The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The political correspondents room, Leinster House. A lone hack lingers on the telephone, as a shadowy Government spin doctor enters.
Spin doctor: Special delivery!
Hack (putting down phone): What? Nobody ordered pizza.
Spin doctor: It’s even better than pizza. (He takes something from a box) Here’s your copy.
Hack (reading): The interim report of the Cregan Commission? You’ve gotta be joking… it’s 9pm on the Friday before the bank holiday. Tomorrow’s papers are all written.
Spin doctor (with mock disappointment): Ah no! And we were so looking forward to pages and pages of embarrassing coverage about Denis O’Brien.
Hack (leafing through report, despondently): Feckers.
Spin doctor: Gosh… I’m beginning to think we picked a bad night to release this.
Hack: Yeah, and you were sitting on it for the past two weeks.
Spin doctor: Hey, look on the bright side. (He gestures around room). It looks like you have the story to yourself. And there’s some good stuff in there, if you take the two hours to read it.
Hack (Moving towards door and getting coat): Do me a favour, will you? Don’t let on you saw me here either.
Spin doctor: Ha, ha – wise decision. Enjoy the weekend.
Hack (exiting furtively): Yeah. You too.
Scene 2: The Acting Taoiseach’s Office. Enda Kenny studies the draft agreement with Fianna Fáil, while the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Collins: So the deal’s done? You’re getting another term?
Kenny: Well we still have to work out something with the Independent Alliance. But yeah, the Soldiers of Destiny are on board. That’s the hardest bit done.
Collins: Congratulations. First Fine Gael Taoiseach ever reelected.
Kenny: Well, there was WT Cosgrave. But it wasn’t Fine Gael then. And he wasn’t Taoiseach. What was he, remind me?
Collins: President of the Executive Council. Yeah, still, it’s a record of sorts. How long are they giving you before Leo takes over?
Kenny: It’s not up to them, Mick. I’ll choose my own time to go. And on a suitably high note too, I hope – maybe after Mayo finally win the All-Ireland.
Collins: Jayzus – is that in the agreement? It would want to be negotiated in advance, with lawyers. There’s no way it could happen otherwise.
Kenny: Seriously, though. Fourteen months would take me past John A Costello as the longest-serving Fine Gael Taoiseach. That’d be a bit of history. And I’d get another St Patrick’s Day in the White House to say my farewells. With Hillary, probably.
Collins: Or even better, President Chump. No offence, but alongside him, you’d look statesmanlike.
Kenny: Thanks Mick. But by the way, you should be grateful – you’re getting a new lease of life too?
Kenny: When I’m finished, you’ll probably be packed away as well. It’ll be like Obama moving Churchill’s bust out of the Oval Office to make way for Martin Luther King.
Collins: Who will Leo have instead of me, do you think? Mahatma Gandhi?
Kenny: I don’t know. Maybe he’ll put me up there. Fine Gael’s greatest ever leader. The man who made him possible.
Scene 3: Micheál Martin’s living room, Cork. He receives a visit from Michael McGrath and other Fianna Fáil henchmen.
Martin: Congratulations again on the negotiations, Michael. I hear you ran rings around them with your attention to detail.
McGrath: Only doing my job, party leader.
Martin: Well, you’ll be rewarded in due course. When we’re swept back into power after the next election, a very senior ministry will be yours.
Henchman 1: Are we really supporting the Blueshirts for three budgets? I mean, that’ll give the bastards a chance to buy a majority.
McGrath: The record suggests it’ll also give them a chance to remind the electorate why it never votes them in twice, except – as happened this time – by default.
Martin: Exactly. Anyway, we’ll see about the three budgets. Just because we promised to support them doesn’t mean they won’t screw up spectacularly.
Henchman 2: Hopefully that occurs while Enda’s still in charge.
Henchman 1: Yes, a lame duck, still grappling with Irish Water.
Henchman 2: In the meantime, Meehawl, you’ll have all the power – with plenty of favours to dispense – and none of the responsibility.
Martin: Wow. I feel a bit like Michael Corleone.
Henchman 1 (jokingly kissing his hand): Congratulations, Godfather.
Henchman 2: Or as we say in Cork – congratulations, the Real Taoiseach.
Scene 4: A hotel near Government Buildings. Members of the Independence Alliance rendezvous en route to talks with FG.
Shane Ross: Are we all here?
Finian McGrath: All except for Senator Craughwell. He’s already resigned on principle.
Ross (crossing line through list): Right. That’s the first item on the agenda – the split – taken care of. As for the rest of us, it’s vital that we keep a united front.
Michael Fitzmaurice: Agreed.
Ross: And that means remembering that the core principles of our group are more important than any issues of individual concern.
John Halligan: Except for Cardiac Care in the South-east. I’m not supporting the Blueshirts unless we get a deal on that.
Ross: Sigh. Okay. But let’s try to sing from the same hymn sheet on everything else. Like our demand for an end to cronyism.
Sean Canney: Yes – just so long as that doesn’t apply to hiring your wife as a secretarial assistant – once she’s the best qualified person for the job.
Ross: Jesus. Any other exceptions I should know about before we go in here?
Fitzmaurice: That seems to be it.
Ross: Okay. Let’s do this. And remember, our total media black-out still applies.
McGrath: Right. So it’ll be just you all over the airwaves as usual?
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: A room in Leinster House. Talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil resume.
Enda Kenny (entering, out of breath): Sorry I’m late, gentlemen. An acting Taoiseach’s work is never done.
Micheál Martin: Where was it you were, again?
Kenny: National Concert Hall. Official reopening of the Kevin Barry Rooms. Very historic venue – hosted the Treaty Debates, don’t you know?
Martin: Ah, yes. Where Collins and Griffith sold out the Republic?
Kenny: More like where Dev stabbed his country in the back.
Leo Varadkar: Alright chaps, let’s not fight the civil war again. (He hands Kenny a sheet of paper) In your absence, Taoiseach, we’ve nailed down a few more details. But Meehole – sorry, Meehawl – has a new list of demands.
Martin: They’re not demands – they’re principles. I call it Document No 2.
Kenny: Document No 2, eh? I seem to recall De Valera produced one of those as well in 1921. It had to be discussed in secret session.
Varadkar: Don’t worry, Taoiseach – this one’s mostly about jobs for the boys and free parking spaces. There’s nothing in it we can’t live with.
Kenny (looking Martin in the eye): And if we say yes to this, you’ll take the, er, oath of allegiance?
Martin: We’re not going to kiss your ring, Enda – if that’s what you think. But we’ll abstain on the vote for Taoiseach and on certain agreed issues thereafter.
Kenny: Okay. Leave this with me. We may have a few new demands of our own before we shake hands on anything.
Scene 2: The bustling corridors of Government Buildings. En route to a Cabinet meeting, Varadkar and Simon Coveney walk and talk.
Coveney: So we need 58 votes to get the lame duck reelected?
Varadkar: Yes, and we already have Katherine Zappone, plus the disgraced former minister from Tipperary whose name we don’t mention.
Coveney: I’m also hearing rumours that Labour are wrestling with their consciences about a possible return to government. They usually win.
Varadkar: Yeah, but do we want them? I mean, we’ll have enough of a legitimacy issue as it is.
Coveney: Well there’s also the Greens. They’re gagging for it. Plus Denis Naughten, and Maureen O’Sullivan, although they’ll both want something ministerial. We’ve asked Shane Ross’s gang for a costed shopping list too, but they still haven’t reached check-out.
Varadkar: Ten billion and counting, I hear.
Coveney: Plus two seats at Cabinet, probably. At this rate, we’ll have a lot of disappointed Blusehirts.
Varadkar: Lesser of two evils. I mean: imagine if we had to fill all 15 ministries and another 15 juniors out of our 50 TDs. You’ve heard some of those people speak at the PP meetings, for God’s sake.
Coveney (Thinking about it): The horror!
Varadkar: No harm invigorating the Cabinet with new blood.
Coveney: Especially because they’ll get most of the blame for everything.
Varadkar: Ha, ha, yes – just like poor old Labour. (They pause outside the door of the Cabinet room and he lowers his voice). Anyway, it’ll just be a temporary little arrangement. We only need to get Enda back in long enough for him to go with dignity.
Coveney: Indeed. Two years would do us. One year to phase out Enda, and another for the, ahem, new leader – whoever that is – to win the party an overall majority.
Varadkar (entering room): Well I can’t guarantee a majority, Simon. But I’ll do my best.
Scene 3: The Taoiseach’s Office. Enda Kenny studies files as the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Collins: So I hear the Soldiers of Destiny are supporting you for Taoiseach?
Kenny: Well, they’re constructively abstaining, anyway. But yes, it seems to be a done deal. We’re just dotting ‘i’s and crossing ’t’s now.
Collins: Whatever you do, never trust the bastards.
Kenny: Don’t worry, I won’t. (The door opens and a personal assistant enters with an envelope).
PA: This was just delivered by courier, Taoiseach. It’s marked “extremely urgent”.
Kenny (opening it and reading aloud): “Document No 3…”
Collins: What does it say?
Kenny: It’s a quasi-legal contract, drawn up by Fianna Fáil. I think it means that their offer of support for the Government will cease forthwith upon any change of Fine Gael leader, in which event they will feel obliged to refer back to the electorate.
