A Kate O’Hara TD story: A Bear in the Air. The Taoiseach, Kate O’Hara, splashed another handful of water on her face before drying it. She’d brushed her teeth and run a brush through her hair and looked at herself in the mirror. All in three minutes. She thanked herself that her skin allowed her to get away without much makeup at this hour of the morning. Her husband was in his dressing gown, hair still standing up in that It’s 5am For God’s Sake way hair does. “Go save the country,” he said, and kissed her on the cheek, and she was away, down the stairs. The street, facing out into Dublin Bay, was lit up with the blue flashing light of three Garda SUVs, armed Gardai on the pavement. She was into the car and they were away at speed. Sean Collins, secretary to the cabinet, turned in the passenger seat to face her. “Sean, is my entire administration going to be national security emergencies? First hijacked planes, now the Russians bombing Mayo with nuclear weapons.” “Your government has been unusually eventful, Taoiseach,” he replied. Gavan Murphy, her chief advisor looked through the file beside her. “Two hours ago a garda patrol just north of Westport heard a large crash. They found a large object in a crater, which Garda headquarters immediately forwarded to defence who then identified it as a nuclear bomb. Probably Russian. I have Defence on the line.” Kate nodded. “This is the Taoiseach’s office. Who is this?” Collins said. “Good morning boss. Jaysus, you’re getting all the breaks.” Kate smiled at the voice, which she recognised. Captain Johnny Harris was officer commanding of the Army Ranger Wing, and was as relaxed about protocol as he was a brilliant special forces officer. He had worked with the Taoiseach on the Aer Lingus hijacking some months previously which had brought her to power. Collins was not a fan. “Good morning Captain Harris. I presume we’re not at war with Russia?” “No mam, I reckon this thing just dropped off the side of a Russian bomber skirting the coat. It’s definitely Russian. I’m with my boys and some people from the Radiological Protection Institute on our way by helicopter. I hope you don’t mind?” Collins bristled at Harris once again breaching protocol, but said nothing. The Taoiseach liked problem solvers. “Good to hear Johnny. Who is securing it now?”
“Local guards. Listen Ma’m, my guys can do a cursory inspection, and the radiological guys can check for leakage, but you’ll hardly be surprised to learn that we don’t have a nuclear weapons disposal team. We’re going to need outside help on this.” “Can we just ask the Russians to take it back?” “That’s assuming the Russians will even admit it’s theirs. If they do they’ll admit they’re flying armed bombers near NATO borders. I’d say they’ll deny it.” “OK, who do we talk to?” “The Americans or the British?” Collins said. “Not sure the current US administration wants anything to do with a Russian bomb.” “When we want your advice on foreign policy, Captain…” Collins said prickly. “He’s got a point,” said Murphy. “OK Johnny, just secure the damn thing for the moment, and we’ll get help.” “Will do chief, will be in touch. If anything goes wrong, you’ll know soon enough,” Harris said with a laugh, and rang out. “Taoiseach, I really wish you would not indulge Captain Harris and his smart aleck remarks.” “The man puts himself on the first chopper out to secure an atomic bomb. I think we can cut him some slack, don’t you Sean?” “Then there’s the byelection,” Murphy said. Kate rolled her eyes. “I hadn’t even thought of that.” “Not sure how the voters of Mayo will feel about being bombed by the Russians.” ***** “Ah here,” Captain Johnny Harris said out loud, as the two Air Corps Augusta helicopters swept over a hill towards the impact sight. It was already getting bright, but various vehicles around the crater still had their full headlights on. The three Garda vehicles present had their blue lights flashing for some reason. But that wasn’t what caught the ranger commander’s attention. That would have been the people posing for selfies beside the bomb. Or the coach of tourists unloading near it. Or the man selling cans of Lilt and Mars Bars. The helicopters landed in a field near the site, a helpful Garda shooing away the curious cattle determined to have a look at the helicopters. Harris, in full combat gear with a sidearm, was first out. “Jimmy, I want a perimeter around the device. And I want that access road blocked. Get someone on that hill. I don’t want some bastards sneaking up on us. And get that fucker selling choc ices away from the thing before his kidneys are microwaved.” “Sure boss: you heard the man!” the sergeant shouted, and the troops moved quickly from the aircraft, much to the delight of the American tourists pouring from the bus, who started clapping and taking pictures. Harris turned to the four non-military personnel on the helicopter. “Dr Cassini, what do you need?” Dr Emma Cassini pulled her bag over her shoulder.
