End of pandemic within our grasp as further easing of restrictions affords hope for the future

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

Well, the weather has really turned up trumps the last few days, though by the time our readers get to read this, I would say the weather will have turned again. But at the moment it is truly beautiful, sunshine from morning till night and excellent weather for the end of May/beginning of June.

As the readers will know, I very rarely stray into the politics of Northern Ireland. But I was really glad to hear that the former DUP leader, Arlene Foster, has received through the courts damages of €145,000. This was because a celebrity doctor from Channel 4 had put out a thoroughly outrageous defamatory Tweet, which made unfounded claims that the First Minister of Northern Ireland was having an extramarital affair with one of her protection officers.

Fair dues to Arlene: she took him to court and got damages of the above amount, plus Dr Christian Jessen has now to pay her legal costs. To add insult to injury, I see in the paper that he has opened a Go Fund Me page in order to raise the money to pay for the damages and the legal expenses. The cheek of him! It required some courage for Arlene Foster to take the case, and I am glad that she had her reward. The judge said that “her marriage, her family life and her faith are the most important things in her life, and her most important pillars of support”, and these were publicly thrashed by the aforementioned Dr Jessen.

Last Friday, we had the emergence of the Taoiseach Micheál Martin in public as he told us the various steps that can now be taken in June and July to enable us all to come out from under the wrap of the pandemic. He spoke very clearly and with such a joyful tone in his voice that it was easy to discern that was so glad to be free of the pandemic. One sentence he said really resonated with me: “The end (of the pandemic ) is within our grasp.”

Now that is the important fact. I simply have to reiterate, again and again, that we are not out of the worry about the pandemic yet. There are various different variants which are emerging and are likely to keep emerging until eventually it is all over. But I’m going to give my lecture now instead of at the end: we simply must continue to keep our distance, to keep out of crowds, to keep out of doors if possible and to wear our mask if we are going into shops or public places, to continue to have care and to keep to the health guidelines.

Last Sunday I had a lovely day in Dublin. Feargal came down and took me back up to their house. I hadn’t seen himself or Maeve or either of the two children, Sam or Jennifer, since last December. We’ve had endless phone calls which are just never the same, but it was great to see them. We took a drive down around Dun Laoghaire but the crowds were so great there that we moved on into Dalkey and stopped for a while at Bullock Harbour, and later on to the Vico bathing spot in Dalkey too and back into the village which was literally crawling with people, but to the extent that we saw on television of other places in Dublin city. We went back to the house and had a lovely lunch all together. I had a great conversation with Jennifer about her Leaving Cert coming up and also with Sam who is going into fifth year in the senior cycle when they go back in September. All in all, it was a lovely day and it was just great to see all that O’Rourke family once again.

Both Jennifer in Dublin and Luke here in Athlone have finished their secondary school and are studying at home for their Leaving Certificate which will begin next week. Our Leaving Certs have had a difficult year of it, never knowing from one month to another if there was going to be school, online teaching or regular teaching. So it has been an upset period. But I was glad to see, following my visit to Dublin and my frequent conversations here in Athlone with Luke, that they both have emerged from their pre-Leaving Cert ordeals with all their knowledge and their good humour intact.

I missed all the Allianz games on Sunday because I wasn’t at home to look or listen, but I’m catching up on the results of them. I did see Connacht versus Benneton on Saturday evening in the rugby Rainbow Cup of the PRO14. Now Connacht played really well and with great vigour, but Benneton somehow had a fine edge on them, and that edge finally won the game for them.

What about reading? I hope, now that the libraries are open, that the readers of this column are back to visiting them and choosing their books. At the moment I’m reading a very good book called Listening Still by Anne Griffin. She is living in Mullingar and wrote an earlier book called When All Is Said.

Listening Still is very good and I would recommend it strongly to anyone looking for a good story. It is about a woman called Jeanie Masterson who runs a funeral service in a small Irish town with her father and her aunt. It’s a really exciting story and, as you can imagine from what I’ve sketched above, highly interesting. She and her father share ‘the gift of the gab’ which means that when a body is brought in to be laid out, for a very short while they can hear the voice of the dead person uttering ideas and thoughts which they had just before they died. It is actually quite enthralling, and even though it sounds wild, as you read the book it seems entirely feasible. As the book comes to an end, it takes several twists and turns. Now I haven’t read her first book, but apparently they are different themes and different stories. Sometime I hope to get around to reading the first story as well.

Remember, one of the huge benefits accruing now to the revamped library service is that if they don’t have that book in stock, they will trawl all the other libraries and will have it for you within a week. Isn’t that a terrific service?

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

In the meantime, be safe and keep out of crowds.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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