Collins: In other words, they want to keep you as Taoiseach until the next election, whenever it happens?
Kenny: That seems to be it, yes.
Collins: The cunning bastards!
Scene 4: Arbour Hill. At Fianna Fáil’s annual commemoration for the men of 1916, Eamon Ó Cuív reads the proclamation, while Micheál Martin and Bertie Ahern look on.
Ó Cuív: “…In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good…”
Ahern (to Martin): Speakin’ of which, eh, I hear youse are sacrificin’ yourselves for de common good?
Martin: Well, we’re facilitating the reelection of the current Taoiseach, if that’s what you mean.
Ahern: How long do ye tink dat’ll last?
Martin: I don’t know. But sure we’ll take it one vote at a time.
Bertie (to Ó Cuív, as he returns from podium): Well done, Eamon. Good speech – aldough I tink I heard it before somewhere.
Ó Cuív: Very drole, Bertie. Nice to see you again.
Bertie: So is dis de end of civil war politics, lads?
Ó Cuív: Well, let’s see, shall we? They don’t trust us as far as they’d throw us. And we have an even lower opinion of them. Bertie: I’ll give it six months so. I just hope tings doesn’t get too bitter and, ye know, turn brudder against brudder.
Martin: No danger of that. Neither of the Healy Raes would vote for a Blueshirt Taoiseach, unless maybe he promised an extension of the Luas to Killorglin, or something.
Ó Cuív: Ha, ha. I hear that was just one of their demands. They wanted an airport as well.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The Easter Rising commemorations, Dublin. Heavily disguised, and using “back channels”, negotiators from Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael open talks about talks.
Man dressed as Countess Markievicz (actually Simon Harris): Psst! You there! Flag bearer in 1916 uniform.
Flag Bearer (actually Barry Cowen): Is that you Simon? Wow. You make a very convincing countess. But what’s wrong with your nose?
Harris: Nothing. I just have to hold it when I’m talking to you guys.
Cowen: The feeling’s mutual, Simon. That’s why I brought a pole. It’s extendible to 40 foot – in case I have to touch you.
Harris: OK. Enough of the insults. Are the soldiers of destiny ready to deal yet?
Cowen: Not quite yet, I’m afraid. The front bench accepts it’s inevitable, but the grassroots still haven’t forgiven ye for certain things.
Harris: Like what? Austerity?
Cowen: No – selling out the Republic in 1921. They’re still dealing with that.
Harris: Jesus! How long more do they need, realistically? Or are we wasting our time.
Cowen: Don’t worry. We’ll make them an offer they can’t refuse. But it’ll take another month or so.
Harris: A month? That’s a lot of time for us to be pretending to hold constructive talks with the Independents. Although we do need a back-up deal with them too. In case you bastards try to cut and run early on us.
Cowen: Yeah. Same for us with ye.
Harris: So I can report back to HQ that you’re making progress towards talks, however slowly. And we’ll meet again in, say, two weeks?
Cowen: Agreed. I’ll bring a shorter pole next time.
Scene 2: Grand National Day, Fairyhouse. After another big win for Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud, the Taoiseach presents the trophies and poses for photographs.
Enda Kenny (to the winning jockey): Well done young man. That was a bit close for comfort, I’d say.
Jockey: It was tight alright, (he slaps the horse’s neck, affectionately), but in fairness, this lad gave me a great ride.
Kenny (nodding towards Michael O’Leary): It was more comfortable than a ride with Ryanair, that’s for sure. You had no shortage of leg room at least.
O’Leary: Gee, thanks Enda. I’ll really miss your wit this time next year, when the new Taoiseach – Leo Varadkar or whoever – is giving me the trophy.
Kenny: Don’t write me off yet, Michael – you might be surprised. (He strokes the horse’s nose). But well done you too, big fella.
Kenny: Ha, ha – I hear that a lot in politics. Fair play to you: you may be only a dumb animal, but at least you always respond to the whip – unlike some of my backbenchers.
Horse: Who are you calling dumb? I’m not the one who had a booming economy and a hopelessly fragmented opposition and still managed to the lose the election.
O’Leary: There you have it. Straight from the horse’s mouth.
Scene 3: The Aviva Stadium. During a break in the Leinster v Munster rugby match, Leo Varadkar discusses political developments with fellow Fine Gael TD Eoghan Murphy.
Murphy: So I’m hearing the Sindo have a poll tomorrow saying 39 per cent of the electorate want Meehole as Taoiseach, compared with only 17 for our man?
Varadkar: Yeah – like, ouch! But what can we do? If only the party had a younger, more dynamic leader.
Murphy: So when are making your move?
Varadkar: Oh, there’s no rush. I gather that Enda’s unpopularity with Fine Gael is more than offset by the secret affection Fianna Fáil have for him. They consider him a potential asset, understandably enough. So while publicly calling for his head, they’d quite like to keep him there in any FG-FF arrangement, as rotating Taoiseach or whatever.
Murphy: And what? You want to keep him there too?
Varadkar: Well, I think I’d like him to be the one who leads us into what’s sure to be a bad experience sharing power with the soldiers. Then maybe, when Meehole thinks he has us where he wants us, we could arrange for Enda’s departure. I’ll have positioned myself as the anti-FF wing of the Cabinet. So after reluctantly agreeing to become leader, I’ll be the one to rescue the party from the mess Enda led it into, just in time for the historic 2018 election.
Murphy: God, You have it all worked out.
Varadkar: Or alternatively, I might be persuaded to shaft Enda next week and have done with it. I’m pretty flexible, really. That’s what being Minister for Health teaches you, if nothing else. You make things up as you go along.
Scene 4: Glasnevin Cemetery. After the unveiling of the 1916 memorial wall, the acting Taoiseach meets a former one.
Bertie Ahern: Well, have you seen de writin’ on it yet?
Enda Kenny: On what?
Ahern: On de wall.
Kenny: You mean the 488 names of the 1916 dead?
Ahern: No, I mean the bit dat predicts your immigrant demise.
Kenny: “Imminent” demise, I think you mean.
Ahern: So you did see it. I was wondering was it just me – I have a sixt sense for dat sort of ting.
Kenny (lowering his voice and leaning in): Speaking of which, what does your sixth sense say about this so-called Panama Papers stuff? I’m hearing a lot about an office in Drumcondra?
Ahern: Dat’s a pure coincidence – nuttin to do wit me. But, eh, I hear your pal Frank Flannery is mentioned in dispatches.
Kenny: Really? Not that he is a pal of mine, anymore.
Ahern: Whatever you say.
Kenny: I mean, he used to be our election strategist, once upon a time. But as you know, we didn’t use him on this occasion, for better or worse.
Ahern: Might turn out to be for better.
Kenny: And we were never that close anyway.
Ahern: Fair enough. (He looks around, ostentatiously) But what was dat strange farmyard sound?
Kenny: What sound?
Ahern: I taut I heard a cock crow dere – de turd time ye said ye didn’t know Flannery. But maybe I imagined it.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The West Wing of the White House. After the St Patrick’s Day speeches, Barack Obama chats with Enda Kenny.
Obama: So – last time we do this together, eh buddy? Although I guess you might still be back next year?
Kenny: Visiting President Trump?
Obama: Jeez, what a thought! But between ourselves. America’s not quite that dumb yet. The Donald is a gift to Hillary. He’ll make her look good if nothing else can.
Kenny: I suppose you’ll miss all this?
Obama: Maybe. I won’t miss having to negotiate with goddamn Republicans over every line of legislation. What about you? You any nearer sorting out some sort of coalition back home?
Kenny: Not really. We’re still pretending to talk to the smaller parties. It’ll take another couple of weeks of that before our grassroots will be able to stomach the real deal, with our old civil war enemies.
Obama: Hey – speaking of civl war, where’s our beardy friend, Gerry Adams? He was supposed to be here, right?
Kenny (looking around): Yes – I saw him earlier, in fact, leaving the hotel. Oh dear!
Kenny: Well, I made a little joke to your security guys outside. I showed them a picture of Gerry on my phone and said he was a suspected jihadist and they should approach him with caution. You don’t suppose they took me seriously?
Obama: Jeez, Enda – of course they took you seriously. Those guys have even less sense of humour than Sinn Féin. To quote yourself, what the bejaysus were you thinking?
Kenny: Sorry. I couldn’t resist. Do me a favour, will you? Don’t let on I told you about this.
Obama: I won’t – don’t worry. We’ll just blame it on over-zealous security, or something.
Scene 2: Gold Cup day, Cheltenham. With the big race under way, the Minister for Agriculture bumps into former Ceann Comhairle and racing enthusiast Sean Barrett.
Barrett: Well, young man. Are you a declared runner in the Post-Enda leadership handicap hurdle yet?
Coveney: As you know, Sean, there’s no such vacancy.
Barrett: No, but Frank Flannery says there should be.
Coveney (feigning ignorance): Really? I must have missed that.
Barrett: Yeah, he says the older generation, including Kenny and Noonan, have been rejected, and it’s time for the next one to take over.
Coveney: Interesting. Well, we’ll wait and see. What’s your money on here?
Barrett: Leo. Er – I mean Cue Card. I can’t see him beaten. Here he comes now, in fact, with a perfectly timed run. Oh no! (Cue Card crashes out at the third last). Feck.
