Sunday 21 July 2019

Brendan O'Connor: 'Simon's our Theresa May'

Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Health Minister Simon Harris. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

There was something about the look in her eyes in Brussels last week. Something, too, about the way she held herself. You worried for her. And when she looked us all in the eye and said she would deliver Brexit and she would deliver it on time, you couldn't help but worry for her.

The flurry of travelling and activity seemed a bit deranged. She was greeted in Brussels and then Dublin by bemused hosts who wondered what it was she wanted to talk about, given she had nothing new to say. Indeed Leo made it clear before she joined him for salmon, beef, cheese and fruit, all currently still available in this country, that even if she had anything to say, he was not the person to say it to. But her visit was endured with the strained politeness you'd show the mad aunt who comes for tea.

We couldn't quite put our finger on who she reminded us of, and then we remembered. In this flurry of manic activity, she was Francie Brady's mother from Pat McCabe's The Butcher Boy, after her return from 'The Garage' when she broke down. That was when Francie's mother started the deranged baking for the visit of Uncle Alo, who had 10 men under him over in England: "Then off she'd go again rolling pastry and stacking butterfly buns on tray after tray. The house was full of cakes. Full of cakes for Uncle Alo, I said. That's right she says, Alo loves cakes. If that's one thing your uncle loves it's cake. And butterfly buns, I said. You're right, she said, I'll make some more. It got so bad you nearly had to tunnel your way into the house with all the cakes."

It was all very well enjoying the chaos in the UK from our position of superiority. But we forgot, until last week, that chaos is contagious. And now we have deranged politicians of our own. Poor Simon Harris is ageing before our eyes. Never mind Leo's metabolic age. Simon's must be 100 by now. Although he's keeping his metabolism up by dashing around like Theresa from studio to studio explaining why we need a children's hospital, even though that was not the question. In what is essentially a version of ''we are where we are'', Simon keeps fighting. That money is gone now. What do we want him to do? Not build a hospital? He even took a leaf out of Boris's book with his notion that, like Brexit, people just want us to get on with it now, even if it beggars us.

And all of us are watching on sympathetically, knowing that, being a new father, the poor chap probably hasn't had a night's sleep in weeks. And the saddest part of it is that the only ones who could put him out of his misery, Fianna Fail, won't do it. Because of, you guessed it, Brexit. Still, his colleagues must all be relieved that Simon is stuck now until Brexit is done, in the daily recurring hell that is Angola. Bun anyone?

Sunday Independent

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