A tragic and turbulent week for the US and Spain

Well, murder and mayhem again! The gambling city of Las Vegas was where the latest outrage occurred last weekend. Such wanton destruction and waste.

During the past week, I have been reading Hillary Clinton’s book, What Happened, in the course of which she mentions frequently the very lax gun laws in parts of the US. She cites in particular the huge influence the National Rifles Association (NRA ) has on public opinion in the US. No matter what atrocity has been committed, the NRA uses its huge influence over Congress and the Senate to disallow of any change in the lax gun laws, the result being that it is so easy to buy any quantity of guns for personal uses in many parts of the US.

We heard on the TV the number of guns Stephen Paddock had amassed and the wanton use he put some of them to as he wreaked havoc in Las Vegas. You can be sure that of the 500 that are injured, there will be many fatalities among that number as well. More and more, I think we can appreciate the relatively serene life we have here in Ireland at this time.

I am sure you have been following the vote in Catalonia about removing themselves from the rule of Spain and setting up an independent country. I was hugely surprised to see the force and brutality which the civic guards used when they came in to Catalonia to stop the schools holding the ballot and to move away protesters. The force used was way above what was needed.

I think the best response would have been to talk and not use force. After all, as Winston Churchill said so many years ago, “Jaw, jaw is better than war, war”. It now seems that “jaw, jaw” is what the Government in Spain hopes to have with the people in Catalonia, a serious conversation that should have been held over the last number of weeks. And to think that only two months ago Barcelona was cowering at the mayhem brought to them by ISIS, and we praised the bravery of everyone concerned in those outrages.

A couple of months later, a different kind of mayhem ensued. I hope the Spanish people are able to put it together again and that, somehow, Catalonia, with its capital of Barcelona, will be at peace again with a national Government.

Let us turn to something more positive. And what could be more positive than children reading books. Last week, the Mayor of Athlone, Aengus O’Rourke, was involved in the culmination of a wonderful initiative by the Athlone Library which, I understand, is a nationwide initiative by the Libraries of Ireland. He presented more than 200 children with a medal for reading books from the library during the summer holidays. I thought it was a most marvellous idea.

The ceremony of the mayor with his chain, the young children, having read their books, there with their mother or father or older sister or brother, and the joy of having inspired the love of reading in all those young minds. Well done to the Library Association of Ireland who came up with the idea, and well done to the local head of library services, Gearóid O’Brien, who presided over the event in Athlone Library.

I believe the children were totally enchanted with their books, with the idea of going into the library with their mother and getting out the book, bringing it home, and reading it, and knowing by so doing they were going to be awarded a medal of endeavour. Now, that is the kind of imaginative thinking which is so bound up in the library and its excellent staff. All in all, it was one of the most delightful evenings ever held in Athlone Library, and well done to all concerned.

I see the Postmasters Union are up in arms again now and, of course, they should be as nothing has been settled with them, despite the fact that this dilemma has gone and on for more than three or four years now. I must tell you about a lovely anecdote about the Athlone Post Office. I am a great writer of letters, and I went there recently to buy my stamps and asked if I could have some of the Jack Lynch stamps which had recently come out. Imagine, the lovely, pleasant girl behind the counter in the post office told me that she only had four left, that she was cleaned out of them, but that she was hoping to get in more.

Apparently, as soon as the news that the Jack Lynch stamp came out, lots of people went in to buy it in the post office and it is truly a lovely depiction of him. She said, in particular, older people wanted it. Of course, they would be people who would remember Jack Lynch and the great campaign he wrought in Ireland in 1977. It is a lovely story and it brings the humanity into the post offices.

Hurrrah for Ireland and the rowing awards which they have got in the Florida World Championship. The O’Donovan brothers and Shane O’Driscoll acquitted themselves with great honours, bringing home gold medals. There is no doubt that swimming, rowing and sailing, all water sports, are ones that we as an island nation here in Ireland have excelled in. The Florida games were shown on RTE 2 and it was wonderful to see the skill and the stamina of the Irish rowers.

I must tell you about a lovely event I went to on last Saturday in Arklow. Arklow is running Positive Aging now for the last 10 years and this was their anniversary, and they had a special event in Arklow for it, outlining what they have done and what they hope to do. They are a marvellous group. Every week they have a get-together. People are brought into it by individual volunteers. There is tea/coffee and sandwiches and they all talk together, which is what most people want to do anyway.

They play cards, they play bingo and, from time to time, they visit historical places in the neighbouring counties, or they go on shopping trips to Dublin. All in all, more than one hundred happy, older people all gathered together with Minister Simon Harris, in whose constituency Arklow is sited, and plenty of Fianna Fáil councillors as well. It was a wonderful, uplifting, joyful event and I came away so happy about it.

If you remember, last Saturday was a golden autumnal day all over Ireland. Sunshine from morning until night, and it somehow leant the proceedings a golden hue. Well done to Arklow and to all those in charge of Arklow Positive Aging. You see, there are really positive aspects to getting older, and I was glad to be invited to affirm that with age comes wisdom and participation in life.

We will end with a big hurrah for the wonderful young golfer, Sean Dunne, aged 24, from Greystones.

Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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