Coveney: Not so perfectly timed after all, eh? Hard luck.
Barrett (tearing up docket): What are you on yourself?
Coveney (winking): It’s too early to say, Sean.
Scene 3: A hotel in Dublin. At an angry meeting to review Fine Gael’s election performance, campaign director Brian Hayes and party secretary Tom Curran attempt to calm constituency delegates.
Hayes: Alright, alright, we accept mistakes were made. The slogan didn’t work – we get that.
Delegate 1: Neither did the front bench, the lazy bastards.
Delegate 2: Yeah. All we heard on the airwaves was Enda, who we were told would be locked up somewhere safe for three weeks.
Curran: Well, he was surprisingly popular with the focus groups. And in fairness, we did have Leo and others out a lot during the last week. But the electorate had their minds made up by then.
Hayes: A big part of our strategy was based on the expectation of a last-minute surge towards the government, as happened with the Conservatives. For whatever reason, it didn’t happen here.
Delegate 3: Speaking of the feckin’ conservatives, whose idea was it to boast about David Cameron’s endorsement of Enda? Jesus – that was the last straw.
Delegate 4: Yeah, the FFers in our constituency were lighting bonfires when that happened.
Hayes: Yes, well, as I say, mistakes were made. But we are where we are now.
Delegate 5: Which is where, by the way? I mean, we’re not seriously going to put a government together with the support of the likes of the Healy-Raes, are we?
Delegate 6: Even their own cows can’t work with them. (Laughter).
Curran: Look, we all know there’ll have to be a deal with the Soldiers, eventually. Just not yet. But you might start introducing the idea to your grassroots over the next week or two, get them used to it.
Delegate 7: If you feckers in Dublin had been more interested in the grassroots before the election, we wouldn’t be in this position now. Up shit creek with Meehole Martin for a paddle.
(The recriminations continue).
Scene 4: The Taoiseach’s office. Enda Kenny reads the newspapers as the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Collins: So Moore Street is officially a national monument?
Kenny: Yep… Where you lads made your last stand in 1916.
Collins: It was the last stand for some, alright. The rest of us lived to fight another day.
Collins: How’re the talks on a new government going? Or are you still organising the retreat from the burning GPO that was your election campaign?
Kenny: The latter. I think we’ve just crossed Henry Street at this stage. And Frank Flannery is calling for the leaders to be executed, starting with me and Baldy Noonan.
Collins: Oh well. From the graves of dead patriots, etc. (He spots a column headline) Did you really commit to having a cabinet with 50 per cent women?
Kenny: Oh yeah – I might have promised that, during a weak moment of the campaign. But it’s not going to happen now, obviously.
Collins: Like Pearse’s cherishing all the children of the national equally?
Kenny: Exactly. The idea of a 50: 50 cabinet will remain a work in progress for another century or so, like the proclamation. What was it Kevin O’Higgins called the programme of the first Dáil?
Collins: “Mostly poetry”.
Kenny: Well, some things don’t change, obviously. That’s politics, still. You campaign in poetry, you govern in prose.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The Taoiseach’s Office. Enda Kenny reads the newspapers while the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Collins: Well, have you had your picture painted yet?
Kenny: What picture?
Collins: The one for the gallery of ex-Taoisigh.
Kenny (hufflly): I’m not gone yet. Even if I don’t win the vote on Thursday, I’ll still be acting Taoiseach for the foreseeable future.
Collins: No change there, so. I always thought you were acting, although you were nearly convincing sometimes.
Kenny: Gee, thanks.
Collins: Ah, I’m only pulling your chain, Enda. (Gesturing to newspapers) Who’s yer man that’s all over the front pages?
Kenny: Conor McGregor. Mixed martial arts fighter. Thought he was invincible, until he experienced a bad choke.
Collins: Jayzus – sounds very like the Fine Gael election campaign.
Kenny: He went up in weight, of course, which didn’t help. In fact he’s still champion in the featherweight division. But he couldn’t deal with the extra pounds, obviously.
Collins: There’s a moral there. When lightweights try to mix it with the bigger lads, it never ends well.
Kenny: Feck off, Mick.
Scene 2: The bustling corridors of Leinster House. After clearing out his office, Alan Shatter bumps into Leo Varadkar.
Shatter (bitterly): There he is. The genius in charge of Fine Gael’s communications strategy. No wonder the electorate hated us.
Varadkar: Ah Leo, is it your last day? If you’d told us, we’d have put up bunting.
Shatter: The only thing you could be relied on to put up, Leo, is the number of patients on hospital trollies.
Varadkar: Ooh, very cutting! Mind you, I did also put up enough votes to retain my Dáil seat, unlike some people.
Shatter: Yes, well, voters do tend to favour sitting ministers – even incompetent ones. It’s just public profile. They see you opening things all the time, if only your mouth.
Varadkar: Gosh, Alan. We’ll miss your famous warmth and charm around here. I’d wipe a tear away if I could find one.
Shatter: Don’t worry. There’ll be another election soon. I’ll be back then, when we may be travelling in opposite directions.
Varadkar: Well, in the meantime, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. It’s liable to swing behind you – unlike the electorate.
Scene 3: A small room somewhere. The surviving Labour party TDs gather to review their position.
Brendan Howlin: Well, this is cosy.
Alan Kelly: Yes, fair play to you for filling the venue to capacity, Joan. What is this – a broom closet?
Joan Burton: Sorry if it isn’t big enough for your ego, Alan. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford Croke Park. Anyway, here we all are.
Howlin (gloomily): “All” seems like an overstatement.
Willie Penrose: Look on the bright side. At least we still we have Dáil speaking rights, thanks to me.
Burton: Yes, Willie – we’re suitably grateful.
Sean Sherlock: But what do we do now?
Joan Burton: Well, the first thing is we have to vote for Enda as Taoiseach.
Howlin: Even though the electorate rejected him.
Joan Burton: It doesn’t matter. It’s what we said we’d do, so we have to follow through.
Howlin: And what then?
Burton: Then he’ll become the caretaker Taoiseach, while we withdraw to the opposition benches and regroup.
Kelly (sarcastically): As the magnificent seven.
Penrose: I prefer the seven samurai.
Kelly: If we were samurai, a certain person here would have already committed hari-kiri.
Burton: If anyone’s getting ritually disembowelled here, Kelly, it’ll be you.
Howlin: Alright – that’s enough from both of you. This bitter rivalry didn’t help us during the election campaign. It’s not going to help now. Especially with so few of us left, we need to work together. If we do, I’m sure we’ll rebound again, as we’ve always done.
Penrose: Well spoken, Brendan.
Jan O’Sullivan: Yes, it sounded almost like a leadership speech.
Howlin: Well, of course, I have no personal ambitions in that direction…
Kelly: You did the two times you ran before.
Howlin (ignoring him): …But if our tragically divided party could benefit from a compromise candidate….
Burton: Thanks, shortarse. If we need a two-time loser, we’ll call you.
Howlin: I may have lost twice before, Joan. And I may be of diminutive stature. But thanks to the dramatic shrinkage of TDs that has occurred under you leadership, I think the party and I are finally a perfect fit.
Kelly: Ouch! (To Burton) He got you there.
Scene 4: As negotiations on the post-election stalemate continue, Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin have a breakthrough on Dáil reform.
Kenny: So explain to me again this concept about you being both in and out of Government at the same time?
Martin: Well, not exactly the same time. Basically, I got the idea from years of watching Bertie. Whenever it suited him, he used to talk as if he had no real power to change things.
Kenny: Yeah, I remember. And he got away with it, somehow.
Martin: Yes. Well, this would just formalise that arrangement. At certain times, Fianna Fáil would be in government. But at other times – on days when there were no big votes, for example – I’d cross the chamber and be leader of the opposition.
Kenny: Thereby preventing Gerry Adams from filling the role?
Kenny: Well, it seems a bit irregular. But so long as we could do something similar, I’d be broadly in favour.
Martin: No problem there, Enda. I’m happy for us to rotate the role of leader of the opposition, as well as Taoiseach.
Kenny: Right. I think we have the basis of a deal. so.
Martin: Although of course we won’t let on for another few weeks.
Kenny: No. We’ll have all the 1916 stuff first. Then, after pretending to wrestle with our consciences, we’ll do the right thing in the national interest.
Martin: Ha, ha. Put it there, pal. (They shake hands).
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The lobby of a Dublin hotel. Fine Gael’s Director of Elections holds emergency talks with an old friend of the party.
Brian Hayes: Thanks for meeting me at short notice, Frank. As you’ve probably seen, we’re in a bit of trouble, poll-wise.
Frank Flannery: Yeah well, I can’t say I told you so. But I would have, if anyone had bothered asking me.
Hayes: I’m sorry you were excluded from the campaign planning this time, Frank – it was Enda’s idea.
Flannery: Right. So Enda’s having ideas now? No wonder you’re in trouble.
Hayes: I know, but it’s the whole presidential idea. The party has to have a single face – or at least that was the conventional wisdom.
Flannery: There’s nothing wrong with Enda’s face, on a million posters. The trick is to avoid having it talk. That’s how we won last time, remember?
Hayes (ruefully): Yeah. I don’t know what we were thinking. But there’s not much time left now, Frank. What can we do to reverse the trend?
Flannery: Two things. First, get Enda off the airwaves.
