Brexit deal scuppered and a little dose of humble pie

Well, we all know Christmas is coming, but before that comes about, so much has happened in the past week that it is difficult to know quite where to begin.

First of all, it was the Brexit deal that was not. On Monday, from early morning, we had the leaked communiqué which was going to please everybody and would certainly suit the Ireland scene, north and south. Then there was the mystery of the telephone call to Theresa May as she was having lunch with Jean-Claude Juncker.

Can you imagine the drama of that? She is in the middle of her delicious food and chatting away to Juncker and then in comes the message that she is urgently wanted on the telephone. And, of course, who is it? It is the DUP in the person of Arlene Foster. And, whoosh! Just like that, the deal is scuppered. Leo Varadker and Simon Coveney have to come out and announce that there is no deal, and the whole wrangling starts again.

Of course, the mystery of the whole thing is that Theresa May, or somebody acting on her behalf, did not see to square the DUP before all of this civil service - working at wording over the weekend - took place. She must have decided that she could do it without their imprimatur, but they certainly were not having it.

We saw the photographs on the TV and on the papers the day after and it was very hard to bear the grins of the DUP as they gloated in their victory. So, away go the civil servants and more and more toiling over the words to find what words can appeal to the hard-liners in Theresa May’s Cabinet, to the DUP, and to the rest of us. I still think Brexit will not actually happen, but we will have to wait and see what develops over this week and next week.

Then, of course, we had the aftermath of the election that was not. Now, I know that in last week’s column, I briefly referred to the fact the election was not taking place, and that people seemed to prefer Santa to the canvassers at the door. Be that as it may, we were all glad, in the end, that it did not happen.

But, coming from that, I think there is an evident new respect between Micheál Martin, as the Leader of Fianna Fáil, the party which has the Confidence and Supply Arrangement with Fine Gael, and the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. I notice it in both of their demeanours and the words they exchange. Now, that would be a good thing, if that is what has come out of the whole matter.

Micheál Martin’s authority and standing has definitely been strengthened and, I think, it has been no harm at all for An Taoiseach to have had to eat a certain amount of humble pie, and to have an equanimity between both of them now. We will see how that develops too. It is early days yet, but last week I thought there would be an election immediately in the spring. Now I do not think so. We will see the cycle through to the third budget, as was originally envisaged, and that is October 2018, but any time after that is open territory and the likelihood of an election is high.

President Trump in the USA has finally got his tax deal through both arms of congress and now it awaits becoming law. This massive tax arrangement will definitely cast a shadow over the shining triumphs of the IDA, who continue to entice the multi-nationals here to Ireland and the very worthwhile employment which they give. Now, it remains to be seen how much of these industrialists will be swayed by the tax opportunities which will open up under President Trump in this new law, but I am sure it will have some effect.

Last weekend in Letterkenny, Co-operation North had a very fine event called Pride of Place. Through Pride of Place, villages and small towns of different sizes, historical sites, housing estates, various categories of awards, were drawn up throughout the whole of Ireland. For Athlone, Brawney Estate came second in their category, which was a great award. Congratulations to all concerned for the work which went into presenting themselves and their houses and surroundings in such good shape that they were considered worthy of such an award. Fore in County Westmeath got an award also for an historical site and the way it presents itself to visitors and makes a good impression.

The weekend before last, we had the Dubliners down. Now, I do not mean the famous singing group, but my son and his wife and two children who live in Dublin. They come down from time to time to visit me and visit Aengus and his family. I had not seen them for about three months and I was amazed at how much their two children had grown and changed in the period since we last met. There was great talk among the mams and dads about parent/teacher meetings, which are going on now in all schools all over Ireland. Mostly in second level, but also at primary school as well.

I have experience of these meetings, both in a previous life when I was a teacher and sat behind my table, with my name up, and waited for the parents to troop in and talk about their Maura, and how she was getting on, etc. I always found those encounters extremely interesting and encouraging, both for the teacher, for the parents and for the pupils. And now, I am living through them again as my own sons tell me of their going to parent/teacher meetings and what they have learned through these meetings.

I am going to end this column this week on a high note for County Mayo, who have known bad days this summer. Last Sunday was the women’s All-Ireland club final in which the Mayo team Carnacon beat Mourneabbey. In the end, a close enough fight but, nevertheless, Mayo were the victors. Of course, chief among those celebrating, and on the front page of the Irish Times on Monday morning, was the one and only Cora Staunton. A wonderful, vivid photograph and Mayo can justifiably revel in their women’s team.

This week, Cora takes off for Australia to start training with the Greater Western Sydney Giants on Thursday. We all wish her well and, indeed, thanks to her for leading the women footballers, for Mayo and for Ireland, with such honour for so long.

I am sure many of the readers note, as I have done, that Christmas seems to come earlier every year. The excitement and the momentum builds now from the end of November. There is no such thing as waiting until December 8 to do your shopping or send your cards. Any house with children in it knows that.

Aengus and Lisa have four children, but there is only one believer in Santa left and that is the seven-year-old who is the youngest of the family. The three others laugh at him and tell him there is no such thing as Santa, but he confided in me last Saturday that he knows that they are wrong and he is right, and Santa is going to visit him and he will not visit them because they do not believe in him. He has his own logic worked out, and who was I to disagree with him?

Anyway, that is 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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