I had to appear as a defendant at a Co. Limerick court last week. It was on a speeding offense which could have resulted in a couple of penalty points being affixed to my pristine driving license as well as a fine of about $200 in your money.
When the case was called I went into the witness box, took hold of the Bible, and swore in a loud, clear voice to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I did that and the lady judge instantly dismissed the case, and I walked out into the Limerick air as free as a bird.
It was on the way home, at a reduced and careful speed, that I reflected on the width and depth of the oath I had taken and was struck by some of the implications of it, both nationally and internationally, especially in the rapidly heating political atmosphere on both sides of the Atlantic just now.
On the radio, coincidentally, there were debates about what kind of truth about his life your Ben Carson is retailing. And, over here, what variety of credibility can be attached to the statements of Gerry Adams, day after day, year after year.
Carson was under fire from critics later that evening over his disputed claim that, as a tough youth, he had attempted to stab a friend. Adams' denials of ever having been in the IRA are constantly under attack from all his opponents. Ye are all well aware of both situations.
Having just been in the witness box in Newcastle West court, it struck me like a bolt of lightning as I passed through Bunratty that the crucial and often overlooked element in relation to the credibility of the statements of both men lies in the gaping divide between The Truth and The Whole Truth. There is a huge and critical difference which I am about to prove here and now by relating a few personal truths as follows:
As a young man in my prime, I lay in Jackie Kennedy's bed in Jackie Kennedy's sundrenched bedroom.
As a Gaelic footballer a year earlier with the Boyle club I won a prized county championship medal, which was a rare and prized possession about which I quietly boasted for years.
Bob Hope, whom I met on his way back from entertaining troops in Vietnam, told me that he hated having to work when he was crouching.
One Good Friday in Kerry, a day when all bars are closed, Charlie Chaplin himself pulled me a pint of Guinness in the Butler Arms Hotel in Waterville.
There are four truths there which I can fully stand over either in Dail Éireann – our Parliament – or in any public debate anywhere.
The critical element, however – and this may be an area cannily exploited by Adams and many other politicians – is that only one of the statements above is The Whole Truth, and there is a big difference.
Yes, during the summer that Jackie Kennedy paid a holiday visit to Co. Waterford, where I was then working for a newspaper, I did lay down in the lovely double bed which she used when she arrived in Ireland three days later. The local press were being given a guided tour of the gracious Woodstown House where she would be staying, and I thought it a good angle to test the comfort of her bed in advance. That is The Whole Truth.
And yes, I did win that county medal with the Boyle GAA club all those years ago and was very proud of that indeed. What I do not easily reveal is that I was the last and least substitute during that county final, and was not called upon to play for even the last five minutes. I gloss over that sad reality.
Yes, Bob Hope did make his crouching remark to me in O'Connell Street in Dublin. But the remark was made in the course of a press conference attended by about 40 other reporters and photographers.
The only statement of those above which is The Whole Truth is the one about the courteous little Charlie Chaplin pulling me the Good Friday pint. That truly occurred, and is as prized a memory as escaping from the Limerick court last week without a fine and with an unscathed driving license.
I think maybe the moral of my meanderings during this political season for all of us is that we need to listen very closely altogether to all the utterings of our politicians and to be constantly aware of that intriguing gulf between The Truth and The Whole Truth.