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Column: Cardinal Rules - on protecting yourself from financial catastrophe

This week, the (not) Primate of All Ireland discusses real money, imaginary money and potential money – with the aid of a chicken, a puppy and a goat.

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

AS MR MICK Hucknall, one of the more tuneful songsmiths of the recent past, once sang, “Money is too tight to mention.”

Personally speaking, I believe that has never been truer than now. Except for the bit where he sings “I cannot even qualify for my pension” because I get mine automatically on retirement, along with a pen and a nice watch.

This week has been one in which money has been uppermost in our minds. I refer of course to real money, of which there is very little. I also mean imaginary money, of which there is apparently loads which everybody owes to everybody else. Then there is the potential money, by which I mean new/old currency which hasn’t been printed yet, but, if rumours are to be believed, will be appearing in the near future.

Everything is so fluid and ill-defined at the moment that I thought it might be best to share my own personal experiences of the global financial crisis. That way we could all at least recognise and share in our commonality in the face of so-called impending financial doom.

As Mr Hucknall so succinctly put it, “I am talking about money, money, I am talking about money, money…” and so on.


We are all at breakfast. Fr Brennan is worried about the global financial system. He talks about it “lurching” from one crisis to the other. It seems to me that it is “lurching” an awful lot. Fr Lawlor agrees and he points out that “lurching” usually ends up with the lurcher falling over at some point and not getting up. Everybody looks at Fr Byrne, and I make a mental note to hide the brandy again on Sunday night.


A very excited Fr Brennan believes he has a found a way to prepare for global economic meltdown. He ushers us all into the common room where we are greeted by a chicken, a goat, and a puppy.

Nobody knows what to say, except for Fr O’ Shea who says “Jesus”, but in a holy way.

Fr Brennan explains that very soon all currency will be dead, and the only hope for us will be to return to the barter system. “This way we will be insulated from financial catastrophe,” he grins. He tells us it will be like Noel Edmonds’ Multi-Coloured Swap Shop “only on an even greater scale.”

Nobody says anything, except for Fr O’ Shea who says “Jesus” in a holy way again.

The goat bleats and starts eating one of the curtains.


Fr Brennan has been barred from the local newsagents after attempting to trade the goat for a fun pack of cheese and onions crisps.

Later I send Fr Lawlor out to buy new curtains for the common room. Fr Brennan assures me that the value will be recouped tenfold by the goat. Along with value of the rug, the lampshade, and Fr Ryan’s favourite cushion.

That night we watch Vincent Browne in the vain hope that Jedward might make a surprise appearance, causing Vincent to have a breakdown on live television. Instead Leo Varadkar tells everyone not to worry about the budget and that we should all go on holidays. We all cheer.


The puppy is lost, the chicken looks poorly, and the goat has eaten Fr Deegan’s favourite Christmas jumper. Nevertheless, I attempt to cheer everyone up by booking a holiday on the advice of young go-getting Mr Varadkar. Unfortunately, our two local travel agents are no longer in business, the flights to our preferred destination no longer exist, and according to my financial advisor we have no money anyway. He advises me to borrow some more money to pay off our debts.

“You mean borrow money to pay off money I’ve already borrowed?” I ask.

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“Yes,” he replies. “Everybody’s doing it.”

“But what happens when people have borrowed so much that they can’t pay what they owe each other?”

“I don’t know,” he sobs, and hangs up.

That night the chicken takes a turn for the worst.


I have to make the sad announcement that we will not be going on holiday next year.

“Not even our day trip to Tramore,” squeaks young Fr Deegan. I can’t even look him in the eye.

Fr Brennan reluctantly sells the goat to offset the expense accrued by printing two hundred lost puppy posters, and the various items consumed by the goat itself.

Later I make the second sad announcement. Fr Brennan is distraught, but I tell him to look on the bright side, and at least it means we have roast chicken for dinner.

Read previous Cardinal Rules columns>

About the author:

(Not) Cardinal Sean Brady

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