ROSS O’CAR­ROLL- KELLY

‘ Peter Casey has out- Charles- O’Car­roll- Kel­lyed Charles O’Car­roll- Kelly’

The Irish Times Magazine - - COVER STORY -

The old man tells me that he needs to see me. A mat­ter of life and death, he says on the phone. So, like an id­iot, I drop ev­ery­thing and go rac­ing around to his gaff, only to dis­cover that I can’t get pork­ing on the road, owing to the num­ber of Mercs and Beam­ers on it. I count 63 of the things. There are only two rea­sons you would ever find that many high- per­for­mance Ger­man cors porked in a line like that in South Dublin. It’s ei­ther Bring Your Dad to School Day in Wil­low Pork – or a meet­ing of the Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive of New Repub­lic (“a Sixth Force in Irish Pol­i­tics, or Sev­enth If We’re Still Count­ing the Greens”).

My sus­pi­cions are con­firmed when the old man an­swers the door hold­ing a glass of cognac big enough to tran­quilise a town. He goes,

“Here he comes, every­one! The Great­est Num­ber 10, etcetera, etcetera! Thought I’d have you over, Kicker – see if you’ll al­low me to pick that fa­mous big brain of yours, in­verted com­mas.”

I’m like, “Your voice mes­sage said it was im­por­tant. A mat­ter of life and death.”

“It is a mat­ter of life and death,” he goes, “for my chances of be­com­ing Ire­land’s next taoiseach. As your friend in The Irish Times said, we are wit­ness­ing the break­down of ci­vil­ity, ra­tio­nal­ity and dig­nity in pol­i­tics world­wide.”

“Gerry Thorn­ley said that?”

“I’m talk­ing about Fin­tan – oh, I’ll not oblige him by say­ing his full name. You see, I’ve let things slide, Ross. We are liv­ing in the era of the boor and the blowhard, says our friend – and yet where have I been for the past few weeks?”

“Er, you were in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands – pre­sum­ably hid­ing money from the Rev­enue.”

“What I’m ask­ing is, why didn’t New Repub­lic field a can­di­date in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion? I’ve taken my eye off the ball, Kicker. And some­one else has come in and eaten my bloody well lunch. Peter Casey has out- Charles- O’Car­roll- Kel­lyed Charles O’Car­roll- Kelly. And if we’re go­ing to build on the gains we made in the last gen­eral elec­tion, then Charles O’Car­roll- Kelly is go­ing to have to out- Peter- Casey Peter Casey. That’s why we’re hav­ing one of our fa­mous pol­icy think- ins to­day.”

He leads me into the liv­in­groom, which ends up be­ing full of his mates. I no­tice that Ed­uard has the floor. “Didn’t Jonathan Swift sug­gest that poverty could be al­le­vi­ated by eat­ing the chil­dren of the poor?” he goes.

Hen­nessy Cogh­lan- O’Hara is like, “I think the chap may have been writ­ing satir­i­cally, Ed­uard.”

The old man’s there, “Let the can­di­date for Dublin Mid- West speak, Hen­nessy. There’s no such thing as a bad idea – cer­tainly in the cur­rent cli­mate.”

“I’m just say­ing,” Ed­uard goes, “that it’s never been tried be­fore. I think we should at least com­mis­sion a White Pa­per on it.”

“Let’s do that! And let’s have it ready in time for the ardfheis next month! Next!”

“Free ed­u­ca­tion,” some other old fort goes. I’ve seen him once or twice in the old man’s box in the Aviva.

The old man’s like, “What about it?”

“Well, are we – as a party – in broad agree­ment that it’s a bad thing? I know it’s the lib­eral con­sen­sus that every­one, whether rich or poor, should have ac­cess to it. I just think it’s high time that some­one asked, well, are we per­haps ed­u­cat­ing too many peo­ple? And are we ed­u­cat­ing the wrong kinds of peo­ple?”

“Ex­cel­lent point!” the old man goes. “I think we should do a mo­d­ule on this at the ardfheis.”

“I was go­ing to say some­thing sim­i­lar about the health ser­vice,” a mate of my old man’s from Port­mornock Golf Club goes. “We’re spend­ing lit­er­ally bil­lions of eu­ros ev­ery year to keep alive peo­ple who don’t have pri­vate health in­surance – and to what end?”

“A healthy and ro­bust democ­racy,” the old man goes, “should be al­lowed to at least have a ma­ture con­ver­sa­tion about this with­out fear of be­ing shouted down.”

“Oh, you can’t say any­thing these days with­out some­one tak­ing of­fence,” some­one else goes. “We need to be the party that says things that other politi­cians are afraid to even think.”

Hen­nessy’s there, “We also need to do a bet­ter job of rep­re­sent­ing – what is it Leo calls them? – the peo­ple who pay for ev­ery­thing and qual­ify for noth­ing?”

“We should give them guns,” Ed­uard goes. The old man’s like, “Guns? You mean arm them?”

“I’m just brain­fart­ing here.”

“No, I like the idea in prin­ci­ple. But let’s not be seen to take own­er­ship of it un­til we test the tem­per­a­ture out there. It might be some­thing for the Youth Wing to de­bate at their ardfheis, then we can con­duct some pri­vate polling and find out if there are any elec­toral gains to be made from it.”

Hen­nessy goes, “When I said we have to do a bet­ter job rep­re­sent­ing the peo­ple who pay for ev­ery­thing and qual­ify for noth­ing, what I meant was that we need to a bet­ter job of de­mon­is­ing the peo­ple who do the op­po­site.”

“I’m pretty sure the ele­phant in the room goes by the name of so­cial wel­fare,” the New Repub­lic can­di­date for Kil­dare South goes. “We’re hand­ing out free money to peo­ple to spend on cig­a­rettes and drink.”

“Why don’t we breathal­yse all so­cial wel­fare re­cip­i­ents?” Ed­uard goes. “Or do blood tests or some­thing. And if they’re found to have had a drink or a cig­a­rette in the pre­vi­ous week, then they clearly shouldn’t be re­ceiv­ing wel­fare.”

“Sen­si­ble Poli­cies,” the old man goes, “To­wards a Fairer and More In­clu­sive Repub­lic!”

“What about old peo­ple?” the New Repub­lic can­di­date for Galway East goes.

“Old peo­ple?” the old man goes. “You’re not sug­gest­ing we arm them, are you? Je­sus, most of them can’t han­dle a Subaru Signet.”

“No, I’m say­ing they should be as­sessed for their suit­abil­ity to work, and State pen­sions should be paid only in the most de­serv­ing cases.”

“Just be­cause peo­ple are weak and vul­ner­a­ble,” the New Repub­lic can­di­date for Wick­low agrees, “doesn’t mean they’re not also tak­ing the piss.”

The old man takes a deep breath and smiles, like he loves what he’s sud­denly smelling. “I feel like we’ve been re- en­er­gised as a party,” he goes. “And I’ve never been more cer­tain that Charles O’Car­roll- Kelly will be the next leader of this coun­try. What do you think, Kicker? Kicker?”

But, by that time, I’m al­ready on my way out the door.

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