“Just keep everybody away, captain. And make sure your men keep an eye on those radiation detectors. If they beep, get the hell away. But let us know whilst you’re running.” Harris smiled, and strolled towards the bus, as two soldiers were patiently posing for pictures as they guided the Americans back onto the bus. “Hey you!” a man shouted. Harris turned to see a short fat red-faced man with an enormous gold chain around his neck and a huge rosette on his bursting jacket marching towards him. A soldier went to stop him, but Harris waved him off. “My name is Ultan Mcilbaney-McTaggart, and I am chairman of Mayo County Council. And I claim this weapon in the name of the people of Mayo!” “Of course you fucking do,” Harris muttered under his breath. ***** “I’m sorry foreign secretary, could you say that again?” Kate said, leaning forward in her seat in the Department of the Taoiseach. “Of course we’ll take if off your hands, old girl. But there’s a matter of the old quid pro quo. You know, i’ll scratch your back…” “Yes, I get that. But the Brexit negotiations are completely separate from this.” “All I’m saying, Miss O’Hara…” “Mrs O’Hara.” “Good for you! All I’m saying, Mrs O’Hara, is that if you could use your good offices to knock a few billion off the exit fee…” “Look Rupert, if you don’t want the sodding thing…” “Why don’t I let you mull it over, what? We’ll chat again.” The phone went dead. Kate looked across as Patrick Harrington, her foreign minister. A ridiculously good-looking young man who looked like a model and spoke four languages. “What is it with this guy?” she asked. Harrington rolled his eyes. “The Brits seem to be suffering from a dreadful dose of overplaying of the hand these days.” “Any luck with the Americans?” “I spoke with the ambassador. He’s a bit doddery, as you know. Raised a lot of money for the president. Didn’t seem very interested.” “You’d think the Americans would be obsessed with stopping a nuclear bomb falling into the wrong hands. Obama or Bush would have had the Marines here in six hours.” “The state department seems a bit chaotic at the moment. Last time I rang I got left on hold. I suspect they told the president but then someone tweeted about him and so his attention went elsewhere. That and we’re regarded as a safe pair of hands.” “Still nothing from the Russians?” “It wasn’t us, nobody saw us do it, you can’t prove anything, eat our shorts.” Kate rolled her eyes. “Who’d have thought it was so difficult to get rid of a nuclear bomb? We’ll be putting an ad on Facebook next. How powerful is this thing anyway?”
“As nuclear weapons go, not that powerful. The RPI people reckon it’s comparable to the US B-61, which only has a yield of about 340 kilotons.” “What the hell does that mean?” “If you detonated it on O’Connell Bridge you’d probably be OK if you were in Tallaght.” “Jesus Christ.” “That’s nothing. If they detonated the biggest weapon designed, you’d probably want to be in Athlone.” “You’re a source of real lightness of being, you know that?” Her phone buzzed. It was Murphy, who she’d despatched to the crash site given the byelection implications. “What’s the news from ground zero, Gavin?” “All hell’s breaking loose Taoiseach. Politically if not, you know, Armageddon-wise. Ultan McTaggart has turned up, and he’s holding court with the media demanding an interpretative centre to be build around the bomb to boost local jobs.” “Can you get Harris to shoot him?” “I could try, I suppose. The site is secure, but there’s more coaches arriving by the hour. Harris’s guys just caught three fellas from the local GAA trying to sneak around the back and steal the weapon and hold it for ransom. For new changing rooms for the club.” “Steal it? With what?” “A wheelbarrow. And a 1984 Ford Cortina.” Kate exhaled. “Our candidate is now debating with Ultan live on air. Ultan is saying you’ve left the country open to hordes of Communist bombers.” “Alright: leave it with us.” She pressed the button. Harrington stroked his neatly trimmed beard for a minute. “Well, there’s the upside, I suppose.” The Taoiseach looked at him for an answer. “The country is actually debating defence. The fact that we don’t take it seriously got a nuclear weapon dropped on us. If we’d have fighters the Russians would have kept some distance. Certainly not flown over the coastline.” “We can’t afford fighters,” Kate said. “That’s not true. Denmark has a population of less than six million people and thirty three F-16s. We don’t want to spend the money. It’s almost the only area of public spending that the Irish are happy not to spend money on. Then wonder how someone drops a bomb on us.” “It was an accident.” “Yeah, it was: but think this is the first time Russian bombers with nuclear weapons have flown over our soil. Put it another way: if a NATO country publicly asked us for permission to fly nuclear weapons over our soil, would we grant it? We would in our nelly,” Harrington said. “Anyway, even if we decided today it would take nearly a decade before the air corps actually had combat-ready interceptors. Pilots have to be trained, planes have to be bought, command and control systems, it doesn’t all come in some pop-up box,” her minister said. The phone buzzed again. “The British foreign secretary again, Taoiseach,” the voice said.
