Definitive ruling on Public Services Card as Brexit issues continue to dominate political landscape

I suppose the hurling final was the event of the weekend. But the result was disappointing, in that the gap between Kilkenny and Tipperary was 14 points, which did not indicate a very close game. Nonetheless, it is always exciting to see hurling played at a very high level, which this was, and the prowess and skill of the combatants on each team was not in doubt.

All we have left now is next Sunday’s All-Ireland football final, with its inevitable Dublin victory, and that will be the end of the GAA for some time.

Not to worry, because coming up we have all the excitement of further friendly rugby matches in preparation for the World Cup in Japan. I am glad to hear that we are going to see it all, it appears, on Virgin Media with no worry about having to go to someone else’s house to view it. It will all be very exciting because it is Joe Schmidt who will travel with a good group, but one way or another he will have to make his final decision, and I guess they are the thoughts that are coursing through his mind as I write.

Well, are you Brexit-ed out yet? We have it everywhere, particularly after last Sunday’s revelations of leaks in the Sunday Times, which appear absolutely authentic and highly secret. No matter how determined Boris Johnson is to keep reaffirming in his strong voice “We are leaving on October 31,” it must have caused him great chagrin and worry as he read those leaks. But somehow the British people, at least the people who want to leave Europe, believe that they are fulfilling an old Churchillian dogma of stiff upper lip – we will put up with all upset if in the end we will escape from the clutches of Europe.

What an utterly delusional point of view, but I am of the belief that there is some time yet between now and October 31, and that there may well be different little twists and turns along the road to that date. At least that is my opinion, so we will just have to wait and see if any fortunate developments occur. In the meantime, Boris Johnson is off to meet Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron this week, and is also due to have a conversation with our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The Data Protection Commissioner Helen Dixon surely dropped a bombshell this week, when she made a ruling that the use by the Government of the Public Services Card was illegal and incorrect, except if it was used for any Social Welfare benefits. There were no ifs and buts; it was quite a definite ruling.

Now I know in this column I wrote some months ago about Helen Dixon but I think it is worth repeating. She is a fine person, and the daughter of neighbours of mine here in Athlone. Her father was Brigadier General Pat Dixon, OC of the Western Command, sadly now deceased, and her mother is Máire, a teacher and Gaelic scholar. The Dixon children were of an age with our two boys when they were all growing up together, and it is good to see her in such an authoritative and commanding position in life.

The Government has an interesting journey to travel now to extricate themselves from the huge determined push they made to get everyone to be embroiled in the Public Services Card. We will see what develops, but for us here in Athlone and in this neighbourhood, as the readers can imagine, it is interesting to observe.

I’m glad I’m writing this column in advance of Thursday when the Athlone Advertiser hits the shelves. This Thursday night there is a wonderful story to be told on RTÉ1. It is the story of Daniel O’Connell and it has been compiled, put together and narrated by Olivia O’Leary. I would hope so many of the readers will take the time to look at it, because I know from what I hear about the documentary that it is a very full account of the whole life of Daniel O’Connell.

We all learned about him in History and indeed for many years I taught all about him and his successful fight for Catholic Emancipation, and his later fight for repeal of the Act of Union. I read so many books about him during that period, and I have constantly been fascinated by his character, his intelligence, his exploits and his international reputation. Don’t forget: Thursday night at 9.30pm is part one of a two-part documentary, and I know you will not be disappointed at what you will view, and perhaps the things you will learn that you did not know heretofore about the great Daniel O’Connell.

My niece Anita (Lenihan ) and I are planning our Kerry break, and we are so looking forward to our visit to Valentia Island, and particularly to the village of Portmagee in Valentia. Of course Valentia is no longer an island; many years ago a fine bridge was built to it. But be that as it may, it is really a part of Kerry that is so remote and yet so enjoyable. It is from Portmagee that the daily crossing to the Skellig Island is made, and I believe it is thronged each day. Many years ago I climbed Skellig; I won’t be doing it again!! But I hope that Anita will take the trip and enjoy it as much as I did all those years ago. We are also going over to see Derrynane House and Bay where Daniel O’Connell was reared, so that will be another good adventure.

I thought I should end this little piece with a bit of humour. Many readers will have observed in the newspapers or heard on the radio that Donald Trump is considering purchasing Greenland from Denmark. Greenland is an independent country of Denmark, and of course has its own parliament, way of life, etc. So now, imagine that Donald Trump has put his beady eye on it and is actually openly saying the US would like to purchase Greenland!

Aren’t we lucky here in Ireland that he hasn’t decided he would like to purchase Ireland as well. Can you imagine the mayhem that would create, especially down with his stronghold in Doonbeg?

Anyway I just thought it was a bit of frippery with which to end this column. But again I see in today’s paper he is repeating his wish to purchase Greenland, so to Donald Trump anyway it is not a joke; it is for real.

Be glad we have escaped his clutches!!

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

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill.


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