Hayes: Agreed. We’re sending him down to Mayo this weekend anyway – he can’t possibly make headlines there.
Flannery: And second, get your big guns on the attack instead. Noonan, Simon, Richard, Leo. They’ve all been far too quiet so far. You need to move them up to the front line now.
Scene 2: The front-line – a Spar shop in Dublin’s Castleknock. Two passers-by, just out of the pub, notice an excited crowd.
Passer-by 1: What’s going on here?
Passer-by 2: Looks like there was a hold-up.
P-b 1: Oh yeah, there’s yer man from the Government – Varadkar. (He shouts at the Minister). Yiz robbin’ bastards! Give us back our money!
Bystander: Eh, no – he’s not the robber. It was two young lads held up the Spar there. The politicians were just in the area at the time, canvassin’.
P-b 2: Right enough, that would explain the guards bein’ here. They never deal with the real bleedin’ criminals.
(The bystanders all lean in to eavesdrop as Varadkar discusses the incident with a Garda, and a Fianna Fáil canvasser who also happened to witness the incident).
Varadkar: …It all happened so quickly, officer. I saw the two men run past me, but they were gone before I could react. Naturally, I would have wrestled them both to the ground, disarmed them, and made a citizen’s arrest if I’d known.
Fianna Fáil canvasser: You would, yeah. You know what you could maybe do, that would be more useful? Give proper resources to the emergency services so they could answer the phones when people ring them.
Varadkar: I don’t know what you mean.
FF canvasser: I rang 999 to report the robbery and got put through to a voicemail.
Varadkar: Oh well – the Gardaí are here now.
FF canvasser: Oh well? So a Government minister doesn’t care that 999 callers are being referred to voicemail?
Varadkar: Cool your jets, man. That Green chap – what’s his name? – he rang 999 too and he got through. So I knew the Gardaí were coming. But hey, thanks for your worthy supporting role, unnecessary as it was. I hope Fianna Fáil will be similarly obliging to us after the elections. (He walks off).
Passer-by 1 (to the retreating Minister): Yis are still a bunch of robbin’ bastards, by the way.
Scene 3: The EU summit, Brussels. As talks on the UK Brexit deal drag on, David Cameron discusses developments with Enda Kenny over dinner.
Cameron: I think we’re almost there, Enda. Just a few more i’s to dot.
Kenny: Glad to hear it, Dave. We all want Britain to stay in. And as you know, I appealed to the other ministers to give you the tools you need to win.
Cameron: Yes, I heard – thanks, pal. Speaking of tools, you’re the biggest one I’ve got here.
Kenny: Ha, ha. I’ll take that as a compliment.
Cameron: I heard you quoted Shakespeare too?
Kenny: “If it were done, when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly”.
Cameron: Macbeth, I believe?
Kenny: Correct. Mind you, (he lowers his voice), he was talking about murdering his rival at the time.
Cameron (raising a wine-glass and staring darkly into it): Yes, well. I trust it won’t come to that with Boris. But I’m keeping my options open.
Scene 4: After the last cabinet sub-committee meeting before the election, Brendan Howlin shares a nostalgic moment with Michael Noonan.
Howlin: It must have been all that talk about the funding for Knock Airport, Mick, but this suddenly feels like the closing scene from Casablanca. You know, where the plane takes off and the two lads are left on the runway?
Noonan: So which of us is Humphrey Bogart and which is the policeman?
Howlin: Well, the Blueshirts have always been the law and order party: you’d have to be the cop.
Noonan: And who’s your love interest flying away in the plane?
Howlin (looking crestfallen): That’s Labour’s core support, if you believe the polls.
Noonan: Hmmm. We’re not doing too well ourselves, you know. That slogan seems to have backfired on us.
Howlin: “Keep the gravy train going”? Yeah. It wouldn’t have been my choice.
Noonan: Oh well, we’ll always have Paris, Brendan. Or in our case, the knowledge that we turned a bankrupt country around together.
Howlin (his eyes tearing up): Yes. And you never know, maybe the voters will have a last-minute change of heart, and give us both enough support to reform the coalition in some shape.
Noonan (checking text on phone): Oh dear. Have you seen the latest poll? (He hands phone to Howlin)
Howlin (reading): Jesus. Four percent!
Noonan (putting his arm around Howlin’s shoulder, supportively): I think this may be the end of a beautiful relationship.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The Alexandra Hotel, Dublin. After a faltering first press conference of the election campaign by Enda Kenny, faceless party strategists call an emergency meeting.
Faceless strategist 1: That wasn’t very good, Taoiseach.
Kenny: Well, they asked me a question about figures and stuff, which as you know is not my strength. So I tried to bat it away.
Faceless strategist 2: And that line about “most people don’t understand economic jargon” was the best you could think of? Jesus – the hacks were laughing at you. It was so obvious you didn’t understand it either.
FC1 (to Michael Noonan): But you should have intervened at that point to take the question for him, Mick.
Noonan: I didn’t realise he was stuck until he started speaking. I mean, I could see he had a blank look on his face. But in fairness, he has that all the time.
FC2: We need to protect the Taoiseach better during the campaign. Otherwise our high-risk strategy of letting him out in public occasionally is going to backfire.
FC1: It’s a bit like Jonny Sexton in the rugby. We have to avoid situations where Enda’s brain is exposed to violent impacts.
FC2: Even if he doesn’t have the excuse of accumulated concussions.
FC1: So, any time we see a big hit coming his direction, just like in the rugby, we need the fat guys to get in the way and take the heat for him.
Noonan: Gee, thanks lads. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m on a diet.
FC1: Sorry, Mick – I wasn’t referring to your physique. I mean that you’re an intellectual heavyweight.
Kenny (offended): And I’m just a pretty face, I suppose?
FC2: You do have a great a smile, Taoiseach. Where possible, you should use that instead of speaking.
Scene 2: The Fiscal Space Centre (aka Fine Gael election HQ). Worried analysts pore over the party’s draft economic manifesto.
Analyst 1: Houston, we have a problem.
Analyst 2: What is it?
Analyst 1: It appears to be a black hole of some kind.
Analyst 2: In the universe?
Analyst 1: In the fiscal space, actually. You know how Baldy has been saying we have €12 billion to spend between 2017 and 2021?
Analyst 2: Yeah?
Analyst 1: It appears to be only €10.1 billion.
Analyst 2: Oh well. What’s a couple of billion here or there?
Analyst 1: Yeah, you’re right. But we better put the lower figure in the manifesto.
Analyst 2: Agreed. The political hacks won’t even notice the difference, anyway. You know what they’re like: they can’t count higher than their expense claims, most of them.
Analyst 1 (changing figure): There. If any fiscal space experts do spot it, we’ll get Enda to blame it on the effects of dark matter.
Analyst 2: That might work. It’s all dark matter to him, anyway.
Scene 3: A street in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Alan Kelly bumps into Michael Lowry on the canvass.
Lowry: The hard man. (They shake hands.) I probably shouldn’t be touching you, though – I hear you’re toxic.
Kelly: Ha ha. If I’m toxic, you must be radioactive. But who’s complaining about me now?
Lowry: “Senior party sources”, according to the papers. They say your naked ambition and disloyalty to the leadership is derailing their campaign.
Kelly: Me – ambitious and disloyal? That’s hilarious. Sure I care about nothing except what’s best for Labour.
Lowry: In other words, you replacing Joan as leader as soon as possible?
Kelly: Exactly. But enough about me – if that’s possible. I see Enda’s ruled out doing any deal with you after the election.
Lowry: Not really.
Kelly: How so? He said there’d be no pact with you or any Independents. That’s fairly clear, by his standards.
Lowry: Yes, but you notice how he lumped me in with all the others?
Kelly: You mean he wasn’t taking a moral stand on you in particular? Ok, but he still said he won’t do a deal with Independents.
Lowry: No, but he might do a deal with the newly-formed NTP.
Kelly: Let me guess – the North Tipperary Party?
Lowry: Feel free to join us if your post-election heave doesn’t work.
Kelly: Ha ha. It’ll work alright. But good luck with the party. I just hope you win one of the two remaining seats after I top the poll.
Lowry: Dream on, young fella. I’m still the man here. You’ll be doing well to finish second.
Scene 4: Sinn Féin HQ. After receiving a coded telephone warning about the presence of a suspected typo in one of Mary Lou McDonald’s campaign leaflets, the party’s electoral bomb disposal unit considers the situation.
Gerry Adams: Do we know the exact nature of the, er, suspect device?
McDonald (blushing from shame): Apparently we printed two ‘o’s instead of two ‘b’s in the “Bobby” of “Bobby Sands”.
Pearse Doherty: Us walking into a booby trap. Who’d have thought?
Adams (stroking beard): OK – keep monitoring social media while I think about how we can defuse this.
Doherty: What about a controlled explosion?
Adams: You mean we admit it ourselves before anyone else notices, and then make a joke out of it? No, our critics would still have a field day. How many of the leaflets have we printed, Mary Lou?
McDonald: A couple of thousand. But most of them are still here. We only distributed a few boxes when I was out canvassing in Cabra earlier.
Adams: Right. We’ll destroy the ones here before we do anything else. Then we’ll retrace your steps in Cabra and see if we can get back the ones you gave out.
