Greek tragedy that shocked Europe seeks comprehension and solution

Well what a thrilling and wonderful weekend we had last Saturday and Sunday. Hurling has become the new game to watch, to reflect upon, to talk about, and to exult in the sheer strength and vitality of the players.

On Saturday we had Galway versus Clare. For the first time I watched avidly a hurling match from beginning to end, listened to every comment and followed each forward and backward thrust of the game.

It was stunning and compelling and there is no other way to describe it. Of course I was in favour of Galway and they have lived to fight another day, but Clare have found a new ambition and a newfound dynamism.

Let’s look forward to next weekend. Then if that was not enough, on the Sunday we had another pulsating game, Limerick versus Cork.

Here I was entirely neutral as to the outcome, but thoroughly engrossed again in the stunning and outrageous display of strength. The GAA has sprung to new magical heights and with players like that and enthusiasm like that, the future looks good.

Next weekend is the August bank holiday weekend. Never mind that, I will be glued to the TV again, both Saturday and Sunday, to the modern and exciting hurling and football on display.

I am glad that the GAA have made a deal on the Liam Miller tribute to be held in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on September 25.

The GAA held out for a long time and I thought they made very heavy weather of what should have been an easy-to-reach agreeable decision. I understand all about central council and the various areas in their Corú, but still in the end humanity won out and I am glad that it did.

Liam Miller was 36 when he got the killer disease of pancreatic cancer, and so it is correct that in his native Cork he should have the widest venue and the greatest crowd to pay tribute to him and act as a fundraiser as well.

To take a break from the high escapades of last weekend, and more to follow, I am sure the readers followed the Greek tragedy in the small seaside town of Mati, 12 miles from Athens.

I thought the whole story was so strong and emotive, and of course here in Ireland we had the poignant story of the just married couple Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp and his new bride Zoe Holohan.

You can just imagine the scene - married on Thursday, flew out on Saturday to what they thought of course was going to be a lovely quiet seaside town, and two days later to be struck with this terrible disaster.

Fr. Shay Casey, who is the chaplain to the Athlone Institute of Technology, spoke of the couple on Morning Ireland during the week. He knew Brian’s late brother Colin from his college days in Athlone, and he spoke so well of the couple.

Fr. Shay himself is a wonderful ambassador for education and for young people, working with them in the fine college in Athlone.

It was just awful to see the people in Mati, running and running, some reaching the sea where the water would keep them safe from the flames and swimming in it for three to four hours so that the engulfing fire would not touch them, some caught in their tracks as they ran; some not able to run and reach the magical sea of salvation. A sad, sad story, surely a Greek tragedy in its essence.

Ireland’s women’s hockey team are doing very well in the hockey world cup. They beat the US 3 to1 and they beat India 1 to 0. Now I know England beat them in the last few days but they have garnered a place in the quarter finals and we look forward to hearing of that.

There is a real kinship, you know, between hockey and hurling. Those two games, and camogie with them, show the skill and dexterity of young Irish players.

What do we make now of Brexit? I simply have to return to the theme again even though it is a heavy topic for summer, and yet it continues on its inexorable way.

Firstly I’m glad that Theresa May has taken control of putting forward the Chequers document as her idea for Brexit and she has said she will do the negotiations herself in Europe, with her Brexit secretary as her stand-in deputy.

She may as well, because the previous Brexit secretary David Davis by all accounts was lazy in his job and had made very little headway. Leo Varadkar has been touring some of the countries of Europe, meeting with the Prime Ministers, getting due recognition in each case and inspecting their guards of honour.

We are told that each Prime Minister he has visited is securely behind Michel Barnier’s proposal for Brexit and are going along with that. So far, so good. Then, in his wake, Theresa May has been visiting the same Prime Ministers and asking them to have an open mind on the whole issue of Brexit.

So the merry dance goes on, and we will have more of that throughout the month of August.

Now I know I have spoken about Brexit from time to time, but it really is a serious issue for Ireland. I was lucky enough to catch George Lee’s hour-long documentary on RTE1 television a week ago on the whole issue, in which he went around Ireland speaking to ordinary small firms, to ordinary farmers, to people whose everyday lives will be gravely disturbed if there is a hard Brexit.

It is no exaggeration to say their lives will be changed utterly, and not for the good. So here’s hoping that the wicked month of August (as Edna O’Brien named the month ) will in the end put forward a resolution of sorts to the Brexit dilemma.

I understand that in the UK there is a growing belief that the final deal, whatever it is and whenever it is reached, will have to be voted on again, not just by the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but by the wider British public.

Let’s wait and see.

That’s my lot for this week. Talk with you all again next week.

In the meantime go safely.

Slán go fóill.


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