Ross O'Carroll-Kelly: ‘Leo went to a second-tier private school’

No wonder Varadkar is saying ‘in Ireland it no longer matters where you come from’

I'm like, "Why is Brian O'Driscoll on the radio saying that Ireland is a country where it no longer matters where you come from?"

The old man laughs.

"That's not Brian O'Driscoll," he goes. "That's Leo Varadkar. "

I’m like, “Who?”


“Leo Varadkar. He’s going to be Ireland’s next taoiseach.”

"Well, I've never heard of him. What school did he go to?"

“King’s Hospital, Ross!”

“Jesus. No wonder he says it doesn’t matter where you come from.”

"Oh, we're living in a completely different political landscape, Kicker. Taoisigh used to come from Blackrock, Belvedere or Clongowes. Now, we're about to have our first openly second-tier-private-school-educated leader. All changed; changed utterly, as the chap said."

“And what do we know about him? Apart from the fact that his old pair couldn’t afford to send him to a decent school?”

“Well, he says he believes in hard work.”

“Excuse me?”

“He believes in rewarding people who get up early in the morning.”

“Sorry, who put this obvious lunatic in charge of the country?”

"Oh, don't worry, Kicker. I don't think he's referring to People Like Us. It's very nice of you to come and visit your old dad, by the way."

“Hey, don’t stort getting emotional. I’m only here for money. I need five grand.”

“Your car insurance isn’t due again, is it?”

"No, I just want to have five grand – as, like, walking-around money?"

“What a wonderful idea! Let’s go and see what’s in the safe, shall we? Your godfather is in the study! He’ll be delighted to see you!”

So – yeah, no – I follow him down to the study and Hennessy is sitting in an ormchair in the corner, drinking a brandy so big you could bath your dog in it.

I’m like, “What’s the crack, Hennessy? Have you heard about this Drico impersonator who’s taken over the country and wants to reward hard work?”

He goes, “The first ever taoiseach who openly went to a Vinnie Murray Cup-winning school. I predicted this when McDowell became the Tánaiste. I said it was a slippery slope.”

The old man opens the safe – 1, 9, 8, 2 is the code if you need some walking-around money yourselves – and he counts out five Ks, then hands it to me.

I’m like, “What are you two doing, by the way?” because it’s unusual to find them reasonably sober this late in the afternoon.

“Important work,” the old man goes. “Your godfather and I have been putting our heads together to see if we can’t come up with some way to pay homage to Seán FitzPatrick after his acquittal.”

I’m there, “You paid homage to him. You were standing outside the court, shouting, ‘An innocent man! A patriot! Shame on us for putting him through that!’ over and over and over again.”

"Well, we're talking about something more lasting than my little cameo on Six One. No one should be allowed to forget the role Seánie played in making this country great for 11-and-a-little-bit years."

I notice he’s got this humungous piece of white cord on his desk. He goes, “What do you think, Hennessy? Shall I let Kicker into the circle of trust?”

Hennessy just shrugs. Whatever it is, I’ll probably have forgotten it in an hour – that’s if I even understand it at all. That’s the kind of brain I have.

The old man turns the cord over and holds it up. I laugh. I actually laugh? It's a 50 yoyo note – with Seán FitzPatrick's face on it.

He's there, "We had this mocked up – inverted commas. On the computer. Your daughter did it for us."

I’m like, “Honor? I’d say that cost you a fair few squids?”

“Let’s just say the entrepreneurial spirit so admired by our taoiseach-elect is very much alive and well in that girl.”

I’m looking at Seánie’s big smiley face. I’m there, “There’s no way people are going to go for that.”

He goes, “Well, as it happens, we received a thanks but no thanks from Mario Draghi’s office. ‘It’s not our intention to change the design theme of the euro-zone currency at this time,’ etcetera, etcetera. So, as an alternative idea, we came up with this.”

From his desk drawer, he produces this – I swear to God – bronze statute, about 12in high, of Seánie swinging a golf club. He’s like, “How would you like to see a life-size one of these in front of the new Central Bank building?”

I’m there, “Seriously?”

“I still say the sculptor was a little generous to him,” Hennessy goes. “I never saw Seánie swing a club that well!”

The old man laughs. "I'll tell him you said that," he goes. "He'll get a kick out of that, I'm sure. Well, it's irrelevant anyway, because Dublin City Council have poo-pooed the idea. They feel there's a chance that it might be vandalised, although there are a lot of people in this city who'd love one of these on their desks. We must find out if The Irish Times is interested in doing a Reader Offer, Hennessy."

I’m like, “So is that it, then? There’s going to be no tribute to the dude?”

“On the contrary,” he goes. “We’ve managed to come up with this!”

From another drawer he produces a street sign. In lorge, capital letters, it says, “Seán FitzPatrick Way”.

Again, I laugh. I’m like, “Where’s this going to go?”

Hennessy's there, "We're starting a campaign to have that section of Stephen's Green North, from Grafton Street to the Shelbourne Hotel, renamed in his honour."

“As a matter of fact,” the old man goes, handing me a pen and a piece of paper, “you’re going to be the first person to sign the petition.”

I’m like, “Petition?”

“That’s right. We’re hoping to collect 100,000 signatures. And I would consider it a signal honour, Ross, if yours was the first!”

“Yeah, no, I’m happy to sign it,” I go. “For €1,000 yoyos.”

He's like, "A thousand euros? But I've just given you five thousand!"

“Well, you shouldn’t have given it to me before you asked me for a favour!”

All he can do is laugh, take another grand from the safe and go, “It doesn’t matter what time any of us get out of bed in Leo Varadkar’s Ireland, we won’t be up early enough for you, Kicker!”