Doherty: We can say it’s a new recycling policy. Or an anti-littering initiative.
Adams: Good thinking, Pearse. If we approach this operation delicately enough…
McDonald (looking at iPhone): Feck. Too late.
McDonald: Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. It’s blown up.
The Wesht Wing
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.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The Taoiseach’s home, Castlebar. Enda Kenny takes a call from the Government press officer.
Feargal Purcell: Hi Taoiseach. Sorry to bother you so early in the new year, but we really need to get you photographed in a pair of wellies somewhere, quick.
Kenny: Why? Has a rubber tycoon made a donation to my election fund?
Purcell: No – it’s just the flooding, Taoiseach. You need to be seen doing something about it – or at least being in the general vicinity of the problem, while appearing concerned.
Kenny: Fair enough. I can manage that.
Purcell: It’s just cynical posturing, I know. But everybody else is doing it, so we have to as well.
Kenny: Although I heard Gerry Adams on the news there criticising politicians – and rightly – for using the crisis as a photo op.
Purcell: Yes – he said that while posing from pictures in a flood in Clare.
Kenny: Okay – let’s do it. Anywhere in particular in mind?
Purcell: How about Athlone? It’s handy for you.
Kenny: Excellent choice. A town with loads of floating voters there, I believe.
Purcell: Right. But do me a favour, Taoiseach. Do not make that joke while we’re there.
Kenny: Don’t worry. My lips are as sealed as my wellies.
Scene 2: Meanwhile, in Kilkenny. The Tánaiste prepares to board a canoe with local junior minister Ann Phelan, while a Labour press officer looks on from dry ground.
Burton: Are you sure this is a good idea? You know me and Irish Water don’t get on very well.
Press officer: Don’t worry, Tánaiste – it’s only a couple of feet deep. As you can see, the photographers are standing in it.
Burton: So why are we using a boat?
Press officer: It’s show-business, Tánaiste. It’ll increase your chances of being on the Six O Clock news. (He lowers voice and leans in) Just don’t smile as much as you’re doing. Remember, you’re supposed to look concerned.
Burton: Okay. (She sits down in boat, awkwardly) It’s a bit narrow.
Phelan (under her breath): Like the Labour support base.
Burton (likewise): Well at least we have two secure seats here, Ann. Aaargh! (The boat overturns and dumps them in the water.)
Press officer (sighing heavily): Oh dear. We’re definitely on the Six O Clock News now.
Scene 3: A street in Dublin. Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty walk and talk.
McDonald: So I hear Gerry’s getting waxed?
Doherty (startled): What?
McDonald: Our beloved leader. They’re adding him to the National Wax Museum. He’s sitting for it today, I hear, and even invited the press in to witness it.
Doherty: Phew! I thought you said he was getting “whacked”.
McDonald: God forbid! The days when that might have happened are past, I hope.
Doherty (lowering voice): Yeah, although Gerry’s past does have a habit of coming back to haunt us.
McDonald (doing Adams impression): It hasn’t gone away, you know.
Doherty: Well, fair play to him. That’s another milestone. Today the National Wax Museum. Tomorrow, the Office of the Tánaiste, maybe.
McDonald: But that’s the thing. Certain people think this might be Gerry’s signal that he’s about to step down.
Doherty: And take his place in the pantheon of history, you mean? Has he said anything?
McDonald: No. But you know how he likes a bit of choreography first, before making big announcements. Mind you, if he’s going to quit before the election, he’d want to hurry it up.
Doherty: Do I take it you’ll be throwing your hat in the ring if it happens?
McDonald: Well, as you know Pearse, I don’t wear hats. But let’s just say I might be getting my hair done today, just in case.
Scene 4: The Taoiseach’s Office. Enda Kenny reads the newspapers while the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Collins: I hear you were in Amsterdam?
Kenny: Yes. In Germany as well, on a trade mission. But it started in Amsterdam.
Collins: Did you learn anything about flood defences?
Kenny: Between ourselves, Mick, the press lads warned me to stay well away from the dykes. They were afraid the comparisons with Dutch know-how might be odious.
Collins: That was funny about Joan Burton, wasn’t it?
Kenny: Hilarious. And thank God it wasn’t me.
Collins (peering at newspaper headline): What’s the story about Biffo?
Kenny: Oh yeah. People have started asking why we haven’t put his portrait up in the Dáil yet, along with all the other ex-Taoisigh.
Collins: Which is a fair point. I know he’s not exactly an oil painting – unlike some of us – but you can hardly discriminate against him on aesthetic grounds.
Kenny: I think we just forgot. It’s his own fault for not commissioning the picture while he was still in the job. Bertie had his done years before he quit. I’ll get Heather to put it out to tender this week. Maybe we could get an abstract version of him.
Collins (still reading headlines): Speaking of Flood defences, how are your Moriarty ones?
Collins: The other tribunal. (He quotes from the papers) “Criminal Assets Bureau to question O’Brien on tribunal findings”.
Kenny: Hmm, yes. That’ll be a bit embarrassing, if it happens. But I see they still need to gather more material first. So with any luck, the interview will be a couple of years away yet. At any that rate, if they ever to do a Slab Murphy on him, please God, I’ll be safely retired.
Collins: Have you commissioned your portrait yet?
Kenny: Now that you mention it, I must get Heather on that too.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The Taoiseach’s office. Enda Kenny reads the papers as the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Collins: So the Cop-on conference was a success after all? I hope you got some when you were out there.
Kenny: It was called COP21, Mick – as you well know. And it wasn’t about me, it was about the future of the planet. Which, thankfully, now looks more secure.
Collins: I don’t remember you being so enthusiastic about the issue beforehand. But sure, jump on the bandwagon anyway, why don’t you? By the way, you’ve a call coming in on line one there – I think it’s your press officer.
Kenny: What? (The phone rings, as predicted. A little spooked, he picks it up.)
Fergal Purcell: Hi Taoiseach. Just warning you about an RTÉ Investigates programme tonight. It’s an exposé on corrupt councillors. And, er, you remember Hughie McElvaney?
Kenny (sighing): Unfortunately yes. What did he do now?
Purcell: Suffice to say he’s the star of the programme. Jesus. It’s like something Oliver Callan made up.
Kenny: Oh dear.
Purcell: The good news is he resigned from Fine Gael last week. On a point of – wait for it – principle. The north-south inter-connector, I think.
Kenny: Thank God for the north-south inter-connector.
Purcell: Yes. But we had him for 40 years before that, so we’ll probably still get some flak.
Kenny: Okay – thanks for the warning. (He puts down phone). Jayzus. From solving the world’s climate problems to having to deal with the likes of Hughie McElvaney. (To Collins) What was it your old pal Churchill said after the first world war? “As the deluge subsides, and the waters fall short again, the dreary steeples of Fermonaghan and Tyrone rise into view.”
Collins: Eh, I think it was “Fermanagh” and Tyrone, he said. Monaghan was one of the bits we got after partition.
Kenny: Don’t I know i? First the Heather debacle. Then Conlon. Now this.
Collins: And by the way, that bit about the deluge subsiding isn’t true either. You have the Minister for Flooding there on Line 2.
Kenny: What? (The phone rings again)
Simon Harris (for it is he): Hi Taoiseach. Bad news from Bandon, I’m afraid.
Scene 2: Toner’s Bar, Baggot Street. Joan Burton and members of the Labour party press office await the arrival of the political correspondents for Christmas drinks.
Burton: Are you sure you told them Toner’s?
Press officer 1 (showing her his phone): There’s the email we sent. They know it’s here.
Burton: And there’s no story breaking anywhere that would have held them back?
Press officer 2: Not a sausage. But I’ll ring them again and check, just in case.
Burton: It’s very odd. Have you ever known political hacks to pass up the chance of a free drink?
Press officer 1: I heard it happened once back in the ’80s. But it was the night the government fell, or something.
Press officer 2 (hanging up call): Mystery solved – they’re in the Dáil bar. Apparently, a certain environment minister rang from Paris and ordered free drinks for them there as well.
Burton (raising voice): The dirty, double-crossing little b…
Press officer 1 (hushing her): Best not cause a scene, Tánaiste. They’re on the way up now anyway.
Burton (still seething): Kelly is going to push me over the edge one of these days.
Press officer 2 (whispering to Press Officer 1): That’s probably his general plan, alright.
Scene 3: The head offices of Sinn Féin. Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald and Pearse Doherty hold emergency talks.
Adams: So, our intelligence agents in the Blueshirts tell us that Enda is again thinking of going for an early election.
Doherty: Wait a minute, Gerry. Does even Enda himself know what he’s thinking, never mind our intelligence agents?
McDonald: That’s a fair point. But I’m also hearing that the Blueshirts will go for a mid-February date at the latest. They have some good figures in this poll that’s coming out at the weekend. And if the bank inquiry is delayed, they’re definitely going to cut and run.
Adams: So if he raises the starter’s flag any time before Feb 7, that’s my Ard Fheis speech off the airwaves?
McDonald: A great tragedy for the people of Ireland, of course. But yes.
Adams: And they’d probably do it out of badness, just to annoy us.
Doherty: I suppose so. Feckin Staters.
Adams: Right – I’m calling it. We postpone the Ard Fheis until later in the year. As of now, we’re on election footing. Tell all units.
