The summer in the west builds up to a crescendo of the sights and sounds of scores of festivals and celebrations in about every parish and I scarcely know where to begin.

I believe, though, at a time when the wider world is riven with conflicts that it is apt to begin with mention of the Scariff Harbour Festival down the road from me a few miles in Co. Care where the message was one of peace and understanding. We could do with more of that today.

Most movingly and powerfully, the festival was opened by Jo Berry and Pat Magee of the Building Bridges for Peace charity which has been doing subtly splendid work in recent years to help our divided communities, especially in Ulster, to explore and better understand the roots of war, terrorism and violence.

A splendid illustration of the way in which the charity goes about its business was a remarkable Game of Three Halves involving children from both sides of the border which may soon become a "hard" reality in Irish lives again following the Brexit decision by England to depart from the European Union.

Sport has been a divisive element of our past here as many of you know. The minority community in the six counties largely played only Gaelic games for many decades and, for many years, GAA members were forbidden to attend or play soccer or other so-called "foreign games."

In the Scariff spectacle, touchingly, the kids played a game which combined the elements of hurling, soccer and rugby and it was a huge and deeply touching success. That success was underlined when the local youth club hosted a workshop on peace and reconciliation the same afternoon.

Throw in the music of the fabled Kilfenora Ceili Band, the golden voice of mighty singer Tommy Fleming, a street side arts and crafts fair, guided ventures through both the woods and the waters of the area, and lively music, singing and dancing in all the lively local pubs and there was something special and worthwhile for about everybody through the weekend. And we have all the other festivals which are ringing through the west's summer during these special days and nights.

Never mind the Olympics being upon us either. They are somehow tainted on about every front this time round.

What is not at all tainted -- except maybe for the losers -- are the crucial quarterfinal stages of the All-Ireland football championships in Croke Park and elsewhere.

At time of writing my Galwegian children are downcast by the historic reality that Tipperary (formerly only a hurling stronghold) totally destroyed the Tribesmen in their meeting, Mayo have bested a brave Westmeath, and Kerry, as is to be expected of course, handed out a proper drubbing to Clare in their quarter-final.

Never mind the Olympics, say many hereabouts. Is there the chance this September that the almost professional Dubliners, the hot favorites all year, might yet be bested?

And Kilkenny are girding their loins already for yet another hurling title. The Olympics are only in the halfpenny place by comparison.

There is a kind of therapeutic effect to the days and hours of the high summer. The real live pressures of life and living it as fully as possible are shuttled aside for a while.

Our government is on holidays. Our banks are still in financial difficulties following the recent stress test across Europe. There are unknown consequences of every kind post-Brexit and there are outrageously appalling wars spilling blood all over the globe.

Somehow, though, it is easier in this carnival season to close our minds to a lot of the bad news and enjoy the lighter moments to hand. There may be a chilly day of reckoning but, in the meantime, that golden voice of Tommy Fleming and the lilt and lift of the Kilfenora Ceili Band is a healing balm.

There was a report in the papers today that there is growing concern among the scientific community about the prospect of a dreadfully huge meteorite hurtling towards Earth at about a million miles an hour. According to the reports, it will come far too close for comfort to us on its current orbit and could actually collide with Earth next time around in 10 or 12 years time.

The boffins are sending up a satellite to investigate the composition of the monster and see if anything can be done in the short term to steer it away from us. I might worry about that kind of thing in the depths of winter but, for now, it is infinitely more pleasant to listen to the Kilfenora Ceili Band, and, in the pub nearby, to the rousing accordion of Seamus Bugler and his friends.

One tune they played tonight was called "Banish Misfortune.” Exactly.

 

Summer in the west of Ireland builds up to a crescendo of sights and sounds of scores of festivals and celebrations.Irish Voice