Now I know that all of us are becoming absolutely bored and worn out with all of the Brexit talk, and yet it is so important to each and every citizen in this country. If satisfactorily concluded, it will enable us all to continue on a decent economic path. If it is not satisfactorily concluded, well then everything goes awry in the business world and with that then goes the living standards of this country, north and south. It is extremely important.
Over the last weekend there was frantic manoeuvring and movement between London, Brussels, Belfast and Dublin as all of the main dramatis personae tried to get out their position and how it affected everyone else. The difficulty for Theresa May is that she faces an immediate rebellion within her own cabinet from previously compliant ministers, who are now expressing their disquiet at any deal that is likely to be forthcoming. So it boils down in essence that instead of concentrating on the negotiations in Brussels, Britain and Number 10, and Theresa May in particular, is trying to still negotiate with her own members of cabinet. And of course it all relies on the ultimate acceptance by the DUP of any backstop arrangement.
In essence, what it boils down to is that they are insisting that the backstop arrangement which had been given last December by Theresa May to Europe, and to us here in Ireland, be temporary, whereas we in Ireland are insisting that there should be no time limit on it. The backstop was meant to ensure that there would be a frictionless border but that fantasy is fading fast.
So what to do? Over the weekend and into the days of this week the tempo and the mood vacillated greatly between nascent hope, wild pessimism and wild optimism. And yet through it all there was the steadfast insistence, quite rightly, by Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney that we had been given an assurance and that assurance should be carried through.
As I write these words, my heart is filled with foreboding and yet within all of us I suppose there is that thread of optimism. But there is also the worry expressed so clearly months ago by Bertie Ahern that at the end of the day the EU will forget all of their wild enthusiasm for Ireland and decide that we just have to accept what is a half agreement, a paltry excuse for a backstop.
Let’s wait and see, but it is a very troubling time for us all. Throughout all of these frantic negotiations, we have had the calm, clipped and controlled reportage of RTÉ’s Fiona Mitchell in London and the more expansive reportage by Tony Connelly from Brussels. I feel we, in Ireland, are being very well served by these two journalists and they are well due our thanks for the confidence and/or despair which they engender as we listen, but always delivering the news in their calm, assured way.
I’m sorry to the readers for going on and on about it, but I know all of you agree with me that it is so vital to us and that we are all in our individual way hanging on to every utterance, giving us sometimes hope and sometimes despair.
Over last weekend we had the county championships played out in the GAA and for us here in Athlone the main arena of conflict was the Roscommon county final between St Brigid’s of Kiltoom and Clann na nGael. To understand this rivalry we have to place it in the geographic context. Both clubs are situated within four to five miles of Athlone, both in south Roscommon but in the axis of the suburbs of Athlone. Over the years there has developed a deadly sports rivalry between the two clubs. Going into the county final last weekend St Brigid’s were the holders of the title, but they were roundly defeated by Clann na nGael in Hyde Park on Sunday. It was a very odd match, in that for the first half the sides were very clearly matched, goal for goal, point for point, so going in at half time it was still anybody’s game. But it all changed after that. In quick succession Clann na nGael got one, two, and then three goals, leaving the St Brigid’s men and their supporters totally demoralised. Well done to Clann na nGael.
To compensate, St Brigid’s had a very good win last weekend by their under 16 team which triumphed over Padraig Pearses in Ballyforan, and their minor team over Castlerea St. Kevins which was the lead-up to the main match on Sunday. I suppose for us who follow them the hope is in the future of the young teams which appear so able and determined. Likewise, the minor women had success in the semi-final against St Mary’s Kilglass. So cheer up St Brigid’s, all is not lost for the future.
Still on the subject of sport, it was a great rugby weekend all round with wins for Leinster, Connacht and Ulster, with Munster drawing 10-10 with Exeter. It means that Irish rugby looks fair now for the Heineken Championship.
The next big match is Leinster travelling to Toulouse to face their fellow four time winners next Sunday, which I am very much looking forward to on the TV. I hate to sound too bullish, but Ireland does appear to have made great strides in recent years in rugby and of course it is all due to the individual players on each side and also to the expert management which they have engaged. So lead on Ireland, lead on!!
This week I am going to the launch in the National Gallery in Dublin of Martina Fitzgerald’s epic book Madame Politician. In it, she details the lives and careers of the 19 women who have made cabinet rank in Ireland since Constance Markievicz. Seventeen still live on except, of course, for Constance Markievicz herself and Eileen Desmond. The book is fascinating and of course mise, yours truly, features in it as well as all of the other female ex-Ministers.
Next Monday at 1pm, Martina Fitzgerald will be in Eason’s in Athlone in the Towncentre to launch her book there. I will be going along and I hope that many of the readers of this column can come along to meet her. She is an extremely capable, competent woman, and I know we would all enjoy the interaction with her on that day. So remember, 1pm next Monday in Athlone Towncentre at Eason’s, the bookshop.
As well as interviewing the 17 of us, she has also interviewed Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. It makes for a fascinating read with many heretofore unheard episodes and anecdotes.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to speak with you again all next week.
In the meantime go safely.
Slán go fóill.