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‘Just because people are vulnerable doesn’t mean they’re not taking the piss’

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 sixty-three 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."

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

"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."

Why don't we breathalyse all social welfare recipients? And if they're found to have had a drink or a cigarette, then they shouldn't be receiving welfare

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 do 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.