Matters Longford to the fore as centenary celebrations acknowledge the right of women to vote

Well, Longford has really emerged with a bang in this pre-Christmas season. We had two notable events in Longford over last weekend.

Firstly on Sunday, we had the wonderful GAA victory in which the tiny village of Mullinalaghta in Longford had a victory over Kilmacud Crokes in the Leinster Senior Club Football Championship final. So, this tiny Longford club are now the football champions of Leinster – hard to believe but true. The final score was Mullinalaghta 1-8 Kilmacud Crokes 1-6. What makes it more vibrant is that the Longford team came with a late fight back to slay the favourites Kilmacud Crokes. It’s a marvellous story of heroic bravery, and the TV footage and newspaper photographs on Monday showed the verve and the vigour of both teams. Well done Longford!

And then to add to it, Longford hosted the visit of Sir John Major, former British Prime Minister, for a memorial lecture in memory of the late Albert Reynolds, Taoiseach of this country and a great dear friend of John Major. Their friendship dates back to the time when Albert was Minister for Finance and John Major was Chancellor of the Exchequer. How well I remember at cabinet when Albert would come back from Brussels with the conclusion of a summit of the Finance Ministers. I so strongly remember him always talking of the cooperation on these matters that he and John Major enjoyed together. They bonded that friendship through European meetings and later when Albert picked up where Charlie Haughey had left off in the quest to bring peace to Northern Ireland. He and John Major developed a great, tough friendship over the details of that famous meeting in Downing Street.

I have always had a fine affection for Longford, since they were part and parcel of my constituency of Longford-Westmeath for years. I always had very fine support and friendships in Longford, particularly in the north Longford area, and I retain happy memories of my visits there and of the many fine people I met.

Albert Reynolds deserved that accolade from Sir John Major, and it was fitting that it should take place in his own native town of Longford. What great Christmas presents with which Longford has been showered.

Last weekend in Athlone we had the Fianna Fáil Convention for the South Westmeath local election candidates. The head office had decreed there should be two candidates to fight this five-seater come next May. The two sitting county councillors are Cllrs Aengus O’Rourke and Frankie Keena, and so there was no vote; the members summoned to the meeting were pleased with that outcome and expressed it on the night. We also had a visit that night of two of the would-be European candidates: one was Niall Blaney, the grandson of the famous Neil Blaney, and the second was John Comer, former president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association. Both of them gave very fine speeches and I know the delegates felt that they had a good choice in those candidates for whenever the European Convention will be held.

As all the readers will know, this coming Friday, December 14, is exactly 100 years since the women of Ireland went to vote for the first time, on December 14, 1918. There have been marvellous celebrations all over Ireland to commemorate that date, under the aegis of Votáil 100. Last Friday, I was honoured to be invited to be a speaker in Dáil Éireann at the seminar on these historic events. Nora Owen, Liz McManus and myself were the three speakers for that particular section of the programme. Earlier we had heard from historians Sinéad McCoole, Professor Eunan O’Halpin of Trinity College and Professor Michael Laffan of UCD.

We had a fine day of historical discourse, questions, answers and general good speeches and comments from all present. We were in the Ceramic Room of the National Museum which houses An Seanad now. The place was full, the programme was interesting and fast-paced, and all in all I felt it was a good day of rejoicing at the historical context of the date and time, now in 2018.

About two weeks ago I had a very interesting engagement in which I know the readers of this paper will have a fine interest. I was invited to open the culmination of the Patchwork Group, which meets in Athlone and covers a wide area of the Midlands, to launch the fruits of their work for the year. Patchwork as an art and a craft goes back to 5,000BC and was very much practised in Egypt of old as many of the crypts which have been discovered show work of this nature. I was amazed when I went to open the exhibition how hugely intricate, varied and colourful were the giant quilts and throws on which the members of the group had worked, and which were shown to full advantage in St Mary’s National School in the Fair Green.

Patchwork is a fine art in itself, and the work of this group can truly be recommended.

Last but certainly not least, finally Bertie Ahern and myself are getting together this week for a lunch in Dublin – not in a grand big hotel but in a local pub called the Hole in the Wall which does fine food, where I am to meet himself and Brian Murphy who was a speech writer for Bertie Ahern and with whom I worked on the fine book on Brian Lenihan, ‘In Calm and Crisis’. I’m looking forward to a good gossip and a raking over of all sorts of old embers!!

Last bite – yes, rugby had a fine time last weekend in which the provinces performed heroically, particularly Connacht who played in atrocious conditions and had a wonderful win. More to follow on all of this next week.

That’s my lot for his week. Hope to talk with you all next week.

In the meantime go safely.

Slán go fóill.

Mary O’Rourke

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