A week of gains and losses, home and abroad

Well, what a varied number of conversation items we have this week.

Firstly, we begin with the sports. What a wonderful late afternoon we had looking at Ireland v Australia last Saturday. I was in Thurles in Bookworm with my book and we left Thurles as it was ready to begin on the radio, so we had the benefit of that on the way home, and then I landed in home when the second half had just begun. What a lively, energetic fourth quarter of the match that turned out to be. I have never seen such raw courage on display as I did in the last 15 minutes of the second half of that rugby international. The Irish team just threw themselves into it with full vigour despite all the unforeseen changes they had had to make in their personnel and yet, they were determined to do it and they did. All credit to Joe Schmidt and the lads and it sets us up fair now for the rugby season to follow.

And what about Katie Taylor? It was wonderful to see her with, seemingly, her mojo back again in full vigour and her first professional win under her belt. Now, I don’t look at boxing, either between men or women, it is just so cruel, but yet I gloried in Katie’s result. I met her a couple of times and I like her personality and manner.

But for us here in Athlone, the provincial GAA finals over the weekend did not have a good outcome. I am from the home parish of St Brigid’s in Kiltoom in South Roscommon and they were hugely beaten by Corofin. They were left without a leg to stand on and there was great disappointment particularly among the young people and the schoolchildren of St Brigid’s because of the great expectations they had and the wonderful success they’ve had in the past. I suppose St Brigid’s day will come again. They had such a thumping defeat fully displayed on TG4 on Sunday afternoon, that it is hard to see how they will make their way back again, but I guess they will.

Before we finish with local news, I must tell you I had a great day in Bookworm bookshop and café in Thurles; next Saturday I am travelling north to the Four Masters shop in The Diamond in Donegal. I was there some four years ago and had a great welcome and a great result. The proprietor is Rosaleen O’Rourke (no relation ) and I am looking forward to meeting her again and talking with the Donegal people.

It seems as if two issues which have caused a lot of heated debate may be about to end on satisfactory notes. I don’t know fully as yet because as I compile this the ASTI talks have concluded and we await a result, but the omens look satisfactory and I hope that will be the outcome. In a similar vein, it looks like the Water Commission is about to issue its report which seems to have struck some middle ground. This may find favour among the Oireachteas Committee and from there it moves into the wider Dáil. Let’s hope that will be the outcome.

Wasn’t it lovely to see Enda and his wife Fionnuala visit the Pope last Monday? I thought they both looked happy and at ease, as indeed did Pope Francis despite all the pomp of the guards in their wonderful uniforms and the protocol that goes with such a visit.

Of course, some in the media were quick to jump in and say when the Pope comes in 2018 he’ll be coming to a different Ireland. Sure, we know of course he will, the last papal visit was 40 years ago. On that occasion, my husband Enda and I and our two very young sons at the time, met the then Pope when he came in by helicopter to Clonmacnoise. It was a wonderful event and I will always hold it dear to my heart that we met in such close-up circumstances.

We have had the death of Fidel Castro and the resultant uproar over the remarks of sympathy of our President, Michael D Higgins. I agree with the President. He is well aware of the revolutionary nature of the career of Fidel Castro and, of course, of the defeat of the previous dictator when Castro took over. Of course there were lots of things he did which we would view as wrong, but he had to work in that way in order to gain dominance in Cuba.

I remember when I was Minister for Education, meeting the then Cuban representative in Ireland when they came calling on various Ministers. I was very attracted by the way he had brought into Cuba full healthcare for everyone and full education for everyone from age one to 25. I remember the Ambassador telling me that so distinctly and I thought “Well isn’t that just wonderful?” Anyway, the media are so quick to jump on any misdemeanour as they would see it. I was personally delighted to see that many who went into the Mansion House to sign the book, spoke warmly of President Higgins and of his words and actions following the death of Fidel Castro.

Going back to the theme of the Pope and Italy, next weekend sees an important referendum in Italy. It involves constitutional reform and is being put forward by Prime Minister Renzi. He has said that if the result is not a Yes that he will resign and that will plunge Italy into political turmoil again. Imagine that there have been 63 Italian governments since 1948, can you just imagine that for political upheaval? I hope he gets his Yes vote. He’s a young prime minister and he is keen to start on his constitutional and monetary reforms in his own country. However, there are forces to the Right and to the Left of him which aim to topple him in this vote, so, we’ll all be looking forward to the Italian result over next weekend.

As Sean O’Casey said: “The world is in a state of chassis” and surely it is in Europe with changes looming in Italy and in France, and surrounded as we are by Brexit and what it means or doesn’t mean. I’d love to have been in An Seanad to have seen Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Leader, speak on Tuesday of this week. She always strikes me as composed, confident, and put-together in a very realistic sense. I’m sure the Senators will give her a great welcome.

The only certainty on the European scene is that Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has said she is going forward next year for a fourth term. Good luck to her!

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

Slan go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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