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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 9 July, 2020

Column: Cardinal Rules - On the household charge and the stranger at the door

This week, the (Not) Primate of All Ireland and his pals worry about levies, escaped convicts… and spiked lemonade.

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

THIS WEEK THE priests and I “kicked back” and enjoyed the sun while the world went by.



The sun is blazing down. In typically Irish fashion everybody heads out into the garden. Sun loungers, deck chairs, and straw hats are the order of the day. I have my trusty transistor radio on in order for us to keep up with the days events.


Fr Mullen, complete with new blonde highlights, and his top of the range sun glasses, plops himself down on his sun lounger.


Minister Phil Hogan is on the radio talking about the household charge. He is confident that everyone will have paid it by the weekend.

“Will you being paying your household charge on any of your thirty three properties?” Fr O’ Leary asks Fr Mullen.

Fr Mullen barely acknowledges him, except to casually say, “Thirty five. Thirty five properties.”

“Anyway, you don’t pay household charges if you’re in NAMA,” he yawns.

Just then his iPhone rings.

“My accountant,” says Fr Mullen looking at the screen, “he is such a bore.” He doesn’t bother answering.

Phil Hogan finishes his interview with his voice cracking slightly. He is followed by a news report about an escaped convict.

“That must be the fifth one this week,” says Fr Lawlor.

“Get Mr Hysteria here,” says Fr Mullen smirking.

Fr Lawlor purses his lips.


Fr Deegan arrives into the garden with a scrawny looking young man. He introduces him as Damien. “He’s offered to cut the grass.”

By his demeanour I can tell Damien is the shy type. He can’t seem to look anybody in the eye, and he appears rather jumpy.

“I found him looking in the window,” says Fr Deegan.

“I was about to knock,” interjects Damien a little too vociferously. Obviously he is crippled with shyness and feels he has to overcompensate.

“You’re not here to collect the household charge as well are you?” laughs Fr Mullen.

“I dunno, if you want me to,” shrugs Damien. Fr Mullen laughs again.

“No, seriously,” offers Damien.


Damien is cutting the grass. He has a cigarette dangling from his lip. The lawnmower is groaning quite a bit, but Damien maintains that the quicker you cut the grass the better. Besides, he maintains it is what he calls “a deadly buzz.”

Phil Hogan is on the radio again. This time he is asked about the cancelled investigation into planning matters in Carlow and Kilkenny. The minister maintains that a small eeny weeny internal review is more than enough.

We all nod. Everybody knows that an internal review (not investigation – “that is so the wrong word” says Fr O’ Neill) is always best carried out by the organisation itself. That way people involved in said organisation who know it best can investigate the usually spurious claims of “irregularities” and reassure the public that everything is okay.

“We should know,” says Fr Lawlor. Everyone agrees.

The news headlines are about to start when Damien accidentally knocks over my radio, picks it up, then accidentally loses the station.

“Sorry, bud,” says Damien.

I tell him not to worry. By the time I have the radio retuned Phil Hogan is on again. He reassures the listeners that nobody will go to jail over non-payment of the household charge.


Alan Shatter is on the radio saying that people will go to jail over non payment of the household charge. Fr Ryan thumps his deckchair in agreement.


Michael Noonan is on the radio now telling everybody that the payment of the promissory note is like winning a Munster Final. He assures everybody that the long term reduction of our debt will be like winning an All Ireland Final five times in a row.

“Like who winning an All Ireland Final five times in a row?” asks his interviewer.

“Longford,” says Mr Noonan.


“In hurling?” he offers helpfully.

Fr Lawlor looks at everybody. “I don’t know about you,” he says “but after listening to that, I for one am feeling a  profound sense of optimism.”

I smile at him. Then I quietly ask Fr O’ Leary to take his bottle of gin away from him.


Enda Kenny is on the news. He is asked about why Alan Shatter and Phil Hogan are making contradictory statements about the possibility of people going to prison if they don’t pay the household charge.

“Prison! Yes!” shouts Fr Ryan.

“No f**kin’ way!” shouts Damien as he jumps behind Fr Mullen’s sun lounger.

“You must have some very strong thoughts on the subject, Damien,” says Fr Lawlor.

“What? Yeah. Yeah,” says Damien tentatively coming out from behind the sun lounger.


Damien offers to make us all lemonade. Everybody cheers.


Damien’s lemonade is only delicious. We give him a big round of applause. He seems very pleased, bless him.


I am woken by Fr Lawlor.

“We must have all dozed off,” says Fr Lawlor. All around us the priests are stirring. There is no sign of Damien, but he has done a lovely job on the grass.


Phil Hogan is on the radio in the kitchen (I seem to have misplaced mine). A woozy looking Fr Mullen stumbles in asking if anyone has seen his iPhone.

Meanwhile, Phil Hogan is going great guns on the radio.

“Or my watch? Has anyone see my watch?” asks Fr Mullen.

Phil Hogan is positive that everyone who should have paid the charge will have paid it by the deadline.

“It was a Rolex,” squeaks Fr Mullen.

Fr O’ Neill shakes his head at the radio.

“Some people are so naïve,” he sighs.

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About the author:

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

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