Hello to all the Advertiser readers.
Well of course I am compiling this on Budget Day. I have to have this column in by midday on Tuesday in order for it to go into print in the paper to issue on Thursday. Therefore, I will not be saying much about the Budget in this column today, but I will return to it next week.
One way or another, we nearly know before ever Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath stand up in Dáil Éireann (separately ). With the copious amount of leaks which have issued, we more or less know all about the Budget already. However, there will always been something that hasn’t been leaked, and we still await with great interest the details of the Budget.
I remember back in my days in public life, if there was one leak from a Budget that had yet to be announced, there would be ructions all around the Dáil and the Government departments. However times have changed and, as I say, we already know a lot of what is to be announced this week, and more will be told.
One way or another, the huge decision which has to be taken now is what to do about the Mica-afflicted homes all over the western seaboard of the country. It is a huge issue, and I have no doubt that when it comes to be announced and resolved, there will be enormous discussion and disagreement all round.
Before we at all deal with that, we have to deal with the mop-up following the issuing of the National Development Plan. It is hard to disagree with some of the political pronouncements following the issue of that plan, particularly the belief presented in western counties that a lot of the plan is ‘fiction’. It seems that Eamon Ryan will be the actual person in charge when many of the issues in that plan come to fruition. So we all await those pronouncements with huge interest.
Every weekend now, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, there is great rugby to be observed. This is due to the teams involved in the United Rugby Championship, the delights of which are unfolded to us on a thrice-weekly basis. Before we lose the run of ourselves altogether, it is well that we realise that the other teams involved in this championship are from Scotland, Wales, Italy and South Africa. There is no English team and no French team.
Be that as it may, and fully realising that factor, there have been some absolutely terrific games. Last weekend, we had Ulster versus Benneton with a score of Ulster 28-Benneton 8. It was a terrific game and it was great to see people like Tommy Bowe and Rory Best, with his lovely kind face, acting as commentators at that game. I watched it on BBC Two who showed it because it was Ulster playing and, as we know, there are no ads on the BBC so we had a straight-through game.
This was followed by very good wins by Munster over Scarlets 43-13, and Leinster over Zebre 43-7.
The only province which was a let-down was Connacht which lost to Dragons 22-35. I note that there has been much commentary on the lack of consistency shown by Connacht.
It is great to see all those games, to enjoy them and to reflect on them. I notice that in the Leinster games, they are sparing Johnny Sexton and only letting him out when they have to.
To all our readers, isn’t it wonderful to see the crowds back at the matches, to listen to them clapping and shouting and generally being part of the scene? The players, I am sure, gain a lot by having such support in such prodigious amounts, compared to the silence of the empty stands right throughout the lockdowns.
Over the last week, readers will have noted a very well-attended and applauded funeral of a man called Tom Burke, who was for many years the long-time photographer of the Irish Independent.
I remember him so well from my days in public life. No matter how many photographs he took, he’d always jump when he’d see you coming and would want “just one more”. He was a fine, affable guy and I always looked forward to meeting and chatting with him. God rest him. I was delighted to see he got such a good send-off from all of his fellow photographers in Ireland.
I would like to tell the readers about an important development last week in Athlone. The Greenway, which extended along the old railway line from the White Gates on the Ballymahon Road on towards Moate and further, has now had an addition to it from the other side. You can now go from the White Gates along the back of the hospital until you emerge one side of the Radisson Hotel. Minister Hildegarde Naughton came down this week to officially launch it. I understand it is already extremely popular, so now people using the Greenway will have a choice.
Booster time has come to add to our double Covid vaccination. It is entirely necessary because, as time goes on, it appears as if the double vaccination does not give one the immunity we had always thought it did.
Now I come to the part of my spiel that I am tired of saying, and yet it must be said each week. Yes of course life is opening up but, looking at the daily figures, we are not at all out of danger. So please, please, take your usual care but, above all, keep your distance and stay at home as often as possible.
Now I know I sound like a worn-out record, but I feel it must be said. We will awake some morning and, if we are not fully careful, the pandemic will be back amongst us.
Next week, I hope, we’ll have a longer discussion together about the Budget. In particular, I want to concentrate on matters educational. So I’ll sign off until then.
That’s my lot for this week. Hope to talk with you all next week.
Slán go fóill.