It is quite depressing, not to mention repetitious, to discuss the staggering rate of inflation in Ireland in this space. But as I sat down to write, Newstalk radio host Kieran Cuddihy posited that the big question for many people these days, as colder weather approaches, is “How am I going to survive this winter?” The fear of those already struggling to get by is palpable. It is the dominant topic of conversation.
For on top of hikes in the price of electricity and gas (roughly 24 percent and 32 percent, respectively) in May, one leading provider has announced further that increases of 35 and 39 percent will take effect on the first of October. These have been attributed to “continued volatility” and “ongoing market uncertainty” in “unprecedented times.” There is an energy shortage and speculation abounds that there could be blackouts in the months ahead. Soaring costs are having a tangible negative impact on businesses and households alike.
The government, together with its counterparts across Europe, is considering a range of measures to ameliorate what could become a truly dreadful situation throughout the continent. Additionally, consumers are being urged to pinch pennies. Here in Wicklow, for instance, warm clothing will supplant turning the heat on and the Christmas lights won’t be blazing for hours on end – at least if I have a say in the matter.
While some commentators caution against panic, asserting that the media are engaging in scaremongering and claiming that the present crisis could helpfully hasten an overdue transition away from fossil fuels, their theorizing will be small comfort for many Irish people. Those most adversely affected will expect elected officials to solve the problem, pronto. Regrettably, that’s not possible.
This seems destined to be the winter of our discontent. And as for a probable political consequence: the rise and rise of Sinn Féin.
WHEN TIME MOVES TOO FAST
Early September is invariably a busy period of adjustment for my family. After a summer spent trying to keep their daughters and sons occupied and out of mischief, parents of young children typically rejoice unreservedly when their little ones head back to school. But for me, it also means the start of the autumn semester at the newly rebranded University of Galway. As ever, there was some upheaval, but Larry Óg and I have quickly settled into our routines.
Partly because the two Larrys’ existences tend to revolve around the academic calendar, time is going by far too fast. My namesake is nearing his 10th birthday, is now in fourth class (the equivalent of fourth grade) in Gaelscoil Chill Mhantáin (the local school where he is being taught through the medium of the Irish language) and is pushing 5 feet 2 inches tall. He had a fantastic summer of vacations to Spain and New York, outings to watch Galway’s hurlers and footballers at Croke Park, and as much golf as we could squeeze in.
I keep saying to my wife Some interesting primary election results back in Massachusetts that we – and he, to the extent he may remember – will recall these days fondly as some of the best of our lives. I only wish that there was a pause button available to press before the apple of our eyes reaches his teens and beyond, and no longer shots out “Love you!” or kisses us without hesitation, no matter where we are or who we’re with.
Undoubtedly, the years ahead will be wonderful in their own way. I can’t help but feel, however, that there is something special and, dare I say it, irreplaceable about this moment of our journey. To lighten the mood and divert my angst elsewhere when I start down this gloomy path, my wife rubs my rapidly graying head of hair and correctly observes that, unfortunately, our boy isn’t the only one who is getting older!
REFLECTIONS ON MASS. PRIMARIES
From a distance, I followed the Massachusetts primaries avidly. Contrary to reports and polls suggesting that the race was neck and neck, former Boston City Councillor Andrea Campbell won the Democratic nomination for attorney general handily. Her chief foe, labor lawyer Shannon Liss-Riordan, was thought to have closed the gap after pouring more than $9 million of her own money into the campaign and garnering the endorsements of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, the city’s former mayor Kim Janey, and US Sen. Elizabeth Warren. It was heartening to see Campbell, a Black woman with an inspiring personal story, overcome her opponent’s wealth and establishment support.
On the other hand, the state’s GOP’s odd lurch to the right continues. Chris Doughty earned the imprimatur of Howie Carr, a hero to MAGA Republicans in the Bay State, on the grounds that the more centrist businessman could actually prevail in November. Nonetheless, Doughty was defeated by Geoff Diehl, an ex-state representative and Trump disciple with two chances of beating Maura Healey: slim and none.
Why would Republicans eschew the successful politics of popular figures like Bill Weld and Charlie Baker – the blend of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism they favor must surely be the lesser of two evils from their perspective – for a candidate whose outlook has next to no buy-in among voters in one of the country’s bluest territories? It beats me.
At the local level, I was glad that my state senator, Walter Timilty, vanquished his primary challenger, Kathleen Crogan-Camara. Timilty is a hard worker who is committed to constituent service and relentlessly champions organised labour. But Crogan-Camara, a relative unknown, took 40 percent of the vote with a message predicated virtually exclusively on her leftist stances on social issues. That she did is proof positive that moderate to conservative Boston-area Democrats are a vanishing breed. Due disclosure: Although separated from Boston by an ocean, I still think of myself as one of that breed. Insurgent progressives view us as “dinosaurs” in 2022. Oh, well.
A WELCOME TO AMB. CRONIN
It was a tremendous honour to introduce the Brockton native and US Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin, who opened the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, Co. Wexford, where the famous clan originates from. I have been a co-director of the annual summer school for several years. Ambassador Cronin spoke movingly about her career in law and politics, her Irish heritage, her admiration for the Kennedy legacy and the manifest love she has for her diplomatic posting in the Phoenix Park.
We basked in a great weekend of Irish and American politics, history and culture with high profile guests from Ireland, the US, and more – both in the official summer school venues and in our unofficial headquarters, the incomparable Theatre Tavern. I encourage anyone who is interested to visit kennedysummeschool.ie to learn more. Better yet: If you’re planning a vacation at “home” next September, join us for what has become a “can’t miss” event on the Irish political calendar.
Sin é from Wicklow. Along with 400,000+ fellow Garth Brooks’ devotees, I have to get ready for one of the country music legend’s five sold-out Dublin concerts!
Larry Donnelly is a Boston born and educated attorney, a Law Lecturer at the University of Galway (formerly referred to as the National University of Ireland, Galway) and regular media contributor on politics, current affairs and law in Ireland and the US. His critically acclaimed book – “The Bostonian: Life in an Irish American Political Family” – is published by Gill Books and is available online.