Well, last week I began the column by talking about Roscommon and Mayo, so I had better be true to myself and begin this column by talking about the replay at the weekend.
What a huge, huge disappointment the match was to all of us who were in favour of Roscommon. Huge crowds at Croke Park with Athlone and South Roscommon denuded. My councillor son, Aengus, and his family were part of the exodus, but little Scott, who is only seven, could not understand how he had a flag twice the size of himself and yet his team did not win!
I watched the match very carefully on TV and in my mind Mayo upped their game after last week's tight encounter, not allowing Roscommon space to move. They really played a strong game.The final score didn't lie - Roscommon were well and truly routed.
Roscommon manager, Kevin McStay, said a few very graceful words at the end: “Well we’ll learn from this and we will go back home and train in the winter/spring for the next season. Fair dues to Mayo and I wish them well”. I echo that. I wish Mayo well and now I will follow them as they join the top teams for the next few matches.
There was a terrific hurling game between Galway and Tipperary with Joe Canning the star of that match.
Tyrone walked over Armagh and now join the top four for the All-Ireland. Readers of this column will remember that some weeks back I mentioned Tyrone as a team to watch. I had seen them play and I thought they had marvellous resolve and a great sense of cohesion. So, I still feel they are ones to watch but, of course, the big guns will be playing now. All in all, a very good weekend for GAA sports.
Let us turn to politics. To my mind, Leo Varadkar had a very successful trip to Belfast. His lecture in Queens, his meetings with the party leaders, and the Pride Breakfast the following morning. I feel he has established his credentials with regard to leadership and it was a good idea to go North and to make his stamp with the leaders there.
Last week, mostly in radio debates, there was a huge furore over a proposal that the Government was going to introduce changes regarding the proceeds of a sale of a family home and the exemption they now have from Capital Gains Tax. It was proposed by senior officials, in a paper put forward from the Department of Finance, that this tax relief should be abolished. Very quickly, the Government came out and said an emphatic 'No'!
It was explained that the papers from the Tax Strategy Groups are meant for discussions, generating debate, and setting out options. Reading all that, my mind went swiftly back to 1987 when we were going through the first early Cabinet meetings under Charlie Haughey as Taoiseach.
The Department of Finance has a fashion of bringing forward what I would call outlandish ideas, such as the one last week about the tax on homes, in order to put the frighteners on the relevant Ministers. Then, perhaps, they will fall back on not-so-severe policies, which they will later put forward.
On one particular occasion, when the late John Wilson was Minister for Transport and I was Minister for Education, Finance put forward for consideration by Cabinet and by John Wilson that CIE trains would only run as far as Athlone– no crossing the River Shannon. John Wilson, of course, said that was an outlandish proposal and he would not wear it. And, of course, I piped up too and said that proposal would not do at all. What would people do who wanted to go to Galway, Roscommon, Mayo, and elsewhere?
A Cabinet colleague who thought he was a wag (and they were all men then ) said, “What are you worried about Mary? Sure the train is going to go as far as Athlone"! Anyway, that daft notion never went any further.
I also remember another equally daft notion put forward to me, and to the Cabinet, to make second level education free as far as the Junior Cert, but to introduce charges for the years after that - agh!! I had a major fit at that and there were huge and loud denunciations of, in general, these sort of way-out proposals, which were never going to be accepted. The tax proposal last week fairly set my mind racing and I can so vividly remember those scenes from way back then.
I am off to the film Dunkirk on Wednesday night of this week and I am so looking forward to it. The film has had rave reviews in every newspaper and in every magazine. I believe the action and the acting is first class. I am lucky to have friends who are avid cinema-goers as well, so I am really looking forward to it.
We thought we were free of elections for the time being anyway, but did you know that the German general election will be held on September 24? It appears that the Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is going very well as she starts her campaign, but as we all know elections have a way of turning out not as one expects them to. It will be Angela Merkel's try for her fourth term as leader.
Angela Merkel is really regarded as ‘The Boss’ of Europe, no matter what they say in Brussels. Her voice and her decision on matters are the ones that hold sway. Did you know that the Germans refer to her as ‘Mutter’ which is the German for Mother. When I read that last week I thought how, behind by back, many of my Dáil friends and the commentariat would call me ‘The Mammy’ of the Dáil. ‘Mutter’ has the same fellow-feeling.
It is a lovely, lazy time in Ireland for politics even though the headlines on Sunday’s papers would have you believe that behind the scenes frantic organisation is going on. That, of course, means lots of plotting and planning, and I have no doubt whatsoever that that is happening in the hierarchy of Directors of Elections and various other personnel throughout the country. For the moment peace reigns, but not for long.
I will finish with a big salute for Mayo - “Up Mayo” - the best of luck to them as they plot and plan and strategise during the coming weeks.
Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,