Floods abate – but storms of a different nature loom large

Yes, the floods have dropped in Athlone; however the acute danger remains. This week with its frost and dry weather will hopefully see a further drop in water levels but after that, who knows?

I can only imagine the sense of total relief which the volunteers and all connected with the floods are going through at the moment. I hope they manage to snatch a few nights’ sleep.

By the time this piece is read the Dáil will have returned from its Christmas slumber. The country will know what plans Enda has for the flood areas. Now we know he can’t stop the rain from coming down but it is expected that a long-term flood relief plan will be presented to the Dáil.

Also, he will have had his meeting with the insurance companies of Ireland to talk about the need to provide insurance cover for the flood areas. Quite rightly they say they will wait to hear what the flood relief plans of the Government are and then they will come forward with their insurance proposals. However, it seems to me that all the house insurance companies of Ireland make a lot of money from a lot of people in this country and it is up to them to come more than half way to meet the flooded people who are in such a plight and to respond properly to them.

Also, as I write this, there has been a huge meeting in the Athlone Springs Hotel about the boundaries between Roscommon and Westmeath. Massive emotion has been whipped up with the GAA clubs – Clann na nGael, St. Brigid’s and all others canvassing hard to get all the Roscommon people there. A belief has grown that Westmeath are on an acquisitive path hoping to ensnare all parts of Monksland and Barrymore in their net. The Westmeath side will tell a different tale, however sparks flew at this meeting of which I will write more next week. Hands off Roscommon say the Rossies!

I am sure many readers listen to Miriam O’Callaghan on a Sunday morning - Sunday with Miriam - in which she sometimes interviews very interesting people. One time, some years ago, Brian Lenihan Jnr and myself were on. I have lovely photographs and memories of that time.

However last Sunday from 10–11am her guests were Frank Flannery, the political strategist for Fine Gael and his brother, Fr. Tony Flannery, who has fallen out with the Vatican for what I would call proper modern views on women and sexuality.

In answer to Miriam’s question as to whether he was really still the political strategist for Fine Gael, Frank answered by saying that he read something I wrote recently in which I was both amused and amazed at him being called the former strategist. I smiled to myself thinking good, he’s reading the column but also that he didn’t, in typical semi-political fashion, answer the question. Anyway, it was a very lively interview and most enjoyable. It was good to know that my modest words are being read far afield!

We are entering into a ‘false lull’ period now. It reminds me of when you read in books when World War II broke out and everybody in the UK was expecting immediate bombings, counter-bombings, etc and yet there was almost 12 months when nothing happened. On a much smaller scale now this is what is happening in Irish political and public life. The Dáil will be back on Wednesday, January 13, and yes, the Election will be on February 26, to be called very early – the first day or two of February. In the meantime there is a feeling about that what is to fill the time and what is the answer? To the endless speculation of who joins whom and who doesn’t join whom and what is it really all about?

During the course of this week the political parties large and small will be adding people to the ticket in each constituency – sometimes to obey the gender quota rule, sometimes to pad out the ticket if they feel it is not strong enough to get a good vote and for various other reasons. To that end it is believed Shane Curran will be added to the Roscommon/East-Galway ticket.

Now what about the gender quotas? As I write, the Fine Gael Gender Quota is 29 per cent, Fianna Fáil, 31 per cent, Labour, 36 per cent, Sinn Fein 36 per cent. Obviously more will be added during the week before the season of Ard Fheissana begin.

Renua, with its leader, Lucinda Creighton, were first out of the traps with their political manifesto. It caused quite a stir based, as it is, on a flat rate of tax and various other measures of course. Each time I see Lucinda Creighton I admire her credibility, her intelligence and I wish each time that Renua had got into its flow earlier than they have.

I still feel, however, that they will gain 5-6 seats, which is a comedown from my earlier forecast of 10. But those 5-6 seats could be the most pivotal after the forthcoming Election when love bombs are being sent out from one group to another. Let’s wait and see.

Let’s also wait and see what effect the gender quota rule will have had on all political parties. It will be interesting to note those female candidates who have come legitimately through a convention – how they will fare. And it will be equally interesting to note how the women, who have been ‘put on’ in order to fulfil the gender quotas, will fare. And remember we still have the High Court case which begins next week in Dublin. That, indeed, will be more than interesting.

Talk to you next week.

In the meantime go safely,

Slán go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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