Before we begin our rundown of things that have happened or are going to happen, I would like to enter a special plea.
This plea is on behalf of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Now we all know about them, and this week, in which I write this column, is their collection week all over Ireland.
St. Vincent de Paul is one of the local charities in which I strongly believe. I know from my years in public life that when one would bring a case to them that was going to seriously affect a family, particularly children, they would do their very best to help.
I believe that at this time of the year, all charity giving should be focused on local issues. Your local Vincent de Paul will be having collections at supermarkets and other outlets throughout the next few days, so please give as generously as you can. You can be assured that the local committee know where the extreme deprivation is locally, and they will do their very best to attend to it. So your modest contribution will find value for others.
So, the farmers are back talking. I am glad that the injunction has been lifted against the two farmers, and that talks are beginning this week under the chairmanship of Michael Dowling, Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture, to establish all of the facts of the beef market.
I was in Dublin on the day of the blockade, but in another part of the city altogether. I found myself strangely in accord with the group of independent farmers. I wondered why this was, and then of course I remembered my grandmother Scanlan from Drumcliff in County Sligo. She and her husband were small farmers on 12 acres of bare Ben Bulben land.
I have always remembered my mother’s summation of how difficult life was for them all. My grandmother was left a widow with six children and one child in her womb, when her husband Bernard (Brian ) was stretchered home to her on a door from a pub brawl in Sligo. My grandfather Bernard, whom I never knew, was a member of the North Sligo Executive of the United Irish League, which was an offshoot of the Agrarian Parnellite Movement.
So I thought about him and the short and sad but active life he had fighting for small farmers. To me, it represents a direct line between Charles Stewart Parnell and our family. How interesting and dramatic is that?
Anyway, I hope the talks this week yield something for the small independent farmers of Ireland.
Yes, of course, Lisa Smith is back, and all of the talk over last weekend was of her arriving on a flight from Istanbul with her two-year-old daughter and disappearing into Kevin Street Garda Station, with her daughter being taken care of by her home family in Dundalk. For all of us who have dealt with very young children, I can imagine the turmoil in that little girl’s mind. The only voice that she has known is her Mama, the only hand she has held is that of her Mama, and now she has been whisked away with Lisa’s family who she never met before.
So I was glad to hear that on Monday or Tuesday of this week, she was brought into Kevin Street to meet with her Mama again and to have some lunch with her.
I know there are divergent views as to whether Lisa Smith should be allowed back into Ireland. I have only one point of view, and that is based on her little two-year-old child. Who can ever think of that dilemma, without believing that the best chance for the little girl is to be with her mother and to live a normal life again, hopefully in Ireland?
Last Friday night I was in Tulsk, County Roscommon. A ladies’ group there had invited me some time ago to come and talk with them on this particular night, and I was glad to do so. Of course, I know Tulsk well from the days when my late brother Brian represented the area. In my teaching years, there were many boarding school pupils at Summerhill in Athlone who came from the area of Tulsk. So it was a delight to go back and to meet many of the faces and voices I knew.
We had a very good night, open questions and answers, a lovely supper, and a belief all round that women of whatever age, and in whatever area of society, have so much wisdom to give to any debate.
What on earth are we to make of the turmoil in Irish sport at the moment?
Firstly, we had the well pre-announced departure of Joe Schmidt, his wonderful interviews, and his equally wonderful book.
Then, hot on the heels of that, we had the completely unexpected resignation of Jim Gavin as the head of Dublin GAA. The search is on this week for a replacement, and it seems his boots will be very hard to fill.
Then of course we have the FAI, who are left completely rudderless at a very important juncture.
So Christmas means turmoil in all of those fields, but so far the only one that has a level of coherence in its successor is rugby. However, I wish all of them well in their ruminations in the lead-up to Christmas, that they will produce good names and good leadership in their various areas of sport.
We had great rugby results over last weekend. In particular I would commend again Connacht Rugby. They are really on the up and up. The fact that Bundee Aki has signed on again for three and a half years with Connacht Rugby has consolidated their place in the whole calendar of the IRFU. Bundee has a huge following, not just among Connacht Rugby followers, but I think throughout the whole rugby environment in Ireland. He is a great player, and has contributed so much to Connacht Rugby.
We all know the Toy Show was a huge success. I saw bits of it on Saturday afternoon, but according to my young grandchildren they loved every minute of it – all the antics of Ryan Tubridy and particularly the lovely children who were depicted on the show.
The lights are up in all the towns, the shops are full of shoppers, the young children’s heads are full of dreams of Santa and just what might be? All in all, Christmas is a frantic, frenetic time, but remember in the middle of it all there are people with real problems, and every help that can be given to them is valuable.
And of course the whole message of Christmas is the infant child in the stable in Bethlehem.
That’s my lot for this week. Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go fóill.