The impact on us here in Ireland of the carnage on London Bridge and the adjoining areas was almost overwhelming.
I had been out with some friends. Coming home at about 9.45pm, I said I would turn on Sky TV at 10 o’clock to see the news, and the whole affair unfolded before me.
In this new dangerous time in which we all live, we immediately think of our own nearest and dearest. My son Feargal and his wife Maeve were in London for the weekend, and of course I thought the worst. I immediately telephoned Feargal to find they were fine and discovered they had heard the news also.
But there was an added depth to the depravity of the attack on Saturday night. Not content with mowing down people on London Bridge, the three then jumped out of the van with long knives and proceeded to stab whomever they met, and continued to stab even though the police were very quickly on the scene after eight minutes.
There is no end to their dreadful actions – the van mowing people down is now allied to a new terror of slashing people with long knives. As soon as they have done the first dreadful deeds they go after more. The closer it comes to us in Ireland the more worried we become.
Particularly later, when we heard that one of the assassins had lived in Ireland for some time and had married here. And yet, it appeared, he was not on any watch list here. It is unimaginable to try to fathom what is in the mind of killers like this who are sent out by ISIS to kill.
Before I go any further, I want to tell you that last week, on May 31, I turned 80 years of age. I had a lovely family party and that continued at the weekend. I was invited by Sean O’Rourke for an interview on his programme and I told him that I know I am 80 because my birth certificate says so, but in my mind I am between 40 and 50. He laughed at that and said “Well as long as you can keep it that way, you’ll be doing OK”.
I am so fortunate to be in reasonable health (odd pains everywhere ) and able to get around. I remember years ago when I would hear somebody had reached the age of 80. To my mind they were ready to step into the grave, but it is amazing how times change and now age does not seem to be the defining factor in anything.
This week the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert begin and, for once, the weather is in their favour in that it is cold, wet and windy instead of the blistering sunshine which usually accompanies the State examinations, and which has the effect of annoying the participants as they gaze out at the sultry heat.
From this Wednesday on, some 120,000 young people will be sweating it out at desks in all the examination centres. I wish them well and it is great to know that every young person now has a chance of a good future ahead of them. There as so many opportunities available, particularly to Leaving Cert students.
What do you make of the results of the Fine Gael election? We have Leo Varadkar in charge, at the moment, of Fine Gael. Next week, all going well, he will be the Taoiseach of the country. Now, as I had told the readers before, I was in favour of Simon Coveney. Not that I had a vote, but I felt that he would be very steady and good for all of the people of the country. This was proven in that he beat Leo 2:1 in the countrywide party vote.
During the weekend, we read that Leo and his team have for the last two to three years been planning and engaging with the TDs and Senators – opening their constituency offices and doing constituency work for them. By and large, during all that time, Simon Coveney was trying to make sense of the housing crisis.
But I think Simon Coveney can be well pleased with his countrywide vote, which surely cements him in the minds of the Fine Gael voters.
We will have the ongoing debate regarding the people that Leo will pick for his team, and who will get the bump out. It will make for fascinating perusal.
I am sure many of the readers will have been following the UK general election. Today, as I write this column, I see that the polls have tightened considerably and that Theresa May is, in several of the polls, only one point ahead of Jeremy Corbyn of Labour. Now, that is truly amazing!
Here is an election that did not have to be called. However, Theresa May wanted to get, as she said herself, a huge majority so that she could manage Brexit. The electorate were not the slightest bit interested in Brexit but very interested in her plans for social care, which she has already changed twice since the election campaign started, and now her plans for recruiting more policemen in the UK in the face of the mounting terrorist challenges.
Jeremy Corbyn has turned out to be very engaging at the hustings – amiable, friendly, and inciting, particularly young people who are turning out in their thousands to cheer him on and to listen to him. But, will those same young people come out to vote?
I should not be talking about the polls because, as you know, I am a sceptic with regard to polls, but we will see what will happen on Thursday night. The great thing is that you will have the result immediately after the vote so, that will mean a late night for me while the counting goes on.
In the Northern elections, Sinn Féin are aiming to increase their vote, even though, as you know, they do not take up their seats in Westminster. So, you have the situation where they have increased their votes for the Assembly, which does not look like it will ever reassemble again, and Sinn Féin are seeking to get more votes in Westminster and they will not take their seats there either. What a strange set-up!
The surprise package will be John Finnucane, who will be contesting against Nigel Dodds in Belfast. Throughout the years, it has proven very difficult to dislodge Nigel Dodds, but Sinn Féin are making an almighty effort to get John Finnucane, the son of Pat Finnucane, into that seat.
In a way, I am surprised at him, an intelligent young man. He knows that if he wins he is not going to take his seat and fight for the people he represents.
I will end my piece by wishing Enda Kenny every happiness in his retirement and the chance to spend more time with the lovely Fionnuala and his family. I have no doubt that the offers to him will come piling in, and perhaps Europe, in some shape, will beckon?
Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,