Conservative Christmas while thoughts turn towards Northern Assembly talks

Well, we have the UK result, and indeed Boris carried it off. Such a huge result for him, and for the Conservative Party. When you saw the maps on the screen, and what were once red Labour strongholds completely overrun by the blue of the Tories who took over most of those seats, it was quite amazing. Of course, I stayed up till after four in the morning looking at it on TV. No matter what you say about Boris Johnson, he put his heart and soul into the campaign, and he won.

Like many of the readers, I have read many of the reactions since, and it seems that there were two main things in that campaign: 1 ) People did not like Jeremy Corbyn – in fact they were turned off by him, and 2 ) They embraced the simple, slogan ‘Get Brexit done’.

So between both of those items, the Conservatives triumphed.

For all in the political field, there were a few pointers which I think are worth remarking on. Each constituency returned over 60 percent, in some cases 70 or 75 per cent, of a turnout. We do not seem to be able to achieve that here. So the electorate in the UK were interested in the election, and they came out in their droves to vote.

The next lesson I took from it was this: the results were on Friday, and on the Monday afterwards the MPs returned to Westminster. Can you imagine, they returned over the weekend! In Ireland it would take us two to three weeks before we would get the Dáil up and running. So there are lessons we can pick up from that as well. Now of course, the result was so clear-cut that I’m sure many of the new Conservative MPs were only gasping to get into Westminster, and so they turned up in their droves on the Monday and Tuesday of this week.

So Boris Johnson now has the numbers in the parliament to put through his Withdrawal Bill, which he hopes to get done before Christmas. He has declared that it will be done by January 31, so there is a bit of time for that.

Once the Withdrawal Bill is through, then there will be 11 months in 2020 to get all of the different strands of the trading arrangements between the UK and the EU sorted out satisfactorily.

There are plenty of commentators who are saying it won’t be done by the end of 2020, but somehow I feel that Boris will get it done, because he has shown his determination when he really, really wants something to happen.

This Thursday, the Queen will do the official State opening of parliament, and that will be a spectacle to enjoy.

Of course the most important item this week is the Northern talks, which will get underway and must be completed by January 13. If they are not, well then it means there will have to be elections again in Northern Ireland to the Assembly.

Neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin want those elections – both groups dropped a percentage point in their overall vote in the recent elections. So it is my belief that these talks under Julian Smith, the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and our own Simon Coveney representing the Irish Government, will proceed and hopefully with goodwill from both DUP and Sinn Féin they will succeed in setting up a Northern Assembly again.

Both parties suffered during the election. When they went canvassing the voters said to them “Why isn’t the Northern Assembly working? We want our education, health, and all of the various everyday matters of life worked out satisfactorily,” – and until the Assembly meets again, they won’t be.

So it is up to them now to get their backs into it, and to ensure that there is, in the end, an equable solution.

I would like to tell the readers of a very interesting programme I saw last week on TG4. The name of it was Máthair Trump. It was the story of Mary MacLeod, a young woman from one of the Scottish islands who emigrated to America and there met Donald Trump’s father, whom she married. It was a most interesting story, and one that I had never heard alluded to before. It went through Mary MacLeod’s life on the islands, her decision at 18 to emigrate and become a domestic worker in New York, and then her meeting with Donald Trump’s father. It gave us the whole Trump story in its full perspective. It may repeat itself over Christmas, and if it does try to look at it, because it’s a good one.

We had terrific rugby over the weekend: Munster in a fight on and off the field, Connacht making a great resurgence and winning, and Leinster and Ulster wins also.

So the whole rugby scene is changing and shifting each week, and we look forward to further games over the next few weeks.

I am glad the RTÉ Guide has not been sold. It is worthwhile purchasing now, because it gives all the programmes for all the stations over the next two weeks, so viewers will have a chance to sift through the pages and to mark out films they want to view. I love at Christmas when old reliable films come up again and again, and we have a chance to marvel at the exploits of those mostly adventure and love stories.

The arrangements are piling up, the excitement is mounting, and all around us we can see the rush of Christmas. The weather is very cold but dry, and once it is dry you can get about and it makes it that much easier all round.

There is still such a lot to plan, so much to enjoy, and I hope that everyone will have a little time for themselves in which they can reflect on the past and plan for the future.

Before I finish, I want to record great news for the Athlone Institute of Technology. Mary Mitchell-O’Connor came down on Monday this week to announce very big funding to allow the college to further its plans to merge with Limerick IT to form a university together. It is great news for the IT in Athlone, and will further their already exemplary reputation.

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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