There is so much to talk about this week that I wish I had a whole page to fill.
The main topic is the Northern elections. I was bewailing the fact, last week, that I had not spent enough time talking about the North. As we all know, the election was last Thursday. On Friday, we had the results coming in. As the story unfolded, it was clear that Sinn Féin had improved their position greatly and that the DUP had lost a lot of seats. The final result on Saturday showed that.
Now we come to the impasse. Arlene Foster said she is not going to stand aside. Sinn Féin are saying she has to, temporarily, stand aside over the whole matter of ‘cash for ash’, and there the matter rests right now. All the parties in the North have three weeks to make up a government or else another General Election can be called.
So, who will be the peacemaker to try to bring the two sides together? To my mind, the only one who could really do it, was the man who brought about the Good Friday Agreement - Bertie Ahern. He had the skill (with others ) 20 years ago, and he has not lost that skill. Let us see what develops.
I take great delight in the measured, even tones of Tommie Gorman, the northern RTÉ correspondent, as he appears nightly on our screen. He seems to have been there forever, but he is a marvellous journalist and reporter for RTÉ, and we all delight in his many appearances.
The Tuam Babies matter has brought forward its own heroine, Catherine Corless, the local historian in Tuam who forecast that this would be the outcome. People poured cold water on her findings some months ago, but now the stark facts have emerged of the burial of 800 babies and very young children, many of them in an area over which houses have been built.
It is a truly terrible story and I hope the Government moves quickly to have the whole matter fully investigated and brought out into the open. Of course, there are all the other mother and baby homes throughout the country where equally sad tales await discovery.
To my mind, the most awful scandal to have been unearthed is the position of Grace - the young woman, with diminished capabilities, who was put into a foster home in the south east of Ireland. She was kept there for a long number of years, despite the fact that there was reporting of sexual abuse in that foster home. This is truly a dreadful tale which opens up the possibility of many other instances of which we have no knowledge as of yet. Terrible tales of terrible times. And they are not in the dim and distant past. They are of modern times.
So, what do we make of the debacle that is the provision of water in Ireland? Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are at loggerheads over what is the way forward now. To my mind, Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil are not pursuing the correct path. Of course, nobody will pay heed to me when I say that, but I mean it strongly. Water has to be paid for. Of course water drops down from the sky, too much in some cases, but the provision of good, fresh, clean water is a necessity in a modern country.
The fact that Fianna Fáil do not want even people who waste water unnecessarily to be included in the legislation is quite nonsensical. I hope, in this instance, that sense will prevail and that the wise words of Noel Dempsey (a former Minister for the Environment ) will prevail - he aired his ideas on water and wastage last weekend.
There were lots of good GAA games at the weekend. I was sorry to see Mayo totally eclipsed by Dublin. Westmeath had a good win over Waterford and are pushing for an immediate return to Division Three. It is a disgrace that a good team like Westmeath is in Division Four, but hopefully that will now change. Next Friday night is the next rugby showing, under the floodlights in Cardiff. We will all be hoping for a positive result.
Last Friday night, I was invited onto the Late Late Show with Galway poet Rita Ann Higgins and George Hook of Newstalk. The debate was to be about growing older. There was some good banter between the audience and the three of us on the panel. I greatly enjoyed the encounter and I particularly took delight in scoring a couple of points off George Hook who, as you know, loves to get his way in all such debates. All in all, an enjoyable night.
Bobby Kerr’s report for the Government on the post offices in Ireland bears most disappointing news. He advises the closure of 80 such post offices. In tandem with these closures, he advises that a number of financial services could be supplied through the post offices. I am looking forward to getting the report and studying it – more about that next week.
Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,