I have been out of action for a while, laid low by a very nasty bug that at one stage had me in the ICU at St. James’s Hospital. Once again the staff were wonderful. It was all a bit surreal, my birthday passed and Guns n’Roses played Slane. I savoured the atmosphere via text messages from friends and family, then over the following days from tales from nurses and doctors who had been to the show. For those of you who went and got stuck in traffic, I think the Gardai have taken on board that there were problems and all concerned have put their thinking caps on. For me, I’m just kicking myself that I missed the show but such is life.
So much has happened since I last put pen to paper it is hard to know where to begin. The Terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, and now the awful and harrowing fire in the tower block in London with what everybody fears are multiple casualties. There is no doubt that very serious questions need to be asked about why this happened and Theresa May is quite right to have said there will be a public enquiry. Our government needs to urgently examine whether there are similar potential problems with buildings here. Unfortunately I suspect there might be.
Politically whilst I’ve been away from my desk, there has been a seismic shift in the U.K. The fascinating aspect to all of this is the DUP holding the balance of power at Westminster. We have yet to know the full outcome to those negotiations but they have very considerable experience in driving a hard bargain. Economically from the Republic’s point of view the DUP seem to be defending a key concern for us in that they are equally adamant that they do not want a hard border. In effect, they are looking for a soft Brexit. The irony of the DUP and our government’s interests being aligned adds a particular quirk to the current circumstances. However what is of a concern is how we get a return to devolved government in the North if the British government’s neutrality is in any way compromised by its confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP. This remains to be seen and I wonder whether the current Secretary of State is up to the job. The new Minister for Foreign Affairs will also be a key player. He asked for the job and we will rapidly discover if he’s up to it.
This brings me to Leo the Lion, the new champion of Fine Gael. Of course, I wish him well in his endeavours but our youngest Taoiseach will rapidly discover that being head of government is a very different kettle of fish than gaining the party leadership by winning the support of the parliamentary party. It must grate that Simon Coveney got 65% of the membership votes. What do I make of it so far ? No obvious bounce yet in the polls and a new Cabinet that smacks a little too much of the old. Still I hope to see some radical new policies and a sensible injection of funds into infrastructure. It’s early days.