'I don't know what came over me,' sez Bertie
Newton Emerson exclusively reveals what went on in that phone call that put the peace process back on track.
A transcript of Bertie Ahern's Monday afternoon phone call to Dr Ian Paisley has been released under the 30-minute rule by the popular espionage community website www.KevinFulton.com. In the absence of a comprehensive agreement between our Northern editor and our political correspondent, the board of The Irish Times has decided to publish this transcript in the interests of transparency and without intending to humiliate anyone.
Bertie Ahern: Hello, Dr Paisley?
Ian Paisley: I'm not talking to you!
BA: Look, look, Dr Paisley, if I could just have a few minutes to explain my position.
DP: I do not want an explanation, Mr Ahern, I want a full apology and I want it on tape so I can replay it on UTV later this evening and on numerous occasions thereafter, as and when required.
BA: Well, obviously I'd be prepared to apologise in the context of an overall explanation, but I'm afraid my tape-recorder is unworkable. Mary Harney keeps stealing the batteries.
DP: Lies, Mr Ahern, papist lies! Let me read back to you your Judas words this morning so that you may appreciate the full extent of your betrayal.
(Pause. Audible rustling of paper. Murmur of "Here it is dad".)
DP: This is what you told the media, Mr Ahern, after your cosy little meeting with those two IRA-Sinn Féiners: "I think we can all agree that agreement on the outstanding issues remains possible, but only if we agree to disagree over remaining stands on possible outs over all issues. So there'll be no photographs of decommissioning. I think that clarifies the matter."
BA: Yes, that was very badly put, I admit that, but I was simply explaining Sinn Féin's position.
DP: In the first person?
BA: I was just putting their statement into my own words, although that doesn't mean that those were my own words, so naturally I may have accidentally slipped into a verbal form lacking the required pluralism.
DP: Your Provo pronouns give you away, Mr Ahern.
BA: Well what Sinn Féin actually said was "No, Never, Never".
BA: Hello, Dr Paisley?
DP: I haven't gone away.
BA: So are we back on then?
DP: No, we most certainly are not back on Mr Ahern. You have offered me a typically Jesuitical explanation, but still no apology.
BA: Then I give you a full apology, Dr Paisley. I regret that you were offended and I regret that I offended you.
DP: Mr Ahern! I will NOT be palmed off with these priestly evasions! I have no interest in your many regrets, nor am I requesting an apology for whomsoever may have offended me. I am asking you now in plain Ulster-Scots to apologise for lying to the media this morning over your position on decommissioning. Otherwise our business here is concluded.
DP: The tape is rolling Mr Ahern!
BA: Right you are Dr Paisley. The Irish Government apologises for this morning's confusion over its position on the photographs.
DP: First person this time please Mr Ahern, I know your grasp of the English language is at least up to that much.
BA: Yes, you're right. OK. I apologise for the way in which my position on decommissioning was misrepresented.
DP: Do you have planning permission for these passive verb constructions, Mr Ahern? They seem to be your second home. Try again and kindly do not try my patience further.
BA: Of course, of course. Here goes.
BA: Dr Paisley. Ian. I am genuinely very sorry for lying to the media about decommissioning. It was inexcusable and I don't know what came over me. I suppose I had just left a meeting with Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and they make lying seem so normal. Mostly though, I just thought it would be easier to bounce you than to bounce the Shinners. I'm not sure why I thought that, because I've never really tried bouncing the Shinners but you know it's a terrible risk standing up to them on decommissioning because they have a lot of guns.
DP: Mr Ahern, yours is truly the repentance of the penitent man. That wasn't so humiliating after all, now was it?
BA: No, it wasn't actually. In fact to be honest with you Dr Paisley, telling the truth about the peace process feels strangely . . .
DP: Agreeable, Mr Ahern?
(The Irish Times regrets that for technical reasons this article could not be accompanied by a photo.)
Newton Emerson is editor of the satirical site portadownnews.com