COLM O'REGAN: Opening Lines

HAS it been three years since they arrived first, since they sailed up the Liffey in their fast and nimble longships, the oars glinting in the autumn sun?

Their small and flexible armoury easily outflanked the heavy broadswords and shire horses of the slow-moving native vested interests.

The Troika — the Russian word for threesome (but not in a good way) — were welcomed by the local populace who preferred the possibility of competence to sovereignty any day.

After 12 visits we’re sort of used to them now. The first couple of times, the nice biscuits were put out. Over time they became part of the news furniture — like the Live Register figures.

They’d come over, dish out a bit of praise, open their purse and produce some shiny large coins. We’d listen dutifully — comparing the difference pronunciations of the word tranche. The newsreader Eileen Dunne would delicately say ‘tghawnshe’ while some more meat-and-two-veg ministers would call it a ‘trenctch’. The troika would express some concern about the HSE and we’d all laugh and say “Shur who are ya tellin?”.

But soon they will be gone — we hope. This can not be let pass without note. Many fine works of art have dealt with post-boom Ireland. The critically acclaimed play “Guaranteed” and the Booker Prize nominated “The Spinning Heart” by Donal Ryan are the best examples. But what about the Troika? With our appetite for information and knowledge about everything from bonds to bitcoins, a threesome that is ... er ... on everyone’s lips is also perfect for fiction.

Given the mystery surrounding its arrival, the story could easily be pitched as a fast-moving spy thriller. In Troika Omega Zero, a crack team of green bereted finance officials parachute into a third world country that is being wracked by a civil service war. For a few days, while the government pretends they are not there, they have to go undercover. We see them learning the local patois, getting snackboxes for lunch and not turning up on Friday because they are ‘in the horrors’ before eventually taking control of the fabled ‘nation’s purse’.

A more delicate slow-moving novel would be needed to portray the longer term impacts of the Troika’s presence here on the affairs of the heart.

The bittersweet romantic novel “Bailout of the heart” tells the story of Giselle Lachantier, a high-flying IMF executive who lives for her work and leaves no room in her heart for love. She meets Seamus O’Seachran, a middle-aged Department of Finance mandarin who loves life and his garden and likes nothing more than sitting under his favourite apple tree, working out how much his pension is worth. Together they teach each other about feelings, life and putting together a resilient tax base.

Of course, this might all be moot. Property prices are on the rise, mortgage lending is up – maybe another wacky boom is on the way.

So we could be seeing the Troika back here in a few years. Or since it’s a sequel, maybe they’ll be a ‘Quartet’.

* Colm’s second book That’s More Of It Now is in bookshops. He appears at the Kilkenomics festival in Kilkenny, Nov 7-10. www.kilkenomics.com


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