‘I’m egging on Vincent Browne to get stuck in, but the old man could shout down an Airbus engine’
It has to be said – the old man is on a serious roll.
“To answer your question,” he goes, fixing that Vincent Browne with a look, “no, New Republic does not represent any interests , as you put it, other than the interests of a very sizeable constituency of Irish people who are tired of having their pockets plundered in the service of a totalitarian European super-state, which despises democracy and from which they feel utterly disenfranchised.”
We’re in, like, Buswell’s Hotel, at the launch of New Republic’s local and European election campaigns. There’s, like, a couple of hundred people in the room, reporters from all of the newspapers, radio and TV stations, all here to listen to Charles O’Carroll-Kelly outline his vision of a new Ireland.
I’m here because he said the bor was free.
“I was born in this country,” he goes. “And I love this country – oh, yes, put it in your notebooks! – for all its faults and for all its problems, which are many. Independence didn’t work out quite the way we hoped. But that is no reason to surrender our future to Berlin and Brussels and their battalions of unelected bureaucrats who think they should tell us how to live.”
My wife smiles at me from the top table. My wife, or the New Republic European Election Candidate for Midlands-North West, as it says on the table in front of her. Which is actually hilarious. The only time Sorcha has been west of Dundrum in the last decade was to stay at the G Hotel, and even then she wore her silk blackout eyemask for the entire two-hour drive, in case having to see the Irish countryside would put her in bad form for her Cellular Renewal Enzyme Facial. Now she wants a pack of cauliflower-worriers to make her their MEP.
She has a cheek. They all have a cheek.
“I am frankly tired,” the old man goes, “of watching Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore and all the other secondary school geography teachers we have somehow elected to represent this country on the world stage kowtowing – that’s right, kow-bloody-towing! – to their political betters in Europe. New Republic will not do that. Locally, nationally and internationally, we will say No. And when they ask why, why are you saying No? We’ll tell them, well, it’s a small thing that we value in this country and it’s called the will of the people. Familiarise yourselves with it – you’re going to be hearing a lot about it.”
There’s, like, a smattering of applause.
The old man asked Sorcha to stand because he wanted a good mix of people in the porty. Today, fronting New Republic’s 2014 election campaigns, we have Hennessy Coghlan O’Hara (a crook in his 60s with past links to Fianna Fáil, who’s standing as a European election candidate for South); Sophie Mannion (a looker with blonde hair who did Orts in UCD, who’s standing as a local election candidate for the Ballybrack ward); JP’s old man (a crook in his 60s with past links to Fianna Fáil, who’s standing as a local election candidate in the Stillorgan ward); my wife (a looker with blonde hair who did Orts in UCD) and my old man (a crook in his 60s with past links to Fianna Fáil, who’s standing as a European election candidate for Dublin).
So, like I said, it’s a good balance.
The old man is still banging on. “Like a great many Irish people, I feel embarrassment – no, shame! – at the sight of our so-called leaders having their backs slapped by unelected Gerhards and Jean-Claudes and being told, ‘Good boys!’ for sucking the life’s blood out of our economy in line with the demands of global financiers and bond speculators. At last, thanks to New Republic, the electorate, at both local and European level – and soon at national – will have an alternative.”
Vincent Browne isn’t done. He sort of, like, groans, then goes, “Charles, do you not think this is all a bit rich coming from you, a man who, by his own admission, was involved in corrupting the political process by paying bribes as a county councillor to have land rezoned – and indeed soliciting bribes, later on, as a county councillor himself? Where do you get the gall to stand up and complain about the failings of our political class?”
The old man goes: “Oh, yes! I wondered how long it would be before someone brought that up.”
I’m thinking, we’re here a good half an hour – I think he’s done well that it’s only been mentioned now.
He’s there, “Like you said, Vincent, I admitted it. I came clean. What I did was wrong. I went to prison and I served the sentence the judge deemed appropriate in the circumstances. When I left prison, my debt to society was paid in full. I believe we are all entitled to a second chance . . .”
Vincent Browne goes to say something else, and I’m actually egging him on. I’m going: “Go on, Vincent, get stuck into the focking chancer!”
But the old man could shout down an Airbus engine.
“Besides, Vincent,” he goes, “besides, Vincent . . . besides, Vincent . . . let me finish. Thank you . . . This isn’t about Charles O’Carroll-Kelly. This is about the desire of the Irish people to see change – real change – to the way we do politics in this country. An end to the old political configuration of Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael plus Labour. Or is it Fine Fáil and Fianna Gael plus Labour? Well, I can’t tell the difference and most voters can’t either.
“That’s why they are looking for a viable alternative to these failed political parties. And now, finally, every man and woman in every corner of Ireland will have the opportunity to vote for a candidate from New Republic. They will have the opportunity to embrace an idea that right now might seem radical but is actually rather simple once you take it on board. It will be our campaign slogan for Europe. Give Ireland Back to the Irish!”
Sorcha and Sophie both nod, smiling, while Hennessy and JP’s old man stort actually clapping. And all I’m saying is – when the time comes ? – use your vote wisely.
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE