More facts laid bare as pope updates nativity

Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 00:00

How Johnny Ronan changed a statue’s sex and the pope ruined Christmas

This week it was revealed in this newspaper that the “iconic” naked lady statue climbing the walls outside the Treasury Holdings building was originally meant to be an anatomically correct naked man, but that Johnny “The Happy Prince” Ronan had put his foot down.

“I want people to admire my balls, Barrett,” he (probably) declared to the little swallow who sits on his shoulder, “not some statue’s!”

The badger-haired lothario is, in fact, a man obsessed. During the boom he ensured all the statues along O’Connell Street were wearing trousers (Jim Larkin was originally “doing a Donald Duck”; “I won’t wear pants until the working man is free,” he said during the Lockout). And he roamed the world collecting nude art and reassigning its gender (the centrepiece of his collection is Michelangelo’s Doris).

However, the piratical plutocrat’s obsession doesn’t stop at inanimate stone. Once, while gazing across the grounds of his estate (full disclosure: some of the anecdotes in this article may not be strictly true), I observed aloud that many of the animals were wearing little woollen shorts.

He ceased his knitting and stared at me. “Just the male ones,” he said darkly. During the icy silence a lamb gambolled by in a snug pair of knitted jockeys and a pheasant in crocheted britches capered with a bebloomered dormouse. “I admire your balls, sir,” I said respectfully. He took the compliment gracefully and invested it in a London-based property consortium.

Shortly afterwards I questioned him on whether he could have predicted the downturn. “The dogs on the street knew where this economy was headed,” I said wisely, having heard David McWilliams say it once.

“Ah,” said the model-courting aviator, “but were the dogs on the street wearing pants?”

They were not. It was an interesting point.

The livestock who grace the live crib at the Mansion House each year are similarly pant-less. During the boom, Johnny Ronan tried to get the male ones to wear dungarees but it didn’t stick. However, their antisocial shenanigans don’t stop there.

These work-shy fauna are also liars, as we recently learned from Joseph “The Pope” Ratzinger. “There were no livestock present at the birth of our Lord,” he said (I’m paraphrasing), “I don’t care what they say. They weren’t there. They’re making it up.” (He put it more succinctly on the papal Twitter feed: “Yo peeps. No moo-cows at the nativity. LOL.”)

He is not without bias. As pope-watchers know, Ratzinger loves to humiliate animals. His very name, like Cuchulainn’s, comes from a time he beat an animal in battle. (The pope bested a rodent with a snappy put-down during a theological debate.)

He also famously spent the last of the papal gold collecting a massive menagerie of obscure biblical beasts including the cockatrice and the ibex with whom he scuffles daily (“It’s embarrassing,” said a source).

But his attack on the traditional nativity doesn’t stop with beasts of the Earth. He also maintains that the angels “heard on high” were not singing but talking. “It was possibly a sort of free-style rap,” he said, “but it wouldn’t have won X Factor.” They didn’t quite “nail it”, he added, doing the inverted commas symbol with his fingers.

Luckily the pope is a flexible fellow (except when it involves gay people, contraception or the right to choose) and said we could continue doing what we liked with our nativity scenes. “I don’t care that technically it’s wrong,” he said, not at all passive-aggressively. “Do what you like. Don’t mind me. I’m fine sitting here in the dark.” (He’s not in the dark; he has several chandeliers.)

This year’s live crib will feature Jesus, R2D2, a duck and RTÉ’s Daithí Ó Sé as himself. They will all be wearing slacks.