Tuesday 27 September 2016

There I was just trying to do my civic duty

Published 03/05/2015 | 02:30

Unlucky for some: Unfortunately, there wasn't room for a 13th angry man at the Municipal Fortress of Vengeance
Unlucky for some: Unfortunately, there wasn't room for a 13th angry man at the Municipal Fortress of Vengeance
Pride and joy: Blaise and Blake O'Donnell

If the Irish have any innate talents, then our natural ability to shirk is undoubtedly one of them.

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So when a summons to appear for jury duty plopped through my letterbox recently, two thoughts immediately sprang to mind - how do I get out of it, followed by... actually, why not just do it?

After all, for someone who spends half their time giving out about people who don't clean up after their dogs, I can hardly wibble on about people's civic duty if I'm not prepared to answer my country's call. Sure, I'd rather that call was to play for Ireland, but between you and me, that's beginning to look increasingly unlikely.

So, taking my lead from The Simpsons, I didn't turn up for jury duty at the Central Criminal Court.

No, instead, I was a member of the Justice Squadron whose presence was urgently required at the Municipal Fortress of Vengeance. Now that's the kind of summons people would take seriously.

Anyway, it was no great civic sacrifice on my part - the long suffering Indo lawyers informed me that I would be immediately challenged by either side, so all I had to do was turn up and wait for either one or both legal teams to tell me to feck off.

Um, no. Justice Squadron doesn't roll that way.

As I took my place, confidently expecting to be challenged, something terrible and unexpected happened - neither legal team had a clue who I was. Didn't they recognise me from my legendary appearances on @LastTV back in 1998?

Do they not read the Indo? Don't they - and I swear this is nearly the first time I have ever thought this is in my life - know who I am?

Hacks tend to be a neurotically toxic combination of large ego and small self-esteem, and you know, your career isn't really going to plan when two high-powered legal teams haven't the foggiest who you are. So, after affirming rather than swearing on the Bible (the only time being an atheist has ever had any impact on my day-to-day business), I informed the judge that, actually, I was a journalist and while happy to fulfil my civic obligations, it was best that the court knew.

Granted, as big reveals go, it's not really that big, but surely that would be enough to see me excused?

Well, no. The curse of tolerance has obviously infected the courts, and the judge was quick to reassure me that: "We don't discriminate against journalists in my courtroom, even the ones who work for the Irish Independent."

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, I suppose.

So, as the rest of the Justice Squadron gathered in the jury room to select a foreman, I reluctantly but humbly accepted the role, if only because I'm an egomaniac and it would give me the right to stand up during the trial and shout 'objection'.

Or, maybe, I could ask the judge for a sidebar whenever I was confused? Look, I don't know much about the law, but I watch a lot of Law and Order SVU, so I reckon I have a good grasp of the legal system - although the wife did later admit that she had a terrible image of me being dragged out by the security staff while screaming: "No, I hold you in contempt."

It's a big job, but someone has to do it and, to be honest, I was more than happy to grant the State this one favour. Which, I'm sure you'll agree, was mighty big of me.

Sadly, just when I was visualising my own 12 Angry Men scenario, the inevitable happened.

We were all called back in and the judge informed me that a challenge had been belatedly lodged. I would not, after all, be quarter-backing the jury.

Later, one of the Indo lawyers reckoned that as soon as we had left the room, both sides would have Googled my name and either, or both, would have agreed that I should not be allowed anywhere near a jury.

That came as a shock, I must admit.

I mean, I thought I was the only one who ever Googled my name.

Oh well, you live and learn.

Well, some people do.

BTW ...

Congrats to the O'Donnell family, who have somehow managed to become the only people in Ireland who could make the rest of us feel sorry the banks.

Really, when you think about it, it's a truly remarkable achievement and one which is almost heroically obnoxious.

I, for one, desperately want the number of their crisis management PR people, if only just to make sure I never, ever use them in a time of need.

I would have facetiously suggested that they should be proud of themselves, but I doubt pride is in short supply in that house. Or wherever they're living now.

Somehow, I doubt they're going to be bothering the doors of a soup kitchen any time soon...

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