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‘How could the child of a mother who puts the mental into environmental action grow up with a moral compass?’

Hennessy Coghlan-O’Hara is here to talk about Honor’s case - and who to sacrifice to save her from jail

Listen | 06:51

So Honor is lying on her bed, her nose stuck in her phone, presumably trolling people on social media, when I tell her that Hennessy Coghlan-O’Hara is here to talk about her case.

She goes, “What case?” like she doesn’t even think it’s a thing?

I’m there, “Er, you’ve been chorged with 150 counts of criminal damage to cors, Honor? Worse than that – SUVs.”

She just laughs like the entire thing is a joke.


I’m there, “Honor, this is serious.”

“Oh, please,” she goes. “There’s a petition online calling for the chorges against me to be dropped. It’s got, like, 10,000 signatures. People think I’m a hero.”

I’m like, “Even so, Hennessy is going to need to talk to you.”

“I’ll be down in a minute,” she goes.

“I’m worried that she won’t be allowed into the States for her J1 or that she won’t be allowed to do an Erasmus year when the time comes”

—  Sorcha

So I tip downstairs. The dude is pacing the kitchen floor with a cigor the size of rolling pin burning between his fingers.

I’m there, “She’s on her way.”

Sorcha is sitting at the island, green tea in front of her, going, “I can’t believe it’s come to this. I honestly hoped the chorges would be dropped – on account of her coming from, you know, a good family.”

Hennessy’s there, “You mean a rich family?”

“Will that count in her favour?” Sorcha goes. “With the jury, I mean?”

He’s like, “A teenage girl from a privileged background, going around slashing the tyres of hard-working people?”

“Talking about me?” Honor goes, stepping into the kitchen with a big smirk on her face.

Sorcha goes, “Honor, Hennessy is here to discuss our legal strategy ahead of the court case.”

“Specifically,” Hennessy goes, “do we fight this thing or do we plead guilty?”

Sorcha’s like, “Plead guilty? But that would mean she’d have a conviction, wouldn’t it? I’m worried that she won’t be allowed into the States for her J1 or that she won’t be allowed to do an Erasmus year when the time comes.”

“Human excrement has been used as fertiliser for thousands and thousands of years”

—  Sorcha

Hennessy goes, “Erasmus?” and he laughs like he can’t believe people like Sorcha even exist. “You’re worried about Erasmus?”

Honor goes, “Yeah, I’m kind of busy at the moment?” her eyes still fixed to her phone. “Can we get on with this thing?”

Hennessy goes, “The alternative is that we plead not guilty and we spin the court a story.”

I’m there, “What kind of a story?”

Hennessy points at our daughter and goes, “An impressionable girl grows up in a home where she’s exposed to her insane mother’s eco-politics from the day she’s born.”

Sorcha’s like, “Excuse me?”

“A mother who composted the contents of her daughter’s nappies – ”

“Human excrement has been used as fertiliser for thousands and thousands of years.”

“ – who showed her daughter footage of polar bears drowning for want of an ice floe – ”

“I wanted her to be educated as to the hormful effects of greenhouse gases on the environment.”

“ – who forced veganism on her daughter at a time when her brain needed the nourishment that comes from a healthy, balanced diet.”

“Listen to this woman! Does she sound like she’s operating on the same level of rationality as you and I?”

—  Hennessy

Sorcha’s like, “I’m sorry, Hennessy – so your legal strategy basically involves, what, making me out to be a bad mother?”

“Not necessarily a bad mother,” he goes, “but a woman in the grip of a mania. A woman with a God-like belief that her actions could save the planet from ruin.”

Sorcha’s there, “But I do believe that my actions – all of our actions – can reverse the hormful effects of climate change.”

“Brilliant!” Hennessy goes. “We might even put you on the stand. Let the court see you. A woman who hosts a summer barbecue, then asks her guests for money to offset their carbon use.”

Sorcha’s there, “Well, contributing to a charity that plants trees is my way of apologising to the planet for using propane to cook outdoors.”

“Listen to this woman!” Hennessy goes, sounding like he’s in court now. “Does she sound like she’s operating on the same level of rationality as you and I?”

Honor gets in on the act then. She goes, “A mother who bought a goat for a family in Uganda and tried to tell me that it was one of my Christmas presents.”

Hennessy’s like, “Oh, this is gold.”

Sorcha’s there, “I was trying to teach you about social justice, Honor. You got loads of other presents that year.”

“Yeah,” Honor goes, “including a water buffalo for a family in Mozambique.”

“How could the child of such a mother grow up with a fully-working moral compass?” Hennessy goes, hooking his two thumbs into his ormpits and really warming to it now. “A mother who puts the mental in environmental action, whose every utterance was an exhortation to her daughter to go out and do something about climate and social injustice. And her daughter – who attends a school where children are driven each day in an invasion-strength fleet of gas-guzzling, all-terrain vehicles – had her sleep disturbed by images of a hole in the ozone layer over Goatstown and was moved to do something about it.”

Honor goes, “Oberstown?” and she’s not laughing any more

Sorcha goes, “No, I’m sorry, Hennessy, I will not be characterised as some kind of crazy person just because I believe that corbon neutrality is an achievable goal in the medium term. Look at Suriname.”

“Men and women of the jury, there is no cure for this kind of crazy! The witness is excused! Motion to strike!”

Sorcha’s like, “No!” except she shouts it this time? “I am not having my concern for the planet framed as some kind of mental illness.”

Hennessy goes, “Then your daughter is going to jail.”

It’s a real conversation-stopper. Even Honor looks up from her phone.

“Jail?” I go.

Hennessy’s there, “Oh, you think your old man’s money is going to save your daughter from a year in Oberstown?”

Honor goes, “Oberstown?” and she’s not laughing any more.

Sorcha’s there, “But what about the online petition calling for the chorges to be dropped? It’s got, like, 10,000 signatures.”

“It’s bullshit,” Hennessy goes. “They’re all me.”

I’m like, “What, you’re behind the petition?”

He goes, “This is what I do. But if you won’t work with me, then I can’t help you. You play the mad mother and the kid walks. Otherwise, she’s going down.”

“Oberstown?” Honor goes and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her genuinely scared.

“There’s an old saying,” Hennessy goes, on his way out the door, “when the big dog gets in trouble, puppy dog trousers fit him just fine. Think about it.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly was captain of the Castlerock College team that won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999. It’s rare that a day goes by when he doesn’t mention it