A diary of the times that are (part 12)



Army tanks are parking beside the White House, police are spraying tear gas into the eyes of innocent protestors, and a president of America is threatening to unleash armed military personnel on the cities of the USA. This, surely, is some sort of madness


All week

Ever since President Trump began his jaw-dropping press briefings on Covid-19, I’ve been tuning in to CNN most nights. Over the past week or so, the focus has switched almost entirely to the protests/looting across several American cities in the wake of the death, while in police custody, of George Floyd.

CNN is a fascinating and at times infuriating channel. On one level, its coverage is superb. It’s so different to what we are used to in Ireland and the UK. The ‘anchors’ in studio and the reporters on the ground are much more opinionated, animated, passionate. They are also very biased (in CNN’s case, against Republicans/Donald Trump). I’m well aware that Fox News is even more biased in favour of the latter! These biases create and often heighten divisions. When you’re watching such channels, you end up wondering where the real journalism ends and the propaganda begins.

Be that as it may, it’s hard to mount any defence of President Trump just now. His conduct is dangerous. His handling of Covid-19 has been miserable, and now he is being typically aggressive and confrontational in his response to the entirely legitimate protests over instances of police brutality against the black community. The most recent of those episodes saw a white police officer detain a black man, George Floyd, by persistently kneeling on his neck, even as he cried out that he couldn’t breathe. Mr. Floyd suffered a cardiac arrest and died. That killing has sparked extremely tense stand-offs all over America over recent nights.

The vast majority of those who are protesting are good, decent people who are appalled by the latest killing of a black man in such circumstances. ‘Black lives matter’ is their mantra. Inevitably, with such crowds congregating, with a huge security presence and so much tension and anger in the air, and with infiltration of the crowds by anarchists, there has been some looting. Police have been provoked. Cars and buildings have been set alight. That cannot be justified, yet America’s anger is understandable. And much of the response of the State has been provocative and heavy-handed.

At such a time, America needs leadership, a President who can instill calm. Instead, Trump, the ultimate narcissist, and with two eyes fixed on November’s election – and quite possibly simply because he is unstable – reacts with maximum might and fury. As I type on Monday night, army tanks are parking beside the White House, police are spraying tear gas into the eyes of innocent protestors, and a president of America is threatening to unleash armed military personnel on the cities of the USA. This, surely, is some sort of madness we are witnessing.

On Monday night, I engage on Twitter, and one woman tweets that Trump will surely get his comeuppance in November’s Presidential Election. But that is far from certain.

Trump is dividing America – dangerously so – but he is doing so very deliberately. And for every appalled Trump critic, you will find an enthusiastic fan (believe it or not). There are two scenarios that critics of Trump should be wary of. One, despite being battered by the Covid crisis, Trump could actually still win the election. The second scenario is that if he loses, he could be hard to remove. That may seem far-fetched, but do not rule it out. Fears are growing that Trump, in the event of an election defeat, might not accept the result.

America is in turmoil, its people on edge. Division reigns. Reason has been relegated to the shadows. It is a volatile time, and with an election looming, that volatility will continue. Donald Trump has taken America to the edge – and that’s not a very safe place.




I take a walk around town, in searing heat. It’s 3.30 pm on the normally bustling June Bank Holiday Monday. But the county town is eerily quiet. For a moment, there isn’t a single person to be seen in Main Street. It’s extraordinary. Then I meet a local businessman. Small talk, in the new language of our times. We’re surrounded by silence. All bar a handful of premises’ are closed. A couple of cars pass, with music blaring, a lament for the norm. Moments later, a few people emerge from side streets, walking, savouring the sunshine. Some wear face masks. A mother clasps her young daughter’s hand. In Church Street, a man is on his knees, painting the lower part of a premises. There is no buzz, no bank holiday vibe, which is no surprise. The bars, restaurants, cafes and most shops, they all remain closed. From the odd house window, flows music and chatter. And the best music of all comes from the birds in the sky, with their perpetual playlist. Whatever they are making of all of this new calmness.




There’s a gem of a story in Danny Burke’s heartfelt tribute to the late Canon Peader Lavin (RIP), which you can read elsewhere in this issue of the Roscommon People.

Canon Lavin, who died in April, was a close friend of Danny’s. Danny, as many readers will know, is one of the greatest characters in the county, a proud Castlerea and Roscommon man who has done such great voluntary work over the years, both in sport and in the community as a whole.

Back to the story. Some years ago, Danny was going to confession. His friend, Canon Peader, was ‘on duty’ in the Confessional.

When Danny went in, Canon Peader greeted him: “Oh God, Danny Burke. How’s the football going?” The two then proceeded to talk at some length about football. On and on they went…

Next day, when he was out on his rounds delivering the post, Danny met two local women.

Danny recalls: “They said that you must have got an awful penance, he kept you so long!”