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HEROIN cost me my one true love; SHANE MacGOWAN OPENS HIS HEART TO THE.

Byline: NEIL COTTER

SHANE MacGowan yesterday told how years of heroin abuse ruined his relationship with the only woman he ever loved.

Opening his heart to the Irish Mirror, the boozy singer revealed how banishing his heroin demons was the closest thing he experienced to "hell on earth".

For 15 years, journalist Victoria Mary Clarke stuck by him as his career and life went on a rollercoaster ride.

But his addiction to deadly smack ended their love affair three years ago.

And yet amazingly, the songwriting legend yesterday called for the legalisation of ALL drugs.

In Dublin to promote his first new material in seven years, Ireland's favourite son looks determined to battle back to his rip roaring best.

Overcoming heroin addiction almost killed him - but now his new charity song Road To Paradise could prove to be his chart rebirth.

He revealed: "You don't f*** about with heroin. I genuinely got incredible enjoyment out of it for years, but towards the end it really f****d me up.

"Giving up was the closest thing I've been to hell on earth - it was like my own personal Iraq.

"It got to a point where I didn't feel any better for taking it, just a whole lot worse.

"I didn't give a f*** about wasting any talent I had. It broke up my relationship with the only woman I ever loved and that's all I give a f*** about.

"I don't regret anything I've done in my life except the years I wasted taking that rubbish. It messed some things up."

Despite his personal hell, the legendary bad boy of music claimed the only way to tackle Ireland's spiralling drug problem is to legalise all drugs.

He said: "In this country, in schoolyards people are being given bad smack by scumbags and they are being given a free run. The answer to this problem is to legalise all drugs and tax them heavily.

"They would run out the criminals that way, and of course there should be an age limit and this should be strictly enforced.

"We could have a referendum on age and jail sentences for anyone without a licence."

And he slammed the smoking ban for "adding to the problem".

He said: "It's making taking drugs easier by getting them to go outside, where those who want to might as well smoke crack. It's bad stuff and not a good idea."

Sitting in Dublin's Palace Bar with a cocktail and pint in hand at 11am yesterday, the Tipperary man reassures fans that drugs were his only demons.

In between smoke breaks, he said: "The heroin messed me up. The drink doesn't, I don't want to give it up and I haven't got a problem with the drink. I like it."

The former Pogues frontman was only last week honoured in Italy for his songwriting talents, an achievement that makes the unflappable musician very proud.

An incredibly intelligent man, MacGowan has a deep love of poetry and admits he was humbled to join the likes of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed in receiving the gong.

He said: "It was a huge honour, very humbling. But I don't consider myself a poet, I don't consider myself anything.

"I don't think about being a poet because I'm just in it for the money and the women. But it annoys me when people say I won the Italian version of the Ivor Novello award. Ivor Novello was just an old poof."

Sitting in the Palace, a place frequented by that other Irish hellraiser Brendan Behan, it's impossible not to draw comparisons between the two.

He said: "Behan used to drink here, but then again he used to drink everywhere.

"I knew everyone in his family except him and I think they're great. I'm very similar to him I suppose, but I don't go shooting at coppers when I'm drunk."

Beneath the hardened exterior, tales of drunken rampages and the wild ways is a man with a heart of gold.

Although keeping his cards very close to his chest, a very happy Shane hinted of a new woman in his life, and revealed he could be taking a trip to Asia with her in the near future.

He said: "She has adopted a Tibetan boy through a charity, basically rescuing him from a life of starvation and providing him with an education.

"I've seen photos of him and I plan to go over there and meet him soon. I think he's 20, or then again he could be 18. But he looks very well.

"It's a great thing she's doing."

Another woman who was close to him was the late Kirsty MacColl, who joined him to duet in 1987 hit Fairytale Of New York.

The song's failure to top the Christmas charts that year still bothers MacGowan, who still can't believe the Pet Shop Boys' cover of Always On My Mind beat him to it.

He blasted: "Lots of people felt cheated when they got No1, including Kirsty who in my opinion was an under-rated genius.

"They were No1 for seven weeks - that doesn't naturally happen when someone murders one of the most beautiful versions of a song.

"It makes me full of contempt that they got the top spot when we should have walked it."

But Shane seems happy now, happy with modern Ireland, happy with his new double A-side and happy with life.

He said: "I'm busy, but if this is busy then I'm f*****g happy to be busy. Sitting in a pub drinking and talking s***e isn't the toughest thing you'll ever have to do."

MacGowan will visit Galway's Zhivago records on Wednesday and FM Mega store in Cork on Thursday to sign copies of his new CD.

The double A side has already been acclaimed by critics and music lovers in the UK.

Now Irish fans have a chance to discover that Shane MacGowan- former Pogue and loveable rogue- is well and truly back with a bang.

SHANE MacGowan is back in the charts this weekend with a charity single in aid of Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone.

The winger, who won the European Cup with Celtic in 1967, has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

And Hoops fan Shane was only too happy to write Road To Paradise for his hero.

Shane said: "Jimmy is a gentleman and the greatest footballer Celtic ever had.

"The double A-side, with Jim Kerr and Simple Minds singing Dirty Old Town on the reverse, is our way of helping him out.

"Jim Kerr had the good sense to get Jimmy to sing on the record."

Already a Top10 hit in the Scottish Indie charts, the CD is expected to be a smash in Ireland. MacGowan returns to the studio in six weeks to record his first album since Crock of Gold in 1997.

CAPTION(S):

WILDMAN: Shane with The Pogues in the 80s; HANDY WORK: Shane MacGowan, and top right, with the Pogues, and right, having a pint on stage in Belfast Pictures: Brian McEvoy; THE ONE: Journalist Victoria Mary Clarke; CHEATED: Kirsty MacColl; MINE'S A PINT: Shane gets the drinks in; JOKER: Larking about in the pub
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 17, 2004
Words:1196
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