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June 30, 2016

The brave and the faithful

Dr Garrett FitzGerald believes our political players could learn a lot by adopting the Munster way, starting with some intensive training in the Academy

To the brave and the faithful, nothing is impossible. This is one of the first indications of what it is all about to a would-be Munster player as he is accepted into the Academy. You don’t just take up rugby on Wednesday and get to replace Paul O’Connell on Saturday in the Heineken Cup. You must serve your time, learn how to play the game.
If you are successful, you might get a few minutes in a Magners’ League game as a replacement within a couple of years. If you are good enough, you have a chance of making it.
If you’re not, shake hands all round and good luck whatever. You may have been both brave and faithful, but you couldn’t cut it at a high level. This is the ‘real world’, which went missing in recent years.
Munster rugby is an example of a meritocracy in action. It contrasts with so many deadweight institutions in Ireland. For example, it’s not so long ago since promotion in the field of psychiatric nursing was based on longevity. The oldest keeper became head-keeper; first in, last out.
If such applied to rugby, Ginger McLaughlin would be leader of the pack, and the Claw would be getting his 700th cap against Italy next February. Jackie Kyle hasn’t gone away, you know. The Masters wouldn’t have been the same without Peter Alliss and Ben Hogan. Toots Kelleher would be missed by Cork. Mick O’Connell would take the 45s.
In this time of the introduction of reality into the public service, it is vital that basic meritocratic principles are put foremost. It might even be a good idea to lead by example and start at the top. Government is the obvious place to start and, for all intents and purposes, government usually means Fianna Fáil – more recently without the founders’ fada.
What a lot they could learn from the real pros. First a realistic slogan: ‘to the knave and the faithful, nothing is impossible’. This has the quality of being apt and morale-boosting. On first arrival, on seeing the words, the new TD (Heineken stream) or Senator (Magners’ only prospects) would be filled with a proper sense of history and purpose.
He/she would enter the Academy for a long period of intensive conditioning and training – none of yer getting a junior ministry just because you are geographically enhanced for the position. There would be no speaking allowed in the chamber during the formative years. Fair play to them, this part is already ensconced in the modus operandi.
In the Academy itself, all types of training would be included. Classes on how to regain your seat would take precedence during your first term. Jesuits and the last SS survivors of WW2 would speak to the apprentices on the virtues of unquestioning obedience to the Leader.
Media training would include practical demonstrations of how to say the opposite view to what your truth-brain is telling you convincingly and innocently and without a black mark appearing on your tongue. The best students would be those who actually believe it themselves. These lads will be the bulwark in future tribunals.
Induction years
After the first few induction years, suitable prospects would be allowed take watered porther and sangwidges in the Stand Up and Fight Room. The walls there are adorned with portraits of former Soldiers of the Legion of the Rearguard (Mind yer Back) such as Raphael Burke, Pee Flynn, Liam Lawlor, Charlie and Bertie who brought the country to where it is, against all the odds – nothing is impossible!
Students will be expected to know verbatim the deeds of legendary stalwarts of Team Taca, and be able to recite from memory long passages from tribunal transcripts as well as de Valera’s ‘Reply to Churchill’ and the ‘Oration at the Grave of O’Donovan-Rossa’. The sangwidges will be made with doorsteps of batch bread, country butter and sideways cuts of loose meat – frugal comforts. Final years might get a small taste of the smoked salmon to celebrate Wolfe Tone.
Bookmakers will give tips to the more successful candidates and speak only in Sterling. Name-calling classes will precede the apprentices’ first utterances in Dáil Eireann. Timing of cat-calls will be guided by the Whip. While some students will be allowed use abusive terms from their own localities, ‘Blueshirt’ and ‘Kneecapper’ can be used by all.
I have been reliably informed that, while the taught vocabulary contains ‘treehugger’, aspirants are under oath not to utter this before the next election when the Greens will be heeled out of the back of the ruck.
Practical classes will be intensive coming up to graduation. Ancient Irish vellum with see-through Cuchulains will take charge. Brown envelope-making of untraceable material will be carefully supervised. Sizes will vary from €50 to €500, the latter known jokingly amongst the apprentices as ‘the chokahorse’.
The most important contribution to the final product will be from members of the medical profession whose people before them never heard of Michael Collins except as a twin term to Oliver Cromwell. These doctors will host the memory-erasure sessions.
During these, deep-brain probes will burn away any unpleasant memory neurones in those who aren’t too thick up there. Charlie and Bertie will be restored to sainthood within. Nothing will be Impossible.
It won’t be a case of all work and no play. Team excursions will take place regularly.
To crossroads to dance with the comely maidens.