Dáil Éireann returns to familiar surroundings as Budget 2022 awaits October unveiling

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

Last week we saw the Dáil back in its rightful home at Leinster House. What a change it made from the weird, vast reaches of the Convention Centre where the Ceann Comhairle often had to crane his neck and look all around the room before he could locate the person who had put up their hand and had spoken. It was not at all suitable but of course was only necessary because of Covid restrictions. I’m glad it’s finished and that, no matter how they refigure the seats at the visitors’ gallery and various other sections of Leinster House, the TDs are back where they belong, where they can speak and be heard clearly, and no doubt where all of the business can continue in familiar surroundings.

I’m glad that the think-ins are all over and we can mull over all of the ideas that came out of the prolonged party deliberations. For me, and indeed for Fianna Fáil, the worst outcome was the resignation of Deputy Marc McSharry from the Fianna Fáil party. I was really upset when I heard it, though it had indeed been looming for some time. it was clear that Marc was not satisfied with the way business was being conducted within FF, and he was clearly awaiting his opportunity when he could, in a significant way, announce his resignation and the reasons for it.

I am really disappointed. I know Marc McSharry very well and in fact served in the Senate with him between 2002 and 2007. He is clearly an intelligent, bright person and came into the Oireachtas full of idealism and full also of the ideas he could bring to the running of Fianna Fáil and the formation of policy therein. However, that was not to be. I hope that his resignation will be short and that An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, despite the obvious antagonism between the two of them, will see fit to invite him back to join the party as soon as possible again. As I say, I am a supporter of Marc, and can understand some of the frustration he is evidently feeling which overspilled into his resignation.

So the first week back was full of discussion and debate of Simon Coveney and Katherine Zappone, and laden with apologies, recriminations, apologies again, and eventually not much light thrown on the whole controversy. I see this week that Katherine Zappone has said ‘no thank you’ to Charlie Flanagan as chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, who wanted her to come in and to explain from her angle what exactly had gone on throughout the whole affair. She very swiftly said no thank you, and I hope that will be the end of the matter.

It is now just two weeks to the unveiling of the Budget for 2022. I know that both Paschal Donohoe, the Minister for Finance, and Michael McGrath, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, are busy with the business of preparing the Budget and in particular, I am sure, laying out a plan for how our huge debt, which has been incurred due to the Covid pandemic, can be met with ideas to eventually sort it all out.

Yes, we borrowed hugely, but it had to be done if the country was ever to come back again to financial stability and to doing our business locally and internationally. The borrowing of money is cheap right now but that won’t last for long, and I am sure the two Ministers concerned are facing that realism day by day.

Driving around Athlone in the last few days, it is great to see business back in full, shops open, people milling around talking and chatting and shopping – all of which were ordinary things in previous times but which we have clearly missed over the last almost two years. The hospitality trade appears to have rebounded with gusto and I am glad of that, but also people do seem to realise that we still do not have a clear pathway ahead of us. Yes, we appear to be doing alright with

regard to the pandemic, but all over the world there are stories of various new outbreaks. So, it is careful as we go and keep all of our senses alive to what could, but hopefully will not, happen again.

The great source of comment the last few days is about our President Michael D. Higgins and the stance he has taken in not going to meet with the Queen to commemorate the partition of Ireland. Public opinion appears to be divided between those who feel he should go and those who feel he is right not to go. I believe he was right not to go, because it is very difficult to see how one could commemorate and be full of joy at partition which has managed to perpetuate the division on our island.

President Higgins and his wife Sabina were in Rome recently and met the Pope. All the pictures of that encounter and conversation appear to be joyful and full of good humour between the two leaders. I have no doubt that they shared many a saucy story between them.

The readers must, like myself, be full of dismay at hearing how the Taliban are behaving in their ruling in Afghanistan. They said in the beginning they would not be like they were before, but that was all pretence. They are in full sway now: schools for girls are closed, jobs for women are closed, and any organisation that has anything to do with women is being banned. In fact, there are daily sightings and pictures of women being beaten back from the streets. It is so heart-breaking to think of what is happening there and what is to be the future of that benighted country.

Conor Lenihan was down last weekend, not with his little daughter as I thought, but with his sister Anita. I was delighted to see them both and we had a lovely Friday/Saturday together whilst he went to various media outlets about his book on Albert Reynolds. I’m glad to see that it is selling well and is getting some excellent reviews in newspapers and magazines.

As readers will know, Anita was my companion and friend over the last 3-4 years when we took an annual break of a few days here and there in Ireland. We have decided that we will wait until there is neither sight nor sound of a pandemic before we go travelling again.

It was good to see them both, and it will come as no surprise to readers that we talked and talked and talked, day and night while they were here, of all that has happened in the past and all that is happening now politically. We had various views which we expressed amongst the three of us, loudly and with great argument.

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

In the meantime, I’ll end with my usual caution: stay at home, take care and stay well.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke


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