You really couldn’t make it up!

This is too good to clip selectively from, so here is Miriam Lord’s sketch (for that it what it is) of the time Noel, Brian, Dermot got stuck in a lift (subs needed) with the three Marys!By Miriam Lord

You couldn’t make it up. Lunchtime yesterday, and Ministers hurry away from their weekly Cabinet meeting.

They pile into the tiny lift in Government Buildings. It’s a tight squeeze, but eventually, six of them pile in and the doors close.

Brian Cowen, Dermot Ahern, Noel Dempsey and the three Marys – Harney, Hanafin and Coughlan. One of them presses the button and off they go.

But they aren’t in motion for long. The lift rises for one and a half floors then stops. Dead.


It’s hot and uncomfortable. All of them carry heavy bundles of Cabinet papers. They wait. Nothing happens. Nervous laughter. Nothing. Brian Cowen hits the alarm bell.

Files are juggled. Mobile phones fished from handbags and pockets. Half the hands that should be on the tiller of the nation get busy dialling.

Eventually, The Man arrives. He shouts out to the stalled statesmen and women. “Where are yis?” They shout back. “We’re up here!”

It’s like a scene from a movie, except The Man is not Bruce Willis in a dirty vest. He could open the door if the lift was behind it, but stuck between two floors? That’s beyond his powers.

So the phones come out again.

If the Opposition were to call a vote at that moment, the Government would fall. They joke amongst themselves: six of Bertie’s finest, missing in action, and nothing they can do about it.

But these are Ministers, used to getting things done. They discuss possible courses of action and a call is put through to the most senior civil servant in the country – Secretary General to the Government, Dermot McCarthy.

Dermot considers all the options.

So there they are. Mary Harney opens the buttons on her emerald green silk jacket. Mary Hanafin removes her purple patterned scarf. Mary Coughlan fans herself with the edges of her cream linen ensemble.

The lads sweat buckets.

The clock ticks. Five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 . . . The heat rises. Nobody has a bottle of water with them, so Minister Hanafin rummages in her bag for a few sweets to keep up their sugar levels. She has none.

Minister Cowen doesn’t like enclosed spaces. He begins to fret.

The Man has gone off in search of reinforcements. At this stage, the joking inside the elevator is a little forced. Nobody is able to move. The Ministers are getting worried. Dermot Ahern has an appointment in Derry in the afternoon. Mary Harney has to speak later in the House on the nurses dispute.

Thing is, apart from the cogitating civil servant and The Man, nobody seems to care that half a dozen very senior Ministers are stuck in a lift.

This only serves to heighten the feeling of panic in the little box between the second and third floors.

Is this a dastardly move by Bertie to quell a palace revolt in the wake of his surprise ardfheis U-turn on auction politics? You wouldn’t put it past him.

Brian Cowen is grey in the face. Not a happy man.

The Ministers put their heads together again and consider their options. The solution comes to them in a blinding flash. Send for the Army!

They have realised that the Defence Forces run Government Buildings, and their saviour can be none other than Minister for Defence Willie O’Dea.

They ring him, explain their plight and beg his assistance. And Willie, no better man, hits the red telephone and sends in the troops.

No word of a lie, but in order to rescue the stricken crew, the Army has to go over the roof of Government Buildings, shimmy to the lift shaft and manually restart the machinery, hauling the perspiring politicians back up to the Cabinet room where they started out from over half an hour earlier.

At this stage, Minister Hanafin, like the Unsinkable Molly Brown, had been considering leading a round of Nearer My God to Thee. But it wasn’t necessary.

The military prised open the door to the lift and the traumatised Ministers fell, gasping, into their arms. Ladies first, of course.

Later on, during Leaders’ Questions, it was noticed that only one Minister managed to make it into the chamber. That was Minister for Transport Martin Cullen, who has often been described as “hapless”.

He looked very happy, probably because this is one transport mishap that can’t be blamed on him.

“Thank God it was early in the day,” said one of the Ministers afterwards. “I can’t begin to imagine what it would have been like if anyone of us had been to the bar.”

© 2007 The Irish Times