Grafton Street, mid-December. Staff of the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, aka Blueshirt General, gather for their annual carol singing for this year’s charity, the Simon (Coveney) Community, a group offering counselling to merchant princes from Cork who had expected to be running the country this Christmas.
Leo Varadkar: “In the bleak mid-winter…”
Paschal Donohue: “Come, they told me, pa-rum-pa-pum-pum…”
Noel Rock: “The First No-el…”
John Concannon (of the government’s Strategic Communications Unit): Wait! What the hell’s going on here?
Andrea Pappin (also of the SCU): They’re not singing from the same hymn sheet, that’s what.
Concannon: But I gave them all identical scripts. (He takes the sheets from Varadkar and Donohoe, then looks suspiciously across the street where Gerry Adams, master of a rival hospital specialising in lower-leg injuries, aka Shinners, is leading his group in a mass choral version of Happy Christmas (War is Over), while smirking). I think we’ve been sabotaged.
Pappin: Luckily I brought extra copies of the original.
Concannon: Good thinking, Andrea. Okay folks, let’s start again. By the way, Leo, we’re not doing any bleak mid-winters here. Our message is upbeat – about a successful economy, the return of the boom, and all that. So it’s all Jingle Bells and Joy to the World. Now, after me, everyone – one, two, three: “Dashing through the snow…”
The hospital, later. Christian members of staff, including Nurse Michelle Mulherin, erect a traditional crib in the foyer. But Dr Varadkar and the SCU are not pleased.
Concannon: I’m afraid you can’t do that.
Pappin (with a sigh): What were you thinking, Michelle?
Mulherin: I suppose you’re going to tell me it’s politically incorrect to have a crib? It’s all that Happy Holidays crap, now, isn’t it? In case we upset Muslims or Hindus? (To Varadkar). No offence, doctor.
Varadkar (smiling): None taken, I assure you. No, there’s no problem with a crib, per se. If I guess our SCU friend’s thinking correctly, the problem is the way your little presentation deals with homelessness.
Concannon: Exactly. I mean, it’s a very important issue. But it’s also very complex and we at Blueshirt General get a lot of unfair criticism for not providing simplistic solutions. With this “no-room-at-the-inn” and “whole-family-accommodated-in-single-outhouse-with-farm-animals”, you’re giving critics another stick to beat us with.
Mulherin: But it’s part of the Bible’s story.
Varadkar: Stories can be told in different ways, Michelle. We need a way of telling this that reflects better on the hospital.
Simon Coveney (arriving with large box): I have just the thing, Leo. It was intended for the children’s wing. But we have lots more thanks to my unprecedented house-building programme. (He unpacks a Sylvanian Families Grand Hotel edition and gives it to Mulherin). I think you’ll find there’s plenty of room at this inn, Michelle. (Mulherin and friends proceed to rehouse the Holy Family in the hotel’s penthouse suite).
Concannon: That’s much better. Same story, basically. Just a more harmonious rendering.
Christmas Eve, the children’s wing, aka Phoenix Children’s Health. The hospital’s youngest patients are wide-eyed as a jolly fat man with a beard climbs down the Santa-friendly chimney, and emerges from the real-coal-effect fireplace, switched off for the occasion.
Santa: Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas, children. I’ve checked my list twice and, for the first time in history, I can confirm that all of you, without exception, were good this year. So you’re getting everything you asked for. Ho, ho, ho.
Concannon (smiling indulgently, to Varadkar): We gave him a basic script, obviously. But he’s very good.
Varadkar: Yes – who is he, anyway?
Santa (passing with a wink and pulling his false beard down to reveal a real one and the features of James Reilly): It’s me, Leo. No hard feelings. I had to support Simon in the hospital master campaign for old time’s sake. I think you’re doing a great job.
Varadkar: Gosh, thanks James. That’s a great disguise. I’d never have recognised you. (Reilly continues to distribute toys to the excited kids, while staff drink a champagne toast to the new wing. Twenty minutes pass. Then suddenly, there’s a scream from the office of Nurse Zappone, matron of the children’s department.)
Zappone (Shrieking): The Grinch has stolen christmas!
Reilly (emerging from her office, having refilled his bag with something, and tearing off his consume to reveal another one, this time green): Not exactly, Zapper. But I’ve stolen your portfolio, because it’s rightfully mine. I’ve got my old job back! (He sprints across the ward, disappears up the chimney, dragging the bulky sack after him while emitting evil laughter. Then the laughing stops, grunting noises begin from near the chimney top.)
Varadkar (looking up the flue): Are you stuck, Santa?
Reilly (in a muffled voice): Help!
Varadkar (turning to the rest of the staff, with a grin): What do you say, people? Do you think he can rise from the ashes?
Reilly: No I can’t.
Staff and children in unison (conducted by the SCU): Oh, yes he can!
Vardakar (turning on the coal-effect fire): I hereby declare the Phoenix Children’s Wing officially open.