It is August now and already in Dunnes Stores and other supermarkets I see the jotters, copybooks, pencils, and schoolbags all being laid out for display and purchase. I imagine if I was a child in primary school and going around with my mother shopping, I would hate those counters and I would be dragging her away from them, because of course it means that going back to school is not that far off.
The weather has turned very dull and humid and the prospect for August doesn’t hold out much promise.
Last week when I wrote my column, I didn’t bring up the episode of the French priest Father Jacques Hamel, who was murdered as he said Mass in his small church in a town in France. It was just so brutal and it is very hard to put words on it, and one week on it still feels the same.
Similar to Ireland, France is feeling the lack of entrants to the priesthood, hence an 85-year-old man still labouring in his parish and still saying Mass on a daily basis for his parishioners.
The barbarity of it leaves you short of words - to treat an old man doing his duty in that fashion - there are no words. I am glad that proper tribute was paid to him throughout France over the last few days.
Westmeath and Roscommon have dropped out of the GAA race, more is the pity. Last Saturday Westmeath were up against Mayo in Croke Park. Westmeath put up a great game but as in all those situations, when you are losing, they had a few strokes of really bad luck. However it was a worthwhile match and Westmeath has nothing to be ashamed of. We will watch how Mayo advance now, and good luck to them.
Of course at the end of this week we have the beginning of the Olympic Games in Rio. There will be great coverage of all of the athletes and I note that in particular RTÉ will have many programmes dealing with the Games.
The Russian doping scandals have thrown a shadow over the Games and I hope this will be the last year in which such issues have to be weeded out and highlighted. The joy of the fine performances by so many athletes from so many countries is tainted when niggling doubts emerge each time there are spectacular results.
The Sunday Independent this week had a very good layout in its sports supplement of all of the Irish athletes who will be taking part in the various sports in Rio. I picked out a few in whom I am interested and will be watching out for - such as Robert Heffernan in the Men’s Race Walk. Do you remember he was done out of his prize in the last Games but subsequently got a bronze because of doping being discovered in a so-called ‘winner’ ahead of him? Daniel Martin and Nicholas Roche are two to watch out for in the Cycling. For Equestrian we will have Greg Broderick and Cian O’Connor.
I will be particularly looking out for Annalise Murphy, who will be in the Sailing category. She did very well on the last occasion but failed on the final run-in. I met her about four years ago in RTÉ where she had just done a sports interview and I had quick chat with her. She is really spirited and determined so, as I say, she is worth watching out for.
And then of course there are our boxers in which we will all have our particular favourites - Paddy Barnes, Michael O’Reilly, our local Joe Ward, and then the darling of them all, our world champion Katie Taylor.
There are so many more categories to watch and there is surely one every day in which we have an interest.
In all the talk of sports, matches, and dreadful overseas deeds, I have neglected to bring up the housing programme, called ‘Rebuilding Ireland’, which Minister Simon Coveney has produced.
From what I have read and picked up from what he has said, it seems that it is very ambitious, well researched, and well laid out, and now it requires everyone to put the shoulder to the wheel. The Department, the civil servants, the Minister, the county councils, builders, planners, etc - everyone has a role to play and I hope they will all do it quickly.
We are inclined to forget from time to time that it is the biggest issue facing people in Irish life today. Can you imagine a husband, partner, and three children in a hotel room in which you are meant to rear them all, get them to school, feed them, put them to bed, and keep the semblance of family life together? It is a huge crisis and one which requires good will and a high work ethic and a determination from all concerned to ensure that this fine plan will come to fruition.
I have admiration for Simon Coveney and the production of this plan has enhanced my view of him. Of course he will take his holidays, but I hope they will be short ones and I imagine him back at the helm in the Department of the Environment working through every single measure he has laid out for the people of Ireland. It is a mammoth task but it can be done with determination and skill.
That ends my piece on a hopeful note.
Talk with you all next week. In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go fóill,