It’s a big day at the Eoin O’Duffy Memorial Infirmary, aka Blueshirt General, as after months of preparation by a multi-disciplinary team of surgeons led by Dr Varadkar, the operation to remove Bunreacht na hÉireann’s 8th Amendment is finally under way.
Varadkar: How’s the patient doing, Nurse Zappone?
Zappone (reading her smartphone): 44% yes, 32% no, according to the final poll. That still leaves an extraordinary 24% undecided.
Varadkar: Well, it’s a painful issue.
Bunreacht na hÉireann: Aaargh!
Varadkar: Speaking of which, looks like you better top up that anaesthetic.
Meehawl Martin (feeling his lower spine area and wincing): Can I have some too? My backbenchers are giving me grief again.
Mattie McGrath: You needn’t be looking for a spine, Meehole – you don’t have one.
Varadkar: Who let him in here? He’s not even sterilised.
Mary Lou McDonald (waving surgical tweezers): I’ll sterilise him with these.
Varadkar: Now now, Mary Lou. We’ll have no punishment attacks in here. Orderlies! Get this man out.
(The orderlies bundle McGrath out the door; another familiar face peers in)
Rónán Mullen: Hello all – just doing my pastoral rounds. Would now be a good time to speak to the patient?
Varadkar: No it wouldn’t, Father Mullen. He’s busy.
Mullen: I’ll come back after mass, shall I?
Varadkar: Yes do. Make it a Tridentine mass – we’ll be finished then. How’s the anaesthetic doing, nurse?
Zappone: He’s well under.
Varadkar: All right, folks. I’m going in.
John Concannon: Wait. You’re forgetting the most important thing.
Varadkar: Oh yes, of course – the operation-day photograph of me about to cast my scalpel. (He smiles for the cameras, plunges knife into patient).
Bunreacht na hÉireann: Aaargh!
The same operating theatre, later.
Varadkar (stretching): Gosh, this is tiring work. Could you take over for a while, Dr Harris?
Simon Harris: Of course. How’s Mr Bunreacht looking now, matron?
Ailbhe Smyth: Not bad, considering he used to be such a male chauvinist pig.
Harris: I mean, how’s he doing for pain relief?
Smyth: We’ve already given him more than he deserves.
Harris: Well, he’s from an older generation, remember. They weren’t as enlightened as us.
Smyth: True. By the way, doctor, can I just say how wonderful you were on television the other night, debating with those religious loonies who oppose the operation?
Harris: Thanks, matron. But I was just doing my job.
Smyth: Well you did it brilliantly. You’re a hero to women now.
Harris: Gosh. I don’t know what to say.
Kate O’Connell: She’s right, Simon. You were wonderful on TV. We loved your sarcastic eye-roll – it went viral, you know. Do it for us again.
Harris: Oh now, Nurse O’Connell!
O’Connell: Oh go on! Please.
Harris: Well, OK. (He pauses the scalpel and performs eye-roll. Several nurses faint).
Varadkar (angrily): That’s quite enough of that, Simon. Give me back that scalpel.
Harris: But I’m nearly finished.
Varadkar: This is my operation – I’ll finish it.
Harris: As you wish, doctor.
Varadkar (Still in huff): When I asked you to take over, I didn’t mean my job.
A hospital corridor, next day. Doctors Varadkar and Harris walk and talk.
Varadkar: Sorry for snapping yesterday.
Harris: Don’t worry. We’ve all been under a lot of pressure lately.
Varadkar: Yes. There was so much riding on this. It could have destroyed the hospital if we’d got it wrong.
Harris: You’ve heard about Ganley threatening to withdraw sponsorship?
Varadkar: Yes – he says he’s a conscientious objector. But I think we can work something out. Maybe if we name a suitable ward of the hospital after him, he could channel his funds into that.
Harris: Good idea. The Ulster ward, for example. That’s mostly psychiatric patients now – he’d have no conscience issues there.
Varadkar: Speak of the devil – here’s Matron Foster. Good morning Matron.
Foster (passing with barely a glance): Ulster still says no!
Harris: That was a bit frosty. Anyway, here’s my ward.
Varadkar: Ah yes. Where I cut my own teeth as a doctor. It used to be called “Angola”, you know. Because of all the hidden mines, waiting to explode.
Harris: It’s still considered the death knell of a doctor’s career.
Varadkar: Whereas your career seems to be thriving, Simon. If anything, you’re almost too successful.
Harris: I hope you’re not thinking of another reshuffle?
Varadkar: Maybe I am. How would you like to go to actual Angola, Simon? I hear the Red Cross are looking for someone.
Harris: But Charlie Flanagan is there already, as you know.
Varadkar: I could bring him back. He has valuable experience I could use here. Also, crucially, he doesn’t have as much hair as you do, or look as good on television.
Harris: If I promise to keep a low profile for a while, can I stay?
Varadkar: That might help, alright. Now get back to work.