Northern Ireland, Brexit, the US and everything else

Well, as we said last week, a general election for Northern Ireland is now laid out for March 2.

It is a great pity, and I do not see either Sinn Féin or the DUP increasing their vote any more during the election. Yet, we will have all the disagreements and the rows and the potential for violence which an election will engender. Imagine the North going into an election at the same time it is facing into the uncertainty of Brexit.

We had Theresa May’s big speech on Tuesday and, it seems to me, that she is set fair for the hardest Brexit you can get. It does not bode well for us here in Ireland, or for the North, but we will see what the weeks ahead will bring.

Brexit is such an unknown quantity; like a mystery land towards which we sail, but yet we do not know what undercurrents are around us.

Of course, the big news of this week is the presidential swearing-in ceremony of Donald Trump on Friday. That will be all over our televisions and, I’m sure, many of you will look at it. As I said before, there is no point in everyone moaning about him getting in – he got in, and that is the end of that. I am sure we are in for many a bumpy ride in the weeks and months ahead.

Wasn’t the Young Scientist Exhibition a wonderful event last week? One young man, Shane Curran, had a very detailed and well thought-out case which made him the winner of the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition.

I thought of all the hard work our students and teachers throughout the country have been doing in the field of science. Shane is from Terenure College and his project is so interesting. He calls it ‘qCrypt’ and its purpose is to keep data secure - something that is so important in today’s world. In fact, I am quite sure he will have a market opportunity with his product in a few years to come.

Education is the topic of conversation in many homes now because it is in these months of January and February that young 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds, and their parents, decide on what is going to be their secondary school when they leave primary school in June.

I take up this topic now because in Aengus and Lisa’s home, Sarah, who is 12, will be leaving Ballybay primary school in June and going on to secondary school. We are very fortunate in Athlone that there are so many schools, boys and girls and mixed, at second level from which parents and pupils can choose.

Sarah has already been to the open day at the Community College, and is now looking forward to the open day at Our Lady’s Bower next week.

Of course, young people always want to go where their friends are going, and that is important too. St Aloysius, a boys secondary school in the town of Athlone, and Summerhill College, a girls secondary school just outside Athlone, are merging to become Coláiste Chiarán.

I undertand Coláiste Chiarán is going to have an open day as well. The difficulty is that they have, as yet, no laid-out plans or new buildings to show off in Summerhill. However, I am sure that Scoil Chiarán will attract quite a following.

I am sure many of the Advertiser readers buy Sunday newspapers. I have always bought, and continue to buy, two: the Sunday Independent and Sunday Business Post. Both are fine newspapers with lots of news in them.

Imagine my surprise when I picked up the Business Post on Sunday morning last and brought it home to find on their front page: “Big Exclusive – Leo Varadkar says he wishes to be Taoiseach”. I do not know about many of you, but it seems to me we have all known for months that Leo wishes to be Taoiseach, so how on earth could that be an exclusive?

I repeat my advice, which I already gave so many times through the pages of this newspaper, to Enda Kenny: hold your place Enda, you are Taoiseach and have been so appointed, and why should it be assumed that you would just step sideways for any would-be prince to take over? I do not know if Frank Flannery, who used to be your advisor, is still saying things in your ear, but I wish he would.

If I could get the ear of Frank Flannery, I would tell him to put in your ear that we need the wisdom of someone who has been in the job if we are to combat the difficulties in the North, in Brexit, and in the US in the months to come. So, stay fast Enda where you are.

Reading the Sunday Independent last Sunday, I came across some wonderful news written in the business section of that paper by Adrian Weckler, a very respected technology writer.

The good news is that print book sales are soaring. Last year in Ireland they rose by 10 per cent, and 2016 has been the second consecutive year of sales growth. Bookshops are not closing any more and it seems that the Irish people are not paying real attention to Kindle for reading books.

Eleven million new books were sold in Ireland in 2016, and that is such great news, not just for all of us that read but for the business in general.

For me, there is nothing better than a book: to feel the cover, to turn the pages, to delight in the words and to sometimes have a peek at the next chapter.

It seems that young children and adults prefer print books. This is the best news I have heard for a long time. Not just because I write books myself, though of course that is part of it, but also because it is so wonderful to be able to pick up a book and immerse yourself in what is in front of you, and to believe in the characters, to long for the story to roll on. Most of all, when you have a book you are never lonely. You have a real friend in your hand.

So, this week we will have the Dáil back in action again with new ideas, new legislation, and all of the various parties seeking to assert themselves.

We all have so many events to be following over the next few days and weeks, so I wish you happy viewing and happy reading. I hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill

Mary O’Rourke

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