THESE three Irishmen go out to play golf, right? One is the Taoiseach. One is chairman of a wobbly bank. One is a PR executive.
The three meet at this posh golf club at the start of an economic meltdown, play 18 holes, have dinner, a few drinks. In short, spend the day together.
So what's the joke? No joke. Sorry for leading you up the punchline path. The joke, if there is a joke, is that while Brian Cowen was still new to the Taoiseach's seat, and while the property bubble was going "Pop!", the Taoiseach could devote a full day to having a good time with pals.
Nothing against him having R&R. The rest of us would love to be able to down tools for a day in the sunshine and get food handed to us in luxurious surroundings. Hasn't happened that often in recent times to most of us, but we're not envious. Perish the thought.
You'd kind of assume that when you put three guys at the top of their respective games (and I'm not talking golf, here) that they would talk to each other, gain from each other's insights, so the Taoiseach, at the end of the day (you should pardon his somewhat over-used expression) would lash back to Leinster House with all sorts of ideas about preventing the bank problems from getting any worse.
But no. Apparently they never said a word to each other about banking. Maybe Fintan Drury, when he set up the game, laid down the rules.
"No mention of banks, banking, property meltdown, Sean Quinn, Anglo, AIB," he may have said. "We'll be able to relax better if we avoid those topics."
Or maybe the Taoiseach said it when he arrived.
Fair dues to the three of them, no matter how it was arranged. It must have felt like a Christmas party game in July: first guy to mention banking loses five points.
Poor Seanie must have felt particularly hampered. Imagine it. The Taoiseach opens the proceedings with a classic Fianna Fail Leader greeting.
"How's she cuttin'?" he mutters. "How's life treatin' ya?"
If Seanie tells him he's not sleeping so well because things at head office are a bit fraught and he's worried about stuff that may come out in the future about warehoused millions, Fintan's going to step in right away and tell him he's breaking the rules. Seanie'd be safer with reminiscence.
"Do you know, I was just thinking," he would murmur, sliding a golf glove on. "It was a lovely summer day like this that I met my wife. There I was, working at a fairground, separating the bumper cars when they got stuck, leaping from dodgem to dodgem like Tarzan and SO handsome."
"Nuthin' changes," Brian Cowen might respond. "You're still leaping from dodgem to dodgem."
"Ooops, Taoiseach, have to dock you a few points," Fintan says. "That was a reference to current troubles at Anglo."
"What're you callin' me Taoiseach for? We're old friends."
You can see that, even in the first 10 minutes, it would be difficult for the three-man foursome to stay off the subject of Anglo. Now, if they're all really bad golfers, they might end up separated for periods as they progress through the course, but what do they talk about when they get back together? The weather? Maybe. The match on the previous weekend? Possibly.
The marvel is that, according to the Taoiseach, ne'er a word was spoke about a bank the other two guys were up to their armpits in, which had already created a run on the London Stock Exchange, and which would, in due course, bring the Irish economy to its knees.
With the storm clouds clearly visible at that point, the question has to be asked: How on earth could the Taoiseach waste a full day with key Anglo players WITHOUT discussing its problems?