Kate O'Hara TD: A Bear in the Air.

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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