As I am compiling this column, it is just before the Westminster vote on Brexit. All observers feel the vote will be defeated, and some say very heavily. Be that as it may, the real question now is, what does Theresa May do next? She has to come back next Monday with a further plan of where she will go and what she will do. More and more it appears that the extension of time, which could be looked for at the end of March, is what is in sight, but we are in the dark and do not have any certainty about the outcome. I am sorry that this is so and apologise to the readers, but there is nothing that I or even the most renowned of columnists in the UK or Ireland can do – we cannot see the way forward as yet.
London is in a hot fever and frenzy, with huge crowds of pro-EU and anti-EU flag-waving zealots outside the Houses of Parliament, and there have been some unfortunate instances of name-calling of some members of parliament. But all this is against the backdrop of the unknown and the uncertainty.
There is no uncertainty about the tennis champion Andy Murray. He has recently announced that at age 31, going on 32, he is going to retire from first class tennis playing. I’m sure many of the readers, like myself, were sad to hear that. It appears he has had a difficulty with his back and an operation seems to have sorted that, but he also has a consistent and ever-nagging hip problem. Even though this had been patched up by a specialist in Melbourne, it continues to haunt him, to the extent that he said last week in a press interview that even to lean down and put on his socks and tie his shoes causes excruciating pain. So he has decided to call it a day. I was so sorry to read it. He seems a grand young Scottish man. He was a fine sportsman and will be sadly missed.
Over the weekend we had a full-page insightful interview with Katie Taylor, and again as I write this column she is part of an RTÉ documentary this Tuesday night. I understand it is to be very thorough and goes into the whole background of her father as her trainer and then her father leaving her and going off in search of fresh fields. It seems Katie went into a decline after that, but as we know she has pulled herself out and is now in amazing shape and ready for more boxing plaudits. I am glad that she has her mother Bridget with her on her further journeys.
As I am dealing with sport I will continue. We had marvellous results from all four provinces last weekend. Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht all gained on-field victories, and all are bound for further games over next weekend. It was powerful to see those results – with seven key players missing last Saturday, Leinster still triumphed with many new young players getting their experience on the field. It is quite amazing how Ireland is doing on the field of rugby. I hope I am not speaking too soon, as in the coming weeks we will have the beginning of the Six Nations where the true mettle of the Irish game will be tested to the full at an international level.
Let’s not forget the GAA. On Saturday last, Westmeath had a great win over Longford and are now set for the final of the O’Byrne Cup next Friday in Parnell Park in Dublin. Westmeath GAA seems to be having a renaissance, and let’s hope that continues into all of the further games as the term advances.
Earlier this week I had a truly wonderful experience in Dublin Castle, where historian Sinéad McCoole exhibited through photograph and print the amazing story of all of the women who have been elected to Dáil Éireann since the very first election in 1918, up to the present day. Ms McCoole is truly a very fine person and a very thorough historian. I have got to know her well over the last few months when she was gathering her material from all of us for her exhibition. And then to go and see it in Dublin Castle was a revelation in itself. She is under the aegis of the Department of Culture and is now going to tour the provinces with this exhibition. I would urge readers if it is nearby to go and view it. They will be exhilarated, as I was, by the range and depth of the exhibition and the myriad stories it unfolds of women down the years, whom we would have known by name but not much about their background. It is all there displayed in a wonderful format. Go and visit if you get a chance.
Next Monday, January 21, is the 100th anniversary of the sitting of the first Dáil in the Mansion House. I have been invited to the commemorative function in the Mansion House and I am so looking forward to it. The unfolding of democracy of course is part of all of our history, and from that first sitting flowed so much else that is still relevant and timely in Irish historical and political terms. It is great to be alive and appreciative, and to be invited to so many of the events which are now happening to celebrate our not-so-distant past.
The time for fine films has come around again, and my friends Micheál and Maura and myself are planning a visit early next week to the cinema here in Athlone to see Mary Queen of Scots. We saw Saoirse Ronan on The Late Late Show last week. She is an amazing young actress with a fine range, and what I really like about her is that she appears to be full of plain common sense and to have, as they say, her head screwed on right, in that she has never become overweening about herself and her acting capabilities. Again, if the readers get a chance, please go to see this film. I am sure we will all enjoy it as it unfolds the turbulent time of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I.
After all of the above sporting and historical events, it was interesting to see the first advertisements on Irish TV for Center Parcs holiday village at Ballymahon in County Longford. Yes, I know the spelling is not as we would do it in an English class, but that is the spelling in the fine ads which are now being unfolded before us. Center Parcs will be taking in its first visitors this coming summer. It will be a marvellous addition to that part of County Longford in Ballymahon, bordering indeed on County Westmeath. They are not shy at showing off the facilities which will be there, and I am sure it will make, in every sense of the word, a major splash on the holiday scene – a whole village with its lakes and pools, its lodges and its restaurants.
That’s my lot for now. Hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime go safely.
Slán go fóill.