Belfast Telegraph

Cathartic moments on the presidential election trail

By Ed Curran

The phone rings again in the First Minister's office. "Hello Peter. Martin here. Only three days left." "Martin, I don't need to ask you how it's going. Not too well from what I can see."

"That's an understatement, Peter. First I had that guy David Kelly confronting me about his father being shot by the IRA and that awful woman Miriam O'Callaghan rabbiting on at me and now I've had Garda McCabe's family come out of the woodwork."

"I know the feeling, Martin. I had the same sense of embarrassment when the BBC showed all those old shots of me with my wee beret in the Ulster Resistance. But the public up here know that if it hadn't been for people like us, they would not be where they are today."

"You're absolutely right, Peter. That's what I've been telling people down here, but they just don't seem to be getting the message."

"So why, I ask myself, are you not getting more support? I mean, it must be incredibly impressive that you can say the two of us have transformed Northern Ireland. I've read your speeches and you know Martin, if you weren't a republican, I might even consider voting for you."

"Gee, Peter. I really appreciate that. But tell it to me straight: where have I gone wrong?"

"Martin, that's a big question. My own gut feeling is that you needed to be straighter with the people down there."

"What do you mean, Peter? Straighter?"

"Martin, you need to come up-front and tell people. What have you been doing with your life all those years that you and I didn't know each other as we do now?"

"Peter, you know me. I'm a really easy-going guy with no hang-ups and these people are trying to portray me as an ogre."

"I understand, Martin, but remember the motto of the News of the World: the truth shall set you free. You need to come clean."

"Peter, the final straw was the family of Garda McCabe coming at me and saying I wasn't fit to be president. That was really hard to take."

"Martin, much as I sympathise with you, I have to say that I think you're your own worst enemy. Have you ever heard of the word catharsis?"

"No. What's that Peter?"

"Well, it really comes from the ancient Greeks. A cathartic moment is what I think you're having. It's when the past confronts you and your emotions take hold of you and you undergo a life-changing experience."

"I'm not sure what you mean by a cathartic moment."

"Martin, I've been reading up on this and I can tell you have the symptoms. I'm looking up Wikipedia as we speak. Ah, here is what it says: 'The term catharsis has been adopted by modern psychotherapy to describe the act of expressing, or, more accurately, experiencing the deep emotions often associated with events in the individual's past which had originally been repressed, or ignored, and had never been adequately addressed or experienced.'"

"I think you have something there. I feel myself bursting to say something about my past, but I just can't bring myself to do it."

"Look, Martin. I know this presidential election has been quite an experience for you - a bit of a gunk, if you ask me. The best I can say is that someone forced you into standing against your better judgment. It wasn't Gerry by any chance? Let's be serious. It's time you wised up. The opinion polls are telling me you are not going to be president of Ireland. That guy Michael - what's his name? Higgins? - is going to beat you because he looks as if he has more gravitas than any of you. Just as long as you beat Dana. I have to say, Martin, I really don't know why you ever let yourself in for this in the first place."

"I don't know either, Peter. But here I am with three days to go and, who knows, the opinion polls and Paddy Power might be wrong. I feel I still have an outside chance of winning."

"Catch yourself on, Martin. You sound like Arsene Wenger saying he can still win the Premiership. Get back to Belfast. Nobody asks awkward questions up here anymore. Loyal true blue Ulster is where you belong. Martin? Hello, Martin? Martin, are you still there? Mother of Stormonts, he's hung up."


From Belfast Telegraph