The Government should not believe anything the U.S. says about its use of Shannon airport, because
the White House is controlled by "a bunch of gangsters", The West Wing actor Martin Sheen has claimed. But the man
famous for playing a fictional U.S. President admits he may have to tone down his opposition to the real one during his next
major role, as a full-time student in NUI Galway.
Speaking after an honorary arts doctorate was conferred on him by the National University of Ireland
yesterday, Sheen (65) said he would become the "oldest undergraduate" at NUIG later this year when he begins a course in philosophy
and English literature.
As a "foreign student", he believes he will have to curtail his real-life political activism, although
he regards the use of Shannon by the U.S. military as an "outrage". He also considers President Bush a "very, very dangerous
man" who has "opened the gates of hell in Iraq".
Sheen has been arrested more than 60 times in the U.S. for acts of civil disobedience. On a previous
visit to Ireland, playing his TV role as President Bartlett, he issued a "pardon" to the five Catholic worker activists who
attacked a U.S. aircraft at Shannon. "I still support them," he said yesterday.
He shot his final episode of The West Wing last week and says he will now "slow down a bit",
although he has already featured in a film directed by his son Emilio Estevez about the assassination of Robert Kennedy.
Born Ramon Estevez to a Spanish father and a Tipperary mother, Sheen deliberately failed his university
entrance exam so he could pursue a career in acting. He used to boast about never having been to college, "but gradually realised
what I'd missed".
One of his concerns about attending NUIG is that he would be a "distraction" to other students. Despite
such concerns, he will be attending lectures like everyone else. "I'm very serious about it," he said.
© The Irish Times