Chaos in Catalonia and reflections in Tallaght

Well, Catalonia is bubbling away, and increasingly looking serious. I had thought that somebody would intervene and bring the two sides together where there could be meaningful debate, but somehow that has never happened and I fear now that Spain is going to move in with its heavy-handed diplomacy again and the result will be even more chaos.

The moot point about all of this is, if the government in Spain had allowed the Catalonian referendum to go ahead it would have been defeated, but Spain came with the heavy hand and police on the day of the referendum and any chance of a decent settlement between the national parliament and the parliament in Catalonia took distinct steps backward.

Let’s hope that reason will eventually be the winner in this contest.

Recently, I was invited to a lovely event in the Civic Theatre in Tallaght, where the poet and writer, Dermot Bolger curated a day of talks with authors. It was a wonderful occasion and I was so pleased to be so invited. During the course of the day I met with Julie Parsons who has recently written a wonderful new crime novel and we had a great discussion about her grandfather, who started the Parsons shoe shop in Athlone many, many years ago. We had other wonderful authors, not all of whom I managed to get to speak to, as we were all there at different times.

Dermot Bolger himself is an extremely gifted writer and poet as many of you will know, and he managed the whole day beautifully. The idea was first mooted by the Dublin South City Librarians and they are hopeful that it will continue each year. Dermot Bolger interviewed the author and then the huge audience asked questions which, I always think, is a wonderful part of any engagement. It is great to hear the questions people ask and the answers often leave the author with so many opportunities to explain something which, heretofore, she might not have had. All in all, a very satisfactory day.

As we are talking about authors I want to tell you all about the recent Hillary Clinton book, titled “What Happened”. Hillary Clinton has written a fascinating, highly personal and highly self-critical book in which it is clear that she is quite aware of what caused her to fail to win the presidential election in the USA. It is a wonderful read, over four hundred pages, written in clear language and with a huge degree of humility and a self-awareness of her failings.

I had, two weeks earlier, read a book called “Shattered” which was written by a group of her advisors during the presidential campaign. So, the combination of the two books, and their various viewpoints, gave me an all-round picture of the scene at that fateful time in US politics.

Hillary quotes, in her book, so many fine proverbs from all over the world, but one in particular struck me and it was a Japanese proverb “Keep the bough green, and soon the singing birds will come”. I read and re-read that and it struck me. It packed such a powerful message. Think of it! It can apply to any person in any situation and yet it is extraordinarily apt and personal.

We spoke in this column recently of the very fine Mayo woman, GAA player Cora Staunton. I hear now that she has been offered six months, in a professional capacity, in Australia and it appears that she is going to accept it. It is a wonderful accolade to Cora’s stamina and professionalism during all her years of playing for her native county of Mayo.

Recently, I received a lovely invitation to speak at a public lecture in the Royal College of Physicians in Dublin’s Kildare Street. The lecture was entitled “Aging Well and Living Well”. The platform party was two medical people, a nutritionist and myself. I am normally quite sanguine about such events. I think about the event in advance and plan out in my mind what I will say. I don’t write it out, but then I stand up and give it out, so to speak.

However, on this occasion, when I stood up, in the College of Physicians, and looked out at the huge crowd of over three hundred people, all looking up at me, I felt an unfamiliar flutter of apprehension in my stomach. However, the whole night went very well and there was, again, a huge Q&A from the floor to all of us on the platform party. Some very interesting questions from the audience, some of which gave us all food for thought.

Great excitement in Athlone on Saturday, at the Athlone Civic Centre, for the erection of a plaque to commemorate Jadotville and the brave soldiers who were involved in that ambush. The families of these soldiers are, only now, getting their due recognition. So many of them were from Custume Barracks in Athlone so this was a great occasion in Athlone for such an event.

We are in the throes of storm Brian but, all in all, the marching soldiers have endured much more than that. The whole event was so enjoyable, so historical and so fitting for the heroes and their families.

Are we ever going to settle the Post Offices dispute in Ireland? Every couple of weeks it emerges and we have different spokespeople on the radio and TV, all saying what they could do if only such and such a thing was granted to them. Then it fades away again and there is no more word of it until, two or three weeks later, the issue emerges again. I cannot understand why the government of the day, and the Oireachteas in general, cannot come to a satisfactory conclusion on the whole issue.

Three cheers for Joe Ward, the Westmeath boxer, who received an award of recognition from the Athlone Municipal Council. Three cheers also for Ibrahim Halawa who has finally come back home to his family in Dublin after four years in jail in Egypt.

That’s my lot for this week.

Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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