Remembering the positive political impact of John Hume as COVID-19 concerns remain

I know that last week I struck a positive note, thinking that maybe we were out of the worst of the coronavirus.

But not at all. In the last few days, we have had a spike in the number of recorded cases. The acting chief medical officer Dr Ronan Glynn has said that the next few days are vitally important to see if we have continued to flatten the curve, or if we have let in a second wave.

It is just so unpredictable. Now the pubs want to be allowed to re-open, that is the pubs that don’t serve food. Of course I have every sympathy with them, but if it is a case between the pubs and the schools, I know which one I would plump for, and so would most other people in this country. So we have a very uneasy situation now, and it behoves all of us to do everything in our power to ensure that we do not contribute to the rise in infection rates.

I was glad to see the Garda Vetting Bureau say, in a very positive fashion during the week, that yes, they will be fully able to vet every one of the extra teachers which Norma Foley and the Department of Education will be employing for when the schools open. They were extremely positive in their comments, and I have no doubt that they will be well able to fulfil that hugely important function.

In the US, the rate of the coronavirus is huge, with no sign at all of it abating. But the most bizarre incident in the US in the last few days was the loud declaration from President Trump that he thought the US presidential election on November 3 should be cancelled. Imagine, cancelled because, he said, there would be a reliance on postal votes and a lot of them would not be valid.

To coin a phrase, I never heard such a ‘trumped-up’ excuse for putting back the American presidential election. At least he does not have the power to do that; that power rests with both the Congress and the Senate, and from all that they are saying, they certainly won’t do anything to postpone the election.

I don’t know what the majority of the readers think, but it is my belief that somehow Trump will still manage to beat Joe Biden when November 3 comes. Of course, the President is banking on the chance that, by then, there could well be a successful vaccine produced between the Oxford research and the American research. If Trump got that, he would loudly talk about it and say that he had the making of that successful vaccine, etc, etc.

In my mind, Joe Biden is a nice man, but completely harmless. I cannot see him standing up to Trump when they are in a debating situation. Yes, I know everybody will know that Trump is shouting and insulting Joe Biden, but if enough Americans believe it, they will vote for Trump.

Then Joe Biden is taking a long time to select his vice-president. We are supposed to be getting the definite word on his choice this week. I believe it will be Senator Kamala Harris, who is Asian-American and is a very lively debater. If she is chosen, she will add a great bit of oomph to the presidential ticket, and perhaps she will be able to put a few daggers, metaphorically, in Trump through debates, speeches, etc.

This week in Athlone we had the inauguration of a new president of the Chamber of Commerce. John McGrath has been there for the last number of years, and has given excellent service to the business community. I am quite sure that Alan Shaw (who is the new president ) will do the same, and I wish him good luck in his term of office.

Readers will know that there is much talk now of the need for more women in politics, and for women to have facilities in the Dáil and in the council chambers if they wish to cater for young children. It is not always possible, of course, but yet here in Athlone the Green Party’s Cllr Louise Heavin has just had her second baby.

At a recent council meeting, which was her first one back after the birth of her new baby, she came into the council chamber with her Moses basket and herself lying in it, all of ten days old. My son Aengus told me all about it. The baba never stirred for the duration of the council meeting; no matter how loud the voices got, she slumbered on.

So the churches are open, but are allowing just specific numbers. I understand that there is quite a surge to attend, but according to the strictures as laid down, they can’t all get in. I was talking about this recently to someone I know, and she said the only church which stayed completely open in Athlone throughout the three months of the coronavirus lockdown was the Franciscan church. It was good to hear that the doors were wide open every day for people to slip in and out for private prayer.

As I write this, the sad news has come in of the death of John Hume of Derry. I knew John Hume well throughout my career, and have always been a huge admirer of his way of conducting democracy. He always said it must be by peaceful means, the exact same as Daniel O’Connell said all those years ago. The only way to get democracy and civil rights is by peaceful methods. His wife Pat was a stalwart and loving helpmate to him throughout all those years, and I met her also on many social occasions.

In these sad days of pandemic, it is well to remember his wonderful anthem when he and others were young men fighting the establishment in the North for better housing; he always said “We shall overcome.” How true, and how sad, on this sunny August day, to remember John Hume who did so much for this country, North and South. God grant him his well-earned peace.

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

In the meantime, stay safe, and stay at home as much as you can.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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