I’m going to begin this column with the great news about Katie Taylor. As we all know by now, on Saturday night she defeated Belgian woman, Delfine Persoon, in Madison Square Garden in New York. I didn’t see the fight because it was at 1.30 in the morning, but I saw bits of it on the news, and it appears that she won it fair and square. But already the grumblings are beginning and Delfine Persoon has challenged her to a re-match as soon as possible. If I was Katie Taylor, I would not agree to a re-match. Katie won it, and she is now the undisputed lightweight champion of the world. Why should she casually decide on a re-match, just because the loser wants to engage with her immediately? So leave her alone; you are now, Katie, the world champion, so rest on your laurels. Despite that fact, she is always regarded, both when written about and in interviews, as a modest, unassuming young woman, and she appears to be that in every sense of the word. Well done Katie, and I hope you enjoy the sense of accomplishment.
What do the readers think of Donald Trump who, as I write, is on a visit to the UK and then is to travel to the Doonbeg Golf Course in County Clare (which he owns )? I’m of the opinion, though it may seem simplistic, that he is the president of the United States, and I cannot understand how people can’t separate in their minds the man from the office he holds. Of course people have a right to protest; that is the right of anyone in a democracy. But to me, the office he holds as president of the United States is one that we should respect, because his country has been good to Ireland in so many ways – so many Irish emigrants earning their living there, and so many American companies choosing to locate their plants here and giving good employment. In my book, Donald Trump is welcome, regardless of the fact that I personally would not like him. But that’s another matter entirely.
What I certainly do not like is the way he is interfering in British politics, announcing that Boris Johnson is the best candidate to become the new Prime Minister, and giving advice all around him on what the UK should do about Brexit, and so on. I certainly do not like to see him interfering in the internal workings of any country. I truly hope he does not start to interfere in Ireland when he comes over here, firstly to meet Leo Varadkar at Shannon Airport, and later on when he and his wife Melania go to Doonbeg Golf Club, where he intends to stay two nights. The people of Doonbeg are set to give him a good welcome, and I am glad of that.
After the excitement of the recent elections, I am glad that life is back to some kind of normality. I was at a lovely birthday party last Sunday of the bank holiday weekend. A long-time friend of mine, going back over many, many years, was 80 years of age, and she threw a great party for her friends and family. We had a very good evening and night, and I came home delighted at the wonderful company and the great time we all had talking together. Then on Monday, Feargal and Maeve and the two children were down and together with Ethna we had a lovely afternoon and evening out for lunch. I know I’ve said I before but I’ll say it again: I love the bank holiday weekends. They give you an extended time for family, friends, and conversation and being together, which is so satisfying.
This Friday, June 7, I have been invited to the University of Limerick in honour of its inauguration as a university 30 years ago. I am delighted to go, because as Minister for Education in the summer of 1989, I brought in the Universities Act for the University of Limerick and Dublin City University, and successfully piloted them through both the Dáil and the Seanad. I was always very pleased at being able to do that, to establish two new universities in Ireland, and to see how they have flourished with thousands of successful students going through each of their ranks. So I am looking forward to a memorable day.
Now that we are on the subject of education, the Department of Education has, in recent days, issued two very good pieces of news. They are welcome in so many ways. Firstly, Minister Joe McHugh and the Department have agreed that students can defer their Leaving Cert exams if they suffer the bereavement of a close relative during this month’s exams. This will allow them to sit alternative papers in July, which will be in Athlone for a three-day period.
The bereavement period will commence from the date of the death of a close relative, and they list the nature of the close relative, up to and including the day after the funeral. This is intended to allow bereaved candidates time free from Leaving Cert exams to prepare for and attend the funeral of their loved one. The procedure will apply in cases where the death of the close relative occurs during exam time, or in the two days prior to the exams commencing on June 5. This is a very timely initiative and shows the human face of the Minister and the Department.
The second good news from the Department is the announcement of extra money for school leavers taking up apprenticeships. The Government is to announce capital funding of more than €7.5 million for nine Institutes of Technology, and Technological University Dublin, to expand and modernise apprenticeship options over the coming years. Did you know that you can start an apprenticeship in Ireland, and move from the Certificate level to PhD level if you so wish? Meanwhile as you learn you are earning, so it is an extremely good option for Leaving Cert students to think about and reflect on.
I will end this column on an appropriate good luck message to all of the students who are sitting Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate exams this week and in the week to ten days ahead. Stay calm, stay cool, and remember you have it all in your head: it is a matter of getting it sorted out and on paper in an orderly fashion. Above all, you have studied and you have the knowledge, so as I say, good luck to all of you as you embark on what no doubt will be a difficult but rewarding time of your life.
That’s my lot for this week. Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime go safely.
Slán go fóill.