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Column: Cardinal Rules - On playing the blame game at Davos

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland brings us all the gossip from behind the scenes at the World Economic Forum where he was on the “non-tokenistic spiritual sub-committee”.

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

THIS WEEK I attended the World Economic Forum in Davos. I was there in my capacity as a spiritual leader, and to keep an eye on Archbishop Diarmuid Martin.

Now I know that there are some people who think that what goes on in Davos only serves to cement the power of the privileged few. I have heard it alleged that it is nothing more than a cabalistic, secretive forum, intent on re-asserting the primacy and financial power of the elite to the detriment of the struggling masses.

I have also heard it said that only people of power and influence are invited. I think this last claim is a particularly ludicrous and baseless assertion. For one thing Enda Kenny was there.


I take the plane out with Fr Lawlor and Archbishop Martin. Fr Lawlor sits between us, like the reliable but unsurprising meat in an especially holy sandwich. The flight is pleasant, and only slightly marred by Archbishop Martin’s occasional and unasked for reassertions that he has a window seat, along with comments like “aren’t window seats great” and “you can have the window seat on the way back”.

I assure him, with typical good humour, that I do not want a window seat on the way back. He seems convinced, and he settles back in his seat to eat his (third) bag of peanuts.


In Davos we find we are to form part of a “non-tokenistic spiritual sub-committee” and we are led to a room in the hotel by a nice young lady with a clipboard.

The room is simply filled to capacity with spiritual leaders. Desmond Tutu is there. He and Archbishop Martin embrace warmly, then they engage in a mock boxing tussle, no doubt to show how comfortable and friendly they are in each other’s presence. Fr Lawlor, being socially awkward, is particularly confused by this exchange, so much so that when he is introduced to Deepak Chopra he punches him in the face.

Mr Chopra picks himself off the ground. He shrugs the incident off. “You are the match, we are the touch paper,” he smiles. Somebody calls for a doctor, but Desmond Tutu reassures us that everything is okay. Nevertheless, Dr Chopra spends the rest of the day flinching whenever he sees Fr Lawlor.


One of the Anglican priests from the “non-tokenistic spiritual sub-committee” corners David Cameron after his speech. He asks him about the poor.

“The who?” asks Mr Cameron.

“The poor,” says the young priest. Mr Cameron looks very confused. He asks the young priest to explain what he means. He does so with great passion. Mr Cameron shakes his head and shouts at George Osborne. “George, come over here. You must hear this. The damnedest thing.” George Osborne steps over.

“Tell him what you just told me,” says Mr Cameron to the young man. The priest proceeds to repeat what he has just said, this time with even greater sincerity and feeling.

George Osborne shakes his head in astonishment. “Good lord,” he says “that’s amazing. It almost sounds like a concept from a work of science fiction.”

“You should write a book about that,” says Mr Cameron. “You’d make lots of money. Then you could give your money to these… to the…?”

“The poor,” says the young priest.

“Amazing,” smiles Mr Cameron. He pats the young priest on the head, and both he and George Osborne walk away.

The forlorn-looking young priest watches them go.

That evening Enda Kenny arrives at the hotel. A young valet drops one of his suitcases. “Not your fault,” smiles Mr Kenny as he pats him on the shoulder.

Later that night he complains to the duty manager about the valet.


Everyone is very tired. Fr Lawlor is blaming Desmond Tutu who had us up all night in his room watching “Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo.” I don’t want to be judgemental, but I couldn’t help but notice how he and Diarmuid Martin kept laughing in all the wrong places.

At breakfast Enda Kenny sits on his own, psyching himself up no doubt for his big media interview later. A waiter accidentally brushes off him and apologises profusely. “Not your fault,” smiles Mr Kenny.

After breakfast I see him talking to the hotel manager and pointing at the waiter: “…jumped on me… just went mad.”

After his lovely interview in the snow, during which he makes a harmless off-the-cuff remark about the Irish people, he mingles with us and various heads of state. He is very friendly with Angela Merkel. “You know who I blame don’t you?” he says to Miz Merkel, and he points at David Cameron.

Moments later he is laughing and joking with David Cameron. He only stops laughing when he points at Angela Merkel and mutters something to Mr Cameron.


At the airport we all agree what a great week it has been. Some vague understanding of the problems facing the world economy has been reached, along with a vague sense that something or other should be done about it. Plus we got to see ‘Deuce Bigalow’. Twice.

On the plane I get the window seat. Archbishop Martin is confused “I was sure I had the window seat.”

I comfort myself with the fact that if he accuses me of swapping boarding passes that I can always claim it wasn’t my fault and blame Fr Lawlor.

If I’ve learned anything this week…

About the author:

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

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