Well, last week it was all talk of Enda Kenny and what would he say and what would he do.
We had a few of the self-important Fine Gael TDs strutting up and down the parliamentary plinth saying everything they were going to say and do to him when they got him into the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting. Of course, when he got there, they stayed mute. Enda Kenny’s behaviour last Wednesday evening reminded me of the old Roman adage: Veni, Vidi, Vici – I came, I saw, I conquered. That is exactly what he did.
He gave a short speech in which he said that when he came back from Washington he would lay out his timescale. He got a hearty clap and away he went. And, of course, the self-important few faded away too.
They say the contest is not on, but it is. We have Leo popping up on every TV and radio programme. And we will see how it develops.
What a wonderful weekend of rugby! Victory to the Irish team, to the women’s team, and to the U20s. Just a word on the women’s team. Whoever is in charge of the playing of the National Anthem should get it right. There was a slight cock-up last weekend but, of course, it didn’t matter to the wonderful playing of our rugby women.
Also, the wonderful playing of our Irish rugby men’s team. To my mind, Johnny Sexton is a modern Irish hero. The drop goal at a particular point in the game last Saturday marked the turning point in a fine victory for Ireland. It was a masterpiece of play. Later, when Paddy Jackson, his understudy, came on to give Johnny Sexton a break, he too put the ball over - so, honour all round. Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose are a very formidable pair, but the whole team played fantastically well.
On the GAA front, we had the GAA conference in which some important new plans were laid down regarding the playing of the All Ireland hurling and football finals. Apparently, they are to be played in August rather than September moving forward. In Division One, Monaghan had a close win over Kerry and, of course, Dublin managed to be unbeaten even though it was a close draw.
This week, on Tuesday, February 28, the Irish Defence Forces stationed at Custume Barracks in Athlone enacted a series of events all day in celebration of the 95th anniversary of the handover/takeover of the barracks and Athlone Castle from British Forces. This handover was undertaken by General Sean MacEoin.
The members of the Defence Forces marched from the old railway station on the Connacht side, where MacEoin arrived with his forces, opposite the then Ranelagh Boys Protestant School (which later became General Textiles and the home of my childhood ), up to the castle and on to Custume Barracks. There were walking tours, photographic displays, and a lecture in the afternoon by Ian Kenneally.
I did not attend all the physical tours, but on Tuesday night I was glad to go to Custume Barracks where there was a reception by the Barrack Commander and one by Dr John Burke. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day and night.
Last Saturday saw the funeral of Sr Christopher Callan of La Sainte Union and the Bower Convent in Athlone. She had been both the head of the Bower Convent in Athlone and earlier the provincial head of La Sainte Union. There was a beautiful funeral mass in St Mary’s at 12 noon with most magnificent singing by Emily Shine, the daughter of Brendan Shine. Emily has a voice which is unequalled in its potency and beauty and the whole ceremony was one of celebration of a wonderful woman’s life.
Sr Christopher was a fully qualified barrister and solicitor before she entered as a nun into La Sainte Union. She always bore her legal training lightly but put it to great use during her time in charge of so many young pupils, both at a boarding and day school level.
Sr Christopher Callan and I go back a long way. In 1966, herself, myself, Louis Walshe and Beda Heavey were the quartet who travelled, four nights a week, to Maynooth to do our H Dip. I put an ad in the local newspaper looking for car sharing as I was going myself, and they were the three who responded. We were four very close companions for all of that year, and I have such happy memories of that productive time in our lives together. Beda Heavey passed away some three weeks ago, and now Sr Christopher. May they rest in peace.
The Northern elections for the Assembly will be held on Thursday this week. With all of the political activity which we had down here, I somehow neglected the activity up north. The number of seats available is gone from 108 to 90, so clearly there will be casualties. But it seems to me, from what I’ve gathered from reading the papers and looking at TV, that the major parties will continue to be represented, more or less, as they were before the untimely election.
The presence of Martin McGuinness in the Derry area will be sorely missed, not just by Sinn Féin but in the general political body where he became, later in his life, an outstanding public representative.
With all my talk in this column recently of spring arriving, the last 10 days have been bitterly cold, with gales blowing. Somehow, however, this never seems so bad when the mornings are brighter and day lasts longer – spring has really come.
Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,