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A Letter From Ireland – November 2015

Yes, summer is over…though the real query is, “did we ever really have one?” Those who say it arrived one weekend in August might be right. It did seem as if this year’s summer was a very poor one indeed. Sure, didn’t we deserve a bit more after enduring six months of last year’s bloody wintery weather?
If you’re a faithful reader of this column, you know where I stand. Like most Irish, talking about the weather occupies a good bit of our time each day. For me it begins with a careful perusal of the newspaper’s weather section each morning. Thankfully, there’s enough detail to satisfy most of my interests. Besides a review of yesterday’s statistics and a description of today’s climatic projections, my eyes scan the international then domestic forecasts. With my mind focused, I single out the cities or locales where I once lived, spent holiday time or where friends and family members live(d). The weather and temperatures in Brussels, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Bermuda, Copenhagen, Paris and Rome quickly catch my attention. Then, it’s U. S. cities next. Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Tampa and so it goes. I mentally pause for a moment after reading each one, briefly remembering the people and times that hold a special place in my heart. Crazy? Yes, I know, but it’s a ritual I’ve enjoyed for years. Too late to change old habits and why should I?
Recently, a headline in the London Evening Standard caught my eye. It was entitled: “Reasons why summer weather in Britain is so much better than Ireland” by Jane Walsh.
With a photograph of people, all carrying brollies and dodging raindrops on some cobblestoned street, likely in Dublin’s Temple Bar, Jane notes: “There are only 12 miles between the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and the nearest tip of County Antrim, and just over 62 miles between Rosslare in Co. Wexford and Fishguard in South Wales, so why does the weather in Ireland and Britain differ so much?”
Quoting veteran Irish weatherman John Eagleton, Walsh writes, “England is not [in] a different climatic zone to Ireland, but it is semi-different in that it often has better summers. It’s not as temperate as we are. It’s not right beside the Atlantic Ocean. It’s not as prone to weather systems as we are. It [England] has more of a continental influence in the summer.’”
Her interview with Eagleton continued. “It also has to do with basic geography. London’s latitude is 51° N,” he said. “Compared to Dublin’s 53° N, it’s not hugely different, but we are more exposed to an Atlantic influence – just marginally more, but those margins make a big difference. Ireland is a bit further north, nearer the North Pole and further from the Equator,” the weatherman noted.
Later on, Walsh included two more Eagleton observations. “Another reason London feels that much hotter [is that] London has its own microclimate – with all that concrete it can be hotter by one or two degrees [Celsius].
“Fortunately, Ireland does get the benefit of the Gulf Stream. Without that,” Eagleton explains, “the country [Ireland] would be just like Lithuania with freezing winters and without the compensation of Lithuania’s warmer summers.”
In concluding her piece, Walsh pointed out that though 2015 was a wet summer, it didn’t chronicle the record rainfall Ireland experienced back in 2009. But with all the cold temperatures, high winds and even occasional frost, 2015 was one of the absolutely worst summers since 1988.
Ah sure, weren’t the summers of 2013 and 2014 on the good side, so what can we expect…certainly not three in a row!
On a more serious note, I suppose you’ve been following the recent developments emanating from Belfast and the North. All I can say is, “Wow, won’t the Unionists ever grow up and act like mature folks?”
Rumours, innuendo, elective reshuffling and political shenanigans are again running rampant in the Six Counties over the death of a leading ‘former’ IRA commander and pro-peace proponent Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison. Though he’d been implicated in numerous deaths over the years, including the much-publicised homicide of Robert McCartney in the winter of 2005, an unknown assailant shot Davison, a convert to the Good Friday Agreement, in the Market area of Belfast this May. Some believed the assassin was the former IRA-man Kevin McGuigan, but no conclusive proof ever materialised.
The entire matter further escalated in August with the murder of McGuigan, also in Belfast. Unionists and the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland] quickly accused members of the now ‘defunct’ Provisional IRA for what they called the ‘revenge killing’ of Davison. They maintained McGuigan’s death was evidence that the Provo’s are still ‘active.’
Eager to blame someone, the Unionists pointed the finger of responsibility at Sinn Féin, their perennial rivals in NI’s provincial, power-sharing government. Now, the vast majority of these Unionist politicos have withdrawn from the Northern Assembly, refusing to return to their elected posts until THEY are sure the IRA is just a bad memory. In the meantime, the British government continues with its intent to implement important social welfare cuts that undoubtedly will affect the least prosperous in NI, all in advance of upcoming elections. This boycott clearly seems to be nothing more than political theatre and malicious manoeuvrings directed toward their long-time adversary, Sinn Féin, who currently is enjoying a political renaissance in Ireland…both in the North and the Republic .
Finally, did you hear about Republican hopeful Jeb Bush’s faux pas during the second televised debates? When asked his choice of what woman should be on the new U.S. ten-dollar bill, he replied, “Margaret Thatcher.”
Imagine that! Obviously trying to curry favour with former-Reaganites, he unwittingly alienated many thousands of Irish-Americans.
Realising his mistake a day later, the Bushman quickly reversed himself, saying that’s a decision ‘for the American people, not himself.’
A bit too late don’t you think, Jeb?
May Samhain be good to you all…God bless & Happy Thanksgiving. Cathal

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