I am sure so many of you are heartbroken at the dreadful news of the carnage in Manchester. Twenty-two, mostly young people, at the Manchester Arena, killed and 59 injured, many of them seriously.
And Manchester a city so near to us, just over the water. The concert in the Manchester Arena was by Ariana Grande, a singer in her early 20s, beloved by young people, particularly pre-teens and young teens. She had played in Ireland only last week.
What makes this event so sad is the majority of those who have been killed and injured were in that age group, say 10 to 15 or 16 years old.
Many readers will have children of that age, or perhaps grandchildren like I have. I have two grandchildren aged 14 and two aged 12, so I can imagine the excitement of those young people getting ready to go to the concert. The boys in that age group would have begun to use the hair gel experimentally, daringly, but with great abandon.
The girls, perhaps, would have begun with an equally daring application of eye shadow and a small modicum of make-up. I can just envisage the joy and anticipation as their mothers or fathers left them in to the concert with firm admonitions that they would be back to pick them up at 10.30pm. So they bounced into that arena full of the joys of spring, longing to escape into the fantasy land of pop culture.
What makes it all them more heart-breaking is that it was a beautiful evening in the month of May. Of all the months in the year, I think the month of May shows the most promise. Summer, and the freedom associated with it, lies ahead – the long holidays, the promise of fun to come. How awful it was to have those young people cut down in their first flowering of youth. I am overcome with a huge sadness at the tragedy of it all and I know so many other people will be too.
So, Enda, the Taoiseach, is gone and gone on his own terms. And, as I envisaged, now the real squabbling begins. Leo and Simon are touring the country. Michael Noonan did well to ring Simon Coveney and say to him to keep in the race and to visit the councillors and the Fine Gael party members.
After all, they had all been promised that this would happen and to suddenly call the event off because Leo had got more support from the Parliamentary Party would have been wrong and would have been a great insult to the party members and councillors around the country. I do not have a vote, but I favour Simon Coveney.
By the way, there was a Prime Time programme on the night Enda resigned, and I saw Frank Flannery on it for the first time in ages. I want to pay credit to him. He said, straight away and quite clearly, before anyone else how Fine Gael and Labour had to do everything to get out of the mess left by the previous Government.
That Brian Lenihan, by his budgets, had laid out the course that the incoming Government had to follow. He had received the money from Europe and the way was clear. Now, of course, there were terrible hardships involved in that, but Enda Kenny’s Government did not have to beg for money – the money was arranged and laid out for them.
Later that night, Vincent Browne said the same thing twice on his late night programme, so I always get a happy jump to my heart when I hear people paying credit where credit is really due.
We had some wonderful sporting action last weekend. We had two fine rugby matches. One in which Munster triumphed, the other Leinster lost, but they were both good matches. It does not matter if you cannot follow the dialogue because the game is what is important.
Then, on Sunday on RTÉ2, I saw the finest exhibition of hurling that I am ever likely to see when Cork took on Tipperary. It was a match that was skilful, dramatic and with a score a minute, with the teams so expertly matched. It was a powerful game to watch and it displayed, in full, the strengths and the sophistication of the game of hurling played as it should be.
Cork had three or four 19- to 20-year-olds and my could they play. They had no fear on the pitch. They just went out and showed their courage, skills, and substance.
Of course, there were many terrific GAA football matches as well but, for me, the abiding memory of the weekend is the Cork versus Tipperary hurling match.
Then, last Friday night, we had Deputy Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran (soon to be Minister ) on the Late Late Show. I thought he acquitted himself very well and, there is no doubt, he will do the same when gets into the Junior Ministry as well.
But finally, back to Manchester again, and the mayhem and carnage of it all. To hear on the radio the voices of mothers searching for their young daughter or young son, and wondering will they ever get them. The utter heartbreak associated with that...
I know you cannot go around living in fear, because if you do you have no life. At the same time, I deeply grieve for all those who lost their lives and those who were injured in that dreadful Monday night in Manchester.
Talk with you all again next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,