Scene 4: The end of the British-Irish summit, Armagh. As the Taoiseach prepares to return to Dublin, he bids a final farewell to the North’s outgoing First Minister.
Enda Kenny: Any regrets at all, Peter?
Peter Robinson: Well, not about my time as first minister. As for my earlier career, maybe there are one or two things I’d have done differently.
Martin McGuinness (whispering in his ear): Like push Paisley under a bus 15 years earlier?
Robinson: Ha, ha – good one Martin. But seriously, between ourselves, I’m sorry I ever invaded that wee village in Monaghan all those years ago – what do you call it again?
McGuinness: Clontibret. Right enough. That wasn’t your finest hour.
Kenny: Ah now. We all make mistakes. No need to apologise for that, Peter.
Robinson: Very generous of you, Taoiseach.
Kenny: In fact (he draws Robinson to one side, out of McGuinness’s ear-shot), if you guys would like to take Monaghan altogether, we’d be willing to listen to offers.
Kenny: Yes. We should never have got it in the first place. The Boundary Commission slipped up there.
Robinson: Well, okay. Let me think about it. I’ll get Arlene to give you a ring when she’s settled in.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: Labour Headquarters. The party leader and her deputy hold an emergency meeting on climate change.
Joan Burton (studying documents): If these predictions are correct, we’re looking at a disaster.
Alan Kelly: Yes.
Burton: With rising levels of militant left-wing opinion everywhere, more than half the party’s TDs could be under water come election day.
Kelly: We’ll be lucky if it’s only half.
Burton: Alex White’s a goner, either way. And Sean Sherlock. And Michael McCarthy.
Kelly: Yes – it’s tragic.
Burton (eyeing him sceptically): Even though they’re all your potential rivals whenever I step down?
Kelly: That hadn’t occurred to me. Joan. As you know, the Labour Party is in my DNA. Its collective welfare is my only concern.
Burton: Yeah, right. (She studies figures again). Sixteen seats on a good day. Ten on a bad one.
Kelly: That’s what the strategists say.
Burton (folding away documents): Well, you know the line – there’s only one poll that matters. We have to hope these are worst-case scenarios. I’m sure you agree with me that the party could ill-afford to lose such talent as Alex and Sean and Michael.
Kelly (unconvincingly): Of course.
Burton: We need to keep this to ourselves, by the way. Not a word to the media – you hear?
Kelly: Don’t worry. Discretion is in my DNA too.
Scene 2: The Taoiseach’s Office. Enda Kenny reads the newspapers while the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Collins: I hear you’re going to a COP-on conference in Paris?
Kenny: It’s called “COP21”, actually.
Collins: Whatever. It’s a bit late for you, but I hope it works. You could do with a bit of any kind of COP before the next election – in case the journalists get anywhere near you this time.
Kenny: The event in Paris is about global climate change – as you well know, Mick. But anyway, I have a bit of local climate change to worry about before I go. This abortion issue is threatening to blow up on me. In the countdown to an election, that’s the last thing I need.
Collins: Abortion! In holy Catholic Ireland? Over my dead body!
Kenny: You are dead, Mick – sorry to remind you. And personally, I was hoping to avoid making any pre-election commitments on the issue. But first I had Calamity James openly defying me. Then when I tried to shut him up, Frances Fitzgerald and Paschal Donohoe broke ranks too.
Collins: Yeah, I heard. And that smart young fella who’s waiting to take over from you – the one with the funny name?
Kenny (mildly irritated): Varadkar?
Collins: Him, yeah. He says you have to take a position too. You know what you should do, of course?
Collins: Promise a citizen’s convention – or something like that – after the election, and tell the party they can have a free vote at the end.
Kenny (thinking hard): That might just work. Although it would commit me to a referendum of some kind.
Collins: Yes, but it wouldn’t commit you to anything else. You could keep your options open on the actual issue till you’re safe in power for another five years.
Kenny: You know what, Mick? You’re right. It’s the smart move.
Collins: Ah, it’s just basic cop, really. I hope you learn some in Paris.
Scene 3: Brendan Howlin addresses an angry meeting of the Labour parliamentary party.
Howlin: Alright, I know we’re all annoyed about the leaked internal polls, so I suppose we’d better have a discussion about that. Clearly, it’s a boil that needs lancing.
Voice at back of room: It’s more like an AK47 that needs decommissioning, if you ask me.
Another voice: Yeah. We should put him permanently beyond use – in the middle of the night somewhere, with two clergymen as witnesses.
Brendan Ryan: If we find out that the leak came from a member of party staff, clearly, that person needs to be disciplined. But if it turns out to be a TD or senator, they have to lose the whip.
Alex White: Can I just state on the record that I don’t believe for one moment it was a member of staff.
Pat Rabbitte: Whoever it was displayed appalling lack of political judgement.
Another voice: Yes – it’s not in the Labour Party’s DNA to do something like that. (Knowing laughter, followed by more angry noises.)
Joan Burton: Alright, alright. We may all believe there’s an elephant in the room here. But in fact, there’s not. The elephant is unavoidably absent, I’m told. So until he’s in a position to reply, we need to move on. (The angry noises subside.)
Burton (continuing): Now, how about we discuss my triumph in forcing the Taoiseach into a u-turn on the 8th amendment? (Mocking laughter all round.)
Scene 4: Fine Gael headquarters. Frank Flannery and the Taoiseach discuss election dates.
Flannery: So. We agree that going full term and having an April poll is out of the question. It would leave us hostage to events and we’d have the whole 1916 stuff in the middle of the campaign.
Kenny: Agreed. And of course a late March poll would mean me being away in Washington during the campaign. We can’t do that either.
Flannery (thinking about it and clearly tempted): Hmm…. No, I suppose you should be in the country – somewhere. Just not anywhere near the RTÉ studios. So yeah, it has to be before mid-March.
Kenny: What’s the earliest we could do – end of January?
Flannery: Yes, but that would mean no party conference. And incredible as it seems, we do always get a poll bounce from your speech
Kenny: Then Labour have theirs the week after. We better not mess that up either, even if they are fecked.
Flannery: No. So that narrows it down rather. (He studies diary.) Why don’t we say February 26?
Kenny: Why not.
Flannery (writing it in): Good. Planning will proceed accordingly. But in the meantime, let’s keep this to ourselves. No leaks.
Kenny: Of course. Who do you think I am – Alan Kelly?
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The bustling corridors of Government Buildings (Wesht Wing). En route to a Cabinet meeting, the Taoiseach bumps into the Minister for Arts and Heritage. They walk and talk.
Enda Kenny: Well, Heather. How’s all the 1916 stuff going?
Heather Humphreys: Very good, Taoiseach – I hope. Although I’m a bit worried about the effect it’s having on people.
Kenny: What do you mean?
Humphreys: Well, everybody’s using military terminology lately. Eamon Gilmore’s talking about being shot at dawn. Alan Kelly’s calling himself “AK 47”. And now John Perry’s comparing the party’s refusal to select him as an “execution”.
Kenny: Hmm, I suppose there is a lot of that around, alright.
Humphries: And you were doing it yourself too, Taoiseach.
Kenny: How? When?
Humphreys: You know – that story you made up about Patrick Honohan saying you’d need to have the army guarding ATMs.
Kenny (offended): I did not make that up, Heather. It really happened. Just not in a “specific” way, if you know what I mean
Humphreys: Oh right – my mistake, Taoiseach. Anyway, so long as the Shinners don’t start getting military ideas again, we’ll be alright.
Scene 2: A Cabinet sub-committee meets to discuss the housing crisis. Alan Kelly is last to arrive.
Michael Noonan (sarcastically): Here he comes. The most dangerous gunman out of Tipperary since Dan Breen.
Kelly: That’s me. AK 47 – licensed to kill.
Noonan: I get the AK bit, Alan. But is the “47” a reference to your age or your IQ?
Kelly: Neither, Baldy. It’s my prediction of the number of seats you f**kers will be reduced to after the election, thanks to your failure to solve the housing crisis, among other things.
Noonan: You might be right. But however many seats we lose, it’ll be nothing like the Labour meltdown.
Kelly: The important thing is that I get reelected, at least. Then I can rescue the party from the disaster Joan led us into.
Noonan: So that’s what this doomed campaign for rent certainty is about? I mean, you know it’s not feasible. And even your own TDs don’t support it.
Kelly: It’s called the triumph of failure, Michael. It worked for Pearse and Connolly, you might remember.
Noonan: I think you may be even shorter of guns than they were, AK. But good luck with the revolution.
Scene 3: A prison cell in Kilmainham (Wesht Wing) Dawn.
Warder: (opening cell door): It’s time.
Eamon Gilmore (finishing a letter to his loved ones and putting it in an envelope). I’m ready. (He hands the envelope to the warder). You’ll see that gets delivered, won’t you?
Warder: You can count on it, Mr Gilmore. (They walk down the corridor, passing the cell of another condemned man, who peers through the bars).
Pat Rabbitte (for it is him): Good luck, Eamon.
Gilmore: Thanks Pat. We fought the good fight, anyway.
Rabbitte (thrusting something though the bars): Here – take my copy of the Good Book. It’ll sustain you in your final moments.
Gilmore (reading title): The Communist Manifesto. Thanks comrade.
(They pass another cell, where a female voice is heard)
Gilmore: Who’s in there?
