'The bloody nerve of these people," the old man goes, pacing the floor of the RTÉ green room. "They can't call themselves New Republic, because we've already got that name, so they call themselves Re-Nua. I've a good mind to change our logo to a cat with the Renua bird in its mouth – see how Lucinda likes that!"
Sorcha is about to go on Prime Time for her first major TV interview as a spokesperson for New Republic. I've been up since five o'clock this morning, running lines with her – basically stock answers that my old man gave her to 100 questions she might be potentially asked.
"The important thing," he reminds her, "is to get through this interview – and the next 12 months, in fact – without saying anything on the issues of water charges, abortion, tax reform and Ireland's relationship with Europe. Now, let's get you dressed."
"Dressed?" she goes. "Charles, I am dressed. This is an Alexander Wang blazer. He's, like, a really famous designer?"
“You can’t wear that. You look like you think you’re better than people.”
“Charles, an Alexander Wang blazer is, like, a wardrobe staple.”
"On the Vico Road, maybe. Not in the places you're looking for votes. Put this on you."
He hands her a Dunnes Stores bag. She looks inside it like she's expecting to see a severed head in there. It's actually worse than that. It's a poly blend trouser suit.
She instantly drops the bag on the ground. “Charles,” she goes, “I can’t wear man-made fibres.”
He’s like, “Sorcha, we need people to think you have the common touch.”
The common touch? This is a girl who has to stick on the subtitles every time Imelda May is on the TV.
She goes, "What I mean, Charles, is that I'm, like, allergic to them? They bring me out in a rash."
She’s already scratching her neck at the thought of even putting that suit next to her skin.
“Sorcha,” he goes, “for the good of the party, for the good of the country, it must be done.”
Sorcha rolls her eyes, then goes off to get changed. The old man steps outside to ring Hennessy. They're trying to formulate a response to Cistercian College, Roscrea, allowing the Leinster Schools Senior Cup to be photographed in a sheep paddock. Discussions about a South Dublin boycott of sheep products have broken down over the issue of an exemption order for Ugg boots, sheepskin coats and John Shanahan's roast loin of lamb with goat's cheese polenta.
I’m actually ordering another bottle of Hydrogen when a dude with a clipboard comes up to me and goes, “Are you here for the New Republic thing?”
I’m like, “Er, yeah.”
He’s there, “What’s your name?”
He’s clearly not a rugby fan.
I’m like, “It’s Ross O’Carroll-Kelly.”
“Okay, come with me,” he goes, and I follow him along a corridor, then into a TV studio, where I instantly spot Miriam O’Callaghan across the floor.
Now, I'm on the record as saying that I have a serious thing for Miriam. I'm standing there, grinning at her like a lovesick dope, to the point where I think nothing of it when someone clips something to the belt of my chinos and asks me to run a microphone wire up the back of my shirt. And I think nothing of it when someone else goes, "Change of plan. Instead of Sorcha Lalor, they've given us Ross O'Carroll-Kelly."
I’m still staring at Miriam, trying to come up with a funny, but at the same time filthy, opening line for her.
Suddenly I’m ushered behind this desk and I’m introduced to a dude called David McCullagh and I only really cop what’s happening when I hear a voice go, “Okay, we are live iiinnn… 30 seconds.”
I suddenly look to my left in a panic. There, standing in the wings, are Sorcha and the old man. He's mouthing the words, "What the hell?" and she's going, "Oh! My! God!" while clawing at her neck.
I’m like a rabbit in the headlights, but suddenly we’re live on air and there’s nothing I can do, except try to remember some of the nonsense that Sorcha was saying this morning.
"Ross O'Carroll-Kelly," this David McCullagh dude goes, "you're a spokesman for New Republic. At some point in the next 12 months, you're going to be asking the people of Ireland to vote for you. In what way are you different from any of the existing parties?"
So I go, “Er, yeah, no, firstly, thank you for inviting me on the programme, David, and also thank you for your question.”
“Can you answer it please?”
"I will if you let me. I want to say that we in New Republic are into, I don't know, belief? We're into restoring belief, renewing belief and – hang on, there's definitely a third one – rewarding belief. And rewarding it going forward. Blah, blah, blah. I want to make that very clear."
He’s a tough audience, though.
He goes, "That's just meaningless babble, though, isn't it? You describe yourselves as a new force in Irish politics, yet so far you've been silent on all the major issues. You've made no commitments whatsoever in relation to water charges, abortion, taxation, Ireland's place within Europe. What exactly does New Republic stand for?"
I’m trying to remember random words and phrases to throw at him just to fill the silence. Memories of the oral Irish come flooding back to me.
“Yeah, no,” I go, “we believe that, em, people are our most precious resource, our most precious – I think it’s a word – commodity? We believe that people are the future. Treat them well and something, something, something. Let me make this clear. We’re asking people to, I don’t know, embrace a new kind of politics. A new way of doing things. Blah, blah, blah. And I want to stress that.”
“Ross O’Carroll-Kelly,” he goes, “I think we’ll, em, leave it there.”
I tear the microphone off and I head for the wings, where Sorcha’s face is now the same angry red colour as her neck. I look at the old man, expecting him to be pissed off with me, except he turns around to me and goes, “People know even less about us now than they did 20 minutes ago. What a wonderful interview!”
ILLUSTRATION: ALAN CLARKE