The flurry of the Ard Fheis season has come

Well, it has been a very busy few days. For me the highlight was the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis last Saturday.

Having watched some of it on Saturday morning, I went to Dublin straight away after to meet with all of the women candidates, many of whom I had been with for a function in the last number of weeks. We had a giant photograph with Micheál Martin and a general chat as to how they are doing and the difficulties and triumphs they have encountered. All in all I found that very interesting and invigorating. I also met with so many old friends and made so many new ones.

I came home in time to sit down and, in comfort, look at Micheál Martin’s speech on the TV. It is my belief that he made a most marvellous, inspirational type of speech. He hit all the right notes and brought forward all the right ideas. In general, I think he may have steadied Fianna Fáil nerves all over the country and in doing so he gives the Fianna Fáil candidates the confidence to say they are out to get as many votes as they can.

But at the end of the day, the electorate will want to know, when they have given their judgment, whether Fianna Fáil is ready to participate in any Government-making should the need arise. We all know we cannot go ahead of the people’s verdict. At the same time, it would give a sense of assurance and certainty to many would-be Fianna Fáil voters.

Next weekend we will have Enda Kenny with the Fine Gael Ard Fheis, the following week we will have Labour, and then it will be heigh-ho for the General Election.

In my whole political life I do not think I saw anything quite as comical and ridiculous as the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste giving their end-of-term report based on their own assessment of the work they have done. Talk about the weaknesses inherent in self-assessment. This surely was evident as each told the other how well they had done in their various departments and what had happened in their five years of government.

I am all for the Government citing its achievements, but surely not the two main principals coming solemnly onto a government plinth to tell the world at large how wonderful they have been and how wonderful they are. A+ to both of them! The word ‘comedy’ does not even do it justice.

Last week we saw the monster meeting in the Athlone Springs Hotel in South Roscommon to protest at the three-person commission which Alan Kelly has set up to review the boundaries of Westmeath/Roscommon. The meeting was headed up by the Bishop of Elphin, Dr Doran, who gave his blessing to all and led the song for Roscommon.

At conservative estimates, there were 1,500 in the conference room in the hotel and many outside who just simply could not get in so great was the throng. Crowds were rightly incensed. Nobody had asked them their opinion and, after all, if Government has its way with this mission, they will be the people who will be living with it. GAA clubs, particularly in South Roscommon, have made a major input into this sea of protest and so well they might.

In Clann na nGael and St Brigid’s in Kiltoom, they have the most marvellous clubs and many others besides right throughout the county. Speeches were impassioned and tempers were high. For the constituency of Roscommon/East Galway, this is most definitely an election issue. So we will keep a watching brief on the Rossies and their clarion calls.

More Athlone/South Roscommon news. The amalgamation has been formally announced between St Aloysius College Secondary School for Boys on the West Side of Athlone and St Joseph’s College, a Secondary School for girls in South Roscommon.

I have a particular interest in this issue because for four to five years before I went into politics I was a teacher in St Joseph’s in Summerhill and hugely enjoyed my time there. The formal announcement said there would be a new school built on the Summerhill campus with the title of Coláiste Ciarán, which will amalgamate St Aloysius and St Joseph’s. A fine new modern secondary school for girls and boys together.

I hope the planning for this fine initiative will move quickly from gestation to implementation. It is anticipated that Coláiste Ciarán will open for intake in September, 2017. I wish the project every success. Both schools have a fine academic record. Equally so in the field of sport, and I am sure the amalgamation of the talents of the staff and pupils will herald great distinction for Coláiste Ciarán.

My next political outing will be to the constituency of Dún Laoghaire next Saturday and I am looking forward to it. Everywhere I go on this odyssey I am picking up political news. It is amazing the stories and the adventures that are unfolding across the country involving dramatis personæ from every political party. It surely is going to be a lively General Election.

On a completely different subject, many of you will have seen Brooklyn and will be sharing my delight that Saoirse Ronan and the film have been nominated for Oscars along with the film Room based on the book by Emma O’ Donoghue. When the Oscar night comes, I will be quite sure that we will have our heroine in Saoirse Ronan.

We will be talking soon again.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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