A crowded and tragic weekend

Last Saturday, I was in Mayo for the morning to attend and speak at a giant coffee morning that Lisa Chambers was having to further her campaign for the next General Election.

I will get back to that, but in the meantime, like so many others throughout the country, I want to write of my sympathy following the two horrendous events over last weekend that really struck us all with a great sense of tragedy.

The first was the dreadful fire in Carrickmines in South County Dublin where 10 people lost their lives. The 10 included five young children, the youngest being a baby of five months. Not quite the youngest, as one of the young mothers who perished in that fire was herself carrying in her womb a new life, so in fact 11 lives were lost.

How awful, how terrible, how unnecessary. Reading the papers on Monday, particularly the article by Kitty Holland in The Irish Times struck me with great poignancy. The potential of all of those young people gone forever.  

On Sunday evening we had the terrible tragedy in the village of Omeath, where Garda Tony Golden was gunned down when on a visit to help a woman who was caught up in a domestic violence incident.

The killing of a garda has a huge impact on all of our lives, bringing it so vividly to us that they are our gardaí who, on a daily basis, go into situations where they are not sure what the outcome will be, and yet they do it because it is their job to.  

The result is a young widow with three very young children who will mourn forever the loss of her husband. Garda Golden was from County Mayo, so my sympathies go to all of his family there.  

Going back to my visit to Mayo: “Ó chuir mé i mo cheann é, ní stopfaidh mé choíche, Go seasfaigh me síos í lár chontae Mhaigh Éo.” I was glad to go to Mayo to respond to an invitation from Lisa Chambers who, as I said, set up a giant coffee morning to further her campaign for the next General Election.

The venue was the Breaffy Arms Hotel outside Castlebar. We made the journey in great time and arrived to find such a bevy of women of all ages and sizes and style, all driven by the one aspiration: to see Lisa Chambers elected as a TD for Mayo.

Lisa, her three sisters, her mother and two grandmothers were the solid female power she has behind her, and so many others also. Dara Calleary, the sitting TD in Mayo, gallantly came along as well. As we told everyone, we are not seeking Dara Calleary’s seat, we are seeking a seat for Lisa Chambers.

She spoke and you could hear a pin drop. Lisa is able, articulate, and ambitious, and I wish her well in her campaign. By the way, Breaffy House Hotel has undergone a massive transformation and refurbishment. We met the height of courtesy and hospitality there.  

I was keen to visit Foxford Woollen Mills where I had called many, many years ago. All Mayo people will know that the good Sisters of Mercy, well over 150 years ago, set up the Woollen Mills to bring industry and wages to people beaten down by famine and poverty. They succeeded in doing that, and many are the stories which can be told about the Foxford Woollen Mills.

But now, leap forward to 2015. A complete transformation has been undertaken at the Foxford Woollen Mills.  It is now on two storeys, a wonderful display of the old skills and the old colours of the handcraft of weaving. That much has not changed, but the range of colours, the modern marketing technique, and the gentle flow of the life in Foxford remains a potent symbol of what was before and what has remained now in a modern setting.

A beautiful layout, two wonderfully equipped floors with a super café upstairs stocking all homemade goods, but everywhere the eye is caught by the vividness and the fineness of the tweed. Even in the month of October, there were groups of Americans there ooing and aahing over the wondrous display of throws and rugs and coats and candles and food, such an emporium of delights it would be hard to find in any large city in the US.

Above all, as I found in my short visit there, there was a great quality of service. The two young ladies who helped me choose what I wished to purchase were so helpful and wise in their advice. They would be perfectly at ease in the Brown Thomas of Dublin or Macy’s of New York.

I told them both I would write about them in this weeks’ column, so I hope that they pick up on it. Now, of course this week the Budget is all the talk of radio, TV and newspapers. Because I will be going to print before the full import of the Budget can be studied, I will go back to it next week and give a really thorough appraisal of what has been laid out for the voters.

Anyway, let’s enjoy the goodies which will be unleashed to all this week and about which I will write next week.   

In the meantime, 

Slán go Fóill,



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