Money in, money out - who’s to balance the books?

Hello to all the Athlone Advertiser readers. Well, we didn’t fare too well in the Aviva Stadium against the All Blacks last weekend. Nevertheless, it was a tough fight all round.

I felt so sorry for Robbie Henshaw and it appears his concussion will keep him out of the game for the immediate future. But that is the way with games, you win some, you lose some.

Reading the commentary after the match, it seems to me that the All Blacks went out to disable certain Irish players and to do it early on in the game so that Ireland would not be playing at their best. We’ll see how it goes after that weekend, but rugby is surely a tough, rough game.

Now, I do not know what the readers of this column think of the whole fuss about water charges. I would want to make it plain that I am in favour, if it can be afforded, that people should pay even a modest charge towards obtaining good, clean water. I do not quite know where Fianna Fáil is on the issue. Last Friday they declared in the papers that they were in favour of no water charges, but during last weekend it was written that they would favour a modest charge, so I do not quite know where that leaves them.

The Water Commission, headed up by Kevin Duffy (ex Labour Court ) is due to make its recommendations in about two weeks time. After that the Oireachteas Committee will be set up and they will debate the report in full. This is meant to bring us on to March/April of 2017 and then the debate will come into the Dáil chamber.

I know so many people who are on group water schemes in rural Ireland and are paying already and who have been paying for years towards that. So, what is to happen to them? I hope eventually that a proper solution will be found. But from my point of view, I will repeat again that I see nothing wrong in paying a small charge, if it can be afforded, towards the provision of good, clean water to every household in Ireland.

The newspapers are calling this winter our “winter of discontent”. Now, that has nothing to do with the weather, awful though it is at the moment. It is to do with the discontent among both public and private spheres of activity in Ireland who are demanding a return to the wages they had prior to the financial meltdown.

I do not know how all of this is to be accommodated, but the voices are getting louder and shriller. Pascal O’Donoghue, the Minister in charge of Public Sector Reform, is holding the line with great resolve, but it is my belief that come January/February the talks between the unions and the Government will begin in earnest. For the moment, the teachers are having their particular case looked at and life in secondary schools is proceeding in a proper fashion. I am glad of that because I did not like to see the young people turfed out and with nothing definite to do with their time.

I often think back, with nostalgia, to the latter period of Bertie Ahern in government, when the Government and Trade Unions worked hand in glove together. Now, I know there was far too much of it and that the Dáil and Seanad were kept out of these negotiations until they were finally decided. And yes, I know that too much was given at a time when we thought we could afford it. The truth was we really could not.

But there was something to be said about having a continuing dialogue between the responsible ministers, the Taoiseach, and the Trade Unions and all of the other sections of society who we used to see parading in and out of Government buildings during the talks. In general, I was of the opinion they were conducted in a fair way, but in the end it just got out of hand and far too much was sought and got when the country was facing a meltdown.

But we certainly could do with a portion of the peace climate now in between the unions and Government. It is clear that if we continue on the path now being loudly looked for that we will be going down the primrose path to financial disaster again. Maybe the Government should employ Bertie Ahern on a part-time basis to bring about peace in the industrial sector? Now, I know that sounds outlandish but he certainly knew the ins and outs of dealing with unions and dealing with people in sensitive areas.

Now, we hear that Enda Kenny has telephoned Mike Pence, the vice-president elect of the US, and had a friendly conversation with him. No matter what we think of Donald Trump and his team, they are the leaders now of the US and, quite rightly, we in Ireland need to have good relationships with them.

Mike Pence has strong Irish connections and I think it is a good tactic on Enda Kenny’s part to revive that interest in telling him that we would like to see him come over here to Ireland to visit Co Clare and Co Monaghan, and to talk with him in an atmosphere of trust. So between Enda staying in office to meet Donald Trump in March and then staying on for the Pope when he comes here in the autumn, Enda looks fair for a while longer anyway.

What do the readers think of the Christmas ads on the TV? I know people are bewailing the fact that Christmas has come too early. I had two of my youngest grandchildren in with me on Sunday evening and they were able to tell me what Santa was bringing them. And, of course, for young people it is all about the anticipation.

I have been watching the Christmas advertisements. My favourite one, so far, is the Tesco Hosts ads. They are very evocative and very nostalgic. In one, two little boys are writing their grandma a Christmas letter and one says to the other: “Is it alright to say to her that we adore her?” His friend nods his head and so they write it down “We adore you grandma and we adore your roast potatoes”. Well, I had a great laugh at that, but it’s a beautiful ad.

Equally, in the same ad, a man who has lost his wife comes home and the house is all lit up and he is looking at a photograph of himself and his wife together so many years ago. All his children and his grandchildren are crowding around him and making him feel happy again. I’ll be keeping a watch on some of the other ads, but for me these are the best so far.

Only eight more sleeps until the Ryan Tubridy Christmas Toy Show! Or so I am told. The shops are piled high with goodies and little noses are pressed against the window and inside with all the toys. I know people will say that’s consumerism gone mad. I don’t know, I think the build-up of atmosphere in Ireland is wonderful and satisfying, and young people love it.

My book is going fine, thank God. I hope to make a visit to a Mayo venue before Christmas. In the meantime, I am planning now a local launch in Athlone.

That’s all for now. Talk with you all next week. In the meantime, go safely.

Slan go Foill,

Mary O’Rourke

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