Politics, post offices, and personal tributes

I hope the Advertiser readers had a nice Easter. With the lovely dry weather and knowing that each day you were going to be able to go outside, I thought it was one of the best Easter weekends, weatherwise, we have had in a long time.

Of course, over these few days there was the huge grief associated with the Interim Report of the helicopter crash. I can only imagine the pain that the families of the four suffered on hearing some of their loved ones’ voices, and in particular the last cry of “We’re gone”. I can only imagine the horror of those listening to all of that.

I note that Niamh Fitzpatrick, the sister of Captain Dara Fitzpatrick, walked in Waterford with the coastguards, who did a walk of honour for their deceased comrades. Immense personal grief can be very hard to go through, and I hope and pray that each family has people who rally around and support them.

We have Bertie Ahern coming to Athlone this Thursday (April 20 ). Athlone Fianna Fáil invited him to talk to them about Brexit, the North, the Peace Process, as all of these matters are so intertwined. I know that himself and John Bruton have already been invited to the House of Lords Brexit Committee.

Likewise, Bertie was invited to the Seanad Brexit Committee, and the members in Athlone felt it was the right thing to do to invite him to talk to them of the processes which will be following now with the triggering of the Brexit opt-out.

Not to be outdone, we had Enda Kenny last Saturday in town. He was in Savoury Fayre. The people who own and run those restaurants are from Mayo and, apparently, An Taoiseach is friendly with them. He was on the cycle and walkway from Mullingar to Athlone for the charity Motor Neurone and he called to see his Mayo friends. My daughter-in-law Lisa, and her family of four, were in the restaurant at the time and when he was going out he high-fived the young children and had a general bright hello for everyone. So now, Athlone is definitely in the news with a past Fianna Fáil Taoiseach and a present-day Taoiseach.

The whole Post Office saga is dragging on with no clear end in sight. I tried to get the Bobby Kerr Report, but I could not as it has not yet been made public. There is great confusion who exactly is in charge of the Post Offices. Is it Denis Naughten? Michael Ring? Heather Humphreys? There was quite a rift between Michael Ring and Denis Naughten over who should be carrying the can for such bad news.

Right now, if you are posting a letter it will cost you €1 and that is only to get the Post Offices into some sort of viable shape. It seems there is a plan, but people are afraid to put it forward. I wish they would do so and then everyone would come to grips with what could be done to save the viable Post Offices, but clearly the non-viable ones will prove very difficult to manage.

I am a great letter and card writer myself. At least once a week, I go over to the main Post Office on the Connacht side of the town which, of course, is a very busy one. We will see what will happen, but I think it will benefit everyone if the full report came out and everyone knew where they stood on that matter.

I told you last week we were going to the Hodson Bay on Saturday night to judge the Strictly Come Dancing from St Dominic’s GAA Club in Knockcroghery. It was a truly wonderful night’s entertainment - great acts and a general good spirit all round. St Dominic’s ran three nights, Friday night (Good Friday ) for children and young people, Saturday night with 14 acts, and Sunday night again with another 14 acts. They raised over €500 each night and I hope that the funds so gained will be of great help to St Dominic’s in building up their club.

Munster won out over Ulster in the rugby, but only just. Leinster got one over on Connacht, but of course the big games will be next week and I’m looking forward to those.

Last Thursday night, I was invited to the award of training certificates from the Dr Stevens Employment and Training Centre here in Athlone, and I was delighted to go. Dr Stevens is one of the great success stories of recent times in Athlone. It was set up in 1994 when employment prospects were very weak and it aimed to give the people who flocked to it proper training in different levels of expertise, so that they would be well-trained and fit to go out into the employment market.

Bernie Mannion was the manager then when I knew it in the ‘90s and she is still the manager. She is one those people who works so hard in the centre and the courses have strengthened while she has been there. Bernie runs the Dr Stevens Centre and she and her small group of trainers give the up-to-date training to each applicant for their courses. The Dr Stevens Centre originally was in Lloyds Lane, and when Lloyds Lane could no longer cope with the numbers, they moved to their new place in Golden Island.

The trainees who went up to receive their certification were so happy and proud. I often think success stories such as Dr Stevens Centre do not get enough acclaim. We applaud when new jobs come to a town, and of course that is very wonderful, but we should also recognise gold star success stories like the Dr Stevens Training and Employment Centre.

I had a lovely Easter with some of my Dublin family who came down on Saturday, and then on Sunday we all went out together for lunch. I think bank holidays are wonderful because you can party and talk as much as you like on Saturday and Sunday knowing that you will have Monday to rest and catch up.

The All Ireland Drama Festival beckons shortly and we will have many artistic and drama types around the town. We are always delighted to welcome the dramatic groups from all over the country, and every year there are a few surprises.

I’ll talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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