A cold but peaceful start to the new year

I see President Donald Trump and his regular adversary, the Head of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, are at it again.

The funniest thing I heard in the last few days was where the President of the US tweeted to Kim that his nuclear button was bigger and shinier than that of the leader of North Korea’s. Now, I ask you, if that was two 12-year-old boys having a prank on one another you would think it funny, but to have these two leaders engaging in that kind of ribald humour early in 2018, it really was almost too much!

I wonder what Donald Trump makes of the new friendship between North and South Korea? I am sure it arouses jealousy in him. It appears that North Korea, for the first time in two years, is talking to South Korea and is going to send a team of officials and sports people to participate in the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Now that certainly marks a new departure and I guess we will all sleep easier now that harmony reigns throughout Korea.

We are into the second week in January and already you can see the lengthening time in the evening. Prior to Christmas it was dark before 4pm, now it is much later when the curtains have to be pulled and the lights switched on. I love to see that change because of course it means “if winter comes can spring be far behind?”. We have had some pretty rough, cold weather since Christmas. Between the severe frost and rain, it has not been very pleasant, but then we are in the middle of winter. I remember so well how Enda used to remark on the lengthening day and he would say how many minutes longer we would get each day as January advanced. So, I find myself doing the same.

There was great rugby over last weekend, all on Saturday, with Munster triumphant over Connacht and Leinster over Ulster. In the Leinster/Ulster match I noticed a wonderful young player, Jordan Larmour, whose kicking and running was excellent. He is only 20 years of age and I have no doubt that he will be put forward by Joe Schmidt for the international matches in four weeks time. Equally excellent was Fergus McFadden, and to see him on the pitch, running for a try (in fact he got two ), was a sight to gladden the heart.

I noted that a young girl from Doon, Ballinahown, outside Athlone, has been called up for the Ireland Women’s Rugby Squad. Michelle is of the well-known Claffey family. Her father is Mossy and her uncles John-Joe, Liam and Michael are well known in Moate and Athlone for their involvement in business. The late Ciaran Claffey was also an uncle of Michelle’s and the readers will remember that Ciaran Claffey was a member of the first Offaly team to win the All-Ireland Senior Football title back in 1971. There is no doubt she has it all in her genes and we will look forward to the emergence of Michelle in the Irish Rugby Women’s team.

This year, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act, which was passed in 1918 and which gave the vote, for the first time, to women older than 30 and to men older than 21. Mind you, the women had to have property or be married to someone with property and, to think that you had to be thirty to be considered mentally capable of voting! There are many planned celebrations this year to mark the anniversary of the vote and I am looking forward to them.

It was Sad to see the passing of Peter Sutherland. I met him a few times, officially, in the 1980s, but I remember him particularly because when he went to Europe as the European Commissioner. One of his first tasks was education, and through that he launched throughout Europe the Erasmus Scheme. As readers will know, throughout Ireland there are many who will be appreciative to him for doing so.

When I came in as Minister for Education in 1987, I was the one who brought Erasmus from Europe to Ireland. I know from personal experience and testimony from so many, what a great innovation it was that Irish students could go to any European university and continue the course they had begun back home in an Irish college. It was a great innovation, one of many such European initiatives which have greatly helped the Irish education scene.

What a pleasant surprise we got on last Monday evening, on the six o’clock news, to see Keelin Shanley and Caitriona Perry in glorious red and blue, giving us the hour-long 6pm News on RTE1. Now, I know this had been announced some time ago, but I had forgotten about it until I saw it. They were highly competent and capable, in the same way as Bryan Dobson on the 7am Morning Ireland programme. He gives a great air of authority to proceedings going on in RTE at that early hour.

That’s my lot for now. Talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke


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