The beautiful sun shines a light on our Hidden Heartlands

I’m sure you’re all still enjoying the bountiful summer. It is wonderful to wake up each morning and to know that the day will be warm.

Last week I forgot to chat about a great event here in the Midlands, particularly Athlone and the River Shannon and all of the attendant glories of that. We are now officially labelled ‘Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands’. It is a great name to show perhaps, the unseen treasures of the Midlands.

Recently we had Ray D’Arcy down for the day at the Radisson Hotel and he invited some of us up the river in a beautiful boat to experience the glory of the Shannon and the wide reaches of Lough Ree, around Hare Island.

It was really a lovely day and again fully realised by the lovely summer. I think the name for us now, Hidden Heartlands, is so suitable and in its own way so evocative.

Yes, of course, we have always known of Clonmacnoise and of the historical glories which it brings with it, but the hidden treasures which have so often been unexplored are springing into life.

I hear on the radio the concentrated Fáilte Ireland ads for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, and equally so on the TV with shots of Athlone, the River Shannon, the Castle, Sean’s Bar, Luan Gallery – all of the everyday things which we take so much for granted, but of course to the tourist who is so inclined they are wonders to be explored.

All in all, it augurs well for the tourists who visit us and I notice increasingly if I am in town there are groups of tourists of all nationalities walking, pausing, talking, looking and discussing their guide books. It’s a great scene and long may it last.

There’s great talk about the presidential hopefuls who are using the quiet political months to limber up and I hope prepare their manifesto for us to ponder for the forthcoming autumn election.

The news today is that Gerard Craughwell, who was the first in the field, has bowed out. To give him full credit, it was he who stirred the pot and got people thinking and talking that in a democracy there should be a contest, and wonderful and all as Michael D (and that is for sure ) it is good to have a choice.

However, Gerard has decided not to go forward and we await the formal nomination of the Sinn Féin candidate and surely one or two others when the final nominations are wrapped up and counted. It will all help to liven up the quiet month of August and early autumn in September.

Talking of September, I have been invited to be a speaker at the forthcoming Kennedy summer school in New Ross. There are some wonderful speakers on the programme and I note that it is being formally opened by Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy.

There’s a lot of chat going on at the moment about summer schools and what’s the purpose of them, et cetera. Over the years I’ve gone to many, including three times to the Patrick MacGill Summer School in Donegal, and many others.

To my mind you meet people you might not ordinarily meet, you exchange views, your mind is broadened and new ideas are planted in your head.

I always thought the summer schools are a good idea and I hope I can continue to contribute in some small way to the discourse that is generally available at them.

Before that in August I am going with my niece Anita Lenihan for a week to Connemara. We are both looking forward to it as it brings with it happy memories of holidays long ago when the Lenihans and the O’Rourkes holidayed in Ballyconneelly in Connemara when the children were all young together.

This time we will have a more leisurely driving holiday but nonetheless enjoyable I’m sure.

Good news in Athlone this week in that the Mr Price cut-price stores are setting up in Athlone their national headquarters and distribution unit for all of their other stores around the country.

Great GAA games over the weekend, both on TV and on radio. Sadly, Roscommon lost to Donegal 20 to 13 in Hyde Park on Saturday. Our hearts of course were with the Rossies and to my mind they have done well to advance this far.

In St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge, Galway just about held off Kildare in a very exciting game to watch on Sunday. But overall the most exciting game was Monaghan versus Kerry in Clones on Sunday, where the final score was 1 to 17 and the equalising goal by Kerry was scored in the fourth and last minute of injury time.

So far Monaghan and Tyrone have come through the Super 8s in very good condition, but of course the pace is only getting truly exciting now.

And yet, we all know that the final outcome will be Dublin. It is who they will be facing in the final is the puzzle.

They will not have the doughty Mayo footballers who for some years really put it up to them. So we will see what emerges and what glories await us.

Brexit lumbers on against the farcical background of the endless votes in the House of Commons and the endless Brexit speeches and papers which come from Theresa May in a constant stream.

I cannot at all see what will be the final outcome, only that I am sure it is going to be unsuitable, particularly for us here in Ireland. Unsuitable too for Britain, only that they are too blind to see it.

Anyway these are ponderous questions for a lovely sunny day.

That is my lot for this week. Hope to chat with you all again next week.

In the meantime go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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