Hey, good morning again; so what sort of summer have you had? Ah, quiet, goes the reply, the weather wasn’t great.
Except there’s been plenty happening since I last put pen to paper for this column, or at least fingertips to keyboard. This time of the year tended to be known as the “silly season” in the media industry due to a perceived lack of news; but thanks to Donald Trump, Kim whatisname, General E Lee, Hurricane Harvey, Conor McGregor et al, the papers have been full of it.
I heard the news today, oh boy, as the song says. Let me just mention two stories. Dubliner Conor McGregor picked up a cool 100 million quid for stepping into the boxing ring for the first time, and closer to home families in the Ashbrooke Care Home faced a fight of their own when the home was hit with a closure order.
Two stories a million miles apart one would think, but perhaps in their own way they are symptomatic of society’s values in 2017.
I hope you managed to avoid the hype in the build-up to McGregor’s boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, but it was very hard. Never a broadcaster to shy away from hyperbole, Sky described it as the most anticipated fight of all time. Well, there were subscriptions to be sold.
I don’t underestimate the rags to riches story of McGregor, who was claiming welfare in Dublin just four years ago before his single-mindedness and dedication in the brutal world of Mixed Martial Arts saw him get his chance to go into the ring against one of the greatest boxers of all time. But there was something unedifying about the whole spectacle. Still, it’s estimated that the two men carved up about 300 million dollars between them. So that’s all right then.
Meanwhile, football’s grasp on the value of money moves ever further away from any sane contact with reality. In the summer when we saw a copy emerge of the first contract English player Sir Stanley Matthews signed with Stoke City for £5 a week, the young Brazilian Neymar clinched a deal with French team Paris St. Germain which will earn him £700,000 per week. No, you didn’t read that wrong. £700K, every week.
PSG paid a transfer fee of nearly £200 million to his former club Barcelona, so taking that fee and salary into account, Neymar will have cost them about £400 million for his services for a few years.
A snip.
And the Paris club went on to fork out another £145 million fee for a French lad, Kylian Mbappe.
Of course, the money swirling around in sport is nothing new.
Neither is the lack of money for helping people here at home.
The story of Ashbrooke being served with a closure order due to a “serious risk to life, health and wellbeing” of the residents has been well covered by this newspaper, and I don’t propose to go over the arguments again. Except to say it has been an extremely stressful time for many families.
How horrible, then, to see the keyboard warriors on social media, who knew nothing of the situation, post hurtful comments. So much for our caring society.
And speaking of caring, what does it say about the way the authorities treat our elderly and vulnerable? The time has long since past when the care of the elderly became an issue focusing first and foremost on budgets, and was passed to the private sector. Now, there are undoubtedly many fine owners of care homes, but by allowing such care to become a vehicle for profit, we were always asking for trouble.
What next in the direction of healthcare away from the public purse?
You decide, No, seriously, the health trusts are asking us to make their tough choices. They need to trim £70million off their costs this year alone, and in common with the others the Western Trust are giving us Hobson’s Choice in their quest to save £12 million. I repeat, this year alone. We’re already seeing waiting lists desperately long, with people dying while waiting for treatment, among many other financial pressures.
It would seem SWAH services under threat include the Stroke Unit, which has been wonderful for so many local people in their time of need, as well as the neo-natal unit.
No wonder I heard one of our marvellous health service workers say recently, in despair, the NHS “is done.”
Let’s be clear. We have the most wonderful, professional caring staff here at SWAH and elsewhere, and indeed we have some of the most up-to-date facilities anywhere. 
It’s just that the proper priority and leadership isn’t being given by those in positions of power and influence.
For example, since we had an election to Stormont earlier this year, it’s estimated that our new Assembly members have picked up well over £1.5 million from the public purse and have yet to get the Executive up and running again. 
This led to a headline with the DUP’s Edwin Poots accusing Sinn Fein of “putting Irish before hip operations.” How hypocritical; aside from the fact that Poots didn’t exactly shine in solving problems when he was Health Minister himself, I have to ask how many hip operations would have been carried out by the millions and millions gone up in smoke with the cash for ash scandal.
And before the Shinners start nodding in agreement, the underlying point that Poots makes is also valid because Sinn Fein is playing politics while people suffer.
So a plague on all their houses. Do they care? Well, it would seem that their stances don’t really affect their support, so probably the question is do the people really care? And then their local representatives are faced with helping the people affected with damage limitation.
Indeed, here’s a point. It’s sobering to think the money gained by half a dozen sports people this summer would solve all our health service problems at a stroke. But before we tut-tut, remember how many people paid out £20 just to watch the McGregor fight on television. Or how many of us forked out nearly £100 for a replica kit of our favourite football team, or the fees for Sky Sports or BT Sports which fuel the Premier League money madness.
Yet a political party which asks us to pay a little more income tax to fund the health service would be spurned at the ballot box.
These are our priorities in the summer of 2017, so maybe there is a silly season after all. Love of money ahead of love for others less fortunate. Greed is OK. 
In the hymn “Put peace into each other’s hands” which we sang on Sunday, it says “Look people warmly in the eye, our life is meant for caring.”
In the harsh world of today, do we care enough for others?