Warden: That’s Countess Burton.
Gilmore (suddenly shouting through door): You’ll get yours too, Burton – sooner or later.
Burton: No I won’t. They’ll never shoot a woman.
Warden (whispering to Gilmore): She’s wrong there. I hear there’s an AK47 with her name on it, even now.
Gilmore: She had it coming.
(They leave the corridor and step out into the Stonebreakers Yard. Suddenly a bell rings somewhere far off.)
Gilmore (waking up at home): Don’t shoot! What? Where am I?
Mrs Gilmore: You’re in bed. (She sighs). Don’t tell me. You had that dream again, didn’t you? I’ve told you before, you need counselling.
Scene 4: The Fine Gael Parliamentary Party Meeting. After an impassioned speech comparing the Fine Gael candidate selection policy to a military tribunal, John Perry awaits the result of a secret ballot on the motion to add him to the ticket in Sligo-North Leitrim. He sees the party chairman approach with the result.
Chairman (taking something from his pocket): You’ll need this.
Perry: What is it?
Chairman: It’s a blindfold.
Perry: Ah Jayzus.
Chairman: I’m authorised to offer you a cigarette too.
Scene 5: The Taoiseach’s Office. Enda Kenny reads the newspapers while the portrait of Michael Collins looks on.
Kenny (in triumph): So I wasn’t making it up! Not completely anyway.
Collins: Making what up?
Kenny: The thing about Patrick Honohan telling me I’d have to have the army guarding the ATMs.
Collins: So he’s admitting he did say that after all?
Kenny: Eh, no. But it says here there was a contingency plan that, if the euro collapsed, the army would stamp all euros as “punts”, temporarily.
Collins: Actually, the past five years have been a bit like the euro contingency plan – except it was Fianna Fáil that collapsed. Then all their policies were just re-stamped “Fine Gael” and everything carried on as before.
Kenny: Thanks Michael. But if you don’t mind, come the election campaign, I’ll be presenting the facts a little differently.
Collins: No better man.
THE WESHT WING
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The Burlington Hotel, Dublin. After delivering his speech to the Fine Gael president’s dinner, the Taoiseach receives congratulations from his party press officer.
Enda Kenny: Well, how did I do?
Press officer: Not bad. I didn’t notice anyone in the audience falling asleep. But was that true about you spending 20 minutes sitting on a bench in Merrion Square last week talking to a homeless person?
Kenny (lowering his voice and leaning in): Well, between ourselves, it might have more like three minutes, really.
Press officer: Gosh. The head of government sitting down with a homeless person in a park, impromptu. That wouldn’t happen anywhere else.
Kenny: Well, he was sitting, anyway. I might have been standing, technically.
Press officer: Still. It’s impressive. But I hope you won’t putting yourself at risk?
Kenny: No, don’t worry. He was fully vetted by the Special Branch before our impromptu meeting.
Press officer: Right. Next you’ll tell me you got copies of his questions in advance.
Kenny: Ah, no. Who do you think I am? Michael Noonan?
Press officer: Oh well, it’s still a good story, I suppose. By the way (showing Kenny figures on a smart-phone), there’s a new poll in The Sunday Times tomorrow. We’re down three.
Kenny (studying the numbers): Feck.
Press officer: It’s because of your U-turn on the November election, probably.
Kenny: It wasn’t a U-turn. I always preferred a spring poll – I just let speculation to the contrary get out of hand.
Press officer: Yeah, whatever. Anyway, if the media ask about this, you know the line.
Kenny: That I never comment on polls.
Press officer: Correct.
Kenny: Especially bad ones.
Press officer: Don’t say that.
Kenny (still studying the figures): Imagine, only a week after our giveaway budget and we’re three points down. The ungrateful bastards.
Scene 2: The Dáil canteen. Joan Burton and Brendan Howlin queue and chat.
Howlin: So, a bit of a bounce in the latest poll?
Burton: Yes (she glances over her shoulder), all the more enjoyable because the Blueshirts are in decline.
Howlin: Enda should have realised that the electorate never likes it when you offer the prospect of an election and then take it away again. Remember Gordon Brown.
Burton: Well, that’ll teach the Mayo bollocks to fly kites without consulting me again.
Howlin: I get the sense, generally, that things are moving in our direction, at last. I mean, we definitely won the tug of war on budget strategy. A 75-25 on spending versus tax cuts. So much for Fine Gael’s 50-50.
Burton: As long as the Eurocrats don’t decide we broke the rules.
Howlin: I’m pretty confident we haven’t, but we’ll see.
Burton: And now Enda’s falling over himself to promise tax cuts and the complete abolition of USC after the election.
Howlin: Well, we’ll leave that fight for another day, if there is one.
Burton: By the way, well done on the Sean O’Rourke show the other day. Even if RTE did give you the questions in advance.
Howlin: Standard procedure, as you know. You still have to deal with the follow-ups and think on your feet. It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Dáil canteen assistant (to Howlin): Tea or coffee?
Burton (to the assistant): I hope you submitted that question in advance?
Canteen assistant: What?
Howlin: Don’t mind her – it’s just a little joke. I’ll have coffee, please. (A suited official steps forward and whispers in his ear. Howlin nods to the canteen assistant.) Actually, strike that. I’ll have tea. Apparently the coffee here is terrible.
Scene 3: The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff. As Ireland and Argentina prepare to meet in the Rugby World Cup quarter final, the Minister for Sport takes his seat in the VIP area alongside President Michael D Higgins.
Higgins: As you know, Paschal, I’m not particularly au fait with the rugby code. I’d know more about the people’s game – football. Association football of course. In fact, I thought that was the only kind they played in Argentina.
Donohoe: No, they’re fairly good at this too. Although not as good as established countries like us, obviously. Anyway, don’t worry. I’ll explain any bits you have trouble with.
Higgins: On a separate subject, by the way, I see your leader has decided against treating us to a pre-Christmas election? And I was almost looking forward to welcoming a left-wing alliance to the Áras as the new government.
Donohoe (smiling indulgently): Yes, well, I believe your former party colleague Joan Burton had something to say about the matter. But don’t worry, you won’t have too long to wait for the election. Whatever about the left-wing government.
Higgins: Not that it’s for me to say, but if I were Enda, I’d have gone early. The feel-good factor from the budget will evaporate quickly. And the nearer you get to spring, the more chance there is of a metaphorical spanner being thrown into the works somewhere, when you don’t have time to react.
Donohoe: There’s always that risk, I suppose. Even so, I’d be fairly confident of a good result whenever the poll is held. I mean, we’ve done all the heavy lifting at this stage. Things are going to be easier from now on, so long as the electorate don’t take risks with the economy. That’s what we’ll be saying.
Higgins: Well, I hardly need to remind you that Fine Gael has never won two elections in succession.
Donohoe: No, but there’s a first time for everything. It’s a bit like this. You know, Ireland have never reached the last four of the World Cup, either. But this time they’ve done the heavy lifting too – by beating France last week. That’s how we got the easiest quarter final draw of any of the European teams, by the way.
Higgins: I see. So you think we’re on the verge of making history in both politics and rugby?
Donohoue. I’m sure of it. Fine Gael for an overall majority is my prediction. And here… (he thinks for a moment) Ireland by 15.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: A cemetery in Castlelyons, Co Cork. As the Taoiseach prepares to deliver the graveside oration at the State funeral of Thomas Kent, the VIP guests chat among themselves.
Gerry Adams (to the President): You know of course it should be you delivering the oration here, Michael D. Not this Mayo Blueshirt, using it as a party political broadcast.
Michael D Higgins: Yes, you’re probably right. Even aside from the political issue – entre nous – the occasion could benefit from my oratorical powers. God love him, but you wouldn’t ask Enda to make an inspirational speech to the Castlebar under-10 football team, never mind the nation.
Micheál Martin: Personally, I think that the job should have fallen to an – ahem – Cork person. Especially when we’re in the fortunate situation that the real – the original – republican party is led by a Corkman. I’m sure if Thomas Kent had been able to choose who gave the oration, it would have been me, as the direct inheritor of his tradition.
Joan Burton: Don’t flatter yourself, Meehawl. The poor man would be turning in his grave – if he wasn’t temporarily out of it – at the prospect. As for you, Grizzly, you’d be better off working out how to save the peace process from the activities of your cowboy pals. They haven’t gone away, you know.
Adams: Whatever little local difficulties I might be having, Joan, only proves that I’m the inheritor of the true republican tradition on this island. If this were 1915, I’d be delivering the oration: like Pearse did for O’Donovan Rossa.
Burton: Yeah, well, it’s not 1915. We have an independent, democratically elected Government in Dublin now. A government, by the way, that looks increasing likely to win a second term, thanks to the new boom we’re creating in the Republic. That’s your other problem.
Adams: But the fools, the fools! They have left us our Irish Water meters. And while Ireland holds these devices, Ireland unfree will never be at peace.
Higgins: Enough of the squabbling. This is itself proof of why I should be making the speech here. I alone soar above the petty difference of Irish politics.
Burton (patting him on the head): Soar away, Michael D – if only in the metaphorical sense. Anyway, we better shut up. Here’s Enda.
Scene 2: Croke Park, Sunday evening. After watching Dublin regain the Sam Maguire, Leo Varadkar bumps into the Minister for Sport.
