The terrible weather brought out the best in us

I know, readers, that you are probably fed up with talk of the weather, but we simply have to talk more about it!

They keep comparing it to 1982, but I think it was far worse than that when the ‘Beast from the East’ met the ‘Princess from Portugal’, and the result was the blizzard, the high wind and the piled-up snow which was vested in practically all of Ireland. By the way, I will never think kindly of Portugal again after she sent us that dreadful Emma!

I think the counties of Westmeath, Mayo and Galway were among the counties which seemed to escape the worst of the weather. At least here in Athlone we had three days, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, in which nothing moved, and then it began to thaw out and people began to get into their cars and go around.

Now, I know that was not the case in rural areas. I had a call from a woman who was going from Boher to Streamstown on Wednesday of this week and the piled-up banks of snow the whole way along were intimidating and worrying as she did not know when any of them could come crashing down on her. But, all in all, it still was not as bad as we saw, and still continue to see, in parts of Wexford and County Dublin.

I know that people have paid full regard to the Gardaí, army, Civil Defence, volunteers, first responders, and all of the people I have heard and read so many heroic tales about. I am sure everyone else has heard them too. But, really, people did put their own lives in danger when they went to take a pregnant woman or a sick child and get them, by hell or high water, to a hospital. The army was particularly good, and I pay full tribute to everyone who helped in their heroic efforts.

For me, the biggest hero of it all was RTE. We knew, at least, what was going on - the when, where and how it would happen. The announcers, no matter what show, would appear in real time on TV. We saw the likes of Sean O’Rourke and Joe Duffy out and about in those terrible conditions. We could sit, listen and look at them, getting a clear and up to date picture of precisely what was unfolding outside.

We got great, moveable coverage from the Disaster Media Organisation headed up by Sean Hogan. He was brilliant. So calm, so steady and so completely correct in what he thought would happen and in the warnings he gave everyone. If there was an honours system in Ireland I would surely give him an honour for his endeavour and his steadfast work ethic.

Now, many people of my persuasion will not like this, but I admired the role Leo Varadkar played in the ongoing drama. We saw him, steady, giving his summing up of what had been issued and providing a formidable figure again. People like to feel they can look up to someone and certainly in these days of crises we felt that he was a voice of reassurance. That does not mean I believe in his Strategic Communications Unit. No, I do not. But, more of that anon.

Out in the wider world, and getting away from the weather, there is a lot happening in politics in different countries. In Italy, we have had the result of a general election, which looks like stalemate, with Silvio Berlusconi behind the scenes manipulating the chessmen of the political parties.

He cannot be part of any government because there is a charge still on him of non-participation in politics because of corruption, but he is still pulling the strings behind this motley crew, who were elected to various numbers of seats in the recent election.

For the first time in many years, there was snow in Rome recently! Just small snow, but at the same time it was snow.

In Germany, after five months of stalemate, there has been a government formed. Angela Merkel returns for a fourth term as Chancellor of Germany. The Social Democratic Party (SDP ) approved a coalition deal with Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU ). This, in reality, means that an election produced virtually the same government, led by the same chancellor, as had been there prior to it. It will be good for Germany to have had an election, and it will be good for Europe to have her back at the helm of that country.

But, all the snow in the world, all the politics in Italy and Germany, it all boils down to the same issue again now being highlighted day by day, and that is the one of Brexit. I wonder how long it will be before the UK wakes up to the fact that they have made a dreadful mistake and that there should be another referendum?

I listened to, and watched, John Major last week. He was former Prime Minister in the UK and a person whom I always liked, having met him a few times when, in the early days, he was dealing with Albert Reynolds in trying to lead up to the negotiation with the DUP and Sinn Féin.

John Major put a lot of work into that campaign and he was passionate last week when he said that the UK was driving, mindless and blind, towards an abyss from which there was going to be no recovery. He begged the British people to heed him. Likewise, Tony Blair gave a massive speech as well, but it seems that Theresa May is at the mercy of her Brexiteers, who will not let go. They are holding on to her coat tails for all their worth.

Now, I happened to see, for an hour and a half on BBC2, her recent public speech on Brexit, which she gave in the Mansion House in London. Firstly, the good points. She spoke well, she had a good script, whoever wrote it! She contributed to much of it herself, I suppose, but she had a good script, she delivered it well, and she said some hard things.

She said “we will all have to move forward a bit from our entrenched positions, and there is nothing we can do about that. So, let’s move”. Still she held fast in saying she could not agree with the December statement about Northern Ireland. She has to come a long way on that road yet for reality to sink in.

I smiled when I saw the Sinn Féin delegation, led by Mary Lou McDonald, in Brussels talking to Michel Barnier and his negotiating team. Lo and behold! The following day, Theresa May led a team of DUP to Brussels also to speak with Barnier. She had only hard words for him after the meeting, but I doubt it bothers him too much.

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have steadfastly refused to negotiate with Britain, as the say, quite correctly, they are part of the 27 countries with whom they make common calls. The Good Friday agreement is in safe hands in Barnier’s capable remit.

I hope that all the Advertiser readers have recovered from the onslaught of Emma and the Beast and we are all hopeful of a kinder spring from now on.

That is my lot for now.

Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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