Sunday, 6 March 2011
Eoghan and I: a cautionary tale
This a sad story – well, sort of. It features a well-known political columnist and me. In July 2007, in his column in the Sunday Independent, Eoghan Harris predicted as a FACT that Fianna Fail, who’d done well in the June election, would mop up the remaining seats of Sinn Féin, who’d done relatively poorly, in the next general election. In August 2007, when I heard that Eoghan would be on a discussion panel titled ‘West Belfast Talks Back’, I equipped myself with a £100 note and attended. When it came to questions from the audience I showed the colour of my money. “This £100 note” I said, holding it aloft, “disagrees strongly with Eoghan Harris’s assertion about Fianna Fail mopping up the remaining Sinn Féin seats next time out. Will the good senator give me odds of 10-1?” I think the prospect of contradicting his own column led Eoghan to acting a little hastily: he declared himself happy to take the bet. You can hear the exchange by clicking below:
Four years is a long time but, despite what the present Mrs Collins will tell you, I’m a patient man. With the commencement of the south’s general election campaign, I emailed the Senator. Long pause. Then he comes back and tells me he’ll concede the bet, I got lucky, the financial crisis happened, hence Sinn Féin are looking good. I explain in my response that it’s not luck, it’s my razor-sharp political judgement in action. There's a bit more to-ing and fro-ing in the weeks that follow. Eoghan got a little confused at one point and got the idea our bet was in euros; and he didn’t seem quite sure when he’d pay me – immediately, after results came in or just before the election.
But some five days ago, sad to say (well sad for Eoghan: I was grinning like a half-wit), the postman finally brought the envelope to my door (see pic above). I wanted to rush out and cash it in small notes, hundreds of them, and rub every inch of my naked body with them, but the present Mrs Collins thought this might traumatize the cat, so instead I put it in a specially-created bank account. Some days I just lie around, imagining myself dancing on the kitchen table and making faces at a photograph of Eoghan.
What will I do with it? I’ve had thoughts about buying a parrot and teaching it to say “Eoghan Harris knows **** all!” But on mature reflection I’ve decided not to. Instead, I’m looking to the May election here in the north. Out there somewhere is an opinionated but sadly misguided person - it doesn't have to be Eoghan although it might be - who’s convinced that on May 5 the SDLP will rise in a political tsunami, sweep Sinn Féin aside and send Margaret Ritchie to Stormont as First Minister. Over the next eight weeks it will be my mission to find this person. When I do, I will hold my £1000 note under his/her nose, allow him/her to finger it, maybe put a corner of it in his/her mouth. That done, I’ll put a companionable arm around his/her shoulders. “I wonder if you would consider” I’ll say “having a wee bet with me?”
You know what P T Barnum said about this kind of thing? If you don't, ask Eoghan.