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What b0llix got Number 1? Let me guess Bono

Meant to blog this before now, but was reminded to do so yesterday as I witnessed former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern being awarded an honorary doctorate in law by Queen's University Belfast.

Tony Blair got one too (by video!), as a tribute to his and Mr Ahern's efforts in delivering the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement ten years ago. The irony (see below) was wonderful and was not lost on at least some of the delegates at the Mitchell Conference, named for its host, the widely acclaimed former Senator George Mitchell, Chancellor of Queen's, who chaired the negotiations a decade ago.

Anyway, we all (UPDATE: ahem, nearly all! – see comments below) dutifully but fairly and fulsomely applauded the two former leaders for their part in the Northern Ireland peace process, whatever our reservations about other aspects of their time in power (Iraq, extraordinary rendition, etc).

Back to my point. The Irish Section of AI have a wonderful rolling series of original writing from leading Irish writers focusing on each article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the run up to its sixtieth anniversary this December 10. The series is being published weekly in the Saturday edtion of the Irish Times. I previously previewed this series by reproducing a brilliant commentary from Seamus Heaney.

Just days after the resignation of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the following piece was published from Roddy Doyle, dealing with Article 8: 'Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law'.

It was and is both audacious and hilarious, given the reasons for Mr Ahern's resignation – the encroaching 'Tribunal of Inquiry Into Certain Planning Matters and Payments'.

Enjoy (although it probably helps if you know something of the inflections of Irish politics and society).


"Custer never had to go in front of a Tribunal"

He checked his pockets. He had his money, his keys. Although he didn’t really need keys – he hadn’t driven a car in years. But he liked the weight of them, and the key ring was a present from his son-in-law.

-So, what’s on this morning? he asked.

-The Cabinet breakfast.


-The Lisbon referendum, the H.S.E –

-I’m going to get those letters tattooed across my @rse.

-Tibet and the Dublin Port Tunnel.

-That’s not too bad, he said. –We’ll be out before Mary H is finished her porridge. What then?

-A launch –

-Oh, God.

-No, no, it’s fine. Cherish the Child Week. Photo op. Twenty children.

-Oh, grand.

He loved kids. He absolutely loved kids. He loved getting in among them and chatting. And the photos, when they did the rabbit’s ears behind his head and he pretended to be shocked and it made them laugh. And there was always one messer, one great messer. Some kid he’d remember for the rest of the day – something the kid would say, or the look in his eyes. Something like that, to keep him going.

A great way to start the day.

He regretted it sometimes. He wished he’d spent more time with his own –

-Stop, he said.

That was beginning to creep in – the talking out loud to himself. Just the odd word. Still though, it could be the wrong word. At the wrong time. To the wrong man. Or woman. He’d have to be more careful.

But he was already as careful as he could be. He even slept carefully.

He had a quick look in the mirror. Nothing too searching; he wasn’t alone. It was one thing he hated – the sneering at his use of cosmetics. Bastards. As if flaking skin was a badge of honour.

He looked tired – he was tired. He smiled – it still worked.

-And then? he said.

-A new ambassador. Five minutes.

-Where from?

-Em –

-You have to check. It must be tiny.


-Grand, he said. -Don’t mention the war.

He looked at his watch. He had a few minutes. Breakfast with the Cabinet, though – Jesus.

-So, he said. -Austria. What then?

-The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

-I’m not writing it, am I?

He was smiling.

-No, she said. –Just reading it. One of the Articles. There are – let me see –

-Thirty, he said. –I remember. It’s the 60th  anniversary. And I’m reading one of the Articles. Me and twenty-nine other vital people. I hope they gave me Number 1.



- Actually, you’re Number 8.

He laughed.

-What b0llix got Number 1? Let me guess – Bono.


-Bono got Number 2.


-Who got 2?

-Your daughter.

He laughed again. He held his head back, so he could really let go of it.

The day was getting better and better.