“He thinks he has us over a barrel. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brits told the RAF to let a few Russian bombers through just to show their “vital contribution” to our air defence.” “I’ve a mad idea,” Kate said, and picked up the phone. ***** The arrival of the Taoiseach at the crash site had been tipped off to the media, and when her helicopter landed, away from the actual bomb, she was surrounded by reporters, tourists, her party’s candidate and Chairman McTaggart, who was talking of chaining himself to the weapon. He forced his way to the front of the media. “Now you look here! This weapon belongs to the people of Mayo and I am demanding the government commit to building an interpretive centre to bring investment to the area!” Kate put up her hands to quieten the media. “Firstly, let me be clear the government’s first priority is safety. The weapon is not leaking, but we can’t guarantee it won’t leak. That’s why we issued radiation detectors. But the bomb is going.” “That’s a disgrace. You can’t even defend us from Russians dropping bombs on us, and now that we have one you’re stealing it from us. Typical Dublin!” The Taoiseach looked over at Harris, who was on a satellite phone. She had spoken to him on the flight down to make arrangements. Harris nodded at Kate. “As a result of that, the government has concluded an agreement with a friendly power to safely recover the weapon, and ensure that Russian bombers do not easily enter our airspace again. Now, if you could all have a look to your left...” She turned and looked over the hill, as she had prepared, hoping her timing was right. The media all swivelled, to see what she was looking at. There was nothing. The media started muttering. “Typical! Another broken promise!” the chairman shouted. Then two dots appeared over the mountain, in formation. As they got closer, it was clear that they were Airbus A400M turboprops in military green. Parachutes started to appear, until nearly sixty were visible, all drifting down into the field nearest them. Soldiers. One of them very familiar, who pulled off his helmet and strolled towards the crowd. A very familiar looking face. “Bonjour Ireland!” the youthful President of France said, with a wave. He then hopped the fence and waded into the crowd, smiling for the cameras and shaking hands with tourists, moving to reach Kate, giving her a kiss on each cheek. The French soldiers surrounded the bomb, shaking hands with the Irish troops and taking up position with them. Other soldiers shook hands with the RPI people. “We need that bomb!” McTaggart shouted. The president looked at the councillor and smiled. “My friend, I am going to give Mayo something better! Voila!” he said, with a wave of the hand into the sky, just as three French Air Force Rafale fighters thundered over the scene. The media clustered around the Frenchman.
“My good friend Kate and I agree that it is very difficult for a small country like Ireland to defend her airspace. So we have agreed a small fee for basing fighters in Knock and Shannon to help our European partner. Ireland and and France are ancient allies, from 1798 to the Irish Wild Geese fighting for France. Well my friends, the Wild Geese Squadron has returned!” Some of the crowd cheered. The president turned to the councillor, grabbing him by the shoulder. “There will be pilots, engineers, support staff, all will need somewhere to live, to eat, to dance. Some may even wish an Irish husband or wife! You look like just the sort of man who can help.” “Now you’re talking! Vive la France!” McTaggart shouted out. ***** The air corps helicopter took off for Dublin from Knock airport just minutes after Kate had waved goodbye to the French president’s plane. The other French plane, with a safely secured Russian nuclear device on board had taken off 30 minutes earlier, but not before the French president had posed for pictures with the two by-election candidates as he handed over the now harmless bomb casing for display in the Atomic Bomb Plaza McTaggart was planning. “Sorry about this,” Kate had whispered to the Frenchman. The Frenchman smiled. “Don’t worry about it. We’ve got hundreds of mayors just like this guy!” As the helicopter approached Baldonnel military base, Murphy leaned over to her. “Let me ask you something: do you really think a French pilot will shoot down a Russian plane over Ireland, dragging France into a war?” She shook her head. “Nope. But they’ll avoid crashing into them. That’s not the big issue anyway,” she said. “The neutrality lobby? They’re already going bananas online.” “Nope: watch the first question at leader’s questions in the house next week” “Why are you letting NATO military planes into Ireland?” She shook her head. “Nope: why are Mayo and Clare the only counties getting them! And wait until a few sexy French pilots in jumpsuits appear on The Late Late. Then it’ll all kick off.” The End. www.Jasonomahony.ie
Published on Oct 8, 2017
Short story: political fiction/satire. A Russian bomber accidentally drops a nuclear weapon on the west coast of Ireland. It doesn't explode...