Well, so many awful things have happened since we last spoke together, and yet so many hopeful, optimistic things have also happened. So, let us put them all in context.
We had the dreadful background of the fire in the huge high-rise apartment block in Kensington in London called Grenfell Tower. To date, it has been confirmed that well in excess of 70 people have tragically lost their lives - a dreadful event. Looking at the horrendous flames leaping up into the sky, I was left wondering how people were able to live so far up in that block.
Also, almost at the same time, we had the huge fires in Portugal where people succumbed to flames while sitting in their cars, trying to escape from it. An awful scene to witness and, again, huge loss of life. They are the two awful, sad backgrounds to the last seven or eight days.
So, in contrast, let us look at some of the hopeful events we have had here in Ireland.
We have new people in charge! Of course, we all properly and dutifully gave Enda Kenny his due regard and farewell. And yet, it was wonderful to see Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Brexit, going first to the North and then, following that the next day, to M. Barnier in Brussels to talk about Brexit. I think it is good to see new faces, new people, doing worthwhile jobs.
We also had An Taoiseach, Leo Varadakar, calling on Theresa May in London. Watching him on TV, I thought of the childish line, “He’s going to London to see the Queen”. Of course, he was not going to see the Queen, he was going to see Theresa May. And again, he put up a good show – he looked well, spoke well and the whole event carried itself off with éclat and good spirit.
Sometimes, in the face of horror, it is good to pick out events which can be hopeful and inspiring.
In the Dáil we had Michael Ring as a new full Minister, giving his answers with great bravado and knowledge, and everyone wishing him well. Then we had the announcements of the Senior and Junior Ministers last week and this week.
Regina Doherty has got a good lift-up to be a full Minister. She projects a bright image whenever I see or hear from her - I imagine she will make her mark. Eoghan Murphy takes over at housing. I was sorry to see Simon Coveney leave that job. He had put so much time and effort and money and planning into it, that I felt he nearly should have been left in it to continue.
I think he was keen for pastures new, and Leo Varadkar, bearing in mind that Simon Coveney had got such a great vote from the Fine Gael party, was keen to give him whatever he wanted in Cabinet.
The Junior Ministers almost caused as much excitement. I personally was sorry to see Junior Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy demoted. I thought she was good in her job and deserved to be left in it. But, of course, in elections like this there are always winners and there are always losers.
I know what I am talking about in this sphere, I can tell you. At least we missed out, today, on the audacity of Albert Reynolds who sacked eight Senior Ministers and eight Junior Ministers all in the one go.
I remember we walked in like sacrificial lambs to know our fate when we had already been told our fate, before it was publicly announced. But those were different times and, of course, I have intense interest in all that is going on in political terms.
Then we had the whole unseemly row about Máire Whelan, the ex-Attorney General, being appointed to a Judge in the Appeals Court. Now, An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar thought he would squash Micheál Martin when he came in. But there was a definite spark in Micheál Martin on Tuesday last when he was answering Leo Varadkar, and he let him have both barrels. Rightly so, I thought, proclaiming that Maura Whelan was no Frank Clarke or Adrian Hardiman.
So, the exchange between the two of them was rough and robust but, in my opinion, tht is all the better. The air was well cleared. So, I think Leo Varadkar and Micheál Martin will be good for one another - each will bring out the best in their opposite number.
Westmeath had a great GAA win last Saturday in their replay match against Offaly, winning by a handsome margin. Westmeath will be playing Dublin next Sunday in Croke Park, and I suppose we all know how that will end, but it is great experience for them and there are a few terrific players on the Westmeath team.
As a final note, I must tell you all about a wonderful event which will take place on Wednesday and Thursday, June 28 and 29, in the Radisson Blu Hotel in Athlone. The ‘50+ Exhibition’ will have a variety of speakers and stands and events going on all day which are just terrific.
For instance, we have Sinéad Ryan of the Irish Independent and RTÉ holding a personal finance clinic and there are loads of other areas being covered such as gardening, legal, cooking, arts and crafts. One by one each stand, I feel, will be wonderful to savour and to view. And, to blow my own trumpet, I am giving a creative writing workshop as well. So, I am looking forward to it.
The people who are putting on this show also put out a very attractive magazine called Senior Times - beautifully produced and with quality writing in it. So, do not forget June 28 and 29 at the Radisson Hotel in Athlone.
By the way, the Radisson Hotel has undergone a complete transformation in its layout, particularly on the ground floor. Wonderful new carpets and the bar completely refigured. A terrific refurbishment and, whatever the weather, it has fine views over the River Shannon.
I’m coming to the end of my piece now. I am supposed to write 1,000 words per week, and in the last four or five weeks so much has been the political and other activities that I have written 300 to 400 words more!
Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,