The season of think-ins has begun, as I wrote a couple of weeks ago. It has started with Fine Gael in Newbridge in County Kildare. Enda was great to state quite definitely that he was staying the pace no matter what the papers said or whatever the plots his bold back-benchers were hatching.
He said quite clearly - I have a mandate from the Dáil and I am going to continue in office. Of course, he has also got his mojo back. That and the other think-ins and the forthcoming Budget will be the issues of the day.
The John Halligan story was something else, but it is now up to himself to decide whether he stays in or out of Government. I heard on the radio Dr Herity from Belfast who did the study of what was needed at the Waterford University Hospital, and I thought he made a lot of sense. I fully agree that Simon Harris or any Minister for Health of any party could not go against the professional advice they had been given, particularly as I understand the arrangement was made with John Halligan before he entered Government. That was surely a very explosive interview with him in last weekend’s Sunday Independent.
I noticed the fire station in Athlone had two big American Stars and Strips flags and the Irish flag in the middle last weekend. That was in honour of the many firefighters who lost their lives on September 11, 15 years ago. I expect all over Ireland that most fire stations did the same. I thought it was a great mark of solidarity with their American brothers. I was in Boston in the US on the day that it happened. I have written about it in my previous book, Just Mary. All the episodes were so terrifying and I remember thinking that the end of the world was coming.
Talking of the US, what have the readers made so far of the contest between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? We have not spoken about it for a while now but in two weeks time we will have the first direct debate between the two of them.
Of course, a lot has been made over the past weekend of Hillary’s fainting episode, having stood for an hour and a half in the heat in New York, and then being diagnosed with a dose of pneumonia. I remember listening to her about a week ago when she was giving a speech and she was coughing incessantly. She did not take care of herself by taking a day off then in the campaign and now she is being forced to do so.
Let’s see if Donald Trump tries to take issue with her over her health. Firstly, I hope she will get better and quickly and then that she will go out and fight as she is able to do. The opinion polls in the last few weeks have shown a narrowing of support between herself and Donald Trump. I pay no heed to opinion polls in any country because they almost always are incorrect.
I have a confession to make. It is not that I am totally mad or besotted with the idea of Hillary Clinton becoming president, but she sure is a whole lot better than Donald Trump and that is the main reason that I am backing her. I met her on several occasions when she was over and back with her husband to Ireland during the period I was in Government. I always found Bill Clinton warm and personable but I somehow felt that Hillary was ‘staging’ on occasions. That is just my personal opinion and, as I say, I am backing her to be president of the US far ahead of the other contestant.
Wasn’t that a wonderful Senior Camogie Final in Croke Park between Kilkenny and Cork last Sunday? They played a great game with a close score and I expect Kilkenny will feel a bit vindicated after their All-Ireland hurling loss now they have attained the Camogie Cup after 22 years.
I thought the women were as skilful and hardworking as any of the men had been and they surely know their game and all the ins and outs of it. Of course, next Sunday we will have Mayo and Dublin - one we are all looking forward to. There will be a great exodus from the West of Ireland up to Dublin and we all hope that Mayo, with its valour and determination to play a good game, can break the grip of Dublin on the football final.
I will end on a local note but one that will have a resonance in every community in Ireland. Recently, I received a letter from a group of people who work in the public libraries in Ireland. It appears there is a plan afoot to roll out staffless library hours around the country. Apparently, a pilot scheme has already been undertaken in both Offaly and Sligo County Councils.
This is the first step towards the dismantling of the public library system as it is known and cherished throughout the country. In the words of the letter I received: “We are in danger of allowing one of our most powerful community and social assets to be eroded away”.
At a time when we are told communication between people is so important and that we should aim in our everyday lives to keep the lines of talk and communication open between one another, I cannot see how this so-called step forward is anything but a huge step backward.
For County Westmeath it is believed that there is a plan for Moate Library to have staffless hours by the end of 2016. Moate was refurbished and reopened with great fanfare recently. They have asked me to be an advocate for them, and I am glad to do so. A recent Danish study showed that given a choice, people prefer to use libraries staffed by professionals. Hurray, hurray I say and if you hear anyone putting forward the idea of staffless libraries or if you read anything about it, I am hoping that you will put forward your opinion with a good loud voice.
I hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,