“a little prickly” or “p***k”

Commandant Niall Donohoe has been an unstanding army man of fine record.

But he was court marshalled and charged with calling Lt Col Gerry O’Sullivan a “little p…k” after receiving a performance appraisal in January 2009. The Commandant claimed that he said his appraisal was a little “prickly” but the military judge Colonel Tony McCourt dismissed the Commandant from the Defence Forces having taken the noun rather than the adverb as the likely story. Reminds me of baseball’s Babe Ruth “Cobb is a p…k. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit.” or James Joyce on prostitutes and medical students – “all p…k and no pence” etc. Just goes to show what a word in the wrong ear can do!

Myself, I think the whole furore is excessive considering the man has been 28 years in the Army. But he should have known better and discipline in essential in any army. My brother was a long time in the Army to the rank of Lt Col but is very different to me. Different strokes for different folks. If Commandant Niall had called his higher ranked officer “a biased officious wrongheaded person” – would the absense of vulgarity have made any difference? Probably not if “Yes sir, three bags full sir” is the only acceptable answer. But I thought that human rights had arrived in this army so this case is interesting. Maybe he will appeal. The judge called it a gross breach of military discipline. There was a six person board at the trial so military discipline is another world.