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COLM TOBIN: Northern exposure for Leo who may have taken a lesson from EP crowd

September 18th, 2023 3:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

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IT’S incredible how you could turn the announcement of €1bn in new cross-border funding into a day of awkward controversy, but here we are. With Leo’s comments that he expects to see a United Ireland in his lifetime, Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton Harris used the happy-clappy launch of the fund to send a British barb back in the Taoiseach’s direction.

‘I know the Taoiseach has got a lot of domestic politics on his plate but occasionally unhelpful comments down in Dublin do resonate up here amongst the unionist community and I need the clearest pitch possible to get the executive up and running,’ he said.


Maybe Leo was watching all those videos of the kids singing Up The Ra at the Electric Picnic and felt Fine Gael needed to get in on the action.

The fact that the DUP were not present for the cross-border event goes to show how tricky these sorts of collaborations can be and how easily they can go wrong.

Breaking up is hard to do. Getting back together will be even trickier.

Only an hour from Dublin!

SEPTEMBER is the month we bring our family tent and associated paraphernalia out of storage for our last-gasp attempt to be outdoorsy types before the summer disappears over the horizon.

We timed it to perfection this year, with all the cold calculated ruthlessness of Andy Farrell building towards a World Cup, and left Dublin for lovely Wicklow on the hottest September weekend on record. I suppose you have to take the benefits of climate change while they are going.

I realise going to Wicklow isn’t exactly like embarking for base camp on Everest or anything. Indeed, the trip is only an hour from our front door in Dublin.

I’m a camping realist, see, and I reserve the right to do a volte-face and break for the comforts of home if things get ‘real’ on the weather front. We’re not trying to prove anything here. We’re not going off-grid into the hills, whittling wood with the children and teaching them about Brehon Law.

We packed iPads and Nintendo Switches. And a small Dyson. I even invested in a 14-litre portable fridge for this trip.

Grizzly Adams, I am not.

Our September trips are really just an effort to give the kids a sense of the outdoorsy life without committing to a full-on Irish camping holiday. That one I will leave to the pros.

And there were plenty of them down in Redcross at the weekend, with massively elaborate set-ups, ranging from shared outdoor cooking tents with big projectors to watch the rugby, to large sunken fire pits, monstrous fold-out barbecues and solar-powered extractor units.

People unpacked vans with every conceivable convenience, often just for two nights.

Absolute nutters.

I found myself wandering around having camper’s envy, and began to conceive of a Dermot Bannon-style glass box extension I might add to our own humble family tent before pulling myself together again and remembering we were there to get away from that nonsense.

We keep it fairly simple and try to keep the accessorisation to a minimum, but even then it’s a hell of a lot of work. Inflatable mattresses, head torches, cooler boxes, blankets, extra blankets, thermal pyjamas, USB adaptors to power the devices, power banks as a backup … I’ve even created an official family Camping List which I officially consult every year to ensure we have everything we need.

By the time Sunday morning came around, we were all exhausted and ready to get back to the land of hot showers and proper coffee, to be honest with you. I know we’ll look back on the magical bits – eating toasted marshmallows from the campfire outside our neighbour’s pitch, exploring the campsite with torches under a star-filled sky, enjoying our fourth round of crazy golf … not to mention watching Ireland romp home against Romania sitting on the dappled shade with a beer or two.

With the pitch setting us back only €98 for two nights and a few quid thrown at refreshments and meals out, it’s a nice cost-efficient way to have some family fun. So I would recommend it, all in all.

The September weekends are fairly quiet so you’ll easily find a place in most campsites, allowing you to plan based on the weather in as much as that is possible in our damp and volatile land. Also, most of the family-based activities are still running so there’s plenty for the kids to do.

And the way climate change is progressing, we’ll probably be able to do it in October soon enough.

Granny Rule needs revival

IT was a great weekend of sport with more glory for the West Cork rowers on the international stage.

It’s a shame our footballers couldn’t follow suit after two brave but ultimately ineffective outings against France and Holland.

Perhaps what Irish football needs is a good dose of 1950s-style emigration to get the Granny Rule conveyor belt rolling again.

I feel sorry for Stephen Kenny. I know he’s an international manager, who is well compensated, but I think his heart is in the right place.

Managing Ireland right now must be what it was like when I last tried to play football myself. I know, in theory, what my body is supposed to be doing, but getting my arms and legs to carry out those tasks is a completely different proposition.

With depleted squads losing against superior opposition, Stephen Kenny often looks like he is trying to get blood from a stone.

In football terms, we’re probably looking at a dead man walking, but you wouldn’t have much hope for what’s to follow.

Stones keep on rolling 

MICK Jagger and his pals in The Rolling Stones seem to have no issue getting their arms and legs to carry out the tasks they are asking of them. With the release of their brand new album, their first in years, to much fanfare and favourable reviews, it just goes to show that there’s hope for us all yet. There’s no moss on those lads, as they say.

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