Sport and education - the recipe for success

I am always going on and on about rugby and, this week, I am going to begin with a nice spot of good GAA news for County Westmeath.

Last Sunday, Westmeath qualified for their first O’Byrne Cup final in 15 years with a hard earned but fully deserved win over their neighbours Offaly. The score was 1-9 for Westmeath and 1-7 for Offaly. This means a follow up final on, I think, next Sunday, so I will be looking forward to that.

All the Irish rugby provinces were in action last weekend - a big win for Leinster and Ulster and a narrow defeat for Munster against Racing 92. Connacht held Worcester to a draw. All in all, a really good weekend for Irish rugby.

It was great to see the young people in action last Thursday and Friday, culminating in the BT Young Scientist of the Year competition in the RDS. Fair dues to RTE, they gave it great coverage on all of their programmes, and congratulations to the Young Scientist himself, Simon Meehan from Coláiste Choilm, Cork. He collected his award for his project on a non-toxic, organic, original antibiotic which he discovered himself in blackberries. He talked in his own words of how scientists are going all over the world trying to find a plant which will be an organic, original antibiotic and yet he could find it in his back garden among the sméara dubha.

Congratulations are due all round to all of the young people who competed with their various projects and, of course, the teachers and the parents who encourage them so well in these modern developments. It is so important for young people today to study the STEM subjects of maths, physics and the various sciences, and it is worrying that so few teachers are taking up these subjects when completing their degrees in education.

As an aside to this, the scarcity of second-level specialist teachers in these subjects is so worrying. I know that the Minister for Education, Richard Bruton, is well aware of this. Teachers with good subjects can get so many jobs in industry now, and yet I think the change from a one year higher diploma in education, which all teachers used to undergo, to a two year Master’s in education is also contributing to the dearth of second-level teachers. After all, it is now six years to become a secondary school teacher – four years for your degree and two years for your teaching diploma, so I hope that one of the initiatives Richard Bruton can come up with is some way of shortening the academic cycle for would-be teachers.

In Germany, acting Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is having great difficulty in concluding a coalition arrangement with the SPD Leader, Martin Schulz. There are great doubts that she can bring it off and, for all of us, it would be better if the two parties can form a Grand Coalition again. We have come to rely on a strong Germany within Europe, so I hope wise heads will rule the day as the coalition talks continue.

As the Advertiser readers will know, I love a good film in a big cinema. I was so looking forward to Darkest Hour, which was released all around Ireland last week. It is the story of Churchill as Prime Minister in the UK after Dunkirk, his famous speech in the House of Commons and the spirits of the army and people in the UK which he managed to raise during that darkest hour. To my disappointment, the Athlone cinema was one of the few in Ireland that did not put on the film, even though it is in all of the towns around us, big and small. I hope they will change their programme to bring it in to the cinema in Athlone as soon as possible. The reviews have been terrific on it and I am so looking forward to seeing it.

The Dáil and Seanad are back in action and it seems that this term is going to be all about the 8th Ammendment and the subsequent debate around it. The whole subject of abortion and everything around it is hugely important, and I trust that the debate on all sides will be open, honest and respectful. It is the least that the public should expect, and I strongly hope that the elected representatives will see their way to not indulge in inflammatory type language. The subject matter is far too personal to many people for that to happen.

There is a lovely lecture in Athlone on Wednesday night of this week. Dr Brian Murphy, a young man who was co-editor with myself and Noel Whelan on the book on Brian Lenihan a few years ago, is the speaker at the Old Athlone Society event, which is about his book last year which he published on the first President of Ireland, Dr Douglas Hyde. It is a great read and Brian Murphy is an excellent lecturer, so I look forward to welcoming him to Athlone and to listening to his thoughts.

How sad and shocking to hear of the sudden death of Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries. Listening on Tuesday to the lovely song “Linger”, I was awakened anew to the beauty of the music and the pathos of the language in that lovely song. Dolores gave delight to many – may she rest in peace.

That is my lot for this week.

Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime, go safely.

Slán go Fóill,

Mary O’Rourke


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