A fortnight before Christmas, and all through the Dáil
The Opposition were purring, “just watch them crawl”
The Greens were hung, as they squirmed in their chairs
By a hoor of a budget, a shirt made of hairs.
Fine Gael were nestled, all smug in their heads
Dreaming visions of strikes, and protests for meds.
Healy-Rae had gone home, himself and his cap.
When up stood a Gogarty, a likeable chap.
He struggled to speak, but with all of the chatter,
His dander was rising, his eyes they got fatter
“I feel terrible” he said, “about the budget, you know”
Which sparked off a murmur – “tis only for show”
All of a sudden, there was an awful to-do
“F**K YOU Deputy Stagg” he roared “F**K YOU!”
“Alas Ceann Comhairle, I owe you an answer
But I couldn’t say Scumbag or Yahoo or Chancer.”….
In the past week, on the commodity markets, the price of asterisks has surged in heavy trading as newspapers seek to gain maximum impact out of the story of how Paul Gogarty said a swear-word in the Dáil. The word he uttered has humble origins – linguists theorise that it is derived from the German word frichen meaning to strike. However, if you read the transcript of the Dáil proceedings you’ll see the statement has yet to be f**ked from the record. Predictably enough, the attention has focused on how the young Green’s gross outburst has tarnished the reputation of our national parliament. This misses the point. When PG (warning; contains strong language) launched his howitzer last Friday, he brought the F-word itself into disrepute.
Humble though its origins may be, it is the most useful of words. You could say it is like the hemp of the English language. It has hundreds of uses, some of them frowned upon, but if prepared correctly can make you laugh hysterically. That’s why for many of us, watching Gogarty use that word in that place felt like a marriage of the incompatible. Like seeing your teacher turn up at your debs in a velvet jacket and grey slip-ons. That cringey moment when Mr Carmody tried to moonwalk and then surprised everyone by offering around the Carrolls No.5.
If you’re going to swear in the Dáil, do it in the Irish way. Out of the corner of your mouth like Brian Cowen did all those budgets ago. Some would argue that Brian Cowen’s mouth doesn’t have corners but he found one when he asked Mary Coughlan to “get a handle on this, will you ring those f**kers”. This seems tame by comparison yet it still caused a furore at the time. Initially it wasn’t clear who the f**kers were. The Opposition claimed they were the f**kers. They usually are, but not on that occasion.
The key is to be overheard saying it. Then it sounds like you’re a regular guy who got caught out. John Bruton privately said to journalists that he was sick of answering questions about the effing peace process. Albert Reynolds said the word crap. We all like a bit of salt but it requires a delicate touch. What was wrong with Paul Gogarty’s FYDSFY was that it felt too on purpose. The bizarre inclusion of the name “Deputy Stagg” in the sentence now makes it almost inevitable it will be used as a T-Shirt logo. Gogarty may protest that it was not premeditated, that it was a crime of passion, but when I saw recordings of his conniption, it triggered an old memory for me.
Picture a little school yard in the picturesque village of Dripsey. A five year old Junior Infant in short trousers and with a cheeky grin that suggested that one day he would write sideways-look-at-life articles for an award-winning Cork newspaper, is tripped in the concrete yard. He is lying on his back and some classmates gather around, including that day’s tripper. The little boy looks up and pauses. He’s not that angry, but thinks now would be a good time to use a word he has learned. Possibly he learned it from watching a fight between Ken Barlow and Mike Baldwin on Coronation Street. He takes aim and fires up at the little crowd looking down at him:
“You BASTARDS” he says, smiling just inside his mouth watching the effect.
“Aw-awwwww, Colm-Saida- Cuuuuuuuuuurse” the crowd wails like a little siren and someone scampers off yelling “I’n-gawn-telling-Teachawwwwr”
Oh yes, I knew what I was doing. And I think Gogarty did too.
…….He came back an hour later, all ashen and grey
“I’m sorry” he said, “for my comments today”
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, an ye can all go and sh*te!”