Wednesday 26 October 2016

Notebook: A look at the week that was

Published 11/09/2016 | 02:30

For sale: The Central Bank building on Dame Street Photo: Caroline Quinn
For sale: The Central Bank building on Dame Street Photo: Caroline Quinn

It's not fun to start the week crippled, but that's what you get when you fall over in your rush to admire a friend's new car. All hail the VHI SwiftCare clinic, where they dealt with it quickly and civilly before inviting me to put my foot into a round cage, off which rolled the coolest compression bandage.

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Picking up painkillers later, I was struck by an unwelcome truth: you know you're getting old when everybody in the pharmacy greets you by your first name.


The tragic death of the young mother on the hard shoulder of the road to Dublin, where she was to visit her newborn reminded me of the day I had a blow-out on the motorway. Serendipitously, the car drifted to a halt on the hard shoulder, right beside one of those bright orange emergency posts. I got out, pushed the button and explained my problem. The disembodied voice promised a tow truck.

"Grand," I said. "I'll get back in the car and wait for them."

"No, you won't," came the swift response. "The hard shoulder is the most dangerous place on the motorway. D'you see the metal barrier running along in front of you? Get in behind it and stay there."

Impressed, I did precisely that and have never used the hard shoulder since. But I wonder why signs warning of the dangers aren't embedded into the reddish surface of the hard shoulder to alert newcomers to the idea, because pulling in to make or take a phone call is such a tempting and ostensibly safe option.


Clientelism meets clinical review. Add in the toddler rhyme about the Grand Old Duke of York marching his troops up to the top of the hill and marching them right back down again and you get a good picture of this week's exciting adventure on the part of John Halligan.

It's been a while since any one politician managed to unite colleagues, opposition and media in shared frustration. Nobody actually used Cromwell's great dismissal, but it applies: "You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately...Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!"

On the other hand, let us not underestimate the cleverality of Halligan. Politicians pulling out their hair at the man's infinite capacity for relentless negotiation clearly never get to see soap operas, where nothing much ever happens other than serial agonising. Those soap operas have a lot of faithful viewers.

Halligan the Heart did magisterial puppetry, not just on politicians, but on media people, who despite how infuriated they were with the man, nonetheless obediently trained their cameras on him whenever he walked in or out of Leinster House (and he walked a lot) and pursued him by phone for comments he was generously willing to give.

The man's a PR genius. Witness the vox pops on TV featuring his constituents. Only mighty, they think he is. Even if he loses on the cath lab issue, he fought the good fight and they want him to continue to fight the good fight, rather than buzz off to the back benches.

I assume they also want him to continue to have the great sex life he claimed, in an interview with Hot Press, to be having, although one wonders how he finds the time.


Receiving an email that called me "the Mother Load" surprised me. I could have understood it if it came from my offspring, but in fact it came from a final year student doing a thesis who, having so described me, went on to state that I have an "inane" insight into Irish political communications.

I hope she meant the "mother lode" and "innate", but you never know, the way our universities are going down the tubes.


The Central Bank building on Dame Street is for sale. I would not want to damage their chances of getting the €65m they have their heart set on, but any prospective buyer should know about the protected species on the roof.

At a meeting on one of the upper floors one day, I was startled by a loud wet smack against the window, and turned to witness blood and guts slithering down the outside.

The chairman shrugged and explained that a peregrine falcon lives overhead, regularly bringing its prey back for a nosh up atop the building.

The bird frequently loses its grip on its takeaway and splatters it all over the window glass. The mislaid dinner in that instance was, outstandingly, the most interesting contribution to the meeting.

Sunday Independent

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