Back to school, and back to business for Government

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

We seem to be living in the follow-on from the Phil Hogan affair, in that the Government, under orders from Europe, must now put forward two members to fill the vacancy, a woman and a man.

First of all, let me say that I think it is outstanding cheek on the part of Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the Commission, and a case of insane gender quota to order Ireland to send two names forward to Europe to fill the vacancy.

I do not think there is any basis, in law or in fact, for her to take such action. Yes, of course gender quotas are desirable, but to actually ensure gender quotas in the way she is doing is, to my mind, an incorrect procedure. We’ll see how it pans out.

Of course, all the emphasis this week is on the schools reopening. As I compile this column, all of my six grandchildren – two in Dublin and four in Athlone – are already back in their schools. I wish all children good luck in their new adventures as they learn to live with the restrictions which we all have had to undertake.

Already, there has been an outbreak in a Dublin primary school. The principal appears to be practical, the health advice has been got and the matter is proceeding in the right way.

I was so glad to hear the acting chief medical officer, Dr Ronan Glynn, address an open letter to the parents and guardians of children throughout Ireland. I thought it was a highly sensible and practical thing to do. His letter was full of good and practical advice. He noted that yes, of course there were going to be bumps on the road, schools would get the coronavirus, there would be ups and downs, but children were better and happier back at school, particularly after such a long break.

Sticking with education, next Monday we will have the Leaving Certificate results, and we hope the grading system that Ireland is using will be a better one than the recent UK debacle. Minister for Education Norma Foley and the officials within the Department of Education have worked carefully together to get the Leaving Cert results done in a correct fashion, and I hope that is the way it will work out next week for all of the students who are anxiously awaiting the results. We will talk more about them when they come out next week, when it will be clearly seen if the grading system was satisfactory.

We have all become so expert, haven’t we, watching out for the Six One News every evening to see if there are deaths and also how many more people have contracted the coronavirus.

We are living in very serious times, and I feel we are just combating a very strong surge of renewal of the virus. But somehow we have got used to it: we put on our masks, we go out and do our shopping and attend to other matters, but we are careful.

I know I am careful because of the age I am, and I try as little as possible to go out and to spend more and more time at home.

It is nice to see the autumn schedule released for RTÉ and for Virgin Media. There will be some very good programmes. I am particularly looking forward to the Martin McGuinness documentary on the Wednesday of this week. I am sure by the time the Advertiser readers are reading this column, many will have seen it.

I also would like to draw attention and give credit to a terrific success which has unfolded in the last few months. It is at 6.30 every night on RTÉ Radio 1. The programme is run by Des Cahill – that is, amiable, smiling Des Cahill. He ran his programme to coincide with the shorter news from 6-6.30pm, and on each occasion he has interviewed a ‘person of note’ who has talked about their lifestyle with him, and picked their favourite records. It has been a terrific success and certainly one of the recent triumphs of RTÉ. I would say the person most surprised by the success is Des Cahill himself! I was one such ‘person of note’ at the beginning of the summer and greatly enjoyed the encounter.

Now that September is in, we have come back to the hour-long Six One News on RTÉ One from 6-7pm. This news programme has two new presenters: David McCullagh of Prime Time fame and Caitriona Perry who joined the team last year. David has made a successful transition from Prime Time to the news. We await the use of his famous eyebrows, which were very much in evidence on Prime Time and which he used to such good effect. Perhaps they will not fit into the ambiance of the Six One News?

The hour-long news, I feel, is a good translation. We get decent reports and some time spent on important items.

The Dáil is back, full of fire and thunder, and I hope all parties in it are prepared to work hard at forming legislation, plus the planning for the Budget in early October which I am sure will be a very difficult programme to put together for both the Government and the Opposition.

Speaking of Government, I was very happy to hear from Michael McGrath, the Fianna Fáil Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, that he has put a photograph of Brian Lenihan, the late Minister for Finance, up on his office wall. I was greatly touched to hear that. Michael had worked with Brian as a backbench Fianna Fáil TD during the economic crisis years of 2009-2011. They had fashioned a great working relationship together. Thank you, Michael, for raising my heart with your action.

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

In the meantime, I stress again and again, stay at home as much as you can. You are so much safer within your own home walls.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke.


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