A populist right-wing former radio pundit has narrowly been elected President of Ireland, to the shock and disgust of certain parts of Irish society. The Taoiseach has visited the new president to remind him of his constitutional duty to sign new legislation…
The president placed the constitution on the table.
“That says you need my signature on every bill.”
“It also says you are required to promulgate every bill,” the Taoiseach said. Her attorney general had drilled the point into her.
“Whatever promulgate means. But what if I refuse to sign? Are you going to get a few lads in balaclavas to force my hand across the page?”
She ignored the jibe.
“No, article 14 is very clear. If you refuse to carry out any function, a commission consisting of the chief justice, ceann comhairle and cathoirleach can sign instead.”
“Grand, then. That effectively means I can publicly reject legislation without bringing down the country?”
The Taoiseach shrugged.
The following weeks saw the president, a prolific Twitter and Tik Tok user during the campaign, use the social platform for relatively mild observations. It was only when a new hate speech bill was put before the Oireachtas that he stirred.
He invited both proponents and opponents of the bill to brief him on their views. They could do so in public or private if they wished.
Various members of the Oireachtas declared that this was obviously an attempted coup, to establish a presidential dictatorship. The president advised that whilst his opinion of freedom of speech was well known, he would have to decide what to do with the bill with regard to possible referral to the Supreme Court, and would like to give the bill’s proponents an opportunity to put him right.
One senator remarked that he could watch the debate on the Oireachtas Channel like everybody else. His tweeted reply was “Have you ever actually watched an Oireachtas debate?”
The first bill to impeach him was introduced on the floor of the Seanad that afternoon. It got 12 signatures, 18 shy of what was needed to proceed.
The Taoiseach informed him that he was breaking with established convention.
“Bet you never thought you of all people would have to say that!” he replied, and she had the good grace to at least smile.
The proponents of the hate speech bill refused to attend the proposed meeting, and he selected a small number of lawyers and public commentators to the Áras. He made a point of refusing to invite a number of people with white supremacist connections, who then went on Twitter to attack him for being a puppet of the Woke Soros Dictatorship.
The actual meeting involved him bringing in an independent solicitor to explain the bill’s intent in a neutral way, and then he let the various participants deliver their observations. He asked them questions, in many instances playing the Devil’s Advocate. He summed up the conclusions and expressed disappointment that those in favour of the bill had refused to attend to put their views. The meeting was broadcast over the web.
Outside, a large gathering of the left assembled to protest the “far-right” meeting, and were addressed by the great and good of Irish Times Ireland. They booed the various attendees to the meeting as the Gardai escorted them out. Then they saw the president walking on his own down the driveway towards the gate.
The crowd booed, and his aide de camp advised him to return to the house. The various TV crews and other media sensed a big story about to happen. The crowd started shouting “no free speech for fascists!”.
When he reached the gate he tried to speak to the crowd, but they shouted him down. Then a container of red paint was thrown, opening in mid-air and splashing his face and the front of his suit. The Guards rushed to him, but he waved them back, and stood, the paint running down, and tried to speak again. The crowd, seemingly aroused by the paint attack, started screaming filthy abuse at him, and throwing everything from placards to water bottles at him.
Some hit. Being a big man, he absorbed the blows. A number of Labour and Social Democrat politicians quietly stepped away from the crowd and moved away from the media without comment.
The images made the Six:One and Nine News, and were all over social media. Two narratives quickly developed: one of the far-left teaching that horrible old cis white misogynist a lesson in getting “destroyed”. The second, aided by the fact that the president had worn a discreet top of the range bodycam and had had his social media manager (yes, he’d appointed one) in the crowd discreetly filming, was unedited footage of the president calmly asking the crowd if they’d like to make their points of view known to him, and receiving a torrent of such strong language that RTE had to bleep most of what the crowd said.
A poll the following Sunday showed that there was a sharp divergence in opinion on attitudes to the president, with his approval rating up at 59%. He tweeted that his blood pressure kept his face red enough without the need for decorative assistance.
When the hate speech law finally passed the Oireachtas he summoned the Council of State, listened to their opinion, and then announced that as a referral to the Supreme Court would make the bill challenge-proof in future, he had decided not to refer it to the court. He did say, however, that he disagreed fundamentally with many of its provisions which he felt already existed in law, and so would not sign it.
He then Tik-Tokked himself taking out a very fancy looking stamp from a wooden box (He’d gotten the idea from an episode of The West Wing) and stamping a large red ink “Rejected by the President of Ireland” on the bill.
The following day got the Oireachtas some of its highest viewing figures in years as both government and opposition figures savaged him with talk of impeachment. A number of TDs suggested that by being on social media he was in fact in breach of the constitutional provision that he must only act of the advice of the government, and that was therefore grounds for impeachment. A number of senators suggested that given the high bar for impeachment the Supreme Court should be asked to remove the president, a concept which had to be explained to them was illegal.
A number of independent and Fine Gael TDs spoke either in defence of the president, or with sympathy towards his views on the bill.
The Taoiseach announced that the bill had been signed into law by the presidential commission and that the president would not be permitted to impose “his far-right views” on the country.
The president tweeted that, in historical terms, the definition of far right was a group of hardline nationalists who believe their definition of the homeland to be the only true one, who parade in military uniform, and who engage in the murder of political opponents. He stressed that not only did he not subscribe to such views, but “unlike some” he never had.
A second bill to impeach the president was presented in the Seanad. This time it gained 23 signatures.
