State examinations in full flow as quest for Tory leadership continues

The weather has turned particularly uncertain for high summer. I for one am very glad, and I’m sure many other people are, that it has turned cool and uncertain. It seems that always we have heatwave weather when students are doing their Junior Cert and Leaving Cert, and how difficult it must be for them as they swelter with their thoughts and their writings in the examination hall and the sun beams in the windows, leaving them with the feeling that they should be out enjoying it. But the cooler weather has meant it is easier for them to concentrate.

Over the weekend we had terrific results for County Westmeath, both in hurling and football. Well done; the teams are doing very well this year and I hope it continues.

The Irish rugby under 20s were soundly beaten by Australia, even though they put up a terrific fight. They face Italy this week, so we will wait and see what that result will be. By and large, the under 20s are a great team and it bodes well for the future of Irish rugby when such fine players are in the under 20 league, and will soon be able to be picked up by the various provinces for the quality of their rugby football.

Last week I told you I was going to the University of Limerick, where they were commemorating 30 years of being set up as a university. Well, I had a great afternoon and evening there, and am amazed at the sheer strides of scholastic attainment that the college has made and the thousands and thousands of young women and young men who have gone through its portals and who are contributing here and abroad to economic and academic activity.

The man with whom I had done all the business when we were preparing the legislation, Dr. Ed Walsh, who was the founding president of the university, was there with his lovely wife Stephanie. We had a great discussion together, raking over old times, old difficulties which had been eased out, and in general pleased with ourselves that we had gone ahead with the legislation and the wonderful outcome of the fine college in the University of Limerick.

The following day, last Saturday, I was in a place called Kiltyclogher. When I told people where I was going, some people said, Oh it’s County Fermanagh, others said Donegal, and others said the right county: Leitrim. Well, I had been invited to the MacDiarmada Summer School, which is put on every year in honour of Seán MacDiarmada who came from Kiltyclogher, and who was the second signatory on the Proclamation outside the GPO in 1916. There is a wonderful statue of him in the middle of Kiltyclogher.

The theme of the afternoon debates was education, and of course I was in my element and I enjoyed every minute of it. They had gathered a large crowd, and the general atmosphere was wonderfully upbeat and interesting. I will long remember my visit to Kiltyclogher.

Last Friday (when I was in Limerick ) Westmeath County Council had their annual general meeting in Mullingar with the new line-up of 20 councillors, some of them familiar from the last time and a new influx of course. The nine Fianna Fáil councillors have invited the two Green councillors to join them in running the council, and they have agreed. So I hope that little coalition works well for the five years ahead.

Next Monday will see the annual general meeting of the municipal authority of the Athlone and Moate/Kilbeggan areas, which will be held in the civic centre in Athlone. So the democratic process has had its way, and the outcome appears to be settled and agreeable. Let’s wish them all good luck for the next five years.

There is much work to be done on local authority reform. The minister in charge is Minister John Paul Phelan, who is bringing a report to Cabinet in the next few weeks, after which it will be published. The councillors are looking forward to the publication of this important report, and let’s hope it will mark a real step change in their responsibilities and in their circumstances.

Did you notice how all the candidates, both in the local and the European elections, have taken down their posters with great alacrity? I am glad to see that.

When we were in the depths of County Leitrim last Saturday, I noticed, high up on a tree, a poster for Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte. I noted the area we were in, and on Monday morning I telephoned Fianna Fáil to tell them where the rogue poster was and to see if they, in turn, could get it taken down. I actually don’t know however they got it up so high, but they did, and of course now it has to be retrieved.

While we talk together here, of course there is mayhem in the UK. At the last count, there were 11 declared candidates to be elected leader of the Conservative Party. I am sure many of you saw Theresa May when she gave her resignation speech in front of Number 10 Downing Street. No matter what way she handled matters, one couldn’t but feel a sense of sympathy for her, particularly with the difficulties she had to face within her own party.

There is a great Sunday morning programme on BBC One called The Andrew Marr Show, and now every Sunday he is interviewing two or three of the candidates who are going forward. Some of them have good bright ideas, some of them have daft ideas, but the zaniest of them all, in my mind anyway, is Boris Johnson. He says he will not pay the divorce settlement, he will just refuse to pay it, and he also says he will do away with the backstop. Now, many of the manifestos of the various candidates are pie in the sky. There is a great programme on next Tuesday, June 18, on BBC One, which is a debate among all the candidates. That should make for some good viewing.

Meanwhile in Northern Ireland, Simon Coveney and Karen Bradley are heavily engaged with all of the political parties to see if a settlement can be brought about where there will be a resumption of the Northern Ireland Parliament at Stormont. Let’s hope, for all our sakes, that they succeed in that.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke

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