General Election campaign in full flow as former President takes the walk of life

Election 2020 is in full throttle daily. Fair dues to the radio stations, they are giving it great coverage. Each day we have the different debates, the different manifestos, where the leaders will be, what they will be discussing, and of course there is the ongoing drama of what could be the latest row between the leaders, Leo and Micheál.

For myself, I am very enthused about the whole campaign and following every constituency in great detail. My gripe is that I cannot vote for my favourite candidate, Orla Leyden, who is running in the Roscommon-Galway constituency. Athlone town does not come into her constituency, and so she is outside of my voting area. Orla is a fine young married woman with one daughter aged 12. She is a Roscommon county councillor and has the finest of third level credentials from NUIG, and combines the very best of qualifications in both urban and rural regeneration.

As the readers will know, I am a Connaught person, having been born and brought up in General Textiles on the west side of Athlone until I was 12, and then from the age of 12 to 22 I lived in the Hodson Bay Hotel in south Roscommon, and so many of my interests lie there in all of that area.

Indeed, I remember all those years ago when I got engaged to Enda O’Rourke, and my friends saying in a disbelieving tone, “Oh, so you’re going to marry a man from the ‘far side’!” Well indeed I did, and went to live on the ‘far side’ as well.

All that was another time, but it goes to explain my connection with Roscommon and Connaught and all of the other areas west of the river Shannon.

I have asked Fianna Fáil HQ how the party is on the female quota. I have been assured that Fianna Fáil is at 32 per cent, and Fine Gael is at 31 per cent. As readers will know, whatever parties have over 30 per cent will be eligible for some State funding.

Weather is favouring all the election candidates, in that in the first full week of the three-week campaign, we are experiencing perfect canvassing weather – no rain, no wind; very cold and frosty at night but at the same time, once you are out and about, it is perfect weather for knocking on doors.

There are some great election debates on TV. On Monday night we had Claire Byrne Live with a full range of the health spokespersons from each of the main parties. I thought it was a very good debate, and in an unusual way well-mannered as well.

All the participants were agreed that Sláintecare was the way forward, but as Stephen Donnelly (FF ) said, yes, all were committed to that, but in the meantime they had to take extraordinary measures to combat the long waiting lists and particularly the disaster of the A&E situation.

I personally like Simon Harris, the young Fine Gael Health Minister, but he is in an impossible situation. The Department of Health seems to swallow the extra millions it is given each year, and yet the outcome doesn’t improve, so the general agreement between the health spokespersons on Monday night’s Claire Byrne show will find its echo in whichever type of government gets into office and what they will hope to implement.

On the wider world scene, Trump’s impeachment is proceeding in the few days of this week and early next week. It remains to be seen how it will turn out, but already he is fighting back in a fiercely combative manner, and I have no doubt that this will continue.

I must explain to the readers that I am faltering in my reading agenda. You know how I always have a book on hand, and indeed more than one waiting in the wings to read.

But because of the ongoing excitement of the election debate, listening and watching is taking up my free time, and the recreational reading will have to take a back seat for the moment.

I hope the readers are following a lovely TV programme, All Walks of Life, which has come on on a Friday night on RTÉ One at 8.30pm. Mary McAleese, former President, takes a walk in each programme on a pilgrim path with a well-known person, and they discuss matters of life, love, the trials and the joys of participation in public life, and various other philosophical matters.

I found it a wonderful programme to watch last Friday, and there will be three or four more on the Fridays to come. I hope as many of you as possible can look at it, and absorb and reflect on the many good points in which the two walkers engage as they take a particular pilgrim path.

During this election debate, particularly on radio, there is one comment that really riles me. The one remark I hate to hear when they are interviewing somebody, say in Dun Laoghaire or Cork or wherever, is when the person being interviewed says “I am not going to vote, I have no interest in voting, they’re all the same.”

When I hear that, my heart sinks and my blood boils, and I think of all the eminent hardworking candidates in the field, and to hear those remarks “I’m not going to vote, I’ve no time for voting.” It is a privilege to have a vote in your own constituency and to have democracy working, so I say to all the readers, please do not be taken in by that kind of silly comment. Treasure your vote and go to vote. You cannot be a hurler on the ditch if you haven’t cast your vote.

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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