I am not a superstitious man, I do not readily buy into events billed as ‘omens’ or ‘portents’ as having any meaning. However, as with all rules, there ought be room for exceptions; exceptions like being able to say that having the leader of the country, and three senior ministers, become trapped in a lift minutes before the finance minister is to announce the annual budget, almost certainly counts as some sort of omen. It is perhaps one of the clearest auspices of Ireland’s inevitable doom that could ever be offered to us.
It was a simple throwaway line in the Irish Times’ live coverage of the budget, a piece of trivia illustrating the frantic nature of budget day.*
The Taoiseach and the three ministers: Regina Doherty; Heather Humphreys, and Simon Harris, were apparently freed after 10 minutes, but I feel it is only prudent for us as a nation to consider what might have happened had things not panned out so smoothly; had they remained trapped in that lift.
Firstly, we can almost imagine Paschal Donohoe standing in the Dáil chamber, clutching his leather-bound budget to his chest, staring at the entrance-doors wondering where they all were – like a dog waiting for its owners to return home. He would’ve delayed proceedings for as long as possible before he was no longer able to ignore the Ceann Comhairle’s increasingly aggressive demands for him to begin reading the budget. He begins detailing [we shift to the present tense here for dramatic effect] Ireland’s fiscal policy for the upcoming year, but seems distracted, his eyes wandering from the page, glancing around in search of Leo – like a child in a school play, squinting through the footlights in the vain hope of catching sight of their parents’ proud faces.
Meanwhile in the lift, after about 11 minutes of being trapped, discussion would’ve immediately turned to which of one of Leo, Regina, Simon or Heather ought be killed so that their flesh may be used to sustain the others. Leo would argue that, given he’s the leader of the country, he should automatically be excluded from consideration. The others in turn meekly agree with this, realising that – if they were to escape the lift – arguing that they had wanted to slay and then consume the carcass of the Taoiseach might damage their careers prospects within the party. Harris argues that, of himself, Regina, and Heather, the public would be most outraged by his death and consumption given that he’s still riding the goodwill engendered from the success of the Repeal campaign. Heather and Regina draw straws. Regina’s is shorter, her fate awaits her. However, before they can begin the grisly process, Simon remembers that he has an egg-and-cress sandwich in his satchel and they agree to put off the whole sorry business, at least for a time.
When Paschal Donohoe finishes his budgetary address, and it becomes evident to all that something has happened to Leo and the other three senior ministers, other parties mobilise to seize on the power vacuum. Micheál Martin is urged to consider a coup. However, after spending several hours pontificating, and checking to see whether ‘a bloodless coup’ would contravene the terms of the confidence-and-supply arrangement that he’d pledged to uphold, he’s informed that he’s too late. Mary Lou McDonald has already announced her new status as leader of the country and is busy hanging tri-colours from the windows of Leinster House, and attaching additional tri-colours to flag-poles – the majority of which already bear tri-colours – but she reasons they could do with more for good measure. She then announces that all dissenting TDs are to be rounded up and forced to transition out of politics and take an evening upskilling class in digital marketing, to remove all opposition.
In the lift, Simon’s egg-and-cress sandwich has been eaten. Regina is running out of time.
A small band of loyal Fine Gael TDs, who have eluded capture by hiding in the last place they knew anyone would expect to find them – the Dáil chamber during a debate on the housing crisis – begin to hatch a plan to free Leo et al. Paschal Donohoe appoints himself as the leader of this group, being the most senior remaining TD. They elect to call in the services of a lift-repair man. However, negotiations with the repair man break down over costs when Paschal Donohoe becomes unsure as to whether freeing the Taoiseach and three other ministers from a lift – thereby preventing their inevitable demise – would constitute a suitably severe crisis to warrant dipping into the newly established rainy day fund. “If it’s not to save the homeless, then it can’t save them either,” argues one of their faction. They take a vote on the matter, but, somehow end up with both results being in the minority. Before they can source any lingering Fianna Fáil TDs to back them up, they realise the repair man has hung up the phone.
Heather Humphreys is busy trawling through BBC Good Foods for recipes on human flesh – and ideally ones that could be knocked together using only what’s available to them in the lift – when it’s realised that the lift isn’t actually stuck. Simon had just forgotten to select what floor they were to go to. After berating him, they emerge to see the chaos that their temporary absence has created; emerge into an Ireland that has been changed, changed utterly.
Regina considers legal action for all the talk in the lift about eating her.
…Such is what might have happened had they remained trapped in the lift. Thankfully though, this was not to be.
On a lighter #budget19 note, Minister Regina Doherty confirms she was stuck in a lift with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before the budget – but didn’t manage to get any more money for her department pic.twitter.com/bqMT25S9KK
— Michael Brennan (@obraonain) October 9, 2018
Even more bizarrely though, is the fact that this was the second time Leo Varadkar has been in this exact same lift-situation. In sourcing the above tweet to corroborate the quote in The Irish Times‘ live coverage, I came across several tweets describing how, in 2013, Leo Varadkar, along with ‘half the cabinet’, were trapped in a lift for 15 minutes immediately prior to the announcement of 2014’s budget in the Dáil. This is an utterly preposterous set of circumstances to have occurred twice to one man.
Leo Varadkar has tweeted that half the cabinet are stuck in a lift ahead of the #Budget2014. Follow our live blog http://t.co/E58SiPjc74
— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) October 15, 2013
All things considered, it seems the the only prudent piece of advice to be gleaned from today’s budget is – in the incredibly unlikely event that such a situation does arise – to never, ever board a lift with Leo Varadkar.