Basking in May and polling in France

What a wonderful, wonderful May we are having – let me correct that, what a wonderful first week of May we are having.

The trees are in full leaf, the flowers are in full bloom and the birds never stop tweeting and singing from early morning until late at night. It is all just terrific and I am so enjoying it. I hope some of you are also having time to enjoy it while it is here.

Well, so much is happening in Europe and at home so I better stop my admiration of nature and get into the real world, so to speak. Firstly, we had Enda Kenny going to Malta and on to Brussels and ensuring that the position of Ireland and the North of Ireland, the Good Friday Agreement, and all of that, would be correctly noted in the account of the EU meeting. This should guarantee that Brexit, for the Republic, would be easier than heretofore.

Also, of course, Enda Kenny can now say - if the bright sparks in his own party try to hurry him up or hurry him along - “What? Are you trying to get rid of me now with my Brexit baby in my arms?” Long friendship in Europe has stood to Enda Kenny in these preliminary talks and we will see what comes next.

Just over a week ago, we had Bertie Ahern in Athlone for a Brexit lecture. Councillor Aengus O’Rourke (my son ) got the idea that he would like to hear Bertie’s views on Brexit as, of course, he had been one of the prime movers in the Good Friday Agreement and he also had given a few very good speeches on the matter lately. So, he contacted Bertie, who agreed and came to the Shamrock Lodge Hotel to do a fine lecture.

More than 100 people were there and it was deemed to be an extremely serious night. He was accompanied by Deputy Darragh O’Brien, who is the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Brexit, and together they made a fine duo and were very warmly appreciated by the audience that were in the Shamrock Lodge.

There were some fine good questions, showing the interest of the audience in what the speakers were saying, and all in all I was delighted to learn that Bertie got such a warm welcome. I was very happy he came. Of course, it was always going to ruffle some feathers in the hierarchy of Fianna Fáil, but what good is it if you do not ruffle the odd feather here and there? His life’s work had entitled him to be invited, and I am so glad he was.

I was in Wexford the same night at a Fianna Fáil function, to which I had agreed before ever the invitation to Bertie was mooted, and there was nothing I could do about that.

What do we make of Theresa May and her election? I saw a terrific interview with her last Sunday morning on BBC1 TV by Andrew Marr. A really wide-ranging, strong interview. She gave as good as she got and I have no doubt whatsoever that she has her mind made up regarding what she wants to achieve out of Brexit, but that is from her side.

It is completely different from the European side. I am not at all sure that they have any wish to make her passage out of the EU easier or to give anything away to her. It will be a long, hard fight, but in the meantime she is up for it and going all over the country trying to whip in support for the Conservative Party.

As we are on the topic of elections, the general election in France is very intriguing. The second round is early next week on May 7 and, of course, the field has now narrowed down to Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. So far so good and, as I compile this, Macron appears to have gained the upper hand. But, of course, that is what the polls are saying, and you know what we think of the polls.

The talking point in France and the UK about this election is that Macron’s wife, Brigitte, is 24-25 years older than him, and this has given rise to such deep interest. She is a very fine looking woman, very cultured, taught French and Latin, and was also a student and taught theatre studies in the school to which Emmanuel Macron used to go.

They are very much in love and she is a great guide and organiser for him. Everyone is making much of the age gap because she is the older, and yet Donald Trump is the same number of years older than his wife Melania and no one is passing any remarks on that. I have seen some beautiful photographs of Emmanuel and Brigitte and I have no doubt whatsoever that if Emmanuel Macron becomes the President of France they will make a very dashing and workman-like couple.

Now, after all that high talk about Europe, France and all the rest of it, it is time to come back to reality. Here in Ireland we have the debate which has been going on now for 10 days about the new maternity hospital in the grounds of St Vincent’s. Simon Harris, the Health Minister, has asked for a month of calm and his wish is that within that month the matter will be fully sorted out to the wishes of all concerned.

I do not know if it is going to be that easy. But, whatever, there is a bit of time to play with because the planning application for the building of the maternity hospital has not yet been submitted, and that will take its own time going through the process, including any amendments or suggestions that are put towards it. So, we will see what comes out of all of that.

One way or another, let us enjoy the fine weather while it is here, and let us await the results of these elections to come.

That is all until we talk next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke


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