Leinster House with my headphones in, they think I’m listening to some very important political podcast and it’s me building myself up to go to work by listening to ‘Chest Out’ by Mango X MathMan,” Moore tells me. “When I listen to that, I could kick a door off its hinges [laughs].”
Irish artists make up a significant portion of Moore’s listening habits these days. She name drops Ailbhe Reddy, Saint Sister, CMAT, and Pillow Queens as just a few she admires. “Even the title of their album Casual Work,” she says of Mango X MathMan, “this notion of Dublin disappearing before our eyes, of not being able to get decent work, of not being able to get decent housing, of not having access to decent creative spaces, it’s stuff that’s really important to people. The same with Denise Chaila, talking about what it’s like to be Black and Irish, I think it’s definitely reflective of a new generation of Irish people.”
You know Moore as a political correspondent for the Irish Examiner, soon-to-be of the Times (our meet-up, in a café less than a kilometer from Leinster House, occurs before the new role announcement). She is usually noted for breaking the Oireachtas golf society scandal with colleague Paul Hosford in 2020, but the Derry native has also built a reputation for her insights into the politics, culture, and young people of Northern Ireland.
“Derry is uniquely political, so I’ve always been interested in politics,” she says. “I always say that I am absolutely a product of my environment. I’ve been very open about the fact that I’m from a Bloody Sunday family. When you are brought up to question everything the government says, I didn’t really feel like there was any other job I could have done. I think naturally I’m… I don’t think cynical is the word, but naturally I’ve always been a nosy bitch.
“The reason I got into journalism was weirdly that I hated the press. The way the English press treated our family and the other families, I hated it. I also was very aware that without the pressure that the press put on the British government, we wouldn’t have gotten an inquiry. So the press is so powerful in both ways.”
It’s tempting to spend the hour talking to Moore about politics and nothing else, but I remember we are ostensibly here to discuss music, eternally a part of her life. Moore grew up in a house where her dad played what could reliably be described as “dad rock.” And not that fake dad rock that now somehow includes MGMT, Razorlight, and Avril Lavigne—the kind of dad rock that’s recently been making millennials feel like their youth is over. We’re talking about Led Zeppelin, Rory Gallagher, Pink Floyd, and Iron Maiden here. “My ma always says the best day of her life wasn’t her wedding day, it was when her and my dad and all their mates went to see Queen in Slane, supported by The Bangles,” says Moore. “My dad always went to gigs, he was always in the Nerve Centre in Derry. I must have seen The Undertones 10 times because they played everywhere in Derry.”
Funny thing, though: as a kid Moore gravitated towards old jazz and blues artists, such as Etta James. “Such a weird child, but for my 11-Plus I got my Mam to buy me Billie Holiday’s Greatest Hits and it was four CDs [laughs].”
Moore’s dad was a bar man and she and her brother would often borrow CDs from the pub he worked in. “We had those awful looking CD tower things that were, like, wavy [laughs]. I had one of them in my room that was filled with CDs. I remember going to Cool Discs. That’s still there in Derry, it’s a vinyl shop now, but it used to be a CD shop. Cool Discs used to do two CDs for 12 quid or something.” Among the bands she invested in as a teenager were Blink 182 and Sum 41. “I got really into System of a Down for a while, which my Da fucking hated. He used to be like, ‘There’s no talent there it's just screaming’.”
Moore also recalls buying a USB pen in Lanzarote that doubled as an MP3 player that could hold about 60 songs (remember those?), pairing it with headphones she nabbed for free on a plane, and loading the hardware with Alkaline Trio’s first two albums, Rage Against the Machine, and Less Than Jake. As a teenager she also got hardcore into Bob Dylan (favorite album: Blood on the Tracks). I mention to her that I enjoy putting together playlists from these “DEAN MAGAZINE Meets” chats and this one is clearly going to be all over the map.
“I was obsessed with The Thrills,” she reveals. “When I was like 15 I was madly in love with Conor Deasy. I always remember they played the Nerve Centre in Derry and he wore this sky blue suit. I was in the front row and I remember thinking if there is a god, I will marry this man [laughs].”
In the case of a Deasy-Moore union, there was no divine intervention. Fated instead for Aoife was a career in journalism. Her first byline was the Derry News when she was 16 as part of school work experience; there were a couple of article in the Derry Journal. But Moore opted to attend university in Glasgow, launching her professional journalism career with a local paper. Then came “the Irish millennial thing” of relocating to Australia, which was followed by a move to Dublin and a job at the Irish Daily Star, before moving back to Scotland to work at the Daily Record.
“When I was at the Daily Record, David Young from the Press Association asked me to come back to Dublin,” she explains, “and I was dying to come back to Dublin.”
After two years making her name as a reporter for the Press Association, Moore scored a job at the Irish Examiner. While there, she fully delved into the subject that most interested her: politics. “I did politics for A-Levels, was in the politics club in school, the dorkiest thing I’ve ever done. I did a lot of crime and court reporting in Scotland and at the Star. At Press Association, you cover everything, but I had a natural affinity for politics.”
Despite her long-standing passion for politics, Moore asserts that she has no party allegiances, despite the internet prattle. “When I came down here, I didn’t have any set views on Fiánna Fail or Fine Gael or the Greens. I had never lived under their government; I had never lived in the south until I started in the Star. So I didn’t feel like I came with a bias whatsoever, which is why when all the abuse started online I was quite shocked. I thought I had no baggage here, I have no family in any party, [so I’d] get no grief at all. And then the online abuse started [laughs].
“I try to treat every party with the same level of respect and give them all the same go.”
I wonder if being in close proximity to power has increased or reduced the former school politics club member’s faith in politics to change the world for the better.
“I totally can see both sides of it in a way that I come from a community that was very let down by politics. I believe that my generation of young people in Northern Ireland have been let down by politics. We did not get the peace dividend we were promised and that’s because of politicians. Bodily autonomy, the fight for gay marriage—that was all a failure for politics. I can see why people get turned off. I can see why people are like, ‘Why would you bother?’ But then, when you’re in Leinster House, you can see some things do change and there is a point to it.”
She continues, “Ireland is very much going through a transition period at the moment, after two referendums and Brexit, and the electorate has changed a lot, but it’s not going to change overnight. I think some days you can be very cynical, it’s hard not to be cynical, but you have to keep remembering the bigger picture. Some days you’re in there and the Punch and Judy show of Sinn Féin and the government—and Leaders Questions especially—drives me mental, makes me despair, because it’s pure politics and it doesn’t serve anyone. There’s loads of clouds, but there’s silver linings as well.”
While electorate politics can at times feel circular, Moore points to grassroots activism as an important catalyst for change. “I think that’s what people need to remember, Repeal was won by activists, gay marriage was won by activists. It was always going to be this way. If people are looking for big changes, it’s only going to come from the ground up. Because politicians very rarely do anything until they’re embarrassed into it. You’d hope that people don’t lost heart, because it is easy to lost heart when you’re watching Leaders Questions and you’re thinking, ‘I’m never going to own a house if these two groups of people are left to fight with each other’.
“I am slightly heartened by, even in this Dáil, even though there aren’t more women, there are more younger people. You can only hope that they can build on this, because Ireland are only going to get better when the politicians look like Ireland, and we know there is a massive issue in Leinster House is that it doesn’t look like Ireland. It is very male, it’s almost completely white, there are very few people with disabilities. We can only hope that more young people and a more diverse section of people get into politics, it’s the only way it’s going to change.”
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