Tragedy in the US makes political issues pale in significance

So many dreadful things appear to be happening throughout the world now.

Firstly, there was the awful killing of 17 people, most of them children, in Florida recently by the ex-student of the college. I do not know what has to happen to force the Republican ruling party in the US to enact clear measures against the easy purchase of guns by anyone who wants them. The young man who did all the killings was able to amass, during the last 12 months, up to 18 rifles, and with no trouble whatsoever.

The National Rifle Association (NRA ) seem to have an unholy grip, not just on the ruling party, but equally so on the Democratic Party. It works to the extent that all members are afraid to come out and ensure, on an all-party basis, that there are much stricter guidelines for the selling of killer rifles. To think of all those innocent school children gunned down mercilessly, and to think that school is the most unsafe place in the US at the moment, is just too difficult to even fathom.

For us back here in Ireland, the Northern situation, as everyone will know, has become extremely serious. Yes, I know Mary Lou McDonald has succeeded Gerry Adams as leader of Sinn Féin, just at a time when it looked like the talks between the DUP and Sinn Féin were going to come to an amicable conclusion. But all has now broken up, with Sinn Féin insisting that there will be a stand-alone Irish Language Act.

Now, I do not know where that is going, but I looked at and listened to Bertie Ahern on Monday night on the Claire Byrne Show. He said so many wise things that I found myself saying again and again, ‘why doesn’t the present government use his accumulated wisdom over the North, over Brexit, over the talks’. Literally no one knows as much about the North. The wisdom he gained through all the torturous negotiations which he, and others, undertook, should surely be utilised.

In the Claire Byrne interview, Bertie quite rightly said that he did not know why An Taoiseach and the UK Prime Minister were rushing up north to be present at what they thought was going to be a good news story. Of course, the evening ended in stalemate. Theresa May landed with kisses all around, but we never saw her going away, and I am sure the kisses were well gone by then.

To my mind, the two leaders going there was both tasteless and unnecessary, and now the obduracy of Sinn Féin and the equal obduracy of the DUP have become manifest.

Over all hangs the shadow of Brexit, which is becoming more muddled by the day. It seems, in the UK, that Theresa May has laid out a series of six lectures in which prominent cabinet ministers will talk about the road to Brexit. These lectures are supposed to be providing clarity – a visible road map.

So far, we have had Boris Johnson in the UK delivering an archaic-like, completely aspirational lecture invoking the past wonderful times of imperialism in the UK, and the wonderful country it was, and could yet become, if Brexit was negotiated correctly. But, he gave absolutely no details of how it should be negotiated.

To my mind, and to the mind of many other people, Boris Johnson is, with his shirt hanging out and his wild blonde hair, just a notice-box. I am really sorry to think that the Foreign Affairs Minister of the UK is being regarded as that. He never mentioned the North of Ireland.

Then, on Tuesday, we had David Davis in Vienna, giving the second of these major speeches in which he said everything would be settled by the end of this current year. Again, short on detail and we were left none the wiser.

I understand that Liam Fox, the Trade Cabinet Member for Brexit, will be next in line for what will be again, I am sure, a vague Brexit lecture. We have had enough of the UK politicians preening and posturing in their ‘marvellous’ speeches, and not a word out of any of them about the Good Friday Agreement or the North of Ireland.

I do not blame Theresa May. She is actually quite helpless in her cabinet, faced with loud Brexiteers and a few, more demure members who want to stay in the EU, and she is at the mercy of them on a daily basis.

I fear vague Brexit lectures, delivered in great salons all over Europe, will not suffice if the British Government does not have due regard to the arrangement worked out last December for the North of Ireland, and all the ramifications of the Good Friday Agreement.

Now, a bit of bright news for a change. Athlone has been in the Project Ireland Plan produced last Friday in Sligo. Athlone is designated as the growth centre for the Midlands. I know I spoke about this last week but it has now come to pass. The future is laid out for us now in Athlone to make what we can of this new designation.

It has now come to pass that the Executive of Roscommon County Council and the Executive of Westmeath County Council made a very strong case for Athlone to be so designated, as well as the Destination Athlone committee. The crowning glory of it all was the full support of Minister Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran and Minister Denis Naughten, who has always regarded Athlone as one of his base areas.

The sniping should stop immediately from Mullingar and Tullamore. Athlone is now the growth centre and, in its own way, will embrace what is good for Mullingar, Tullamore, Roscommon, Ballinasloe and all of the towns round it.

Now that I have all those tirades out of me, I should end my musings this week on some good news. Next Saturday we will have Ireland versus Wales in the rugby, and we hope Ireland will continue on its winning way. However, beware of Wales, they are a very doughty team and will put up a good fight.

Katie Taylor’s next outing is April 28 to defend her title and that is something to look forward to as well.

That is my lot for now. Sorry for all the giving-out I did, but all that I wrote needed to be said and written, and I look forward to talking with you all again next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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