Detrimental impact of coronavirus as country still awaits formation of Government

I hope you all survived Storm Jorge. Apparently, the ‘J’ and the ‘g’ are pronounced as ‘h’ so just to make it easy we will call it Storm George.

I understand that the Irish Meteorological Service was about to call it ‘Ellen’ after Ciara and Dennis, but Spain jumped in and gave it the title ‘Storm George’.

Here in the Midlands, apart from Saturday afternoon, it had no very big effect. Saturday afternoon was windy with showers of sleet and snow, and then it passed on up eastwards.

Of course, it was correct that we were fully informed of the storm, but in comparison with earlier ones it did not wreak real havoc.

We are now into the month of March, and still the persistent and intense cold remains. Yes, we have brighter mornings and evenings, but oh so piercingly cold right throughout each day. And as I write, as yet no sign of that lifting.

Of course, the whole scene now, right throughout the country, is Coronavirus, particularly with the announcement of the young student in the secondary school in Dublin who contracted it whilst in Northern Italy.

Last Sunday, I was out with my son Aengus and Lisa and the children for Sunday lunch when the announcement came through of the closure of the school in Dublin. My grandchildren were all delighted, thinking that every school in Ireland would be closed, and they were jumping around with joy, when it was soon made very clear that it was just the school in Dublin.

There is no doubt that the word ‘coronavirus’ and all of the arrangements around dealing with suspected cases give rise to panic, even though we are told to keep calm and not to panic.

Perhaps by the time this column is being read there will have been other cases, but so far it remains one in Northern Ireland and one with us here. Of course it will have a huge serious effect on business of all kind. I understand the airlines are being besieged with cancellations; likewise the tourism board here is experiencing plenty of cancellations of visitors and tours coming in. Equally so, planning for holidays abroad has ground to a standstill until it is clear all round as to what will be the outcome.

In a way, it will be helpful for home tourism, and I hope that the hotels and attractions around Ireland are geared up for an influx of visitors come spring and early summer.

What did you all think of the decision made by the specialist board in Ratoath College in County Meath? This was set up to examine the order which had been given by the school authorities to incoming pupils that they were to dispense with books and to concentrate on tablets and technology.

I remember well when that came out twelve months ago, and thinking what a wrong decision it was. Anyway, the parents said they wouldn’t obey the order from the school, and the school set up a specialist committee to examine it.

It seems the pupils were using their technology to wander into other fields of knowledge not strictly connected with school activities. The decision of the committee was that is back to books and written work.

I am so glad of that, because I think there is nothing to beat concentration on the written word and on your school books, whereas I was always of the opinion that new methods of technology are helpful to find out further knowledge, but not helpful for learning in a daily sense.

Good for the parents, they took matters into their own hands, and Ratoath College, which has a thousand students, will now go back to book learning. Technology is good as an additional support, but not as the main and only support.

No government here as yet, and no sign of it either. Yes, the parties are talking together, but it all seems a long way away from actually forming alliances and then forming a government.

Now I have lived through this before, and yet this time it seems matters are proceeding at a snail’s pace. I had better be honest all round and say that, to me, the best outcome would be that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would form a government together, either with the Greens or a group of the Independent alliances which have been set up.

Yes, the electorate demanded change, and while Sinn Féin seems to be sure that change meant that the electorate voted for them, it is important to remember that the three parties got similar votes.

To me, the greatest change would be the amalgamation of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in a government. That would surely be some change, and in the centenary year of the War of Independence, it would be a fitting end to the uncertainty surrounding the last general election.

Otherwise, we face into another election. Who wants that? Following a recent poll, it would mean there would be a huge increase in Sinn Féin votes and a similar decrease in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael votes. So my advice, though of course I don’t expect it to be heeded, is that we would move on with some semblance of urgent decision-making.

By the way, I did not at all approve of the constant heaping of insults by Micheál Martin on Mary Lou McDonald and the Sinn Féin party. In my opinion, and it is truly only a personal opinion, each time the two leaders of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael engaged in that practice, Sinn Féin’s ratings shot upwards.

Over in the US, matters are moving forward with regards to the choosing of a candidate from the Democratic Party to challenge Trump in the upcoming November presidential election. So far, the contest seems to be between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders as they slug it out in the various caucus meetings which have been held.

Today as I write is ‘Super Tuesday’ when a huge number of Democrat voters will be selecting at a range of primary gatherings. It will be night-time Tuesday before we get the results, and you will have heard and read them yourselves in the days since. It will be interesting to see how the

millionaire Michael Bloomberg fares as he is entering the fray for the first time this Tuesday; he has spent literally millions on advertising up to now, but has not been subject to votes.

There is great reporting of this in all the newspapers, TV and radio news. And yet, I remain of the opinion that it will be difficult for any Democrat candidate to withstand the wiles of Donald Trump when it comes to the election.

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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