Festive family thoughts to be screened as ‘Ireland’s Call’ remains a contentious issue

Oh the weather has turned cold and nasty, hasn’t it? And quite early too – we were barely into November when we felt the bitter wind and low temperatures. Anyway, wrap up and keep yourself warm.

Last Saturday night in the Longford Arms Hotel, I was invited by Grattan Óg GAA to be one of the judges at the Oskars (their spelling ). Again, a very worthy GAA club seeking to raise much-needed funds, sited as they are beside the newly rebuilt Stonepark National School.

They had films ranging from The Wind That Shakes the Barley to Calendar Girls to The Quiet Man – seven films in all. They were acted to a very high standard by local Longford people, and it was a real pleasure to be a judge at such a joyful event, with huge supportive crowds – well over 800.

Again, I was so glad to be back among old friends and to be part of what was a hugely successful night.

Readers might remember that about a month ago I was in Abbeyshrule in the Rustic Inn at another GAA fundraiser, this time a Lip Sync event. All in all, Longford are putting themselves about and doing well for their local GAA clubs.

Talking of GAA, Garrycastle Athlone had a great win in the quarter final against Ratoath last Sunday. The score was Garrycastle 3-11, Ratoath 2-12, so the win was narrow.

Garrycastle may thank veteran Dessie Dolan, who played an outstanding game. They have advanced now to the semi-final where I understand their next game will be against Ballyboden. Serious times ahead for Garrycastle, but I don’t at all doubt their courage and tenacity.

Back to Longford: on Tuesday night of this week, I was invited by Padraic McCormack to the public library in Ballymahon to launch his book entitled Beneath the Silence. How did this come about? Well, about six weeks ago Padraic McCormack rang me one day to tell me he was sending me his book, and would I read it and get back to him? I remembered Padraic well; he was over 22 years as a Galway West TD in the Dáil right throughout my time. Indeed, for some of that period he was chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.

I always thought Padraic McCormack was a Galway man. Not so; he hailed originally from Kenagh, County Longford. When he was a young man in his early 20s he went to Galway to get experience as a livestock auctioneer in the Galway Mart.

Padraic intended to stay just for a year, but then he met the lovely Eilish and of course they married and he settled down and became part of the Fine Gael Galway West landscape. I always liked him in the Dáil; he was down-to-earth and pragmatic.

The book he sent me is a great story – very well written with its descriptive qualities of Connemara, Clifden, Ballyconneely and all those areas out in Galway West. Then in the middle part of the book, he has very fine descriptions of life as told in the words of a young priest in inner city Dublin among the tenements.

It is particularly descriptive of the period in the late 40s/early 50s when the tenements were being demolished and people were being settled out in housing estates in Crumlin and other areas of Dublin. I was particularly interested in his assessment of characters and, as I say, his great scenic descriptions of different parts of Ireland. His book was inspired by a true story about a false story, and its fallout in 1940s Ireland. I can strongly recommend the book as a great story told with a keen eye to detail, to character, to scenery and to surroundings.

So my visit to Ballymahon could be seen, if you like, as an example of the Confidence and Supply between the two main parties in Dáil Éireann!!

Well done Padraic McCormack, you have woven a great tale and you deserve recognition and approval for your work.

On Wednesday of this week, I am going to do an RTÉ Christmas show with two of my Athlone grandchildren, Sarah and Scott. It is called Couch Christmas, in which different people with different sets of their relations and close friends will be interviewed on a Christmas couch as to how they view Christmas, how they will spend it, what joys (and sometimes sorrow ) they get from the whole Christmas scene. I am looking forward to participating with Scott and Sarah, and I’m sure we will have a great bit of fun out of the encounter.

I am ending this column on a discussion about the Irish sports anthem, ‘Ireland’s Call’. As you know, it is the Phil Coulter song which was written when there was an apparent difficulty about rugby matches and other sports which have an all-Ireland dimension, where ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’ or ‘God Save the Queen’ would be the national anthems.

I think ‘Ireland’s Call’ is a terrific way to begin a match for Ireland, and I note the Ireland hockey team sang it with huge gusto on the field before their Saturday and Sunday encounters last weekend.

They had four or five Northern Ireland players on their team – I don’t know exactly how many, but when they were being interviewed on The Late Late Show I noticed the distinct Northern accents.

To me, it is only proper that they would have a song which would recognise that they are an all-Ireland team. But somehow, lots of people don’t agree with me and they think ‘Ireland’s Call’ is a pseudo-national anthem. But what are we to do, to recognise that any sport that has an all-Ireland dimension has a right to feel they can stand up and sing a song which will reflect their various identities?

To me, ‘Ireland’s Call’ does that, and well done to Phil Coulter for coming up with agreeable words and air to reflect the different parts of Ireland.

I’ve been trying for some time to get this out into the public. I know there will be many who disagree, but I think ‘Ireland’s Call’ fits the bill exactly as is needed.

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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