Scene 1: Davos. Mingling with guests after taking part in a panel discussion on “global inequality”, Enda Kenny bumps into an old friend.
Denis O’Brien: Well done, Taoiseach – you were great.
Kenny (checking nervously for cameras before shaking hands): Thanks Denis. I was a bit worried beforehand – there were some heavy hitters up there.
O’Brien: Yeah, well, you and Joe Stiglitz. I’ll be honest – when I saw the word “inequality” in the discussion title, I thought they were talking about your respective IQs. But I gotta say, you handed him his Nobel-prize winning arse on a plate.
Kenny (blushing): Gosh – was I that good, really? Well, in fairness, he couldn’t very well beat me with the anti-austerity stick this time, what with the extent of our economic recovery.
O’Brien: Still, you were very sure-footed. You struck just the right balance between false humility and smugness. And for a change, you didn’t give any presents to the media. You know, like “we all partied” or that shite about armies guarding ATM machines – the stuff you normally come out with when you get carried away. No, seriously, you did well.
Kenny: Thanks. To be honest, I had a bit of help. (He fiddles with an earpiece, then speaks into a miniature microphone on his lapel). You can stop talking now, Frank – I’m off stage.
O’Brien: Who’s that?
Kenny (to O’Brien): Frank Flannery. He was feeding me lines for the harder questions. (To microphone) It’s all right Frank, I’m finished now. I’m with Denis.
O’Brien: Tell him I said hello.
Kenny: Denis says hello. (He listens to ear-piece, then speaks into microphone again). No, don’t worry – there’s no cameras around.
Scene 2: City West hotel. As Fine Gael gather for the ard fheis, Brian Hayes and Simon Coveney walk and talk.
Coveney: So I hear we have a €3 million war chest for the election?
Hayes: Apparently so.
Coveney: Jeez. An economic recovery that’s the envy of the world, a hopelessly disunited opposition, and three million to spend. You must be the luckiest director of elections ever.
Hayes: Well, the wind’s behind us, all right. But I’m not taking anything for granted.
Coveney: Oh, come on. We can’t seriously lose this election.
Hayes: That’s what Dev thought in 1948.
Coveney: And? You’ll have to remind me what happened then.
Hayes: The first inter-party coalition, that’s what. It had more different working parts than a small car. The only thing they all had in common was they were sick of the government. So lo and behold, to everybody’s amazement, they formed a coalition and turfed the Soldiers out of power.
Coveney: You’ve been reading your history books, I see.
Hayes: Actually it’s Flannery was reading them. Now that we’re so close to the historic second term, he’s worried we’ll screw up by appearing too arrogant, like Dev did.
Coveney: I must remember to sound modest about our achievements. However hard it is.
Hayes: That’s exactly the note we need to strike, Flannery says. Trying to be humble, but failing occasionally, because it’s such a big challenge.
Coveney: Okay. Still, a booming economy and three million to spend on posters.
Hayes: Yeah, you’re right. (He looks over shoulder and lowers voice) We can’t possibly lose.
Scene 3: A back room of City West, Saturday night. The Taoiseach practices his speech in front of a mirror, as Frank Flannery enters.
Enda Kenny: “…Because for us, the recovery is not a political prize, or an ego trip, or something that makes global headlines. Even if those headlines attract the admiration of people like the Nobel Prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz, who by way the I wiped the floor with at Davos the other day, in case you missed it.”
Flannery (seizing script): I don’t remember approving any line about Stiglitz. (He reads through text) How many times have I told you, Enda? Don’t ad-lib. After “global headlines…”, you just say: “The recovery is something to be lived and felt by every citizen of our republic.” Then you pause – where it says “pause”. And then you say: “Because it’s your recovery.”
Kenny: Yeah, I know that’s what it says, Frank. But I thought it needed spicing up. It’s boring.
Flannery: It’s supposed to be boring.
Kenny: And I’m saying “recovery” so often I sound like I’m in rehab.
Flannery: It’s the key word – you can’t say it often enough. Trust me. It worked with all the focus groups.
Kenny (sighing but staring grave-faced at the mirror and resuming from script): “Because it’s your recovery.”
Flannery: That’s better. But what the hell is this, by the way?
Kenny: You mean the tie? Fionnuala bought it for me at Christmas. It’s colourful.
Flannery: It’s too colourful – it’s like something Mick Wallace would wear if he wore ties. Take it off. (He produces a red tie from somewhere instead). Put this on.
Kenny: What’s so good about red?
Flannery: It sets off the blue shirt better. And it’s a signal to Labour – a vote of confidence in our coalition colleagues.
Kenny: But we don’t have any confidence in them. You said yourself they’re f****d.
Flannery: Even so. Fine Gael preferences might swing them enough last seats to limp back into power with us. And they’re still our preferred lapdogs… er, I mean partners. (He straightens Kenny’s tie).
Press officer (peering in door): You’re on in two minutes, Taoiseach.
Flannery: Go get ’em, champ! No – wait.
Kenny: What is it now?
Flannery (spraying him with aerosol): Anti-perspirant. It’s pretty warm out there under the lights. I don’t want you sweating on live TV. There’ll be time enough for that come the leaders’ debates.