STRAIGHT TALKING WITH...MARY O’Rourke

It is very difficult to start to think, talk, and write about politics at home when we have had such a weekend of terror and murder in Paris.

Like many of us, I had been looking at the soccer match on RTÉ 2. I then received a telephone call about something happening in Paris and I switched to Sky TV where the full horror of what was happening was shown vividly.

It is so difficult to comprehend; people in Paris out on a normal Friday night. People going to their local café/pub, their local football stadium, their local concert hall, and then the murder begins.

I have a nephew, Paul Lenihan, living in Paris (brother to Conor and Brian and daughter of Brian Snr and Ann ). My first thought was for him of course, but having telephoned him we were reassured he was nowhere near that part of Paris that night.  

Paul has been living in Paris for some years, married to a French woman with a 10-year-old son. He had explained to me on another occasion that many young, affluent Parisians live in apartments in Paris which are small and compact, unlike many people here who set themselves up in a house.  

This leads to the fact that many Parisians live much of their lives on the streets: children playing in local parks, meals out in the local café/pub for the family, families going together to the local football match, families going together to concerts. This is all part of everyday life in Paris. 

So it was last Friday night in Paris when terror struck. Like many others, I stayed up late on Friday night, watching it on Sky and BBC, and like many others I too went to bed so troubled, so sad for the vibrant French people. On Saturday morning it was reassuring to hear Cathal Mac Coille dealing with a special Morning Ireland which brought us the latest news with great detail.

There were so many killed, so many injured, so many lives changed forever. This was all in the name of the Islamic State. Some images keep repeating and repeating themselves, such as the terrified people fleeing for their lives from the concert hall. Fathers sheltering young children fleeing from the soccer match; men and women pouring out of the pubs and cafés and the utter shock and bewilderment of it all.

I saw a very vivid interview on BBC with a young man who told of the murder in the concert hall where the murderer said ‘Look me in the eye. I want to see your eyes as I kill you’. What provokes this radicalism, this hatred? How can it be assuaged or surmounted? So many questions, so few answers, so much lurking  danger for everyone in Europe.

As I said at the beginning, it is difficult to go back to talk about normal politics but, as always, life goes on. Last Thursday my nephew, Conor Lenihan, launched a book in the National Library called Haughey: Prince of Power. It was a great night with lots of publicity surrounding the event and indeed since that time. It is a good read and I hope it does well.

Then this week we heard of John Bruton’s book called Faith in Politics. I heard him being interviewed on RTÉ on Monday morning and he sounded steady and moderate as always.

Earlier on Thursday I had been asked to preside at and give a keynote speech at the graduation ceremony of Hibernia College at the RDS in Dublin. At that event hundreds and hundreds of primary school and secondary school teachers graduated with their teaching qualifications from Hibernia. It was such an optimistic hopeful event followed, as I said above, by the launch of Conor’s book. Such a contrast between that hope and optimism, and the horrors in Paris 24 hours later.

Back here in Longford-Westmeath over last weekend, we have had an interesting development - Peter Burke, a Fine Gael councillor, has been added to the ticket to join deputies McFadden and Bannon. Peter Burke ran in the last two General Elections and garnered a very large vote, so I am quite sure his addition to the ticket will certainly cause an impact if not an upheaval.

So the election conventions trundle on, now almost completed in every party. The current debate in the Dáil is against a background of ‘the election is coming, the election is coming’. There is a general winding up of legislation, with participants believing this is definitely the roundup of the whole political season.   

Enda Kenny celebrated recently his 40 years in Dáil Éireann.  Imagine, the father of the house - in that he is now the longest sitting uninterrupted Dáil Deputy since his election in a by-election to replace his father, Henry, in 1975.

But overlaying all of this seeming trivia of ordinary life, is the sense of outrage and disbelief coming from Paris.

In the meaning, mind yourself and go safe. 

Slán go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke 

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