Well, what a varied week of events we have had locally, nationally and indeed internationally!
Let us begin with two very important international events. The first one is the proposed meeting between Donald Trump and the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-Un. The announcement of a proposed meeting in May came totally out of the blue and was a surprise to everyone, including Donald Trump himself. It just shows you the redemptive power of sport, because it was in that unlikely ambience that the seeds were sown between North and South Korea and, coming from that, for the meeting with Donald Trump and the US.
When we think of all the insulting terms which Donald Trump heaped upon Kim Jong-Un, including “mutton head” and many others, it is amazing that it has come to this and that we have, hopefully, the makings of an arrangement between the two leaders. As I have always said “jaw jaw is better than war war”. For a while it appeared that it was going to be “war war” but now, hopefully, that has eased and the proposed meeting will iron out some of the difficulties between them.
Then, in China, we read and heard that the Chinese Parliament has cleared the way for their President Xi Jin Ping to rule indefinitely. There was a vote in the Great Hall of the People during the National People’s Congress, with 2,958 in favour of the new amendment and just two against, with three abstaining. I wish long life to those who voted against President Xi Jin Ping. He is now in power for as long as he wants to be. Just imagine! I am inclined to giggle when I read it because, of course, who can say what will happen in the future. But, for the meantime anyway, China looks set to have the same President forever.
Back home, and before we start to talk at all about the sports, we had the speech by the former President, Mary McAleese, in Rome on International Women’s Day last week. Readers will remember that she had been refused permission to give her speech within the Vatican. Refused, imagine, by a Roman Cardinal of Irish extraction. Nevertheless, the conference went ahead outside the Vatican walls and there followed a speech by Mary McAleese which surely woke us all up in our post snow euphoria.
I am fully in favour of what she had to say, as were many of the viewers and listeners who telephoned and emailed all the shows after her speech. She has made the point that the church is to blame itself for its dwindling numbers at masses and sacraments because it will not give women any meaningful role within the institution. Yes, of course they can clean the altar and arrange the flowers, all that is very good, but the Church will not admit women to the priesthood.
Mary McAleese did a full hour interview with Sean O’Rourke on last Monday between 10 and 11 o’clock and it made for riveting listening. She told a very sad story of her own younger brother and the abuse he suffered at a college in Newry. Meanwhile, Sean O’Rourke asked her if she had heard back from the Pope and she said “no, and I know that he got the letter, because it went in a diplomatic bag to him, and I have never received an acknowledgement or a reply. I am so, so disappointed”.
Now, she praised the humility of Pope Francis and is most welcoming of him coming to Ireland. I am too, but I do not know why the Church wants €20m to pay for his visit. It beggars belief that it might cost that much, and I know there are many fundraising drives afoot in order to realise that amount.
What a wonderful weekend of sport we had. On the rugby front, we had the triumph of Ireland beating Scotland, thereby winning the championship. Now we face Twickenham next Saturday, St Patrick’s Day, Ireland versus England, and that will be some contest. Quite rightly, Rob Kearney got man of the match, so ably backed up by Jacob Stockdale, who bagged two wonderful tries for Ireland. James Ryan is a wonderful player. He was all over the field. Again, our thoughts turn to Robbie and all he is missing out on.
It will be difficult for Joe Schmidt to keep his team to a game plan for next weekend and to keep them focused. As he said, “It all boils down now to them (the English ) and to us (the Irish )”. It is an old battle, but well worth fighting and winning.
On the GAA front, Westmeath had a fine win over Fermanagh in Division Three of the Allianz Football League. In the same vein, Roscommon had a fine win over Clare, so both of those have big matches during the next week or two.
What wonderful weather there was over the weekend, and I hope you got to enjoy it, whether indoors looking out or outdoors in the midst of it. It was so mild, 11 to 12 degrees all day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday last. I guess we will pay a bit more for this yet as I do not think March has spun itself out fully. But, for the moment, let us enjoy it.
This week sees the annual exodus of ministers all over the world to tell the story of St Patrick and of Ireland. I note An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, is due to visit the Choctaw Native American Tribe in Oklahoma today to thank them for the money they sent all those years ago to help the Irish famine, even though they were very impecunious themselves. Leo is following in the footsteps of De Valera who, in 1919, visited them and was made one of the head chiefs of the Choctaw Tribe.
I think it is only right and proper that the ministers of the day use the occasion of St Patrick and the holiday to travel all around the world to tell people that Ireland is an open, welcoming country for would-be entrepreneurs and visitors. More of that is needed, not less, and I wish God speed to all who travel.
That is my lot for this week. I am exhausted thinking of it all and reading back over what I have written, but that is the week that was!
Talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,