US Presidential debates commence as interest in the written word continues to consume

The campaign between Joe Biden and Donald Trump gets into full swing this week. By the time this column is printed, there will have been the first debate, which is on Tuesday night or should I say Wednesday morning at 2am, between the two candidates: Biden for the Democrats and Trump for the Republican Party. I would love to see the debate as it happens, but I know I would fall asleep.

However, all day Wednesday, as the readers will know, we will be treated to excerpts and the debate in full on Sky (if you have it ) and various other media outlets.

I cannot adjudicate, because as I write this column it hasn’t yet happened, so I will look forward to seeing it sometime Wednesday and to both listen and read all of the informal reactions to the debate.

I have to tell the readers that of course I am hoping that Joe Biden will win, not just this debate but any other debates or encounters he will be having with President Trump. However, and this is a very big ‘however’, I fear very much that Donald Trump, with his bluster and his constant shouting of “Fake news, fake news” will overwhelm whatever are the qualities of the person with whom he is debating.

We will see, we will see, but they are my fears and I hope they will not be realised as true. I am sure you have all noticed that President Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett as his choice to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. Before she passed away, Ruth Bader Ginsburg had said to her granddaughter that she hoped her replacement would not happen until after the presidential election.

Of course that did not suit Donald Trump, who wants his candidate to be in place in case there is a dispute to the Supreme Court following the election.

When asked recently would he accept the result, President Trump said “We will see, we will see.” So that does not bode well. He is continually saying that any votes sent through the mail will be, in his mind, incorrect votes. I feel he is seeking around to try to get some way of registering the mail votes as null and void. Of course that is stupid and wrong, but it will not deter Donald Trump if he finds a way where he can pronounce all those mail votes as ‘fake votes’.

When The New York Times printed his tax returns earlier this week, Donald Trump’s only reply to that was “This is all FAKE NEWS.”

The only light I see on the horizon is that Trump performs best when is surrounded by his supporters. But all of the debate outings will be taking place socially distant and with no crowd, so he will be devoid of that kind of enthusiastic back-up.

On Wednesday of this week, I am engaging in a Zoom interview. I hope it all works out satisfactorily. A professor of education in Queens in Belfast is doing an interview with 20 people who have been involved in education in Ireland. RTÉ contacted me last week and asked me would I participate in it. Then he contacted me on Saturday last and we agreed Wednesday at 3pm.

Apparently, he is going to come through on my email with a detailed questionnaire on all my adventures in education down through the years. I am looking forward to the encounter. I hope it works out, and that will have been my first outing on Zoom.

Isn’t the weather just glorious? Yes, I know it’s cold at night, but during the day brilliant sunshine has cheered us all up, even in the midst of the bad coronavirus news we get on a daily basis. I hope that by the time the Advertiser readers read this column, the weather will not have changed to heavy rain again. Nevertheless, we have had some glorious sunshine and it greatly lifts our hearts.

Monday of this week was World News Day, the third annual event. I truly believe that through all of the pandemic period, our newspapers, both local and national, have continued to give us, the readers, the news in a democratic and open way.

I have always been a newspaper addict, but even more so now. Between books and newspapers, they have kept the spirits and hearts of so many people alive.

Journalism – true journalism – is very important in these perilous times, and we should always remember that.

Oddly enough, I must tell the readers of the Advertiser papers that when I finished my Leaving Cert and my father said “What would you like to do with yourself?” I said, “I’d like to be a journalist.” Imagine, all those years ago! My father quite rightly said “There aren’t too many women journalists around, so what you should do is go ahead and do a good BA in English, which will give you the skills for so many avenues in life.”

Little did he know that I would turn to journalism when my stints in Seanad and Dáil Éireann were over. I have never lost interest in the written word, the skill of the journalist and the event which he or she is covering. Here again, three cheers for World News Day on Monday of this week.

Isn’t Mary McAleese getting a great run of it now with the publication of her book Here is the Story: A Memoir? She was on The Late Late Show with Ryan Tubridy last Friday night and gave a scintillating interview. Equally so, she was with Miriam O’Callaghan on Sunday from 10.30-11am, where she found a very sympathetic ear in Miriam and the two of them truly explored all the various facts of the life of Mary McAleese.

As I said to the readers last week, try and get the book either through the library or perhaps buy it for the family. Beg, borrow or steal it, but get your hands on it and you will have a fascinating read. I expect it will be a bestseller and that leading up to Christmas will be one of the books riding high in the sales chart on a weekly basis.

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