Smooth transition in France contrasts with upheaval at home

Well, the French do not waste time, do they?

On May 7, Emmanuel Macron was elected by a huge majority in France. The following week, May 14, he was installed as President in the Elysee Palace and Francois Hollande was sent packing. No hanging around there, was there? Then he made the trip to Germany to meet Angela Merkel who seems to be like the headmistress of Europe. They all must go and report to her before any serious business is done.

Back in France, Macron has the task of fielding more than 300 candidates for the National Assembly elections in June for his En Marche party, and that will be some task. The last we saw of Francois Hollande was a lonely wave from the back of the car as he was swept away from the Elysee Palace.

Macron’s wife, Brigitte, is to be installed with her own office and staff in the Elysee Palace but she will not get a salary. He was quite clear on that.

Then we had the visit to the Dáil, and later to the border area, of Michel Barnier who spoke in the upper house. All of the various party leaders also contributed their views on Brexit. The soft words from Barnier (and they were really soft ) has not convinced me at all that Brexit for the Republic of Ireland will be in any way eased by any of these European visits.

Anyway, it is far too soon to say, but I suppose looking at it in the round it is no harm that we are within, for the moment, the warm embrace of Barnier and his team of negotiators. The prickly stuff is bound to come later.

Of course, the big news this week was will Enda stay or go? I am writing this piece for the Advertiser prior to the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting. I can only repeat what I have said all along - I cannot understand why either the Fine Gael Party or the over-weaning ambitions of two candidates should force the exit of the Fine Gael Taoiseach of this country.

The media are fascinated and cannot leave the topic alone. Many of the serious programmes on radio lead off with a discussion on it and there is always a Mr or Ms Know All on the radio who has fresh comments to add to the debate, which really come to nothing.

While all this is going on, I think back to the heaves within the Fianna Fáil party. There was the first heave that I can remember against Jack Lynch. I was not a member of the Dáil but I was on the Fianna Fáil National Executive. Jack Lynch had in 1977 achieved a huge result for Fianna Fáil. Within two years the plots were afoot and the heave had begun.

Then, later on, there were the various heaves against Charlie, and I was a member of the Oireachtas for all of those and can so vividly remember them. Charlie survived three of them, but on the fourth he succumbed and Albert had his way as Taoiseach.

Later, Brian Cowen was ousted and Micheál Martin became leader of Fianna Fáil. And so it goes on. You see, in Fianna Fáil the heaves are blood-thirsty, dirty, and extraordinary.

In Fine Gael, they are extraordinary to another extent in that they seem all very well-mannered and private about it all, but I think that underneath,l things are as dirty as ever it has been in such an upheaval.

People often say to me, why do I seem to have a soft spot for Enda Kenny? The answer is simple - I recognise that he has brought the party and the country to a fresh place of renewal and that in turn has been good for the country.

On Tuesday night of this week, I was in Edenderry Parish Church at 7.30 Mass. Why? Because I had been invited by the parish priest Fr McEvoy to speak at Mass there. Every May he invites five different people for the five Tuesday nights in May to give a lecture during Mass, and I was invited for this Tuesday night.

Mind you, I was quite scared going I can tell you. To stand up in a church and face a thousand people without knowing how your words will be received, and how in general, the lecture will go down, is nerve-wrecking. Anyway, all’s well that ends well.

I would like to come now to a very local issue for Athlone and that is the survival of the Midlands Postal Centre. The issue is between Athlone and Portlaoise which also has a Midlands Postal Centre.

To go back in the history a bit, in the early ‘90s there was a new postal centre built on the outskirts of Athlone, which very quickly proved to be too small for the volume of work which was to be contained therein. We are talking of the heyday of the Postal Service. So, the new Athlone Midlands Postal Centre was built and also the Portlaoise one.

Now the fight is on between Athlone and Portlaoise and, of course, I am firmly on the side of Athlone to retain its Midlands Postal Centre. There is considerable disquiet and worry about the whole matter and I know that the staff have met with Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten. And so the saga goes on.

In the meantime, the original postal centre at Clonbrusk in Athlone lies idle in a lovely area outside the town. I would like to plant the idea that this site, which is fast becoming derelict, could be sold, giving some much-needed finance to the Postal Service and in turn help firm up the Athlone case to be retained as the Midlands Postal Centre.

David Redmond, the head of An Post, has an unenviable task ahead of him to try to shore up the finances which, in all aspects of the postal work, is entering a decline. People are not posting letters and I would be so sorry to see that happen. Of course people are not posting letters when they have email. Postmasters have put forward a very viable plan and why the Government is not moving on it, I cannot understand.

I am sure of one thing. Denis Naughten is a very able and clever Minister, and I have no doubt that he will work his way through all these difficulties which have erupted in front of him. By the way, more than half of the staff employed in the Athlone Postal Centre are from South Roscommon, his own constituency!

So, on that note, I’ll end and hope to talk with you all again next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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