General Election invigoration ensues as Ireland start with Six Nations campaign success

Well, after this week, life will go back to normal. For the last three weeks, I have to say my life has been circumscribed by the forthcoming general election, both involvement locally in Westmeath and Roscommon, and of course the wider general involvement through television debates, newspaper reports, radio and all of the other media outlets which are recording faithfully the ups and downs of every individual campaign.

It’s been very exciting, and it has truly given me a new lease of life.

Last week, I talked about a forthcoming visit to Tipperary, and I duly went to Nenagh last Saturday for the ‘Aspire to Inspire’ event. Mary Butler, a friend of mine here in Athlone, came with me, and we had a very enjoyable day.

I was going there to promote the cause of a lady called Sandra Farrell who is one of the three Fianna Fáil candidates in Tipperary, along with Imelda Goldsboro and Jackie Cahill, who is the existing Fianna Fáil TD.

Sandra had assembled a huge group of over 250 women for afternoon tea and a discussion and talk. This discussion was chaired by Tracy Pigott, who we all know from TV and the racecourses here in Ireland. On the panel was Senator Frances Black, who we know from her wonderful work in addiction and of course she is a fabulous singer as well; Margot Slattery who is the global chief diversity officer of Sodexo; Imelda Walsh who is the IFA chairperson in North Tipperary; Dr. Mary Ryan, consultant physician and Deirdre Hughes, who has been named as the All-Ireland camogie team member of the century.

So all in all, it was a very varied panel and so expertly chaired by Tracy, who herself made an opening statement and then called on all of us to say our little piece, and then it went back to the audience who had a myriad of questions, arguments and points of view to put to us. It really was an exciting event, and we came home enthused by the lively nature of the afternoon.

This was then followed by the sad death of one of the candidates, the Independent Marese Skehan, which means that the whole Tipperary election has been put back until a further date.

Of course, there is full sympathy for the candidate who has passed away and her family, and consternation within the ranks of all of those who were running for the various parties in the five-seater Tipperary constituency.

Nature will have its way no matter what, and so this unlikely event will perhaps have repercussions on the whole total outcome of the elections, bearing in mind that the nationwide result, minus Tipperary, will be known over this weekend. And then, will Tipperary be the decider of what will be the government?

As the song goes, “It’s a long way to Tipperary”.

As the readers will know, last weekend saw the launch of the first round of the Six Nations rugby competition.

Firstly, I saw all three matches in one shape or another. On Friday night, I saw the under 20 rugby against Scotland, which Ireland won well.

On Saturday, I was back in Athlone to catch the last ten minutes of the main match, Ireland v Scotland, and to listen to the discussion afterwards. Then on Sunday, I watched the women’s rugby.

All three matches were a marvellous success, and a good auguring for the games which lie ahead. It was grand that in the midst of the election turmoil, I was able to have my rugby fix!

Next weekend there will be the pulsating excitement of the election count, so I don’t know what I will get to see or not. But so far, the message from Ireland in rugby is yes, we’ve made the transition from Joe Schmidt to Andy Farrell; yes, we have a good team; and yes, it looks like we are on a winning streak in all facets of the game.

Because of the election and all its subsequent hoo-ha, I have been missing out on reading, which normally, as you know, occupies an important part of my daily life.

The Today with Maura and Daithí programme have been onto me to go down to Cork on February 12 for a Valentine’s special of discussion on the famous book of Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights, which as you know is a real romantic story, and very well fitted to the romantic ambience of those few days.

I am hoping to be able to go, and to that end they have sent me a new copy of Wuthering Heights, which of course I have read so many years ago, but I will make time in the coming days to plunge myself into it again, amidst the turmoil and the limited horizons of electioneering.

Readers, the weather has been extraordinary, hasn’t it? Particularly so for those who are out daily canvassing. We have the later evenings – it is now 6 o’clock before darkness creeps in – the early mornings for planning and talks, and of course the days themselves, though cold, are bright and sharp and suitable for canvassing.

I have had several canvassers to my door, and I always enjoy them coming. I invite them in, and if they can’t come in we have a good discussion at the door on the issues which are current. I always feel the interchange between me – who has been there, done that – and the sometimes new candidate and their companions who are keen to move on and not delay talking at any one door, are very satisfactory.

As I am compiling this piece, Mary Lou McDonald of Sinn Féin has been invited to join Leo Varadkar of Fine Gael and Micheál Martin of Fianna Fáil in a three-way leaders’ debate on TV on Tuesday night.

I think it’s only proper that she should be there. The polls show that Sinn Féin are up there with what were heretofore regarded as the two big parties.

It remains, of course, to be seen can the polls be believed? The exit poll on the day of voting will certainly be one clear marker as to what the likely outcome will be.

My vote will be in the boys’ primary school in the Fair Green in Athlone. The Longford-Westmeath count is to be in Institute of Technology in Athlone. The Roscommon-Galway count will be in the Douglas Hyde Centre in Roscommon.

I am lucky in that I have a ticket for both, so dependent on the mood of the day, I will decide my destination!

As readers will know, I would like to see the outcome in Roscommon and of course here in Athlone, so the next few days and all of the anticipation, tale and counter-tale of skulduggery, and all of the attendant carry-on of elections will continue unabated until we have all had our say.

After all, democracy is important. So readers, no matter what inconvenience it is, get out to vote and register your wish for what you want to see come through this general election on Saturday February 8. Don’t be a hurler on the ditch.

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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