There is a lightness in my step. The weather is glorious and what we call the Snow-Field in Slane has already been harvested. The Water Field, which I see every morning when the curtains are opened, is going golden. Whiskey, as we say down here, is the result of value-added farming, from grain to bottle with that added Boyne magic, bringing forward a product that is now selling around the world and hopefully in turn helping to bring back visitors to our shores. Everything is inter-connected, now all we need is a return to good old Rock N’Roll to fill that magnificent amphitheatre with the songs, laughter and the raucousness, the images of which are conjured up by days like this. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the first show. I will never forget the buzz – even if then I was flying by the seat of my pants. I want back in that space.
For many years my wife has been a fan of Marks & Spencer’s Food Hall and before the onset of the pandemic I used to quite enjoy the odd visit myself. Of late my wife has complained it’s hardly worth a visit so many items are unavailable or have been discontinued. Now we have an explanation. The Chairman of the company, Archie Norman, has written to Brexit Minister Lord Frost, stating clearly that “ the current arrangements” are “totally unsuited and were never designed for a modern fresh food supply chain between closely intertwined trading partners”. He also slams the “Kafkaesque bureaucracy” including trucks being unable to enter Ireland because the wrong colour ink is on the paperwork. At the moment the main damage to trade is in the Republic but unless they sort some of this nonsense out with the EU the same thing will happen in the North after what is called the “grace period” expires. All of this revolves around the Irish protocol. I understand the EU wishing to protect its internal market but when it comes to trade between the North and mainland UK they really do need to have a pragmatic approach. I am tired of politicians trotting out this stuff about international treaties and this is what they signed up for. Anybody with an ounce of sense knew that the North was going to be problematic going forward. All sensible people want the protocol to work. Most of all we do not want to see supply chains disrupted, jobs lost and supermarket shelves empty. So I wish with an open mind that the parties involved would sit down and review the protocol and see if it can be improved before it causes further damage.
Next to the sadness felt on the death of a great man. There will be acres of newsprint written about him but without doubt he was a person of deep integrity, who made a significant contribution to the body politic and was in that sense a true public servant. For me personally one thing sticks in my mind. On Christmas Eve 1985 just after the birth of the Progressive Democrats I went to see Dessie O’Malley. For months before he announced it I had been calling for a New Departure in Irish politics. He told me bluntly that in the early stages of the development of his party, someone from my Anglo-Irish background in his ranks would alienate some of the support in his Munster base. Real Politik maybe, but it hurt.