Europe to miss Merkel’s influential impact as rugby provinces return to competitive action

Hello to all the Advertiser readers.

This week there was the German General Election to consider. Angela Merkel has been the Chancellor for 16 years. In Germany she is known sometimes affectionately as Mutti. There is no doubting that she has brought authority and judgement to bear, not just on the activities of Germany, but she is a real force in Europe as well.

The outcome of the General Election was uncertainty, as both her party and the SPD party led by Olaf Scholz were at almost equal exit polling.

However, during the last 24 hours, it appears as if the candidate Olaf Scholz, who was the German Finance Minister and Vice-Chancellor with the Social Democrats, looks like being the eventual winner. He has already started negotiations with the Green Party and other parties, and seems set on forging a coalition. From all accounts, it appears that the talks will take a long time and it will be well Christmas before we have a final election result in Germany. In the meantime, Angela Merkel will act as caretaker Chancellor until the final government is announced.

There is no doubt that Europe in general will miss her steady hand and her cautious, wise judgement as various matters arise to be considered, not just in Germany but in Europe as well. We will see how all that develops.

Meanwhile, back here, in Belfast, Hillary Clinton has been installed as the new Chancellor of Queen’s University in Belfast, the first time there has been a woman in that role.

There were some lovely photographs of the event and indeed a fine description of her speech at her installation. I was reflecting on this and, in a way, it is good to see the hand and influence of Clinton still holds firm in Ireland. We have benefitted in the past from Bill and Hilary Clinton’s influence, particularly in the peace agreements. So, as I say, we will watch with interest her activities in her new role in Belfast.

It was good to see rugby back on our screens over last weekend. The formation of the United Rugby Championships had four outings over last weekend. We had Connacht, we had Leinster and we had Munster all in action. After a summer of fine GAA football, hurling and camogie, it was quite a shock, though a good one, to return to the playing fields of rugby. Connacht, the first out, against their old foes Cardiff, had not a good outing. In the first half, they really excelled and it looked to me as if the result would be positive. But, early in the second half, their strength and rigour appeared to fail and one by one the Cardiff players stood up to the onslaught and eventually succeeded.

We had Leinster on Saturday against the Bulls, with the score being Leinster 31-Wolves 3. The scoreline belies the good game it was. It just seemed that somehow Bulls were never quite able to match up, but there were some great players from Leinster: Gary Ringrose of course, Luke McGrath, Caelan Doris and, of course, our own Johnny Sexton. All in all, a game worth watching.

Later that evening we had Munster versus the Sharks, again a fine result for with a score of Munster 42-Sharks 17. It was good to see Simon Zebo, who was scorer of the two Munster tries, back in full fettle. I noted one of the newspapers had in its account that “Zebo, ever the showman, even had time to glance at the terraces as he raced through to score.” It was a great game and must have given much hope to Munster for the season ahead. Joey Carbery is a really gifted player. So, all in all, we had great play and good viewing. But of course all of this is only the beginning of the season for rugby followers.

By the way, it was great to see attendances back, with almost 20,000 at the Leinster match in Dublin.

I am sure for many of the readers, however, the sad news of the rugby weekend was on Saturday night when Scotland had a late surge, wiping out Ireland’s World Cup dream. Much had been expected of this match and so it was, right throughout the game, as Ireland appeared on top with their playing and their scoring.

But for Ireland, it was heartbreak. They dominated the play for long periods during the game, but sadly they let their opponents back into the game during the final five to eight minutes, and for that they paid the highest price. The final score was Ireland 18-Scotland 20. Scotland made the winning try in the actual last minute of the game, which was converted expertly, so giving the game to Scotland.

I watched a great documentary on TG4 last week. I hope many of the readers got an opportunity to see it. I only came upon it by chance because I had looked through TG4 for that night.

The name of it was The Irish Woman who Shot Mussolini. Her name was Violet Gibson, who was Irish/English. In 1926, Mussolini was paying a visit to Rome where he was, at that time, an adored leader. She walked right up to him and shot him directly in the face. Imagine, her father was one-time Lord Chancellor of Ireland, but she was really a rebel and an outlier. She was in an asylum for the rest of her life and died alone with no friends or family at her funeral. The whole documentary was very professionally done and TG4 are to be praised for their effort and particularly for bringing to prominence the actions and life of Violet Gibson.

Another good show I’m glad to see back is The Great British Bake Off, which is on Channel 4. Now it goes on for a long time, so I don’t follow it fully, but I enjoy the banter, the baking and the carry-on of the Channel 4 favourite.

The weather is getting cooler and, as I compile this column, winter is beckoning.

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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