I am compiling my column this week late on Tuesday night and, so far, we have not had storm Emma or, indeed, storm anything except for very cold weather and some light snow.
I am telling you all this because by the time you get to read the Advertiser on Thursday it may well be that we are in the throes of quite the worst weather we have had for many, many years. In the meantime, we await in fear and trepidation of what nature will shower upon us in the next few days.
We had wonderful rugby last weekend as, I am sure, many of you can testify. There was understandably some worry about the Welsh team. The Welsh players can be fiercely competitive and sometimes overwhelming but, on this occasion, Ireland recorded a wonderful result. Mind you, it was tight enough throughout the game and particularly coming towards the end. It seemed that the Welsh players had found their second breaths and they were on the war path at times. But, the Irish team stuck to the game and got the result they wanted.
We have another new hero now on the Irish team, a young man called Jacob Stockdale. He was fantastic on the day, both in general play and with his tries. He gave great inspiration to the team. Likewise, Johnny Sexton. Now, I know he missed the penalties, but anyone can have an off-day. Anyway, he more than compensated for that in the way he played throughout the game. We are now top of the league table in the Six Nations and we will be facing Scotland here in Ireland on Saturday week.
I watched the women’s rugby on Sunday afternoon and they gave a very spirited performance. The U20s had a near miss by two points but, at the same time, played with great gusto.
The whole rugby saga is so wonderful to behold. It is fantastic to feel such pride in our players and our team. You reflect constantly on Robbie Henshaw and how he must feel. Even though he will be glad that Ireland is doing well, he is surely missing being there. But Robbie is there in all our hearts and minds and I know he has many, many more years of rugby left in him to make up for missing out this time around.
I am back to an old chestnut, but a chestnut that looks like exploding again, and that is Brexit. Some days ago, Theresa May brought the Brexit cabinet off to Chequers for eight hours of consultations. They then came out with a formula, with three different baskets of choices as to what they would go for after Brexit. I really thought it was laughable. It is the UK that voted to come out of Europe and now they want Europe to give them their chance to make choices as to how they will conduct themselves post 2019. The debate is getting more ludicrous by the day and yet they persist in thinking they can, somehow, carry it off.
The latest wheeze by some of the Tories is to pour scorn on the whole Good Friday Agreement, or rather the Belfast Agreement, as they call it, and to say that it does not really matter anyway. They say it is 20 years on and that it should be all changed now, and then there would be no worry about what to do about the North. But they completely forget that that agreement was signed by both governments and was also ratified by the United Nations. It has a legal status, so to pretend that they can just slough it off as if it is a thing of nothing is simply daft.
Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the Labour Party, has put the tin hat on it now because he has come out in favour of the UK remaining in the Customs Union and seeking bespoke deals on other matters with the EU, including a continuation of free trade. That is a free trade that would allow the UK to trade with other countries as well. So, we will see how all that will run. It will have the effect, anyway, of keeping the Brexiteers in the English Cabinet quiet because, of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s idea will appeal to a lot of the voters. That will bring the reality of a Labour government even closer if they persist in opposing Theresa May. So, that is the flux and the unreal world in which they all now live.
Last Friday night, I was at a wonderful book launch in Ballinasloe. Seán Óg Ó hAilpín from Cork launched the book entitled Hello In There. It is a story of poetry and photographs of a hospital in the mountains in Peru. A Peruvian doctor, practicing in Cork, goes out each year to help in it, and she brings with her the Cork medical students – hence Seán Óg Ó hAilpín’s interest in the whole matter. He, himself, is a very fine person, and I was so pleased to learn that he has agreed to run for Fianna Fáil in one of the Cork constituencies come the next general election.
It seems the Government has been listening to me. Not the full government, but Simon Coveney in his role as Foreign Affairs Minister. He and Bertie Ahern have been having a conversation together about the North, and I am glad that they have established that back channel together. I have no doubt it will be enormously beneficial, and I hope it will lead to a settlement between the DUP and Sinn Féin.
Imagine, we are in the last days of February and whatever sign of growth there was in our gardens has slowly disappeared with the intense cold weather we have been having. Snow and frost and sub-zero temperatures, and yet, the longer days and the brighter mornings all are in contradiction with one another. Remember the old adage, “the March winds will blow and we shall have snow”. Indeed they are a-coming I fear!
That is my lot for this week.
I will talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,