Thus spake Charles Haughey when referring to his then protégé Bertie Aherne but it could equally apply to the Corkman the whole country is talking about – Breffny Morgan from TV3’s The Apprentice. The facts about Breffny are well-known – he’s a Harvard graduate from Douglas, he rows rowing boats and has an accent that sounds like he’s a wedding DJ answering questions in court about why one thousand pirated DVDs were found in the boot of his VW Golf.
Despite his occasionally dim facade he has still survived numerous heaves against him, which leads one to believe that like Bertie, he’s been playing us for fools all along. I’m not for a minute suggesting that the Breffmeister would lead the country to economic ruin, then nip to the Poison-Chalice Shop to buy one for Brian Cowen, head off to enjoy the good life before having the AUDACITY to hint at running for president… but no one could deny that Breffny is a master of disguise.
Perhaps, when the cameras are switched off and the others are asleep, Breffny is awake. Noiselessly, he walks down a long corridor, enters a large room via a hidden door and metamorphoses back into the evil genius Breffnitz. He flicks a switch and a large map of the world is illuminated. It is littered with images of missiles heading for all major world cities. Breffnitz says to his cat: “Ze FOOLSE, zey do notz saspect a tzing, do zey Mr Pinkles?”
Or maybe there is no Breffny. In a dramatic final episode, Breffny will rip off his mask to reveal that he is actually Bill Cullen who, Christ-like, has decided to walk among us in order to teach humanity a lesson. He will deliver his verdict. “I was a tool and you took the piss, I did sit ups and you scorned me on the internet forum. Yet I say this to you now, it is easier for a man acting the eejit to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for the golf-towel-cleaner designer (or scary school teacher) to survive in reality TV.”
The public agree. A Facebook page called BreffMania has more than 2000 fans, which is probably as many people as would admit to regularly watching Ireland AM. Breffny’s genius is that he understands that the Apprentice is about entertainment. Of course it is about business as well, but only in the sense that it reminds us just how ludicrous the world of work can be. On the programme this week the challenge was to design a campaign for a charity Christmas gift to be sold in Spar. The contestants took it very seriously. So seriously that they didn’t apparently notice when their strategy talk verged on the surreal.
“I think we need something structural involving chocolate” said Lucinda who sounded like she was brainstorming the design of luxury apartments during the property boom. When it wasn’t bizarre, the conversation bordered on downright disturbing. “I think Steve’s still gone on the reindeer poo” whispered Sam. “No, I’m 100% behind the teddy” maintained Steve, thankfully choosing the lesser of two fetishes.
And through all of this, Breffny emerges unscathed as reindeer poo and jelly beans roll off his shiny, possibly teflon, suit. Apart from a passionate outburst in the boardroom this week, he has kept his cool. He hasn’t thrown a strop. That’s why it’s hard to believe he’s from Cork. Surely sooner or later, tempers would have flared. Surely there would have been a row. He would have walked out – or come out. But instead, Breffny has stuck it out.
It does beg the question, just how would Roy Keane have fared in the Apprentice. Would the endless scrutiny have forced him to glare and leave. And how would it have been recorded later in trademark style by Tom Humphries in the Irish Times:
“He looked at his phone, Cullen was ringing him. The ****. Who did he think he was with his ****ing Penny Apples? Mr Bulmers?. He ignored the call. Just kept walking with Triggs. He met Breffny. Rowing as usual. Hello Breff. How are things Ray? The ****. Why couldn’t he get his name right? That’s the attitude he hated, people who had it handed to them on a plate. He worked for everything. When Roy was 14 he wrote to every self-made Renault millionaire in Ireland in his own blood using the branch of a tree as a pen. Commitment. Never Say Die. Splinters in his cornflakes. His phone rings again. Jackie Lavin. The ****. With the eyebrows. I’ve had enough he tells her. It’s gone wrong. She hangs up. Triggs wags his tail and plays with a bone. The ****.”
But for once this is not about Roy Keane. It’s about the Breffmeister – funny, daft or working for the Russians, we love him all the same.