Ireland digests a sober budget while Catalonia strikes for independence

At the beginning of this column, I would like to extend my sympathies to the Cosgrave family on the death of their father Liam.

I never knew Liam Cosgrave. By the time I got in to the Dáil, he was gone and throughout the years while I met him once or twice at national functions, I never really had a conversation with him. Even so, I know enough about him to have learned that he was a man of honesty and integrity and had a particular trait which I really admired, and which came out in all those who spoke about him since his death - he did not like codology or people who carried on with nonsense, and I admired that in him. He was a straight talker himself and he expected those he dealt with to be the same. May he Rest in Peace.

What are we to make of Catalonia? Yes, of course, the Spanish police were completely in the wrong to go in and manhandle the people of Catalonia who marched looking for independence, and I was glad to see an apology was issued by a member of the Spanish Government. However, the march of more than one million people last Sunday in Barcelona was an eyeopener. These marchers wanted to maintain Spanish unity and did not want to see any section of Spain hive off into a separate kingdom.

At the time of writing this piece, it is still a little bit up in the air, but it appears to me that the President of Catalonia has realised that to look for full independence now would be a wrong move for him, particularly in light of the major banks and financial institutions who are moving away from Catalonia, in order to get a saner climate in Spain in which to do their businesses. We will see what develops, but I hope common sense has a say in the final resolution.

The Budget this week had something for almost everyone and it made for agreeable listening and reading when all of the details were finally worked out. I think that Pascal Donohoe is a fine Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and, on the day of the Budget in the Dáil, he acquitted himself well in a speech lasting more than 60 minutes, in a straightforward fashion. There were no incomprehensible words, he had no fit of coughing, and all he took throughout the speech was one sip from his glass of water.

It will take some time for the ramifications of the Budget to sink in, but it is my belief that, in this case, it is a sober Budget, well thought out and well produced. Of course, Fianna Fáil had a huge say in it, as they are part of the ‘Confidence and Supply’ arrangement aimed at keeping Fine Gael in government. Let us hope the current Government stays in office so that we will have an opportunity of getting back on our feet again.

Well done to Deputy Thomas Byrne, the Education Spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, who ensured that the pupil/teacher ratio was brought down and that the introduction of guidance counsellors throughout all of the secondary schools will be implemented. All good, solid moves.

Tuesday of this week, in the morning, before the Budget TV appearance, I was in Tullamore to launch the Offaly Positive Ageing Strategy. It is very much on the lines of the strategy adopted in Arklow and in Laoise last year, which I also visited. It is a marvellous declaration which most County Councils have taken on board and which rely on public consultation with older people, under various headings as to what they would like to see in their county.

It is sponsored by the County Council itself and it is a great step forward in treating older people, not as a race apart, but as a group of people who have much to contribute to the economic and social wellbeing of any county. So much good news this week, I can hardly believe it, and I only hope it continues.

Let us look at the sport. What a wonderful result on Monday night for Ireland at the soccer international in Wales. It was a great display by the Irish team and well done to all of them. The most poignant sight I saw during the course of the game was a little Welsh boy dressed in the Welsh colours up on his dad’s lap, tears coursing down his face when the match ended and he realised that it was all over for Wales. It was so poignant and so realistic.

Good news too with the rugby, with Leinster having a decisive win over Munster. From now on we will have the various competitions in rugby to look forward to, and it is such a wonderful game for viewing.

But I have reserved the most wonderful news for my last paragraph. Readers may remember that some weeks ago I spoke about the X-Ray department in the Athlone Primary Care Centre being in the running, along with Castlebarand Waterford, for a national award. Well, last Saturday, they were picked in Cork as the finest example of an X-ray department in any hospital or centre in Ireland. Such a marvelous accolade for what is a quite small X-ray department, but which is staffed by professional caring people.

The Primary Care Centre in Athlone, in all its departments, should be taken as an example of what such a centre should give. It is so well managed, so well run, and gives such a service to the people of the town and surrounding areas, that it stands out as an example to the HSE of what can be done if good will and good management are employed together. Well done to the Athlone Primary Care Centre and particularly well done to the X-ray department contained therein.

That is my lot for now.

Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke


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