October 5th 2020

Frank Bannister

Our speaker today is our own (soon to be) member, Hechem Cherif who will speak about Bordeaux Vintage Wine and the Irish, Wild Geese.

Hecham will be formally inducted into the club at today’s meeting. He will be introduced by Rosella and will have the great support of PP Mariandy as his mentor.

Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Oct 12th Glencree Reconciliation Centre. Barbara Walshe, Chair of the Board.
Oct 19th 75 anniversary of the United Nations. Lalini Veerassamy.
Oct 26th Public Holiday
Nov 2nd John Murphy (speaking from France) The Challenge of leading a team remotely during Covid 19.
Nov 16th Prisoner Liaison Project. Barry Owens of IASIO.

Rotary Rangers Walks
Oct 6th Three Rock mountain.
If Level 3 is extended after October 10th, PP Brian George will advise us of the Dublin walks thereafter. Please note the group is limited to 15 walkers each week, so please advise Brian if you intend to walk the following week. As always, social distancing rules will apply. More details are available from PP Brian.

Apologies
Hon Sec Tony McCourt gave apologies from PP Ethna, Paul Loughlin, David Horkan and Tom O’Neill.
The thought for the day was given by PP Tony Keegan.

Attendees
At last week’s virtual meeting there were 21 attendees. One of these was a guest, Simon Braun (from Barvaria).

President’s Announcements
Alan reported on what had been an enjoyable visit to the Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin the previous week. The group included not only VP David Booth, but his 99-year-old mother who was in fine fettle. The gardens were a riot of colour. Alan was amazed by the variety of colours on display and plans a personal return visit soon. Meanwhile, if we Dubliners are allowed go over the border after October 10th, he hopes that we can organise an outing to Mount Usher. Alan remarked that , that morning, he had read of the New Year’s celebrations being cancelled which suggested to him that we will not be able to meet again to dine together until well into the new year. He had organised a group to consider how we can better make use of on-line meetings, though, while distinctly second best, are our only option for now.

Alan had received a note from DG Conny about the RIBI Covid-19 guidelines. These were based on the UK government’s guidelines and these are different from those in the Republic of Ireland. Alan had written to Conny to remonstrate about this, using the skills of Hon Sec. Tony to craft the letter. He had copied ADG Mike. In her reply, Conny said that she had received complaints from several clubs and that the RIBI should be more sensitive. She had written to RIBI and was awaiting a reply.

Members wishing to speak
• Mary O and Alan talked about our Interact clubs (in St. Louis’s and Oatlands). Alan said that Mary had worked hard to build up these clubs. We had received very positive feedback from Gerard Cullen in Oatlands, but he felt that we should defer re-starting the club for a year given the pandemic and its disruptions. We would be welcome back in September 2021. St. Louis’s on the other hand looked more promising for this year. Unfortunately, the long-standing transition year leader, Aoife Rogers, has moved to a different role, but her replacement, Roisin McArdle, had been very welcoming. Next week, Mary will be visiting the school and addressing four socially distanced groups and giving each of them the same talk. Alan thanked Mary for her great work. PP Brian said that one good thing to come out of the pandemic was that we had Mary O here with us in Ireland, instead of in Spain where she would normally be at this time of year.
• PP Mariandy was unable to attend the meeting, but asked people to remember the upcoming UN celebration. If the spirit moves you, you might like to appear on screen in your national dress. PE Alexander muttered something about lederhosen. Could be interesting.
• PP Tony Keegan wished a happy birthday to PP Ted Corcoran.

Last Week’s Speaker
Our speaker last week was Sandy McPhee from the Scottish Office in Dublin. Sandy is from Kilmarnock and is a graduate of Herriot Watt university. His started his career as a statistician and worked in this role for the Scottish government for eight years before becoming a diplomat three years ago. He is, amongst other things, a member of the 5-a-side Scottish Dublin Tartan Army.

Sandy said that he was delighted to have the opportunity to speak to us and apologised in advance for possible interruptions from his eight week old twins who were currently sleeping downstairs. He has been working for three years in the Scottish Office in Dublin. The Office is part of a unique international network set up by the Scottish government in a growing number of locations including Dublin, Berlin, Paris, Brussels, Washington, Beijing and London. His primary area of responsibility is Scottish-Irish relations.

The external focus of the network is a new venture for Scotland and is designed not just to represent Scotland in key partner countries, but to support Scottish industry, both established international companies and those seeking to expand abroad. There are five pillars to their operations: political, economic and cultural diplomacy, positioning Scotland in Ireland as a destination of choice to live, work, study, visit and do business with and as a welcoming, open, progressive, dynamic country, society and economy. They work with a variety of partners including the Scottish international development office and the Highland and Islands Enterprise board. They are based in the British embassy on the Merrion road where they have a suite of three offices. In addition to its normal diplomatic function, the embassy also hosts the office of the Welsh government, and offices for HMRC and the International Crime Agency.

Much of what they do in Ireland (and elsewhere) is building networks – both of ex-patriot Scots, but also with local governments and communities. Their two big social events of the year are St. Andrew’s day and Burns night. The St. Andrew’s day celebrations for the past few years have been held in the crypt of Christ Church cathedral and include food and drink as well as music for the Scottish diaspora. Last year, the cathedral was bathed in blue light for the occasion. Burns night is a more formal affair with a dinner for 200 seated guests. The food and drink on Bruns night includes haggis and whisky (of course) as well as poetry reading, the latter not being confined to Burns; some poets are invited to read their own work. There are also other performers.

