This week, I feel very much like a character in Juno and the Paycock, the famous play by Sean O’Casey.
Do you remember the final line in the play? Captain Boyle said: “The whole world is in terrible state of chassis.” Well I think the whole world seems like it is in a state of chassis, from Ireland’s perspective anyway.
Firstly, we have the Russian spy episode. We do not know what he did wrong, or if he did anything wrong, or if Leo Varadkar is just expressing solidarity with Theresa May. It is difficult to say. Whatever it is anyway, the Russian Ambassador was called in and was given the name of the Russian Diplomat that Ireland wishes to expel. So, imagine, we were living with some sort of spy in our midst.
Then we have more of Brexit. Now I really got the strong feeling, last week that Ireland is perhaps being led by sweet, honeyed words down a slippery slope. Firstly, Theresa May got the two-year transition deal she was looking for, which is good because I am always of the hope that one transition deal will lead to another.
But there is a growing perception that the backstop, which Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney obtained for us last December, and which was to be called into account before ever the British entered trade talks with Brussels, is being put back until the talks are finished.
I began to have doubts when I read that and then I heard Stephen Donnelly, Fianna Fáil TD, on Morning Ireland saying that Ireland should watch out now. He said it is a very difficult time and we are on the slippery slope fearing Britain may not make the deal with Ireland.
I cannott believe that it will come to that. And yet, let us say, next October if the trade talks were fully agreed and about to be signed off, would Europe then decide to change their mind?
I know we were all for Ireland but, surely, they can work something out on it, and we would not be left stranded. That would be just dreadful and I truly hope it never happens. But, let us all keep a very close watch on it now and see how the matter develops.
And then, if that was not enough, we are told we might have snow for Easter. Snow; At Easter? After the two sessions of snow we have had I believed that spring would come in like a lion, which it did, and go out like a lamb, which it does not seem like doing. As I write this column it is bitterly cold outside, with the sharpest wind that I have felt for a long time. So, we are not at all sure even of the climate of what might be coming – a state of chassis, surely!
In sport, there were some good GAA games over the weekend. Unfortunately, Westmeath lost out to Offaly and thereby will not gain the promotion they had been hoping for.
However, Roscommon won again and has really had a great season. I am full of hopes for when they go forward later in the games. They are a very dogged team and determined, I believe, on this occasion to do well.
I also saw a lovely interview that Robbie Henshaw gave to the Irish Times on Monday. He is hoping to be back playing for Leinster in about two to three weeks time. He was very candid about his feelings at having missed out on all of the wonderful, spine tingling games we have watched over the last number of weeks, but he is determined to get his shoulder right and to be in full fighting form again. He is full of hope and optimism that he may be picked for the World Cup team. That prospect is something keeping him in good form, lively and hopeful.
Of those in Athlone, we are looking forward to the first week of the All Ireland Drama Festival to be stage in May again; nine plays in total. There are regular theatre goers in Athlone who book their tickets for all of the nine plays each year and go every night, without fail. It is nice to see such passion for the arts.
I do not plan to have that commitment, but I will pick one or two of the plays which I would like to see and book for those. I am sure they will be performances to remember.
The Drama Festival is a well-known landmark now in Athlone and, looking back with nostalgia, I think back to the days of Brendan O’Brien, Alfie Faulkner and PJ Lenihan who dreamed up this idea of an All-Ireland Drama Festival. For the first few years it was run in Sportex Hall at Gentex in Athlone. Now it is a full feature of Irish life and they would be so happy to see how it has gone from strength-to-strength.
There is a great sadness in the O’Rourke family at the moment. My son, Aengus, presently the Mayor of Athlone, is married to a lovely girl named Lisa Dunwoodey from Dublin. He met her in the college in Athlone many years ago. I have often written of their four lively children and how much joy they give me.
I mention woefully that Johnny Dunwoodey, Lisa’s dad, is seriously ill and in a coma in Dublin. He is not expected to recover. There are two brothers and two sisters in that family and they are spending each day around his hospital bed willing him to wake up, but it does not look like he will. It has cast a huge pall of sorrow over every one of us and I hope they will find peace with the situation as soon as possible. Life can be so difficult and we are all so much in sorrow with them at this time.
More on politics, the whole talk is when will the next General Election be. The end of May will mark the holding of the referendum on abortion. The Pope is coming in the month of August. Two months later, in October, there is the third budget which Fianna Fáil, under the Supply and Confidence Arrangement, had agreed to vote for. After that it is anyone’s guess. But in my mind, it will certainly be in this year of 2018. It is evidently a busy time for us all.
Hope to talk with you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go Fóill,