by Pat Brosnan

The Queen and the President

By the time that Athea District News reaches its outlets and its readers on Wednesday afternoon the Queen of England will have already arrived in our country on her first visit here, to be followed shortly afterwards by the President of the United States Barack Obama also on his initial time visiting this country.

While the writer of this modest column has no notion of extending any special plamás or simulated fáilte to those dignitaries any more than to other ordinary visitors to our shores, at the same time we would be expected to show respect and decency to the nations and people they represent on coming here and more so because of what their respective countries have done for our exiles in providing them with the employment and dignity they were unable to find at home and which is now ongoing again in this early part of the 21st century. It is for this reason that it is earnestly hoped that any protests or demonstrations against the visits of the Queen and the President will be peaceful and non-violent and that nothing will occur that might inflame an unruly situation. The security forces on duty will also be expected to exercise restraint and not over react by keeping a low profile and refrain too from using strong arm methods which on past experience has often led to more trouble which could have been avoided. If all concerned will behave in a civilized, peaceful and responsible manner then it should all pass over without any violent or unsightly incidents happening during the course of the visits.


North and British Elections

The local and regional elections in the Six Counties last week did not produce any dramatic or surprising results. The DUP and Sinn Féin continued to dominate the political scene in the North in both local and Assembly elections.  This is not at all surprising taking into account the success which both these parties have made of The Stormont Power Executive since they joined forces here. This was of course something which the SDLP and the Ulster Unionists failed to do even when both parties were much stronger than they are now. The reason for this was that these so-called middle of the road parties neglected to take into consideration the basic community divide in the North and it was not until the DUP and Sinn Féin both gained a majority in the democratic process that the new and unexpected power sharing partnership was formed and which thankfully, up to the present anyway, has been amazingly successful and in which former sworn enemies have come together for the common good of the Six Counties by facing up realistically to its many problems, religious , political, social and economic which are all now being tackled by the two leading parties. The SDLP and the Ulster Unionists have been effectively sidelined in the latest elections by the voting population of the North and are very unlikely to regain their former popularity and dominant positions again. The Alliance Party also made some minor gains in the elections and might emerge somewhat stronger in the future if things go well. In Britain itself the local and regional elections were marked by the decline since the last general election of the Liberal Democrats who have paid a heavy price for joining the Tories in the present Coalition Government. It must have been awfully disappointing too for the Liberals that their voting reform package was rejected by the electorate. The Tories held their own support in the local elections throughout most of England, but the Labour Party apparently recovered some ground particularly in parts of the industrial north of the country and in the local elections and Welsh National Assembly elections in Wales. But there is little doubt that the most radical and dramatic aspect of the British Elections was the emergence of the Scottish Nationalist Party with an overall majority in the election of the Scottish Parliament. The SNP leader and his Cabinet members are now talking seriously about holding a referendum which, if successful for their party, would see Scotland leaving the United Kingdom and emerging as an independent nation. This of course has been on the horizon for a considerable time and could become a reality within a few years if the Scottish people decide that this is the road ahead that they want to follow.


Cost of School Books

In a recent Radio Programme a mother of some secondary school going teenage students complained about the cost of books for her family each year.  She pointed out one very relevant fact where it becomes apparent that people are being ripped off when it comes to the purchase of school books year after year. It seems that after she had bought expensive school books for her older children who were secondary students at the time she had hoped that when the time came that these books could be passed on to the younger teenagers when they reached the same classes. But then she found out that this was not so and that she would have to buy a new set of books again for her younger children. Naturally she was very disappointed having done this when she found out that the new set of books were practically the same as the older editions apart from some minor additions and some upgrading. She could not understand why the second hand books could not be passed on by the older students to family members or friends which would save parents a considerable amount of money each year. It certainly looks as if the books which are probably designated as essential for students would have to be changed each year, or at least, that appears to be the message that the book publishers are sending out to parents. It is absolutely senseless that these books which have been originally expensive enough, cannot be recycled down along the line by family members who could use them rather than parents having to buy new sets of books each year.

European “Song” Contest

It is amazing how the organisers of the European so-called new “Song Contest” keep calling it by such a title when in reality it is more of a “Show Contest and Gymnastics Exhibition” rather than a song contest. It is completely alien to the original concept of “A Song for Europe” and which in the early days was really a song such as Sandy Shaw’s “Puppet on a String” Dana’s “All Kinds of Everything” , Cliff Richard’s “Congratulations” Sean Dunphy’s “If I Could Choose” and all these lovely songs of those days. Now the contest is a loud, noisy affair where it is almost impossible to distinguish the words of any, or at least most songs which are practically drowned out by the loud accompaniment, the flashing lights and all the artificial set-up on the stage where the actual words of the song are given a low priority. In my view the only song worth listening to was the French entry and more so in the native language of the country. Unlike several more of the entries which were in English. It makes one wonder if any of these countries have not got a language of their own that they might be proud of. At one stage each entrant to the contest had a song in its own language which made it interesting. Now most of the entries are in English which makes it boring. As for the Irish entry by Jedward it was no better, or possibly no worse than most other entries, but after all the hype and expectations that was generated during the week it must have been very disappointing for the lads themselves, even though eight place was not too bad at all.