The end of another school year beckons as we prepare for our AGM on Wednesday May 25th in Kilkenny.  This year, the format is changed somewhat from previous years.  We will have Mass for our deceased members at 8.00 am and following Breakfast, registration will start at 10.30 with the AGM starting at 11.30.  The afternoon session will include motions, reports and elections, with our Gala Dinner at 7.00 pm including the Dr. Charles McCarthy memorial lecture. We are delighted to have Sean Connolly this year to provide us with some insights into the life of his great grandfather, James Connolly.  The social dimension will conclude on Thursday with a full day tour.

Talking about tours, I want to mention our very successful visit to Tullamore in early March for our Spring Break.  We stayed in the Tullamore Court Hotel, which proved an excellent choice, with friendly staff, comfortable rooms and delicious food.  Our first tour took us to the Tullamore Dew Distillery, where our guide for the morning was Shane.  He brought us through the distillation process from grain and maize to the bottled product.  His presentations were intriguing and the tour took a little longer than planned with loads of questions being asked – surely a sign of a truly interesting tour.  It concluded with an opportunity to sample Tullamore Dew whiskey, and we could keep the sampling glasses. Following lunch in the Distillery’s restaurant we departed for Birr Castle where we visited  the Science Museum,  Birr Castle Arboretum and the famous telescope, erected in the mid 19th Century by the 3rd Earl of Ross.  The Arboretum is populated with shrubs and trees from all over the world and includes some very rare species.

The next day, we visited Locke’s Distillery in Kilbeggan. Yes! Another distillery.  This proved quite a different experience, but complemented wonderfully our visit of the previous day.  In Kilbeggan, we were taken through the original building built in the mid 1700s, and saw how the process then operated, driven by the waters of the Brosna, and supplemented by a steam engine  – one of only three of its kind and still operational.  We also had an opportunity to sample and a tasting competition – well done Martin (O’Reilly) and Marie (Keyes).  Lunch in the distillery restaurant prepared us for our visit  to Clonmacnoise.  Our outdoor tour was a bit restricted by some rain but with the Museum and Film presentation we had plenty of scope to learn about the history of the location and the life of St Ciarán.  Having overstayed our time there, we still found time available to visit Killeen’s  in Shannonbridge – a friendly, welcoming establishment where tea, coffee and other liquids were consumed.  Altogether, a thoroughly enjoyable break, in spite of some cold damp weather.

The RMA was represented at the TUI Easter Congress in Killarney by Jim McCarthy and myself.  This year we were delighted to see worthwhile debate and interest in motions on Pension matters.  Let me again confirm the RMA’s support for the restoration of the Common Basic Scale, the rejection of the concept of ‘career averaging’ as proposed for incoming teachers and our support for the full restoration of pay to serving members and restoration of full pensions for all our retired colleagues. This latter topic will, no doubt, occupy some time at our AGM in the Newpark Hotel.

During the Spring, I represented the RMA at two TUI pre-retirement seminars.  As such seminars precede actual retirement time, not all attendees know exactly when and if they will finish working.  I am also conscious that some members may have overlooked attending or found it impossible to get to either event.  To cover that eventuality, an RMA membership application form is attached.  Retiring members should note that most time at RMA meetings is devoted to issues of concern to them – home security and safety, wills, financial planning, leisure planning, health provision issues and so on, so it is in every retiring TUI member’s interest to join the RMA.  If you intend attending our AGM, book in a.s.a.p. as rooms may be scarce.

Finally, colleagues, we said farewell to two members recently – Tom Hunt, former TUI President, and Con Kelly, former Chairman of the RMA, both gentlemen of outstanding integrity. May they rest in peace.

Martin Hoye