Monday can only be described as novelty at this stage – an entire day in Cork North West! I spent the early morning in the Macroom office before attending the official opening of the new extension in Kilmurry NS. I’m still not accustomed to cutting tapes and unveiling plaques with my name on them. It is a strange privilege to be welcomed as warmly as I am on visits such as this one to Kilmurry NS. I was greeted by a guard of honour from the Children which was followed by plenty of music and song from all the classes in the school. There is tremendous credit due to Mrs Creedon, her staff, successive boards of management, parents and of course the pupils for the work that has been carried out at the school. After a most pleasant morning and some welcome refreshment I was then treated to a private tour of the Kilmurry Independence Museum by Tony Murphy, Jim Murphy and Tim Hartnett. This facility is a hidden gem. There is so much to peruse and such a depth of local and national history on display that this museum should be a must see for everybody in the locality and indeed further afield. At 2pm I travelled south to Enniskeane to meet the management and staff of GP Wood. The Grainger and O’Callaghan families have been excellent employers in Cork over many decades and are now embarking on an ambitious investment programme which will set them up to be major players in the timber industry for many decades to come. Monday’s final engagement is a Cork North West Fine Gael constituency meeting, where I make a presentation to outgoing regional organiser Ian Dinan. Ian has served the Party diligently over the past sixteen years and we wish him the best for the future. I escape Millstreet just before midnight.
A 5am alarm call for a 5.30am departure to Dublin to make Cabinet. After Cabinet there is some preparatory work for Wednesday’s North South Ministerial Council meeting, before launching a website on behalf of the National Inshore Fisheries Forum. My afternoon is spent in the Seanad discussing Brexit and the implications for the agri-food sector and agriculture. From there I move to a Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure, Environment and Climate action. I’m afforded twenty minutes to grab a bite to eat before retreating to the Department for some brief preparation for RTE Prime Time with Jonathan & Áine. I travel to RTE at 9pm – a quick dab of make-up (to hide the lines) and its lights, camera action at 9.30pm with David McCullagh in the Chair for a debate on….. yes – Brexit!! I depart RTE studios at 10.30pm with one outstanding matter to deal with for the day – removing the makeup!!!
Wednesday is a mammoth day on the mileage front! First engagement is a meet and greet with the new Macra na Feirme CEO Denis Duggan, accompanied by Derrie Dillon. Macra is an organisation very close to my heart having enjoyed many years as a member. Macra get the business and pleasure mix right better than any organisation I’m aware of and is a fantastic outlet for young people from rural backgrounds. After a run through of outstanding business with the Sec Gen I depart for Armagh for a meeting of the North South Ministerial Council. In Armagh I meet with the NI Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen, their Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard, while Minister of State Michael Ring joins me on our Governmental team. Following a wide ranging discussion on a number of topics its back on the road, south bound to Templemore for the removal of former FG Cllr Pauline Coonan RIP, wife of my former colleague Noel Coonan. From Tipperary it was north-west to Sligo for the night in preparation for my appearance at the “Women & Agriculture Conference” in the morning.
To say I was blessed amongst women at breakfast at the Conference would be a great understatement. I deliver one of the opening addresses at this superb event which unfortunately I can’t linger and enjoy as I have to rush back to the Dáil in time for voting just after midday. I make it back to the Dáil from Sligo just in time for the division bells. Following voting I return to the Department to prepare for my monthly cross questioning on the floor of the Dáil from opposition (and sometimes Govt) Deputies. After a tough but fair couple of hours in the Chamber, it’s back into the car again for 5pm in the hope of making a meeting in Listowel at 8pm! It is well after nine when I sheepishly slip into a fairly packed meeting room in the Listowel Arms Hotel for a Kerry Fine Gael constituency meeting. The Party is dusting itself down particularly in North Kerry following the loss of Party stalwart Jimmy Deenihan at the General Election. There is however optimism and defiance that this seat can be won back when the time comes! Following the Fine Gael meeting I meet with the local ICMSA committee before getting back on the road to Cork sometime after 11.
A trip to the Doctor’s on Friday morning – but fortunately not on the grounds of illness. I meet with local GP’s in the Macroom area to discuss their concerns regarding the provision of health services in the area. Following the meeting I spend some time in the Constituency office. I’m looking forward to the respite of a bank holiday weekend. Next week is a big week with an important Trade Mission to North Africa. Having travelled from Cork to Dublin to Armagh to Tipperary to Sligo to Dublin to Listowel to Macroom in 72 hours however, that distance doesn’t seem too daunting!