A sunny bank holiday - and not a moment too soon!

Well, what a wonderful few days of intense May summer weather we have had!

I understand it was experienced all around Ireland. Perhaps the west of Ireland was not as beautiful as the Midlands and the east but, for all of the country, it was dry, it was warm and, mostly, it was sunny. Let us be thankful for it but also let us hope that it was not our summer in total! It would be really good if every month or so we could have three or four days of the kind of weather we have just had during the bank holiday weekend.

Bank holiday weekends are my favourite time of year no matter when they occur. I love the fact that we usually get together, as most families do, as a family on the Sunday or the Monday, and there seems to be all the time in the world for the adults to talk together and the children to play. Most of all, there is time rather than the constant rushing to fulfil obligations. Let us have more bank holidays!

If we have any sympathy to spare after our glorious holiday we should have some of it for the British Prime Minister, Theresa May. She is huddled in the British Cabinet in a truly dreadful position: Brexiteers to the right of her and pro Europeans to the left. With the departure of Amber Rudd from her cabinet and her replacement, the balance has shifted in favour of the Brexiteers. Theresa May’s idea of a partnership model for the customs union looked as if it might take off but, no, no, they voted it out, I understand, at a Cabinet sub-committee, and now she is left again, grounded.

There is supposed to be clarity at the end of June at the Council of Ministers meeting, but I fear very much what Bertie Ahern has recently spoken about it. The matter will not be fixed in June, and it will be left until October, which is the last gasp date. Then it will come to 2am or 3am in the morning of the negotiation and there will be a big huddle and a muddle and Ireland will be told to “get on with it and take what is on offer now”, and we will be left in a very bad position with regard to Brexit and the North of Ireland.

That is only a fear I have, even though Barnier on his recent visit to Ireland went out of his way to reassure us, spending two days between Dundalk, Derry and Belfast. He met everyone, went everywhere and kept assuring and reassuring people that Ireland came first with all the other EU member states. I know, I know, I know! And somehow, I feel, we will be caught up in that last-minute fuss at end October, and we will have given away the back-stop arrangement which we got last December.

Good rugby at the weekend in that Munster beat Edinburgh. No viewing for me. Though it was billed to be on TG4 it was not so, but I heard a very good radio commentary which more or less covered the whole match. Now, it was a tough match for Munster, but they won out in the end.

And, of course, in Thomond Park on Saturday, we had Simon Zebo’s last appearance in Munster rugby, and he got a wonderful send-off. I always found, looking at him on TV, that he was a clever, resourceful player, and that is what he always turned out to be.

In New York, Leitrim just about made it, beating New York in extra time, the score being Leitrim 19 – New York 1-15. A friend of mine, Kathrine Lynch, herself and myself do be on the Pat Kenny book show regularly, went with some friends of hers from Carrick-on-Shannon to New York to cheer on Leitrim. It seems they needed every cheer, but be that as it may, they won out on that match.

And, of course, Dublin saw off Mayo in the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 final, in which the score was emphatically on Dublin’s side. They showed quite a bit of that on TV and it seems to have been a fine, rumbustious affair, with the women more than proving their mettle.

The cervical screening controversy rumbles on. As I write, the cabinet has approved a scoping exercise under two British “experts” and, following on the findings of that, there will be an open public exposé of the whole matter. Breaking pictures during last weekend showed bereaved husbands, whose wives had died following false information they had got from the cancer screening company. With crowds of women calling the help-line, it is a terrible time for many who are waiting to hear from the HSE.

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, is desperately trying to keep on top of it and, if he can, to be one or two steps ahead of it. But, it is not easy, as he seems to have very little, if any, support among the hierarchy of the HSE. All one can think of is that the disasters are piling up and the release of the information seems to be always behind the bar, so to speak.

Finally, to end my column on a truly positive note, next Friday sees the final of the Primary School’s Debating Competition. The Mayor of Athlone, Cllr Aengus O’Rourke, took an initiative when he became Mayor and set up this competition. It takes in all of the schools in the south Westmeath area, rural and urban. Each week they have had run-offs between this school and the next school. The judging has been by three eminent people each week and it has all passed off in a wonderful way in the various schools among the sixth-class pupils (I was one of the “eminent” judges one week! ).

The final is next Friday in the Civic Centre. It is to be televised as part of the Drama Festival in Athlone and anyone who will come to listen will be guaranteed a very good, robust debate with excellent speakers.

It is a fine idea. Is there any better gift a student could have than to stand up on his or her feet to give their view, to engage in proper debating procedure, to engage with their team-mates and to engage with their audience? So, I look forward to a great Friday of final debating skills at the Civic Centre in Athlone at 12 noon next Friday. Well done to all the participants.

That is my lot for now. Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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