Hello to all the Advertiser readers.
Imagine, this is the week of St Patrick’s Day and in quick succession we have had International Women’s Day, Mothers’ Day, on Wednesday St Patrick’s Day, and just two weeks after that we’ll be on the Easter weekend. All of the celebratory days coming tumbling on top of one another, and often with not enough time to enjoy each one individually.
However last Sunday, Mothers’ Day was a great success, and I had such a lovely time with Aengus providing all the honours in person in Athlone and Feargal on the telephone from Dublin.
Yes, Mothers’ Day is important, and as I bask in the lovely cards and the lovely flowers, I think how lucky I am to have such a caring family. I am godmother to Scott, the youngest of Aengus’ children, and he got his Dad to search high and low for a card for a godmother, which Aengus did, and then Scott wrote his good wishes in it. He said he can’t wait till I have my second jab and then we will be able to meet again. Happy thoughts for ahead.
I see that the Taoiseach Micheál Martin is going to have a virtual St Patrick’s Day meeting with the president of the US, Joe Biden, with the vice-president Kamala Harris, and with Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
He will discuss all the current issues between Ireland and the US, in particular the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Good Friday Agreement, and the general warm endorsement by the US of Ireland.
In these few days too, Micheál Martin will do a virtual launch of a book called From Whence I Came, which is a series of essays from many fine speakers and writers who have visited the Kennedy Summer School since 2012. I have reviewed the book for this weekend’s Sunday Independent.
The title, From Whence I Came, is taken from the words of President John F. Kennedy when he stepped up to the rostrum in Wexford on his first visit back to Ireland. Earlier in the morning he had been in Dunganstown with the Kennedys who had left Ireland and the Kennedys who stayed, as he put it so pithily.
The crowds were gathered in their thousands in Wexford to hear what he had to say, and he stepped up to the microphone and said “I’m so pleased to be back from whence I came.”
The stimulus package which Joe Biden presented to Congress has passed, and it is a huge economic package to benefit every person in the US. I certainly know two women and one man here in Athlone who will shortly be getting their personal cheques for $1,400 directly from the president, that is if they have not already got it.
We had outstanding rugby over last weekend, and it chimed so well with Mothers’ Day on Sunday. There were several matches in the Six Nations, but Saturday’s match between England (23 ) and France (20 ) made for riveting viewing. England has improved so much over the season, but that match was played at a very high level and demanded real concentration in viewing.
Then of course we had Ireland versus Scotland on Sunday afternoon, played at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. As we all now know, the result was Ireland 27: Scotland 24. But there’s a whole story behind all of that.
At half time, Ireland had a huge lead, but in the second half they frittered it away to a strongly combative and confident Scotland. It looked like the score was going to be 24-24, but our hero Johnny Sexton sealed a win with a penalty kick to make it, as I said, 27-24.
I have of late been tempted to give out about Johnny Sexton, not just his performance but his general petulance at times displayed on the field to his teammates and to others. Let me tell you all, I will never, ever give out about Johnny Sexton again, after that wonderful penalty shot he scored.
He must have nerves of steel to walk up to that ball and to know that the winning of the match at that time depended on him, and him alone. I am reminded of the two lines of the poem ‘If ‘ by Rudyard Kipling:
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”
The outstanding performer of the match was Robbie Henshaw. Now, I’m not just saying it because he is from Athlone, though I’m very glad he is from Athlone. But he was just so much the master of the game and the master of the pitch.
He has the facility to find his way through a crowd of the other side and to get to where he wants to go, to mastermind an excellent try with his teammates, and above all he is a towering figure on the Irish international rugby scene. I am sure he will be picked for the Lions team when that event comes off.
As I said earlier, we are almost within two weeks off Easter, which is coming so early this year. Easter week is normally the full week for the teachers’ unions to have their conferences, and this year they are of course having virtual conferences. The tradition is that each of the unions – ASTI, TUI, INTO – invite the Minister for Education of the day to come to address them, to mingle with then, to hear of their woes and to provide a sympathetic ear. It’s also the time of the Catholic Primary School Management Association, the parents’ groups of management, and this year Fórsa representing all of the SNAs of Ireland.
For five years I went every year to all of those conferences during Easter week. Of course, there were many complaints, but there was also great enjoyment and I used to treasure so much the direct meeting with union members so that I could learn exactly what it was like, rather than the sometimes louder declamations that they have to make to satisfy their own members.
This year, for the first time, the ASTI are not inviting the Minister for Education, Norma Foley. This will be of some great relief to the Minister herself and indeed, I’m sure, for the ASTI who the readers will remember some weeks back had their own barney with the Minister and stormed off, and then three days later came back into the discussions.
St Patrick’s Day is forecast to be dry and sunny, and as I am writing this before the event, I hope it turns out to be that. I can well remember so many Patrick’s Days shivering in the cold on platforms and watching the little children going by in their thin blouses marching in the cold. No parade this year, but we will have our own fun, I am sure. After all, there is a Late Late Show on St Patrick’s night, for the first time ever.
So, enjoy whatever the day can bring, but do remember to stay at home if you can. You will be so much safer that way.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.
Slán go fóill.