Saturday, February 13, 2016

It Says in The Bridge: February 2016

It is, I suppose, in the nature of pundits to be pessimistic about politics, writes Brian Byrne. And we have plenty of that from various contributors in this pre-general election Bridge. One would be forgiven for thinking, after a full read, that we might as well all take election day off and drown our thoughts in the pub instead of slipping our electoral preferences into the ballot box.

So we have Paul Aspell bemoaning the 'pointlessness' of the situation because we 'are no longer a sovereign state' and all we can vote for is 'managers and caretakers' for Europe. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are 'indifferent shades of grey'. Labour is 'fresh from selling out the Irish people'. Renua is just 'the new PDs'. Sinn Fein is a 'self-righteous British political party'. And the Anti Austerity Alliance? ... well, they are keen to shut the stable door 'when the horse is at the other side of the 100 acres'.

Against the background of a bottle of Buckfast more than doubling in price since he first (and late to the party) took a sip, Billy Redmond muses on the likelihood of Fianna Fail getting more seats than people think and 'being in contention for Government'. And while he marks some credit for Enda and Labour putting the country 'back on track', he reckons it was really because the IMF 'gave the orders' and the public complied. But there's still a lot of waste in tribunals, reports, study groups, and all that, and he still doesn't really know who he's going to vote for this time.

The anonymous Joseph Soapbox takes his theme from an apparent hero of his, the 'verbally violent social justice' vindicator Vincent Browne and the recent episode of Peoples Debates relating to Kildare South. He wasn't impressed with the performances of Martin Heydon ('a punching bag for the host'), Fiona McLoughlin Healy ('Kildare South's answer to Sarah Palin'), Patricia Ryan ('appearing as any of a dozen Sinn Fein clones') or Declan Crowe ('whose answers appeared to be slightly muddled and confused') ... though he did afterwards sidebar some positives about that latter candidate. Fianna Fail's Sean O Fearghaill and Fiona O'Loughlin pleased him, for being 'calm, laid back, jovial and at ease', each earning one or more of those epitaphs. A pity JS prefers to opinionate anonymously, if I may editorialise a little. It's very easy to be nasty when you don't show your name. It reminds me of jousts with the similarly secretive 'Bridgeman' in these pages some four decades ago, except he wasn't nasty.

For Neil Markey, the story is the national rather than the local one, in a piece about 'Labour's Obsession with Victimhood'. He notes that five years have gone by with, from that party, 'a pattern of unpopularity and political gaffes ... crocodile tears and tales of bullying ... hysterical accusations of oppression'. In specifics, Aodhan O Riordain and Senator Maria Cahill are targets of Neil's ire, as 'the tip of a very rotten iceberg', a state, though, 'hardly exclusive to Labour'. He opines that Labour's 'desperation becomes more noticeable' by the day, 'hopefully enough for the electorate to hold them and their current partners to account'.

Thankfully, all is not politics in the Bridge, and therefore there are lots of positives, not least that this issue completes the 45th year of the magazine's publication. By far the biggest cause for celebration, though, is the extensive coverage of the official opening of the new buildings at Scoil Bhride. It's front page and centre pages spread in entirely happy colour photos from Pat Foley.

There's celebration too of the 1930s Schools Folklore Collection which has been so well curated locally by Mary Orford in recent years. This month, Sheila Peacocke picked out some of her favourite pieces from the Brannockstown NS contributions by then young Brigid Mackey, Elizabeth Keenan, Mary Price, John O'Connor, Rory Mackey, Maura Keogh, Mary Murphy and Betty Mackey.

Today's schoolchildren are well represented too, with the winners and runners up in the recent Credit Union Schools Table Quiz competition featured. And we are always excited about new writing talent here, so let's give a big shout out to 13-year-old Danny O'Grady whose short story, 'The City of Pauline', was chosen for publication on a Kildare County Council CD. The story is reproduced in this issue.

On the Scoil Bhride page, we read about Nadya Dunne winning gold and silver medals at the Leinster Schools Swimming Championships, and Billie Barrett's budding acting work in TV commercials. Also there is appreciation expressed for the recent visit of your editor's brother Garreth to the school, where he spoke of life and times in China. St Joseph's in Halverstown had a similar visit from Gerry O'Donoghue of Maintain Hope, speaking on Africa.

Our expat in Taiwan, Sean Landers, also makes mention of politics, but this time in his foreign home. Ms Tsai from the DPP party was, apparently, a clear winner, and there were also elections for the legislative assembly. "Not even a whiff of corruption in the proceedings," he writes. "No irregularities at the polling booths, and a smooth transition of power guaranteed."

Isn't that a refreshing piece of political punditry ...?