There are so many things to talk with you about this week it is difficult to know where to begin, but I have made up my mind we are going to begin by talking about Bertie Ahern.
Some of the readers will remember a few weeks ago, I made a jocular reference that Bertie should be employed by the Government part-time to deal with the labour relations issue. Now that was by way of being a bit of fun of course.
But now a whole new issue has arisen in that Bertie’s local cumman in Drumcondra in Dublin have passed a motion inviting him back in to join the cumman even though, some years ago, he departed Fianna Fáil before he was to be expelled.
Be that as it may, of course this was the theme over the last six or seven days of many political writers in the newspapers.
Because I was going to Donegal last Saturday I did Highland Radio on Saturday morning and, of course, the young man who was doing the interview asked me what I thought about Bertie Ahern re-joining the party locally. I said that I had strong memories of the man who brought peace to this country. The person who worked with John Hume, Tony Blair, Gerry Adams, and many other committed civil servants and public figures to ensure that we never again faced waking up morning after morning, not knowing what atrocity had been carried out the night before. I ask you, how short are people’s memories that they cannot remember that?
In my opinion, if Bertie wants to join locally, and be a local party member, well, why not? The Fianna Fáil party leader Micheál Martin is not in agreement with my opinion, but I’m at a stage in life now when I can give my opinion without fearing hearing from other people. So, my estimate of that current debate is, let Bertie Ahern re-join his local Drumcondra Cumman.
Did you get to watch the Toy Show over last weekend? I was not at home on Friday night so I turned it on, on Sunday afternoon, and from time to time got engrossed in it. The toys are wonderful and the settings are wonderful, and Ryan Tubridy is truly wonderful, but of course, the jewels in this show are the children themselves. They are so unpredictable and quirky and I am sure there are many times when they didn’t do what they were programmed to do, or what they set out to do, but all in all it was enjoyable, vibrant, and a wonderful use of screen time in RTÉ.
Donegal was a wonderful place to visit last Saturday and, luckily for us, the fog and frost had gone so we had a trouble-free journey up and down. So many people I met, with so many stories, so many whispered confidences as they purchased their book and told me their own story. I am so fortunate to be able to travel to meet so many, and to marvel at the many stories of bravery I hear. I’m off to Waterford next Saturday to The Book Centre there, which is a lovely venue and I am hoping for a good visit.
Then there is only one remaining venue on Saturday December 17. I am going to An Crannog in Cavan town. A lovely couple, John and Mary, run this independent, well-stocked small book shop and I have happy memories of my visit there some years ago, so I am looking forward to that as well.
So we hear today, as I write this column, that An Post is looking for a rise in the price of their postal stamps again. It appears that the Irish postal charges are among the lowest in Europe. Imagine! And we think we’re among the highest.
Apparently, the postal service is running at a loss and An Post is subsidising it from other spheres of activity. We await the outcome of that application to Cabinet by the Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten.
No matter what the outcome, I feel the universal postal service which An Post does throughout Ireland is a marvellous facility. Imagine, you can post a letter on the bottom end of Valentia Island and it can be anywhere else in Ireland the next day and, if not, the day after. I am lucky that on our road there is a post-box and last week I posted a good pile of letters in it. Three of them were for Dublin. They were collected at six o’clock that evening in Athlone and, at 8.30 the following morning, I had a telephone call from one of the recipients of the Dublin letters. Now, if that isn’t service, what is?
More people should go back to writing letters or cards. To my mind, there is nothing more satisfactory that sitting down, with a pen in your hand, and beginning to write a letter to a loved person, to someone you know, or even to reply to a cheerful or buoyant or, the odd time, a giving-out letter that you get in the post. So, that’s my thoughts on that. I always thought that the An Post candidates didn’t seem to perform well in the general election. We’d all be sorry if the postal service and the post offices disappear.
I went off to get my three-year driving licence renewed this week and thankfully everything was in order. I had gone to my doctor and, contrary to what some people will tell you, the doctor gave me a rigorous eye test to ensure that I was fit to be on the road. I was glad of that because it meant that I was deemed medically fit to be on the road, and now, with my three-year licence, I’ll be aiming to continue to travel the roads of Ireland!
I am very disappointed at the ASTI executive who have put out their vote to ballot but told their members they were not in favour of it. I hope, on this occasion, the members have more sense than the executive. We will know the result of the vote in January but I think of the young people in secondary schools who will be disadvantaged, so I am hopeful of a good result following that ballot.
So, Prime Minister Renzi in Italy lost his referendum, and like David Cameron in England, who had promised to resign if the EU referendum failed, we will be losing two Prime Ministers over referendums.
So, the water issue is gone off to the special committee of TDs and Senators with Padraig Ó Céidigh as chairman of that committee. I wish him well and we await the outcome. I fear the issue will not go away quietly but let’s just wait and see.
So many issues to talk over and so little space in which to do it. I look forward to talking with you all next week. In the meantime, go safely.
Slan go fóill