“Oh! What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive” - Sir Walter Scott
I do not like the idea of beginning a column with bad news, but there are three current issues in Ireland which I feel I should mention.
The first is the unexplained Gardaí breath tests, of which we await further details.
Next, the scandal of the tracker mortgages within the banks which, I feel, is going to be huge in its implications when we get the full measure of it.
The third issue is that of bullying and sexual allegations within the workforce.
Now, all of those above are currently in the jargon of today within our own country, so I certainly think they warrant mention by me, as many, many people are talking about them.
Having mulled over all of the above, everyone was stunned to hear and read of the gun attack on a small Baptist church in a small village in Texas. All over the US, in those small villages, there are churches of different denominations, where the locals go to for their Sunday service. You can imagine them dressed up in their Sunday best with their children in tow. And then, they had the incursion of the murderous shooter who killed 26 people, many of them children, and who injured more than 30.
What a dreadful event, and you can only imagine the village atmosphere where almost 30 per cent of the small population has been wiped away at one stroke. Lax gun laws again?
Let us try to turn to happier news.
I am sure many of you looked at the presentation on RTE1 on Friday night when there was the PWC GAA All Star Awards, football and hurling, for the year. I was particularly interested because my older son, Feargal, is in PWC and, of course, I wanted to view the whole event.
The Convention Centre looked splendid with the women and men togged out in all their finery. You would hardly recognise the players as they went up on the stage to get their accolade. I am told that 1,600 people enjoyed a wonderful meal afterwards.
It was great to see Andy Moran from Mayo getting the Footballer of the Year, and Joe Canning of Galway getting Hurler of the Year. It was so appropriate that both awards went west of the river Shannon, from where those great players and teams emerged. Dublin just gets so much, so it was, if you like, a good reward for the western counties.
I was born and brought up, for the first 22 years of my life, west of the River Shannon, so I can admire all of the endeavour and the inequalities which often exist west of the Shannon.
What do you think of the RTE changes? Come January 1 we will have Keelin Shanley and Caitriona Perry presenting the headline 6pm TV news. It will be interesting to see how they make the changeover but, as you know, in earlier columns, I have already referred to the composure and calm demeanour of Caitriona Perry when she has reported so faithfully from the US. So, we will have something to comment on when all that begins.
Then, of course, we had Brian Dobson transferring from the 6pm news to RTE Radio 1’s Morning Ireland at 7am. That has been some change of schedule for him and, of course, means very early rising to go in and to be prepared for that headline am show on radio. For a long time we had Cathal Mac Coille, who was the star of that show, and he has now retired.
In my mind, it is a good move by RTE. They have two main shows that almost everyone who can looks at or listens to. Now they are providing fresh faces and voices with a stimulus to keep those shows up front and lively.
Catalonia! Oh Catalonia! Matters are moving along and, at least in a legal sense, a general election will be called in Spain on December 21 and, hopefully, both side will abide by the result of that election.
This Wednesday I attended Dublin to chair a session of a symposium entitled “Five Years on from the Children’s Referendum?” It was jointly hosted by the Children’s Rights Alliance, Barnardos and ISPCC, and I was delighted to go.
One of my last jobs in the Dáil between 2007 and 2011 was to chair the All-Party Committee to find the appropriate wording for the Children’s Referendum. I was delighted to have been invited to do so by the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. All the members of the committee worked very hard and came up with what formed the basis of the wording on which we then all voted. I enjoyed that committee and, indeed, everyone on it worked so well together.
Looking over my notes, I note that we met for two years and three months and held, overall, 62 meetings. We met each Wednesday at 5pm. The committee was very lucky to have the services of a wonderful civil servant, Anne Marie Fahy, who was in charge of us all and who really helped and guided so much.
Each Wednesday at 4pm, before the meeting, she would come over to me in my Dáil office and we would go through all of the submissions which had been made and we would talk about the procedure of the meeting ahead. In all, we had 170 submissions, both written and oral, and each was gone through so thoroughly.
I have always felt it the greatest honour to have been appointed by Bertie Ahern to be the Chair of that committee, and to have worked with so many fine Dáil and Seanad members. As I have stated, it was an all-party committee and, obviously, from time to time, there would be tensions and there would be semi-rows, but always we came back to the central question, what are we all doing here?
That one question would bring us all up short because, of course, we knew what we were doing there was talking about the rights of a child, and hoping, by our work, that we would chart out those rights in a better fashion. That usually brought us back into the present day and tensions were forgotten.
There were some wonderful people on that committee. People like Michael Noonan, Alan Shatter, Brendan Howlin, Frances Fitzgerald and so many more. Completely dedicated to the task in hand and determined that they would stay with it until we reached a satisfactory conclusion.
On March 10, 2010, I presented my report to the Dáil and Barry Andrews, who was the Minster of State for Children, carried that through to the Seanad.
That is my lot for now. Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,