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Column: Cardinal Rules - On giving Brian Hayes a helping hand

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland reflects on the needy and vulnerable of Ireland, including members of Government who now have to subsist on only several thousand euro a week…

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

IT’S BEEN A bad week for the Cardinal and his clerical crew. The Budget, the tribulations of Brian Hayes and the disappearance of Georgia Salpa occupy his diary…

Monday

We are listening to the first day of the Budget. It is the part concerning expenditure, so we are taking notes on how much more vulnerable it will make the already more vulnerable in society. Fr Ryan is particularly interested because he is preparing for his pre-Christmas collection for the poor. In recent years he has been run off his feet.

By the end of the day he has an even bigger list than last year. And yet he seems strangely unfulfilled. I ask him what’s wrong. “I don’t know,” he replies. “It used to be a buzz helping people. It was fresh and different, particularly in the Celtic Tiger years. But now there are so many people to help, it’s like” – he shrugs – “yeah, like, whatever.”

I suggest to him that maybe he can change things a bit, and go “old school” like Bishop Brophy. This will involve patting poor people on the head and saying “there, there” a lot, while using a tone which is both parts patronising and compassionate.

Fr Ryan doesn’t seem convinced. In fact he seems unduly troubled. That night I make sure to say a prayer for him, after saying a prayer for Moonraker to be on telly on Christmas Day, and a prayer for the safe return of Fr Breslin after his “holiday” in Colombia.

Tuesday

We listen to the second day of the Budget. As per tradition we are listening to this part with our fingers in our ears. Fr Deegan is signing the important parts, with a thumbs up for the good parts (not very many) and thumbs down for the bad parts (loads).

Meanwhile, Fr Ryan adds more of the “new poor” to his list. However, he is still down in the dumps, and his once evangelical zeal seems to have almost dissipated.

That night we watch Vincent Browne. Lots of murmurs of approval greet the appearance of Brian Hayes. As Fr Lawlor points out, “He looks like everyone’s favourite choirboy, with his neat hair, and his lovely manners.”

It appears that Minister Hayes needs all the manners he can muster, as a typically vituperative and unjustifiably scornful Vincent Browne launches a rabid attack. Brian Hayes mentions that he only gets five thousand euro a month and that he pays taxes and everything. I can see Fr Ryan doing the arithmetic in his head. A single tear rolls down his cheek.

That night I say a prayer for the long overdue Highway to Heaven reboot.

Wednesday

Huge excitement at the breakfast table. Fr Lawlor has just heard news that there may well be a Top Gun 2. Both he and Fr Deegan are over the moon. Fr Lawlor mentions that he is thinking of doing an extra long gospel at early morning mass to celebrate.

Fr Deegan looks him squarely in the eye “I don’t like you because you’re dangerous.” Fr Lawlor replies “That’s right! Ice Man. I am dangerous.” Then they laugh and high five each other.

I am about to frown, but a very animated Fr Ryan suddenly announces that all his charitable efforts this Christmas will be spent alleviating the awful situation Brian Hayes is in.

Fr Ryan spends the rest of the day packing cardboard boxes for Brian Hayes. Fr Redmond donates a Roger Whitaker CD which his mother gave him last Christmas. There are loads of jumpers, v neck, naturally; along with a fancy black polo neck donated by Fr Lynch who fancies himself as a bit of a maverick.

That night I pray for world peace, and the return of my copy of Fear of a Black Planet which I lent to Fr O’ Neill ages ago.

Thursday

Terrible news. Georgia Salpa has pulled out of the Tivoli Christmas panto. That’s twelve disappointed priests I have to break the news to. “At least we still have Sammy Sausages,” I tell them.

“Yes, but will his simmering antipathy towards his ex leading lady be reflected in his panto performance?” asks Fr Lawlor. There is a moment of intense disquiet as we all visualise a rage filled Alan Hughes rampaging around the set.

I ring and cancel our booking.

Meanwhile, Fr Ryan’s boxes have been returned from Brian Hayes’ office with a polite “thank you but no thank you” note. Fr Ryan breaks down while talking about Brian Hayes’ admirable stoicism in the face of his obvious difficulties. Fr Deegan tries to comfort him by pointing out that at least he kept the Roger Whitaker CD. This is met with murmurs of relief.

That night I pray that Top Gun 2 will be as good, if not better than its predecessor. Then I think about poor Brian Hayes, and I pray for a world in which there is balance and fairness for all.

I pray really hard.

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(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

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