Government deals in deceit

This is a great time to be Irish. For the first time in hundreds of years emigration is no longer the chief option for our young people. But when I was a junior doctor, things were very different.

P J really wanted to work in Canada and had applied for his medical working visa. Meanwhile, we managed to obtain some Canadian Embassy notepaper, and we sent him an official-looking letter regretting that his application had not been successful, but that it had been passed on to the medical corps of the Mounted Police, who apparently were keen on Irish recruits.

‘Fair enough,’ said P J in the res, ‘once my foot’s in the door, I’ll be alright.’

A few days later, he received a further letter, again on official-looking paper, from a Dr Pierre Marchand, medical director of l’Association de Mounties Médicales, welcoming his interest and outlining in some sober detail the requirements for registration. Okay so far, but the letter ended with the line: ‘We Mounties are a jolly bunch who like to ride and sing songs, so a good singing voice and riding experience would be beneficial.’

Time to smell a big rat perhaps, but it was just about believable in the context of the rest of the letter and the previous letter, and P J really, really wanted to believe it.

So, sure enough, totally oblivious to all the sniggering behind his back, he booked himself in for riding and singing lessons before you could say Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald.

A few days later, another missive from Dr Marchand arrived, with a list of popular Mountie songs, which, he suggested, P J might consider learning: Mountie Bounty, Stand Up Mountie, Mountie Boots Are Shining Sprightly Gay. By this stage, not even P J could suck it up any further, so the whole charade was over, although the sheer malicious joy of toying with a young man’s hopes and dreams remain a pleasant memory to this day.

The secret of this successful prank lay in the initial plausibility. Once P J’s foot was in the door, the deceit could be extrapolated.

The technique isn’t new; the major religions have been doing this for thousands of years. It’s the same principle the DoH has employed with our new contract. Initial targets for smears and vaccinations seemed reasonable enough, but once those had been accepted, it was only a matter of time before we were giving out pointless and time-consuming questionnaires to people with depression. Having to wear a camp uniform and sing Stand Up Mountie might not be so bad after all.

- Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Email him at GPcolumnists@haymarket.com

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