There is such a thing as an Irish secret, at least according to my in-laws. It goes something like this:

‘I told you that in confidence! No-one’s supposed to know, it’s supposed to be a secret.’

‘I only told my [insert family member of choice], honest!’

‘So?! Which part of secret were you not getting?’

‘No, no, I thought it was an Irish secret…’


‘With an Irish secret you only tell one person at a time.’

Interesting concept. A secret is one of those absolute things. It’s either a secret or it isn’t. In reality, of course, it’s not absolute and you could argue there’s no such thing, unless only one person in the world knows and how plausible is that? Maybe you could argue that it doesn’t actually exist if only one person knows it – rather like the tree falling in the forest not making a sound because nobody heard it – and only becomes a secret once more than one person knows…

It appears from a communication point of view that there are degrees of information, from narrowcast or one-to-one up to broadcast, and secrets are no different.

If you’re genuinely the only person – or one of a very small number – that the secret-holder has told, and you keep your promise until the original secret-holder decides that the secret can be told, then you are a secondary secret-holder of high worth and value, in my view. Not easy, or sometimes desirable, to do. If the secret is bad, and someone has suffered adversely, then you can make the reverse argument and all bets are off.