D-Day has come – the Election is called!

This weekend saw the Labour Ard Fheis in Mullingar. It was a fine turnout with Joan Burton the star at the Leader’s Speech. Throughout the weekend there is no doubt the local hero was Willie Penrose – a long-time serving Labour TD for Longford-Westmeath.

Joan Burton did her speech on Saturday night, ably and competently. Willie Penrose and many others got their spots in on Saturday morning. There is no doubt that Willie Penrose will be returned as Labour TD for Longford-Westmeath. He is long-standing and well-liked. His recent Bankruptcy Bill won him plenty of acclaim. I worked with Willie for many years in Dáil Éireann and always found him level-headed and not at all given to rants or insults at the opposition within the constituency.

Before I leave the subject of Ard Fheisana, I want to commend the young woman who gave the lead-in speech at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis. She is Cllr Maura Hopkins who ran in the last by-election in Roscommon and is now standing for Roscommon-Galway for Fine Gael. She gave a calm, composed speech and did herself a lot of favours by her demeanour on that night. It would be churlish of me not to recognise and pay tribute to her for what must have been quite an awesome experience for a young person.

So the Election is called and the date is set! Readers will remember that I forecast this day many, many months ago in this column, and so it is. So, Enda has hoisted his sail and sets forth for Mayo to run his campaign there for re-election with Michael Ring and Michelle Mulherin. They have their work cut out to keep three seats in the face of a determined candidature by Lisa Chambers (FF ) and out in Belmullet by the determined Sinn Féin candidate, Rose Conway-Walsh.

On a different tack, I went to the cinema in Athlone one evening last week to see a film (which I understand is on release all over Ireland ) called Spotlight. The story is about five reporters who form a team called ‘Spotlight’ in the Boston Globe, and who in 2001 released a story they had been following for some time about the Catholic Church in Boston.

The acting is marvellous and one can only admire the sheer tenacity of the five reporters who brought the story to fruition. It is a fine film, but it is very disturbing, so be prepared for that before you go. For me, there was an added interest in the film as I had met Cardinal Law, who features in the film, when I was Boston in 1987. He certainly was formidable then and so the film shows him to be.

Have you been watching Rebellion each Sunday night for the last five weeks? I enjoyed every moment of it. The main characters, of course, but also the back story of so many other people who lived in Dublin at that time.

RTÉ are certainly rolling out everything they have got for the 100th commemoration of 1916. Most Monday nights they run a feature called Ar Son Na Poblachta, which is truly fascinating. TG4 run, from time to time, an hour-long feature on the main people within the GPO on that fateful week. Recently there was a very interesting one on Michael O’Halloran, whom many of us would not have heard much of but who was amazingly brave.

Back in the political realm, what do our readers think of the ‘Fiscal Space’? The best explanation I heard of this phrase is that it is the money that is going to be free to be used for election promises, be they giveaways or taxation reliefs, over the next five years.

I know I have spoken about this before, but I give you a warning again: Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware; or perhaps voter beware and do not believe the promises. We thought all that was to be left behind, but the promises are coming thick and fast now and it is really very disturbing. Why? Because you never know what will be happening in the economy which will make rubbish of those election goodies, so do not be fooled by any of them.

I note with great amusement that Michael Noonan has now adopted Charlie McCreevy’s saving ruse some years ago. At that time Charlie adopted a saving technique whereby money would be put to one side and used for pensions when times got tough. Indeed, even though the present Government from time to time likes to deride some of Fianna Fáil’s policies, they were grateful to rifle Charlie’s ‘Rainy Day Cash Putaway’. So it is now that Michael Noonan is doing the same - plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The candidates and the canvassers are now on the trail. Doors will be knocked on, conversations will be had, promises will be made, and so it goes on. At least we now have the benefit of the longer evenings. It happens every year that we suddenly notice the distinct change in the length of time that it is daylight in the evenings. Likewise, how earlier the light comes in the mornings.

I know this is no new phenomenon, but every year it comes it raises our spirits and our hearts because we know that spring and summer will be coming. No matter how the wind howls and the rain falls now, better times are ahead.

January 30 just passed was the 15th anniversary of the death of my dear and lovely husband, Enda. We are having a celebratory Mass in his honour next Sunday for family and friends.

In my mind, the link between death, and then life to follow on, is always awoken, as surely as the spring, it is a-coming.

We will talk again next week. In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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