A request from the Áras for the president to visit Israel and Palestine on a state visit was curtly refused by the minister for foreign affairs. What became known as the Ryanair affair begun on a Friday evening when the Taoiseach was informed that intelligence sources believed that the president was booked on a Ryanair flight to Tel Aviv the following morning.
This was in clear breach of the constitution, as the president is not permitted to leave the state without the government’s express permission. The Taoiseach held an emergency conference call with her cabinet and then contacted the president to tell him he was in clear breach of the constitution.
“How do you know?” the president asked.
“I’m sorry?” the Taoiseach asked.
“How do you know I booked a flight to Tel Aviv? I booked it privately using my wife’s credit card on my private phone. I ask you again: how do you know I have booked a flight?”
“You are in breach of the constitution,” the Taoiseach said, wanting to stay on the subject she was more comfortable with.
“No I’m not. And I intend holding a press conference tomorrow to reveal this entire sordid situation,” he said, and hung up.
The press conference in the Áras was at 7:30 in the morning, and was absolutely packed. Sitting at a table in front of a row of tricolours the president read a statement.
“I have recently become concerned that I was under surveillance by unknown forces. To test as to whether this was true, I discreetly and personally booked a flight to Tel Aviv for myself, an action which was immediately challenged by An Taoiseach. As you are well aware, it is unconstitutional for the president to leave the jurisdiction without the permission of the government, and I had absolutely no intention of actually being on that flight. But it did raise a very serious question. Given only my wife, the lovely Maria, and I knew about the booking, how did the Taoiseach know about it when she rang me last night? Does the government have me under surveillance? I am informed from discreet sources that the Irish security services do not have the capability to monitor communications devices like this, and Ryanair assures me that their customer system is 100% secure. I believe that British intelligence have this capability. Did they share this information with the Taoiseach, and why? We need to know.”
The issue caused bedlam over the weekend, as the left didn’t know who to attack, and Sinn Fein supporters were pretty mealy-mouthed in their defence of the Taoiseach.
The Taoiseach’s defence in the house was a classic of the “we do not comment on security matters” variety, to the stony-faced embarrassment of her backbenchers who were totally unused to this sort of situation. Shouts of “How do you like your Martini? Shaken or stirred?” from an Independent deputy from Tipperary brought the house down in sniggers to red-faced glares from the SF benches.
“Ah, a good old-fashioned phone-tapping scandal. God be the days!” a veteran FF backbencher remarked.
The government won a heavily-whipped vote of no confidence.
A tweet from the president that he was thoroughly enjoying Ian Fleming’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” was well-received online.
The death of a young Brazilian Deliveroo driver at the hands a gang of thugs triggered a national outcry. The unplanned arrival of the president and a single aide-de-camp at an ad hoc midnight memorial became a big story as he hugged the two sisters of the victim, and declared that “if I had my way, the bastards who did this would be executed, and I’d happily sign a bill permitting it if it was put in front of me.” The clip got over a million views in 24 hours.
The Irish Times led with a single headline taking up its entire front page: “Impeach him now!”
The regular protests outside the Áras ballooned from hundreds into a thousand people, and suddenly a motion for impeachment crossed the 30 signature threshold.
As per the constitution, a charge of impeachment can only be investigated if two-thirds of either house concurs. When the motion was put to the floor, both FG and FF announced that they would give their members a free vote, which resulted in Sinn Fein, Labour, the Greens, the Social Democrats and a small number of Independents and FF/FG deputies voting to impeach. Polls in the days after showed a clear 58/42 split against impeaching the president.
As the Dail had passed the motion, it was up to the Seanad to investigate the motion, and it quickly became apparent that the trial would not be based on “stated misbehavior” but just plain disagreeing with the president. The president announced that he would be attending to make his own statement, and on the day he arrived at Leinster House a large crowd of leftwing demonstrators were met by a counter-demonstration made up of low-paid foreign workers and others who felt he was speaking for them.
Many of the workers held up framed pictures of them meeting the president when he attended every single new citizen ceremony in the country, and posed for pictures with every single attendee on that very special day for them.
One Trinity senator, when asked about the number of immigrants who had attended the protest had commented that they were lovely people but simply didn’t understand Irish politics and had been tricked by the president.
The president’s address was broadcast live on screens to the crowd outside, as well as on RTE and Virgin Media. Even the BBC carried it.
He gave a defence of his actions as president, and pointed out that he had merely exercised the freedoms established by his predecessor under the Michael D precedent. This, he said, is not about me being unfit for this office. This is simply about me voicing opinions in the country that are more popular with people who get up early to go to work as opposed to fretting over whether their quinoa was knitted in a Nicaraguan One-legged Lesbian Collective. I’m sure it’s lovely quinoa, but I simply prefer a breakfast roll, and I want to be president of a country that respects both sides of that. This impeachment is a sham, and I’m not going to let it go on any further. I actually respect the office of president, and so I wish to announce my resignation as president.”
The eruption of cheers from the anti-presidential demonstration went on from 5 minutes, the noise blocking out the sound in the chamber where the trial was happening. His supporters were in tears. He held his hand up, and something close to silence was arrived at.
“However: I wish to inform you that under article 12.4.4 of Bunreacht na hEireann I shall be nominating myself as a candidate to fill the vacancy of president that exists forthwith. The Irish people shall decide who shall be president, not The Irish Times.”
It was now the turn of his supporters to cheer.
In Castlebar a man dabbed his face with a towel, and looked at the clean shaved face and the newly trimmed hair. He slipped on a new Louis Copeland suit, adjusted his tie, gave himself a wink and an gun into the mirror, and stepped out of the bathroom.