Machinations of Brexit persist as former President of Ireland to publish a memoir

The things we want to talk about this week are mostly the same as those of last week, because they keep re-occurring and they keep being interesting and demanding attention and discussion.

To make it easy, we’ll begin with the sports weekend. I have neglected writing and talking about the GAA, but last Sunday there was an important match between Athlone and Tyrrellspass which took place in Cusack Park in Mullingar. I listened to it fully on the radio in the afternoon. It was exciting; Athlone was at one time leading six points to one, but come half time the score was more evened out. As the second half went on, Tyrrellspass certainly found their mojo and they increased their game and they finally vanquished Athlone.

I was so disappointed for Athlone. They are a great team, but somehow are finding it difficult to get back to what was many years ago a premier position. I know that Ronan Fagan, the editor of this paper, will be giving a full account of the match in this Thursday’s edition. Suffice it for me to say that I was disappointed that despite a feisty outing, Athlone failed at the end.

Before that, on the Saturday, we had Leinster in full flight again as they defeated Ulster. Leinster were really in good form and it appears to me that they are the team to beat, but I hope they won’t be!

Next weekend, Leinster face a strong test when they play Saracens, who beat them last year, so of course Leinster are going out now with revenge in their minds. At the beginning of Saturday’s match, I was fearful because Ulster got the first score of the game and seemed in real good fettle. Then just at the beginning of the second half, Robbie Henshaw scored a great try and from then on there was no stopping Leinster. I saw the match on TG4 but I believe this weekend’s clash will be on further stations.

Again, it was so odd to watch the match with no approving or disapproving chorus from an absent audience. But I believe there will be a breakthrough on that matter – the quicker the better.

I will not at all make any excuse for getting back to Brexit. How could I? It’s on every news bulletin, every newspaper and on the lips of all. Boris Johnson’s bill, the Internal Markets Bill, sets out to put to one side the protocol he had solemnly agreed last year. Imagine, he agreed it himself and now wishes to get out of it. There is nothing I can say that just gets over that. But with a majority of almost 100 in the House of Commons, I have no doubt he will succeed.

Europe can fulminate and we in Ireland can rage, but numbers will have their way and Boris will succeed in this mad adventure. As I am compiling this column, Brexit has passed second stage in the House of Commons on Monday night, and now must go through a line-by-line Committee stage to be then followed by the House of Lords debate. All the high and mighty seem to be against it, and yet numbers tell their tale.

I must comment on the weather again. As I write this, it is simply beautiful outside – warm sunshine and it seems good spirits all round, despite the adverse news we hear from London and indeed from Ireland as the Government unveils its plan for the next six to nine months of living with COVID-19.

Who ever thought we would be having a plan for up to the next 12 months? But listen, readers, that is exactly what we are facing, and I suppose the sooner we realise the scope of what is ahead of us, the quicker we will be able to adapt to the many strictures and arrangements which will be put in place. It is enough for the moment to relish the warm September sunshine and to think that there will be better times ahead – sometime.

I want to immediately tell you all about the wonderful Mary McAleese book which will be out at the end of September. The book is titled Here’s the Story: A Memoir by Mary McAleese.

I have a copy of it because I am reviewing it for the Sunday Independent of September 27. I understand The Sunday Times will have a review and an excerpt from the book this Sunday. I have started reading it, and it is simply terrific. It really epitomises the spirit and determination of Mary McAleese, accompanied by some super photographs.

It will be one of the important books of this autumn/winter, so when it comes out you can ask your library to keep it for you, or perhaps you could buy it as a family purchase.

We’re all aware of the two terms she did as Ireland’s President. She was, and remains, a terrifically important person in modern Irish history. It is lovely to read about her childhood and about her spirit and enterprise as she moved forward in life. I am so honoured to have been invited to review the book, and I am looking forward to dwelling on so many wonderful and delightful episodes that she and Martin and her family have lived through.

So, we’re back to the last subject, and the most important one: that is, education. As we know, I spoke about it last week because the results had come out, to be followed then on Monday by the CAO offers. There is trouble ahead, I fear, in this sphere. Higher education is now in the realm of Simon Harris. It is my belief that Norma Foley and Simon Harris make a very impressive duo to be leading the whole education scene. Indeed, they are one of the highlights of this government.

It appears there is intense dismay at the way the calculated grades system has worked out. And yet, 80 per cent of the CAO offers went to students who got either their first, second or third choice.

It was ever thus, no matter what system was used. However, it is my fervent wish that next year, please God, we will revert back to the written Leaving Certificate. Yes, people can give out about that, they can say what they like, but in the end it is fair and democratic.

So now we are in the middle of reading about and coping with the whole scene of education. We are also coping with the Government programme, so we are full of facts and well aware of what is going on in the world around us.

I have enough said for this week, and hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, you know my slogan: stay at home as much as you can, and stay safe.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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