Echoes of the past - how far have we moved on?

So here we are again after another week of talks.

It is very difficult to understand how grown men and women cannot come to a conclusion which will lead to a government for this country. We are beset by housing problems, health problems, and educational problems, and yet it seems as if the issue of the provision of water was the one causing the impasse.

People have started to stop me on the street and say “What are you all up to?” I mainly try to tell them that it has nothing to do with me and that I am no longer in a position to be able to influence those people in the talks, but I wish I was, I wish I was. I would really tell them some home truths.

At my local Applegreen store recently a fine south Roscommon farmer stopped me and said “Bring back Charlie Haughey – he’d have those talks over and done within two days.” Sadly, of course, we can’t bring back those who are gone before us. I thought, however, that there was a ring of truth in what he said.

Roscommon ran a very interesting seminar last week in the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown. It was organised by the Roscommon Older People’s Council (ROPC ). They had a wonderful crowd of participants with delegates there from Meath, Kildare, and other further away counties, together with a massive crowd of several hundred from Roscommon town and county.

The theme of the seminar was how to make the banking industry more suitable and more accessible for older people. The ROPC had asked me to open the event and I was very honoured to do so.

I was also glad of the opportunity to air my favourite crib about the banks. Why, oh why, when you want to ring your local bank are you now answered by a person who demands that you press 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... before you find yourself cut off? It is the most frustrating and annoying part of modern life.

They don’t have any regard as to whether you are adept at email or not. It is surely wrong that the bank where you are doing your banking business, modest though it may be, cannot answer you as a person with a voice and a name who will speak up and answer your query. It seems to me that this is technology gone wrong.

More and more firms are doing this and it is utterly annoying - and so surprising when you get a decent answer. Some days ago I rang a large firm in Dublin and a female voice answered. I said “Are you a real person with a face and a voice?” and she roared laughing and confirmed “I am”. She gave me her name and put me through to the person to whom I wished to speak and the whole interchange was so pleasant and speedy that I wished so much that the banks would follow up on that example.

I expect that by now you have all filled in your census forms. Last Sunday night I sat down to fill mine, which is easily done because it is just for myself. My mind went wandering back to the Bible story we know. Jesus and Mary were on their way to their nearest settlement/ town to fill in their census when Mary, heavily pregnant, had to stop in Bethlehem to give birth to baby Jesus.

I always thought that a lovely story. Careful Joseph was doing his civic duty which was to register himself and his wife, Mary. And before they got to register they were a family of three.

We are having some beautiful April weather of late. How wonderful it is to see the blue sky and the trees coming into foliage and to hear the birds in full flight and voice. As you get older you relish days like this so much. It quite simply makes life much easier, whether you are going to town or going on a journey. It’s wonderful for children when school is over and they can fly helter-skelter with nothing in their mind except for this wonderful day and all the hours of sunshine spread before them.

I love spring. It heralds another year and it is so wonderful to be immersed in nature as it is exploding all around you.

I have a small magnolia tree in my back garden and it is in full leaf and bloom as I compile this piece. When I look out my kitchen window I see it and it brings back so many memories; the group of Athlone Fianna Fáil women who presented it to me in early 1992 (more about that another time ).

Enda planted the tree and at the time said to me “I will put it right opposite the kitchen window so when you are washing up at the kitchen sink you will look out and be joyful when you see it”. How some women would disagree with that and say “Women shouldn’t be at the kitchen sink”. But every time I look at it, of course, I think of Enda as he planted that tree, which for many years never bloomed and then suddenly one morning, as I lifted up the kitchen blind, there it was unfolded before me.

I had a tear in my eye that morning – a tear for Enda, long gone, a tear for the Fianna Fáil women way back in the 80s and the 90s, but above all, a tear of joyful remembrance of times past.

Let’s hope that when next we talk we will have a government.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill,

Mary O’Rourke

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