It’s a tense morning in the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, aka Blueshirt General, as the hospital prepares to carry out a groundbreaking operation to separate Siamese triplets. In the glare of the world’s media, Dr Varadkar holds a press conference.
Reporter: Hi Doctor. I can’t remember your name, but I’m Kay Burley, from Sky News. Can I ask why you’re wearing a sleeveless tank top?
Varadkar: Am I? (He checks himself out while accidentally-on-purpose flexing his biceps). Gosh. I was doing my usual two-hour gym session earlier – must have forgotten to change. (To photographers) That’s not the best angle, guys. Here, try this (he strikes a pose). Or this. (To the other media reps) Carry on with the questions, people.
Second reporter: What’s so historic about this operation, doctor?
Varadkar: Well, not only is it an attempt to separate Siamese triplets – that’s always challenging. But in this case, we’re dealing with three very different levels of development. The patient we call “EU” is the dominant partner. “UK” is rather smaller, although still adult-sized. But in between them there’s “NI”, which is a dwarf really, and entirely dependent on one or both of the others – we won’t know until we go in. So it’s complicated. But we have a team of top surgeons, including Dr Juncker – he’ll be in charge of the EU side of the op – and Dr May from London. We think it’s doable.
Third reporter: What about red lines?
Varadkar (Smiling): It’s surgery, folks. There are always going to be red lines afterwards. But they usually fade away. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have history to make.
A corridor outside the operating theatre, hours later. Door-stepped by reporters, Dr Simon Coveney gives an impromptu briefing on progress.
Coveney: We think it’s going really well so far. The patients are very comfortable. And certainly from our point of view, all the aims of the surgery look like being met. Yes Tony?
Tony Connelly, RTÉ: I’m hearing from well-placed sources that NI will remain in full “regulatory alignment” with the EU after the operation. Is that true?
Coveney: Well, let’s just say we’re happy that there won’t be any hard borders between NI and EU … (A loud melée in the background, as a woman with a northern Irish accent grapples with hospital security).
Arlene Foster (for it is she): I’m the next of kin – I demand to be admitted to the operating theatre. Noy! (She wrestles three security men to the floor and barges through the doors)
Another press conference, days later. Dr Varadkar explains what went wrong, while expressing confidence that a breakthrough may yet be achieved.
Varadkar: So we were disappointed that, just when it looked like the UK was stitched up, we had the needle snatched from our hands by a demented Nordie. But I still think we’ll get there eventually – maybe tomorrow.
BBC reporter: Any truth in the rumour that Dr May lost a limb during Monday’s fracas? We’re hearing that she was left – and I quote – without “a leg to stand on”.
Varadkar (smiling): I think that may have been just a metaphor. Anyway, Mrs Foster has patched things up with her since. They’re very close now – you could even say they’re joined at the hip. Really impressive needlework, by the way.
Sky News, Saturday. In the wake of the historic operation, Adam Boulton interviews Simon Coveney.
Bolton: So do you think this week’s kerfuffle was really necessary, or are you Irish feeling a bit guilty now over what you put the British side of the operating team through?
Coveney: Well, maybe that’s the briefing you received, Adam. It’s not the way we saw it. Our job was to ensure the health of the Irish/EU patient. We had enough to worry about on our side of the op than to be concerned about what was happening on the British side. With respect, that’s a no-brainer.
Bolton: Well yes, speaking of brains. Is it true that, in the final carve-up, the GB and NI patients were left with only half a brain between them, while the EU patient got the other 2.5?
Coveney: I think that just confirmed the pre-existing allocation of resources, to be honest. It might explain why the GB patient hadn’t thought this whole thing through before voting for separation.
The weekly meeting of the hospital board. Dr Varadkar delivers his post-op debriefing.
Varadkar: So the good news is that the operation was a complete success as far as we’re concerned. We’ve met all our objectives. The surgery has cost the British side an arm and a leg, plus several other vital organs. Whereas the EU/Irish side has emerged fully intact.
Simon Harris: What’s the bad news?
Varadkar: The bad news is that the Brits now say the whole thing was just a statement of intent. They claim the stitches are non-binding and that the organ-distribution can be revisited at any point.
Harris: So we may have to do it all again next year?
Varadkar: Seems likely. Oh well – here, have some sweets. (He passes a box of chocolates around the table). Dr Juncker brought them from Brussels.
Harris: Yummy – what are they?
Varadkar: What else? The great Brussels specialty: fudge.