Family reunion gives just cause for joy as school return of vital importance

I hope you all, women and men, are feeling better after the opening of the hairdressing salons and the barber shops.

I have certainly noticed a difference in myself, and having been around over last weekend it is clear that many people have enjoyed the visit to the above-mentioned establishments and are feeling much the better for it.

My hairdresser has the next three weeks booked out, she told me, but I was lucky in that early on in the lockdown, while I was speaking to her, she booked me in for the first day when it would be lifted, and so I enjoyed that visit.

Before I go any further, I want to talk to you about Dr Tony Holohan. We all know the story, that he has had to take time out, and rightly so, to tend to his wife who is seriously ill and his two teenage daughters. It will be some time before we fully appreciate the steadfast work and unstinting devotion to duty which Dr Holohan gave us all during his time as head of the Health Advisory Committee. There was a time at the beginning of the lockdown when all we looked at and listened to was Dr Holohan, every night on the news as he gave what was often very grim news to all of us. I remember thinking how calm he always was, and then when the news turned a bit better, how he still retained that sense of calmness and surety about the news he was giving us and about the hopes for the future. My hopes for his future are that he, his wife and family enjoy some close time together as they battle the oncoming adversity. We cannot thank him enough.

Feargal and Maeve and their two children Jennifer and Sam were down on Sunday last, and what a great day we all had. It was the first time they could travel, and so they made the journey down from Dublin. It was wonderful to see the four of them again. We had, of course, talked endlessly on the phone together over the last four months, but to see them in person and then to see them mingling with Aengus’ four children; it was amazing how quickly the rapport between them sprung up, lively and bright again. Jennifer is aged 18, and how she has grown in the months since we had last met. Sam, who is just 15, had become so grown up since we last met. All in all, we had a wonderful Sunday together. As many of the readers will know, there is nothing quite like your own family, and I think by the time they went back on Sunday night I had fully realised and appreciated how much your own kith and kin mean to you.

Now, of course, the whole talk is of children going back to school. Norma Foley, the new Minister for Education, says it is her priority to get the children back in school, and it is the priority for so many. I couldn’t help but notice that a senior political figure at the weekend insisted that schools would open “come hell or high water”. That had an uncanny resemblance to Leo Varadkar’s statement some time ago when he said the Leaving Cert will happen “by hook or by crook”. So it seems that whoever the spokesperson for education is, they have a nifty way with words! Let’s hope the actions match up to the words.

I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for children of all ages that they get back into a school routine. Yes of course there will have to be social distancing, and of course there will be no hugs and coming together the way young people like to do. But that is a small price to pay if they can satisfactorily and safely participate in education again at primary and secondary level.

So whether “by hook or by crook” or “come hell or high water”, let’s hope that September 1 sees the school gates open and students of all ages going in those gates and participating again in full education.

We have had such indifferent weather recently that it is a shame to realise we are almost in mid-July, and yet the lovely heady summer-like days of the lockdown period are beginning to fade. I hope that was not all that we were going to get of this summer, though I notice that the forward weather forecast says that next weekend will pick up again and we might have a good sunny spell.

I am sure that many of the readers are thinking about summer holidays. There is no doubt but that Dr Holohan has given the message very clearly that we should not be taking foreign holidays. And yet, people are going. I listened to the interviews at Dublin Airport, and they varied from genuinely sympathetic cases to clearly others which were just “I need to get the sun”. Let’s hope that the official guidelines will come out as clearly as possible.

In the meantime, many of the Advertiser readers will be thinking about going on holidays locally, or ‘staycations’ as they are called. I know from talking to many people that they are looking up holidays in Connemara, Donegal, Kerry and many other scenic areas in Ireland, mostly on the Wild Atlantic Way.

To my mind, Fáilte Ireland would want to get their act together. Yes, they are doing wonderful advertising in newspapers, on TV and on radio, encouraging people to get packed up and go for the open road and have your Ireland holiday. But to my mind, the first thing they should do is check and see what kind of exorbitant prices are being quoted to people who are making genuine enquiries as to what are their hotel rates.

Now I know that the hotels in question have to try to make up for lost revenue, but they should really seek to facilitate all those who are wanting to holiday in Ireland both from a sense of patriotism and also because they want to bring their children on a decent holiday. Some of the prices I have heard quoted are enormous, and I wonder if there is any way that Fáilte Ireland could keep a proper eye on such matters, particularly if they go way, way beyond what were their previous prices. It is a serious matter, and warrants serious attention from whoever can influence these issues. So let’s bring a sense of reality to the situation.

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

In the meantime, stay safe, and still stay at home as often as you can – that means health and safety.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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