STRAIGHT TALKING WITH...MARY O’Rourke

Long road to trod pertaining to matters COVID-19 as Government formation negotiations persist

We seem to have passed the next test, in that last weekend we had the re-opening of the farmers’ markets, we had the opening of shops selling gardening stuff, electrical shops, car repair shops etc, all of which has added to the feeling that somehow we are battling through this coronavirus and that we are coming out of it.

I noticed in my numerous car drives during the last week, especially in the last few days, that there were many more cars on the road. The day after the workplaces opened to the building firms, I noticed three or four small pick-up trucks bearing pipes, blocks of wood and various other building essentials going around the town to their various destinations. I was glad to see that; it meant more semblance of life returning, more people employed, and hopefully we could look forward in the future to more openings as time goes on.

As the readers will note, there is a new Dáil committee set up to probe the whole coronavirus onslaught and its journey, and the subsequent journey in Ireland. I believe that this committee is in a serious mode and that it will, following its deliberations, unearth some interesting and important material.

As its first task, the committee interviewed Jim Breslin, secretary general of the Department of Health; the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan; and Paul Reid, the HSE chief executive. They all came with long faces and three tales of woe.

This would be a long road, they said, a long journey, and they were quite clear that there would be, quite soon, a secondary wave of coronavirus. It was as if the three of them decided that this was the tale they would come to the committee with. It certainly put the wind up so many of us who watched and listened to them.

By the way, I had never seen or heard of Jim Breslin, who is secretary general of the Department of Health. Now usually the secretary general of a Government department is a person you would see, hear and read of quite often. I was thinking about this and I came to the conclusion that of course the reason we hadn’t heard of Jim Breslin was that his department is one of a technical and professional nature, and therefore the people who would be assuming front stage would be people like Dr Tony Holohan and Paul Reid.

As I say, their tale was one of woe, designed, I would think, to quell any optimism or burgeoning thoughts of more emerging from lockdown than had been anticipated. If that was their intention, it certainly worked. I remember feeling quite pessimistic, having listened to the three of them.

Meanwhile in the background, the talks for Government formation are proceeding. It appears now that the talks have a bit more momentum in them than heretofore. But what a surprise we all got when the matter of Catherine Martin emerged, as she had been nominated to be the new leader of the Greens.

Now I fully understand it is part of the constitution of the Green Party that after a general election they have a vote among their members to see if they require a new leader. However, this seemed very early in the proceedings to entertain such an idea.

It was my belief that backstabbing and leadership ambitions were to the forefront always in both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, but somehow I had always imagined that the Green Party were way above that kind of thing.

Not so. Catherine Martin did nothing to quell her supporters; in fact she said yes, they were intent now on Government formation, but that she would certainly entertain the idea. So there was no attempt by her to quell the incipient rebellion, if that’s what it was.

Well time will tell, particularly now that the talks seem to be nearing a conclusion. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are going to also go back to talking with groups of Independents with whom they have had earlier consultations. I imagine that is a good idea, particularly in view of the demands which the Greens are now putting forward for so many Cabinet seats, so many Junior Minister seats, so many Seanad nominations, and all the rest of the appointments which will be announced once a government is in place.

Again, I had foolishly thought that all that sort of undercover planning and achieving ambitions was not characteristic of the Green Party. But you see, I have been mistaken, as I’m sure many others have. I don’t fault them at all for being ambitious for their own party, but it has certainly opened the eyes of many in Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, who have now decided that they will also pursue what seem like ‘other options’, ie working with a bevy of responsible-like Independents.

So the tempo has increased, and the loud noises around the talks have increased, and I hope that in the next two weeks there will be something to show for all of this activity, both on the ground and of the underground variety!

There have been some interesting TV programmes recently. I watched two of them on TG4; one is a four-part series and it depicts people and places of the Burren – An Bhoirinn – part of County Clare. It was a revelation, depicting the fabulous unusual scenery which is around the Burren, and depicting the towns and villages and the people who live there. It was particularly good on Kinvara, a lovely seaside town in that area. I like to see anything about Clare as my father was a Clare man. The area is beautifully depicted and of course there are the translations. Catch it if you can on a Wednesday night; there have been two episodes already, so two more to go.

The second TV hit for me was also on TG4 and it was about life on Achill Island – Acla. It too was revelatory. Many of us would have been on Achill and admired its beaches and its scenery, but somehow it captures so much – the people and the way they live and the mood of Achill Island. Again, I would strongly recommend it.

Normal People continues to enthuse and to be admired. As the readers will know, you can catch two episodes every Monday night on BBC, and the same two episodes on Tuesday nights on RTÉ. It is certainly worth viewing.

The continuing good weather we’re having is indeed a blessing in these troubled times. However, the recent strong winds amounting to gales were certainly a revelation. I never heard of them before in the month of May.

That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely, and stay at home as often as you can.

 

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