As Time Goes By, Feb 14 1982
It's been a nightmare. I could put a gloss on things and say that the Spontaneous Aggravation Party has been working like a well-oiled machine, that our people are getting an enthuusiastic response from the constituenncies, that if one interprets the variious polls accurately it ts obvious-that there is a massive swing to our point of view. The usual crap.
And all that may well be true.
"Things are on the up and up", Finngers Kavanagh opined last weekend, "I feel it in my water".
But our intervention in the elecction campaign received a serious settback last Tuesday when SAP's General Secretary, Lazy Pete Maguire, went on a skite. I dropped into The Oasis that evening for our weekly Campaign Reeview and The Boss handed me a note across the counter. Shag this for a game of cowboys, I'm for the off Pete.
Legless Cummins told me the story.
Legless is one of those people who beelieves that the atmosphere of a pub is the natural environment for humans, the next evolutionary step after the sea, the swamp, the trees, the caves and the city. No matter how early you enter or how late you leave The Oasis, Legless will always be perched on her seat at the end of the bar, a glass of whiskey to one side, a beer chaser to the other. No one has ever seen Leggless walking. At intervals she makes the necessary trips to the jacks, perrambulating in a manner most reminiiscent of a falling tree, each descent halted by grasping the edge of a chair or table and her swinging on to the next handhold. She has never bumped into anyone nor has she spilt anyone's drink. Legless is a higher form of life.
Anyway, the story according to Legless was that Lazy Pete dropped in about 5.30 for his usual after-work pint and a read of the papers. He seemmed his usual self, working his way through the papers from the top leftthand column of the first page to the bottom right-hand column of the last. About halfway through this routine a low moan emerged from behind the Irish Times and, without a word, Lazy Pete stomped out of the pub, sobbing. On the counter he left a half-finished pint and a pile of leaflets bearing SAP's familiar slogan, Don't Vote - It Only Encourages Them. The leaflets had been torn savagely in half.
It took three days to find Lazy Pete. He didn't return to The Oasis and when I checked for him at work they said he'd called in sick. And that he had sounded like it.
I dropped around to his place. Ixnay. Leaflets in undisturbed piles. In one corner lay several reams of photocopied pages from John Kelly's pornographic novel, which the Fine Gael TD published several years ago under a pseudonym. These should have been distributed to priests, pubblicans and other community leaders in Dublin South in a campaign to reveal the truth about the man who denounnced as "piglets" those who don't suppport his government's policies. On a table lay a half-finished poster which Lazy Pete had been designing, incorrporating a phrase from the election literature of Bernadette McAlliskey. Somebody, somewhere, profits more by the rest of us having less.
(Lazy Pete never for a moment thought of abandoning his principles by going so far as to vote for Me.Allisskey - he believes that any such act would give credibility to a circus which mocks the concept of demoocracy. "Democracy", he occasionallly orates, "should be a process of deciision making, not a succession of connfidence tricks by liars and hustlers". However, Pete was much taken by McAlliskey's phrase, believing it to enncapsulate a simple truth which is in danger of being forgotten when the "living beyond our means" brigade get into their stride.)
I finally caught up with Pete at lunchtime in O'Donoghue's on Friday. He was listlessly eavesdropping on a conversation between a couple of bores who had just bought new cars.
I'm not too gone on the beige trim, mind you.
No, but I must say, the torque ratio is just out of this world!
Indeed! Tell us, how is the suspennsion holding up?
In normal times these are the sort of people that Lazy Pete would spill drink on until they went away. Now, he sat there, eyes glazed, letting the waves of boredom wash over him. I bought a couple of drinks and sat with him until the holy hour, then took him over to sit down in The Green. He handed me a soiled newspaper cutting. It said that Ronnie Reagan was allocaating 750 million dollars to the producction of lethal nerve gas "in the national interest" .:
Pete was humming da-do, ron, ron, ron, da-do, ron ron.
"I can't take it any more", he murrmured. "The nerve gas, that's all right. I mean, what the hell, they can fry us, shoot us, radiate us, why not gas us? But this national interest business @when are people going to cop on? They cut wages in the national interest, abolish juries in the national in terrest, ... and no one seems to cop on that the nation ain't a nice family where we all eat out of the same bowl in the middle of the table. There are people who do the cutting and people who. get cut and there are different interests involved and that excuse should have worn thin years ago ... but it's now become so ingrained that the genial geriatric can use it to jusstify putting 750 million dollars into a glorified gas meter and sticking all our heads in the oven."
Pete shook his head sadly. "I've had it, you can't fight city hall."
I looked into his eyes and said genttly, "Pete, your country needs you. The world needs you".
It took three hours. Listing the obbscenities perpetrated in the name of decency, the lies told in the name of democracy, the sins committed in the name of the people. And the ultimate argument: lett. unopposed by anyone of Pete's stature, John Kelly might inncrease his vote.
We went back to The Oasis, where Fingers Kavanagh and Studs O'Mahooney were despairing of the attempt to co-ordinate the national campaign without Pete. We got back into the swing of things, but those precious few days may have cost us dear. What the hell, at least we didn't peak too early.
We have had no reply from RTE to our claim for free airtime and partiicipation in the debate between the party leaders - this despite the fact that a total of 24.7% of the electorate showed support for our position by either spoiling their vote or abstaining entirely from last year's circus. Neverrtheless, we have hopes that this time the Spontaneous Aggravation Party can raise its share of the poll - or nonnpoll, as the case may be, to at least 30 per cent.
Who will be top dog in the Kildare Street doss house when it's all over? Lazy Pete is hoping Charlie will make it this time. He alone pointed out a significant figure in the confidential document from the Department of Finance published in the last issue of Magill. Buried among the cost overrruns was a figure of £850,000 for the Taoiseach's office - under the heading "microelectronic facilities".
"I don't know", says Pete, "if Leinnster House has an Oval Office but I'll lay you ten to one that given enough time Charlie will get around to buggging it. If I know my Charlie, Dailgate here we come." •