-And her poor oul’ da, he said. –He’s only Number 8.

-‘Fraid so.

-Read it out there for us. I’ll have to give it the oul’ MacLiammoir.

-It’s only two lines.

-I can cope with that.

She read.

-Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

She stopped.

-That’s it, she said. –Are you alright?

His mouth eventually opened. A word came out.

-Tri –

He tried again.


She looked back down at the page.


-I can’t read that.

-I’m sure you could swap with your daughter –

-No, no, he said. –No. I can’t do that either. I can’t object. It’s the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I can’t not do it. B0llix to it, anyway. Give it to me again there.

She read it again.

-I’m asking for tribunals, he said. –That’s what I’ll be saying, isn’t it? Basically. Isn’t it?

-Yes, she said. –But not literally. Not in the Irish sense.

-Tribunals, though.

-Courts of appeal. A transparent judicial system.

-I know!

He held up his hands.

-Sorry, he said. –I’m very sorry.

-I understand.

-No, he said. –I was rude. I’m sorry.

He put his hands to his head.

-But tribunals!

His scalp felt a bit dry.

-They’ll be waiting.


-The lads with the click-clicks. And the gentlemen and lezzers of the press. Waiting.

-I suppose they will.

-It’s an ambush, he said. –A feckin’ ambush. Custer didn’t know the half of it.

-I suppose not.

-Custer never had to go in front of a tribunal. Did he?

-I’m not really all that familiar with the history of the Wild West, she said.

He looked at her.

-I did home economics, she told him.

He smiled.

-Fair enough, he said. –Fair enough. But I bet Custer never had to explain how he paid for his curtains or his patio furniture.

He stopped smiling.

-Who put me down to read 8, though?

-I’m not sure –

-Some b0llix in Justice, he said. –What number did Lenihan get?

She looked at the page.


-That’s something, anyway, he said. –He’s nearly on the sub’s bench. What about O’Dea?

-He doesn’t seem to be on the list.

-Grand, he said. –And Biffo?
-Number 9.

-Close, he said. –There’s no mention of tribunals in his one, I’d say, is there?


-Or tax-evading publican brothers, no?


-No, of course not.

He sighed. He tried to smile.

-Imagine that, he said. –I’m being stabbed in the back by Amnesty International.

He had another quick gawk in the mirror. He looked no different. Less tired maybe, the eyes a bit wild. But they suited him.

-Who got Number 7?

-Joe Duffy.

-Oh, good night. Good afternoon to you. Number 30?

She looked at the page.

-Gerry Hutch.

-Jesus Christ, what band is he in?

-He’s –

-I know, I know. The star of Prime Time and the Sunday World.

His shoulders were at him. He took off his jacket. He looked at the watch. He still had a minute. He took out his Man Utd key ring. He hopped it up and down on his palm. He put it back in his trousers pocket.

-The words that’ll haunt me for the rest of my life, he said. –Tribunal. Sterling.


-Now you’re talking. Bastards.

He put the jacket back on.

-I’d ban the tribunals, he said. –I would. Human rights, me @rse. Big pay days for middle class, Jesuit-educated Fine Gaelers and –

He whispered the letters.


He sighed again.

-I did nothing wrong.

-I know, she said.

-A house for two poor oul’ dears.

-I know.

-Seriously, he said. –I hadn’t a clue what I was doing those years. After – you know, the breakup. It takes years to get over something like that.

One last look in the mirror. He was alright. He didn’t look the way he felt – he wasn’t sure how he felt. He wanted to laugh – part of him did. But most of him didn’t. And a part of him wanted to cry.

-And now I’ve to go out there with Bono and the sandal brigade and call for even more tribunals.

He looked at his watch.

-Let’s go, he said. –We can’t be late for the Cabinet.

She opened the door.

He stopped.

-Are you alright? she asked.

-Fuck this, he said. – Call a press conference.

He took off his jacket. He lobbed it across the room.

-I’m resigning.

Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or law.

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