Let us begin this week’s column by talking about the marvellous weekend of sports we had here.
Firstly, last Saturday, we had the Lions versus New Zealand. I was travelling to Dublin that morning and so was not able to go somewhere and watch it on TV, but I had the full radio programme on the way up. The Lions were just magnificent and the Irish players, each in their own way, were superb.
I thought Conor Murphy the best of them. The Lions really roared! Next Saturday, get yourself invited to someone who has Sky TV for 8.30am. I intend to go out to my son’s house. They will be up anyway because both Aengus and the young lads will be looking at it. So, we will have a good morning.
Then, on Sunday we had the wonderful GAA games, and I was glad to see Galway triumph, likewise Kerry and Mayo. So, following the results of those matches, we are set for some good games to come.
I see where Leo Varadkar is going to ask Enda Kenny to join his Brexit team. I thought it a good idea, but I have an even better one for Leo: why not invite Bertie Ahern also to join the Brexit team?
It is not so much for the European contacts, as many of them would have gone on since his time, but there is no one in Ireland who has the knowledge of the North and the Good Friday Agreement and all that that entails more than Bertie Ahern. And would it not be a wonderful embracive idea to invite Bertie to join that team? We will wait and see.
I received a lovely invitation from the Athlone Boat Club to their buffet dinner next Saturday night to mark the 180th anniversary of when they were set up. They started in Athlone in 1837 and have been going constantly since. That is a great record and they are a terrific club, competing in regattas all around Ireland. They are held in great esteem and I always think they give so much to a town, and especially to a town with a large river like the Shannon. To see the outriggers on the water is a fine sight.
There is a great “carry on” going on at the moment about rubbish! By that I mean all of the politicians are getting themselves into a complete lather about the charges for rubbish collection which Minister Naughten has announced. Speaking for all of us in Athlone, we never had brown bins, so we do not know they are talking about when they discuss the brown bins, but I guess they are some of the upcoming changes we will be seeing.
By and large, I fully approve of diminishing the amount of waste we have. But why oh why when we purchase things are they in a huge box or wrapped in rounds of paper, all of which have to be disposed of? Everything one buys should be the article itself, not a myriad of wrappings.
There is much talk recently of the fiscal space that will be available to the Government for the October budget - the fiscal space being the amount of money which will be available for improvements in social welfare, education, and other areas. I heard Leo Varadkar recently say that they hope to get some extra fiscal space from looking at every Minister’s budget to see where programmes are still being run that maybe have gone out of date or are no longer in use.
The minute I read that I thought back to the night when we were all appointed ministers in 1987. Charlie Haughey was Taoiseach and Ray McSharry was Minister for Finance. We had our first cabinet meeting in the Áras, as is the usual thing, and during the course of it Charlie Haughey said that the Department of Finance was going to go into every Government Department, ruthlessly, and cut out all programmes which were no longer of use in that Department.
He then said, “The first Department we will tackle will be the Department of Health and then the Department of Education because they have the largest budgets.”.
He looked at Rory O’Hanlon and myself and said, “And remember, you two, there’ll be blood on the carpets, so if anyone wants to get up and go let them go now.”
Needless to say, no one stirred and so it came about. But there was some fiscal space, though we did not call it that then, found in many a Department, so I guess the same people in the Department of Finance have given that idea to Leo Varadkar as they gave it to Charlie Haughey all those years ago.
Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
We are all sorry, here in Athlone, that Canon Liam Devine is leaving us to go to Loughlynn. Canon Devine is a long time the main man on the Connacht side of the town, in the Parish of Ss Peter and Paul. But, he is greatly loved all around the town. Everyone likes his open manner, the way he has a word for everyone, and his kindness to so many people.
We will all greatly miss him and, of course, we wish him well in his new parish of Loughlynn. But we mourn his going and wish he was never transferred. Good luck to you, Canon Liam, you have left many sore hearts behind you in Athlone, and many lifelong friends too.
And, the sad saga of the North trundles on with no favourable outcome. But, the good Tommie Gorman keeps us all in the picture.
I am trying to be brisk now, as you know, in my writing, so that is all my chat for this week. I look forward to talking with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,