Paschal Donohoe: Ah the bould Leo. Good to see you here. I always thought you were more of a rugby man.
Varadakar: Gosh, no. Just because I went to King’s Hospital. But don’t believe what you hear. I’m a bogball – er, I mean Gaelic – man at heart.
Donohoe: It nearly was a bog out there today, right enough. Still, we got over the line in the end. It’s always a good day when ye beat Kerry.
Varadkar: Yeah. Go Dublin!
Donohoe (leaning in, sympathetically): “Up the Dubs” is better. “Go Dublin!” sounds like something you’d hear at a school hockey game. But, eh, speaking of games, I see Frances Fitz is making her pitch in the Sunday Indo today.
Varadkar (pretending indifference): Her pitch for what?
Donohoe: You know what. The leadership.
Varadkar: Oh, that old thing. Really – what did she say?
Donohoe: That she’s not ruling herself out. Which in political speak, as you know, means she’s gagging for it. And she’s clearly pitching herself as the compromise candidate between you and Simon.
Varadkar: Compromise candidate indeed. As if I couldn’t represent everyone in the party. Look at me: I’m the original man of the people.
Donohoe: Yeah. You know, today would be a good day to lay down a marker yourself. What with the Dubs taking one title from a bunch of culchies. (He winks) It could be a sign of things to come in Fine Gael. It’s just a pity you didn’t wear the jersey.
Varadkar (unzipping rain jacket): Actually, I did.
Donohoe: Good man. Go for it. Here’s some celebrating fans now. I’ll hold your coat.
Fan: Howaya Leo? Any chance of a selfie with the lads here?
Varadkar: Of course! (He poses, with the group, smiling, and making victory signs). Up the Dubs! (They take the picture).
Fan (shaking hands with him): Thanks Leo – fair play to you. I’ll be honest: I used to think you were a snobby fucker. But now I realise you’re one of our own.
Scene 3: The bustling corridors of Government Buildings, Monday morning. The Government Press Officer and the Taoiseach walk and talk.
Feargal Purcell: So have you heard this stuff about David Cameron?
Enda Kenny: You mean the, eh, bizarre initiation ceremony in Oxford? Yes. I’ll never be able to look him straight in the face again.
Purcell: I can imagine that might be difficult. But, er (lowering voice), there’s nothing like that in your past, is there?
Kenny: Involving pigs? Dear God, no.
Purcell: Not just pigs, but – well – livestock generally. I mean, I’m only asking because, as Government Press Secretary, it’d be better if I found out about it now, rather than in the middle of an election campaign.
Kenny: No. Thankfully, I never went to Oxford. Although…
Purcell (worried): What?
Kenny (also worried, and lowering voice): Well, I did once win a catch-the-greasy-pig contest. It was at the Islandeady Sports Day – 1974, I think.
Purcell: Are there photographs?
Kenny: There might be.
Purcell (stroking his chin and thinking hard): But it would be obvious that this had happened at a traditional field day of the sort that were common in rural Ireland then?
Kenny: I suppose. Although, if there were close-ups, it might have looked a bit, er, romantic.
Purcell: Please tell me you’re joking.
Kenny: Well, I was struggling with the pig a long time. And when I finally caught him, we were both sweating heavily. And I had to hold on very tight.
Purcell: Ok, we need to put this out first, on our own terms, in case the opposition gets hold of it first and twists it to look bad.
Kenny: Will I make a statement at Leaders Questions?
Purcell: No. I’ll prime one of the tabloid hacks to ask you on a doorstep. Then you can make a joke of it. I’ll script the joke for you. But let me think about it first.
The Wesht Wing
Scene 1: The back seat of a State car. En route to the annual Béal na Bláth commemoration, and against the background of a crisis in the peace
process, the Minister for Justice takes an urgent call from the Garda
Frances Fitzgerald: Commissioner?
Noirín O’Sullivan: Good morning, Minister. You asked me for an
assessment on whether a certain organisation still exists?
Fitzgerald: Yes – the grouping formally known as Reform Alliance. Or the ‘RA, for short.
O’Sullivan: Right – although they call themselves Renua now,
as you know. Well, all our information suggests that they do still
exist in some form. That there’s a command structure, and a
hierarchy of sorts.
Fitzgerald: I see. But are they engaged in parapolitical activity,
do you think?
O’Sullivan: Not as far as we can tell. I mean, the leadership do
the odd media interview, which we believe is a way of reassuring
their grassroots that they haven’t gone away, you know. But
there doesn’t seem to be any meaningful activity going on.
Fitzgerald: So would you say, in summary, that they’re no
threat to the political process?
O’Sullivan: None whatsoever, minister. In fact, in merely
continuing to exist, while not doing much, they may be helping
to stabilise the situation, by dissuading potential dissidents.
Fitzgerald: Well that’s a great relief, Commissioner. You’ve set
my mind at rest.
Scene 2: An office in Dublin Central. The Minister for August sits at his
desk, studying the latest private opinion polls, while looking worried.
Then the phone rings and he answers.
Minister: Paschal Donohoe here. How can I help?
Caller: I want to report a cat up a tree. Is this the right place?
Donohoe: Well, any other month, I’d refer you to the fire brigade.
But it’s August, and not only am I desperate to get my picture in
the papers, but since there don’t seem to be any other politicians
left in Dublin, there’s a better than usual chance of that
happening. So where exactly is this cat?
Caller: Up a tree. Like I said.
Donohoe: OK, but where’s the tree?
Caller: It’s on the corner of Sean McDermott St and Gloucester
Donohoe (writing down address): Grand. I’ll be there in 15
minutes. (He hangs up and rings the Government press office). Hello?
Press officer: You again, minister!
Donohoe: Yeah. Listen, ring the newsdesks and tell them I’ll be at
the corner of Sean McDermott Street and Gloucester Place in 15
minutes, announcing a new public transport initiative.
Press officer: Another one? What’s it this time?
Donohoe: I’m not sure – I’ll think of one en route. But tell them
there’ll be a photo op of me rescuing a cat.
Press officer: A cat? Good one, minister! It’s a slow news day –
that could make the front pages.
Donohoe: My thoughts exactly.
Scene 3: Claremorris, Co Mayo. As he arrives for a canvass, accompanied
by a journalist from Independent Newspapers, Michael Ring discusses
tactics with local councillor Tom Connolly.
Ring (looking over shoulder and lowering voice): Ok, Tom. I have this
lad from the Independent following me around today, so we need
keep this classy.
Connolly: Don’t worry, Mick. We’ll stick to Westbury and Lakeview –
ye can’t go far wrong there. Nice big houses, very respectable. You
might get the odd Fianna Fáiler. But no Shinners.
Ring: Good. We don’t want to give these Dublin journalists any
excuse to make a feck of us.
Connolly: No danger of that. I’m well in here – I got them these new
speed bumps recently. Nice, aren’t they?
Ring: Yeah, right enough – they’re lovely bumps. Make sure and
mention them as often as possible on the doorsteps.
Connolly: That’s the plan.
(Half an hour later)
Ring: Well, so far so good. Although there’s an awful lot of people
Connolly: Yeah, or pretending not to be in. (He hesitates at a
driveway). Now these are definitely in, I know. But they vote
Ring (bounding up driveway): Ah, no matter. Sure we’ll probably
end up in coalition together. Anything to keep the Shinners out.
(They ring the doorbell and a middle-aged woman answers)
Connolly: Hello Missus. Councillor Tom Connolly. And this is
Minister Michael Ring.
Woman: I know who ye are and I won’t be voting for ye.
Ring (undaunted): Why’s that?
Woman: Because Enda Kenny is only a bollocks and my children
are going to be paying for his helicopter trips for years to come.
Ring (trying to ignore sound of journalist writing furiously in his
notebook): Ah now.
Connolly: But what do you think of the new speed ramps,
missus? (The door closes.)
Connolly: Sorry about that, Mick.
Scene 4: A swimming pool, somewhere. Relaxing in a sun lounger while
reading her iPad, Joan Burton frowns suddenly and makes a call on her
Burton: Are you reading this nonsense in the Sunday Indo?
Alan Kelly (at other end): What? No, I haven’t seen any Irish
papers for a few days. I’m on holidays.
Burton: Well, among other guff about how the Blueshirts have
given up on us and are planning to cut and run after the budget,
they’re quoting ministerial sources as saying that you and me
don’t get on.
Kelly: That’s ridiculous. I mean, I know I’d make a much better
leader than you.
Burton: They say, and I quote, that we’re “in a bad place”.
Kelly: A bad place? I’m in Marbella – I don’t know about you.
Burton: So you had nothing to do with this?
Burton (checking iPad again): Meanwhile, I see I’m also getting
grief for our YouTube videos. The ones about how, thanks to
Labour, people have more money in their pockets.
Kelly: What are the press saying about them?
Burton: Oh they’re quoting the usual suspects as saying that the
video proves I’m out of (phone makes garbled sounds).
Kelly: Sorry, I didn’t get that last bit – you’re breaking up a bit.
Burton: They’re trying to claim that I’m out of touch with
Kelly: Sorry, can’t hear. The signal must be bad at your end.
Burton (raising voice): THEY’RE SAYING I’M OUT OF TOUCH.
Kelly (shaking head): No, lost her. (He terminates call).