April arrives in the west with the days stretching themselves out over the heads of flaring daffodils and arching rainbows over the Shannon and randy rooks flirting in the treetops of Killaloe and Ballina, and I am stricken once again with a small travel bug. It happens every year.
As the car radio crackles with the petty details of the verbal civil war waging hotly yet again between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail after the hamstrung general election here, we head down to West Cork for a couple of days of peace and rest. We find that again in Clonakilty in West Cork a place we have always been very fond of.
I think it is a reality that there are several lesser republics inside the formal Irish Republic now struggling day and hour to avoid the travail and stress of another general election. One sub-republic, in my view, is Donegal, as far away as is geographically possible from Dublin and the corridors of power there.
Another, for sure, is Cork in general and the long sprawl of West Cork in particular. If it's favorite son Michael Collins had not stood up and exposed himself during that ambush long ago in Beal Na Blath, we would probably today have a different kind of republic and maybe not the current tragic enough turmoil and politicking.
Anyway, we are in Clonakilty again and, as is my wont, the nights find me chatting with locals in the lively bars of the great heritage town. And walking along the streets lined with the shops that cater for all the needs of yet another tourism season that is just beginning. Wine bars, cafes, delis, art galleries, all manner of social spaces.
The shops that once catered for the basic needs of the locals now have a wider menu on all sides. You need that nowadays in the tourist areas.
I buy refills, for example, for my e-cigarette machine in a shop whose old frontage shows that in the past it was here you bought your tea and sugar, your loaf of white bread, your bacon and cabbage and battery for the cycle flash lamp. Changed times for sure.
Over the few days far away from Dublin and the Pale, and the political discussions there, I pick up clearly the likely direction of our immediate political future too. You learn to listen in the bars where the plain people gather and relax and chat away the night.
And I learn that the most likely outcome of our current political stalemate is another general election in the quick future. It would seem in this sub-republic deep in Collins territory that the civil war is far from over.
No way, say the voices along the bars, no way will we coalesce with de Valera's bloody Fianna Fail. That is just not going to happen.
On the TV overhead in one of the bars, a pundit says he was talking to a senior Fianna Fail source on the east coast earlier in the day and no way, said the source, no way at all was Fianna Fail going to enter into any political arrangement with the bloody Blueshirts. That is the label old Fianna Failers still affix to Fine Gael, you know.
I listened all the time, kept my mouth closed and my ears opened, and, in all truth, I must say I was not surprised by the direction and content of the discussions along the bars.
Our memories are probably too long on this island, so long that a century is only a brief
Interlude in history and, above all, the senior generations who are most likely still to vote in elections were born into one or other of the main political parties and did not switch from them afterwards. It was part of the birthright I suppose. Down many years of covering Irish elections as a reporter I have often stood on the edge of valleys with party activists who could accurately look at the houses below and say, "That is a Fianna Fail house, there is a Fine Gael house, in that next house she comes from a Fine Gael family and votes that way and he's Fianna Fail.”
Those social and political readings may not be quite so totally accurate today as they were in the past but, given my Clonakilty lesson, the times are but slowly a-changing.
Accordingly do not be at all surprised if, after another fortnight or so, this nation decides that we need another general election. We don't want it -- least of all the politicians -- but we are very likely to get it.
And, ironically, that election, after all the fuss and the frazzle, is most likely to produce even more single-issue independents than we have currently, no major parties with even the makings of a majority, and much more of the same all through this summer and autumn.
In conclusion, no matter what happens, in West Cork or anywhere else in this republic, it is extremely unlikely that any constituency will elect a dangerously deluded bombasticated billionaire warmonger such as one who is running strongly in another election contest even as I write these words in Clonakilty.
Thank God for that at least!