An important part of their work is building up the Scottish brand. They make extensive us of social networks including the Twitter handle #Scotlandisnow. Engaging with the diaspora is important for them as is presenting the positions and policies of the Scottish government not just to other governments, but to the wider public in Ireland and elsewhere. Part of this is the government economic growth plan. Ireland is one of Scotland’s top ten export markets. The importance of Ireland is reflected in the numbers of their staff. In 2017 there were two people in Irish Office. Now there are seven (one of whom is based in the North).

The Office has an extensive cultural programme, in particular in things like poetry and music exchanges. There is also a Scotland-Ireland health partnership working on the co-ordination of health policy – something that has taken on greater importance this year because of Covid-19. One of the topics on which much information is being exchanged is the impact and effectiveness of lockdowns.

One of the exciting things in the pipeline is a bi-lateral review. Sandy had been hoping that this would have been published before today so that he could have spoken about it, but Covid-19 has caused some delay so publication is now expected next month. This will be a highly positive and forward looking document covering business and enterprise, commerce generally, culture, academia and the shared challenges facing rural and island communities. There has been widespread consultation in its preparation including an on-line questionnaire that attracted 350 responses. He is looking forward to its launch in October and hopes that we will find it informative and inspiring.

President Alan then invited questions and, being a Scot himself, fired off the first by asking the question that many of us probably would have asked if he hadn’t, what was the line from the Office on Scottish independence? Alan appreciated that Sandy was a diplomat, so Sandy’s reply might of necessity be guarded. Sandy said that the position of the Office was that of the government of Scotland. The SNP is the party in power and they are pro-independence, so that is the line of the Office. It’s as simple as that.

Frank Bannister asked about the Scottish economy and its ability to stand on its own two feet in the event of independence. Much was made in some quarters about the dependence of Scotland on the financial support of the English taxpayer. Referring back to the Scottish independence referendum a few years ago, Sandy said that a key difference between it and the more recent Brexit referendum, was that the Scottish government had prepared a detail discussion document on the consequences of independence and a clear post-independence roadmap, including for the economy. In contrast, there had been no such preparation for Brexit, the consequences of which were now becoming all too visible. He felt that Ireland had thrived as a small independent country; there was no reason why Scotland could not do the same.

Alan referred to rural and island communities. Sandy said that there was much overlap in the problems faced by these communities in both countries and that both could benefit from sharing their experiences and learning from each other. He looked forward to a deepening relationship in this area.

Jono Pim said that, as a former trade representative himself, he was curious about the location of the Office inside the British embassy. How were relationships with the embassy? Sandy said that the Office relied on UK embassy platforms and that relationships were good. Asked would they like to be in a separate location, Sandy said that there would be pros and cons to such an arrangement.

Frank Bannister asked was the long historical relationship between Scotland an France still strong. Sandy said that while the Dublin office had been the first established in the EU, the Paris office was seen as a strategic investment. The French in particular appreciated the differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Thanking our speaker, PP Ted commented on the wide scope of relationships between Ireland and Scotland. He thanked Sandy for a wide-ranging and informative address. Thanking our guest speaker, president Alan said that it might be interesting to have Sandy speak to us again sometime after the publication of the bi-lateral review.

Bookclub
The Rotary Book Club has been postponed to 21st October at 6.30. “A Thousand Moons” by Sebastian Barry is the book chosen for this month. Those who wish to join should contact Delma Sweeney @ delma.sweeney@mu.ie. The agreed format for the Rotary Book Club is that the meeting should last about one and a half hours. The person who nominates the book to be read will choose the venue. Each person will speak for a max of ten minutes about the book. This will be followed by a general discussion. That members do not have to have read the chosen book, but ideally present briefly on another book. The maximum number for the group is 10-12.

Diary of A Beekeeper September / October 2020
From An Beachaire, the magazine of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers Assocations [FIBKA] for this month (October), the editor Mary Montaut quotes from Virgil, Georgics Book IV, lines in Irish “..tá na cosanttoiri ag faire a an ngeata, iad roghnaithe go fanach, ag faire ar an scamaill agus ceathanna á dtuar acu, ..” which as you will know (!?) translates as “.. some (bees) by lot, obtain the post of sentries at the gates to take their turn at watching for rain or clouds…”

The beekeeper’s season is coming to an end and like many, we recall the summer as warm and sunny. But like the bees mentioned by Virgil, in fact this summer we beekeepers watched out for the poor days rather than the good ones, since the exceptionally dry and near drought weather in Spring ended, which was great for the lockdown period but not necessarily for the collecting of honey. After that period, it was wet, windy with even severe storms, all of which keep the brave bees indoors when they want to be out of doors, foraging.

And so, it is that we find in our small apiary that we will be leaving all the honey with our expanded numbers of bees to keep them fit and well over winter. In other words, we are investing our hard-won profits in the future of the business, rather than declaring a dividend. That may not be so popular with our shareholders (our respective families) who have seen us disappear in our white suits and veils over many hours at weekends and some weekdays too, ‘to look after the bees’. However, we will (hope?) to have a larger workforce next season and that the dividends will therefore be greater.

The quality of the nectar collected by the bees (the foragers) can be diluted by too much moisture, and rain washes the pollen out of the flowers. Hence the returning foragers are not able to pass on to their sisters, who are collecting the mixture of nectar and water from the foragers at the entrance to the hive, honey of the quality that will sustain the hive through winter, unless assisted by the kind beekeeper. So additional feed in the form of syrup is often needed to be fed to ‘the troops’ in the hive in autumn, but that is usually to replace the honey removed by the beekeeper in August or September. Not in this extraordinary (in more ways than one) season.

© 2020 Rotary Club, Dublin

  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon