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Bertie Ahern and Steven Seagal competed for our attention Press Association Images

Column: Cardinal Rules - On Bertie Ahern vs Steven Seagal

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland was torn between the Bertie interview and a Steven Seagal movie on TV – and learned that the two men are not as far apart as you would think…

LAST NIGHT WE stayed in to watch telly. There is always the option of going out after dark, but to be fair, when you’re a clergyman, that just feels wrong. We opted of course for the movie of the week, which was the only brilliant Executive Decision starring Steven Seagal and Kurt Russell. But imagine our predicament when we discovered that Mike Murphy was to interview Bertie Ahern on RTE 1 at exactly the same time.

A compromise was reached when we decided that we would switch between both. After all, this is the age of short attention spans and flicking back and forth between… what I was talking about?


It is almost time for the Bertie Ahern interview. I have to gently cajole Fr Caffrey into watching as he has taken an irrational dislike to Bertie Ahern since 2008. I can’t think why. Most of us have found Mr Ahern an avuncular, likeable everyman; and all of this despite the trappings of a big house on Griffith Avenue, two secretaries, a security detail (as if someone so pleasant would need one) and a modest pension – or two.


Executive Decision is getting very exciting indeed. Steven Seagal and his team are about to board a terrorist held plane in mid-air. With a mixture of reluctance and excited apprehension we switch over to the big interview.


Fr Deegan, Fr Lawlor, and Fr O’ Shea are playing what they call “Bertie Bingo.” It involves striking off “Bertieisms” on a card. These include such familiar Bertie traits as mentioning normal things like how much he likes football, making up new words and phrases, and citing Lehmans at the earliest available opportunity.


A bombshell! Bertie confesses to Mike Murphy that he always resented working on Sundays. As you can imagine we have great difficulty getting our minds around the concept.


Bertie mentions Lehmans. Fr Deegan scratches it off his bingo card. He is nearly hopping out of his chair with excitement.


A quick flick back to Executive Decision. Steven Seagal is looking his men squarely in the eye, and telling them how important their mission is.

My palms are sweating.


Back to Bertie and Mike. Mike has just asked Bertie a question. Bertie is now asking Mike if he can answer the question. But Mike has asked him the question, which would imply that Bertie doesn’t need to ask permission to answer. This is very confusing.

Meanwhile, a smug looking Fr O’ Shea scratches a line from his Bertie bingo card.


Back to Executive Decision. Steven Seagal is dead! When did this happen? Fr Deegan explains to me that he sacrificed his life for his men. Now Kurt Russell is in charge.

Suddenly I find myself feeling moved. I think about the nobility of sacrificing oneself for the sake of others, and the very obvious parallels between Steven Seagal and Bertie Ahern resigning for the sake of his country in 2008.


On RTE 1 Mike Murphy asks Bertie if he consciously gathered a loyal group of people around him in Drumcondra. Bertie says “No” and his eyebrows disappear somewhere around the back of his head.  “Bingo!” shouts Fr Lawlor.


On RTE 2 Kurt Russell is fighting one of the baddies. He is doing better than I expected. “Hit him! Hit Him!” roars Fr Ryan.


On RTE 1 Mike Murphy is asking Bertie about his finances. Bertie is smiling. “Hit him! Hit him!” roars Fr Caffrey.


Executive Decision is on a break, so instead we watch a very informative ad about yoghurt.


Mike Murphy mentions Bertie’s pension. Bertie is smiling, because in fairness the whole pension issue is a bit of a laugh.


Bertie is laughing about the “dig outs” he received, because in fairness there is something inherently funny about a serving minister getting cash donations in pubs for absolutely no favours whatsoever.


Executive Decision: Kurt Russell is strangling somebody with his own shoelaces.


Bertie mentions “Dutch Achilles.” We all could have sworn Achilles was Greek. I make a mental note to watch our DVD copy of Troy again.

Fr Caffrey is now growling at the screen.


Kurt Russell is still strangling somebody with his own shoelaces.

Fr Caffrey is still growling.


Bertie says “The reality is” and “Talking down the economy” in quick succession. Fr Deegan punches the air and shouts “Yes! Yes!”


Mike Murphy asks Bertie some very serious questions. Bertie looks very serious in response. He is very sincere and honest in his answers. You can tell because he keeps repeating the same words and phrases over and over. (“Regrettably, regrettably, more than anybody, more than anybody.”)

In the end I have no idea what he said. But I am in no doubt as to his integrity.


Bertie talks about “Diss, dat, and deh udder.” Fr Deegan hops out of his chair and screams “House!” Fr Lawlor is miffed because he had “Diss, dat, deez and doze.”


The interview is over. “Wasn’t that great?” I say to everybody. They all agree, and yet nobody can seem to remember Bertie saying anything memorable or important. I wonder aloud if we are all just very tired.

“Tired? Yes,” whispers a broken-looking Fr Caffrey.

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(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady
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