Bingo players make their Dáil mark as we await UK General Election results

I was thinking back on Dáil business last week, and the real heroes and winners of any of the debates which were held were those who went and protested against what we might loosely call the ‘Bingo legislation’. This was legislation which the Government was bringing in, not to curtail bingo players, but to have a more equitable share-out of the funding of such events.

From all over Ireland, bingo-goers came in their hundreds to Dáil Éireann. Now, some of the readers may well be people who regularly go to bingo. I know here in Athlone and the surrounding areas, there are regular bingo nights in various halls. There are people, women and men, who go every one of the five nights to what is a very harmless pursuit. No drinking, no smoking, no supper – just a game of calling out the numbers and checking them off on your bingo card.

It is an amazing pastime and diversion for many hundreds of people. Certainly, when the word went out that there could be a diminution of such games, or that there would be a cutback in the very modest pay-outs, the numbers came thundering up to Dáil Éireann. They were going to have their say, and they forced a say on David Stanton, the relevant Minister who was bringing in the legislation.

They forced him to make changes, even though he protested that he had never meant such legislation to be an affront to the bingo players. Be that as it may, several TDs and Senators came out to the gates of Dáil Éireann to participate in the protest and to promise their support.

There were amusing photographs of eminent TDs with bingo cards in their hands, and one particular TD playing bingo master.

The legislation was altered, and honour was restored to the bingo players of Ireland. I regard all that as a great victory for the ordinary man and woman living in parishes throughout the country, who regard their bingo night as sacred.

It took a Sinn Féin TD of Leitrim, Martin Kenny, to propose changes which were then taken up by all sides in the Dáil, and victory was assured.

I say well done to the ordinary man and women in the towns and villages of Ireland.

Some readers may remember I spoke recently about a Christmas TV show, in which eight public people took part with their families to speak about Christmas gone by and Christmas to come. I was glad to be part of it with my two grandchildren Scott and Sarah O’Rourke, living here in Athlone.

We have just got word that the show will be aired on Christmas Eve at 6.15pm, after the main 6 o’clock news. I am looking forward to seeing it, and of course Scott and Sarah are too. I don’t know how they will reflect on seeing themselves on TV, but it is something to look forward to on Christmas

Eve, particularly in the case of Scott who is the last remaining Santa believer in that household. So he will have a lot to look forward to on Christmas Eve.

The day the Athlone Advertiser comes out, is the day of the UK General Election. The campaign seems to have gone on for a long time, with both sides making some serious gaffes and sometimes a sameness of debate which is unusual to us here.

Imagine, I have read that all over the whole of the UK, there were no posters whatsoever of anyone running in this General Election!

Now I know many would regard that as very good, and very sustainable for the environment.

I am of the opinion that in an election of any kind, it is right that there should be posters promoting this and that person, this and that party. After all, it is the electorate who will make up their minds. I feel the lack of public display in the UK has led to a non-event type of election.

However, I have a few small bets on some of the results, particularly the results in Northern Ireland. Let’s hope that there will be a wee dividend from those.

There was plenty of rugby over last weekend. Johnny Sexton’s injury is worrying because it was believed he would be the Irish captain facing into the Six Nations. However, we will see what develops. There were good wins for Leinster, Munster and Ulster.

Sadly there was a defeat for Connacht, who played really well but were handicapped by the sending off of one of their players. There will be plenty of rugby action next weekend again, so if we have time between Christmas preparations I hope we get to see some of them.

By the way, Joe Schmidt’s book has received the number one accolade of all of the books published in the run-up to the Christmas period. It has shown great sales, and I am so pleased for him. He wrote it himself with no ghostwriter.

He is followed in the book sales race by Vicky Phelan’s book, and she has made astonishing sales as well.

As I am writing this column, it is one of those wet, windy and cold winter mornings. I have often noticed that in the lead-up to Christmas there are those dead days where daylight is extremely short and the darkness falls so early.

But cheer up – the shortest day will soon be with us, and after that it is all leading towards spring and hope for the future.

I feel this year that Christmas came far too early – too early in the shops, in the streets, in the minds of people, especially children. We seem to be living on the edge of Christmas-to-come for about four to six weeks now. Of course it builds up the excitement among children, but it really is far too much, far too early.

Time was when the 8th of December marked the beginning of serious Christmas shopping and the serious Christmas crowds out preparing for the festive season.

That is not so now; we seem to be living in the festive season for at least the last six weeks. Then of course there will be the mammoth shopping of the day or two before Christmas, as if we were never going to survive the break. And then, blessed silence.

I know many people took the opportunity to shop locally, and I think that is the best way to go. After all, we will need those shops when the mad frenzy is over, so it is only right that we would continue our support for them.

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

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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