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Perils of Perils of the Internet: Onus is on parents to wise up

 

 

 

 

A recent high profile trial in this State brought to the surface many talking points, not least the free availability of extreme violence and pornography which is a couple of clicks away on every smartphone in the country.

  I have a feeling that many parents are not aware of the stuff that is flying around on the Internet every day of the week. Some of the stuff that is appearing on Whatsapp and other facilities that are available on any smartphone is truly frightening and disturbing.

  For example, this week images of the injuries suffered by a 13-year-old girl who was attacked in Fermanagh were widely available and being passed on by hundreds of thousands of people. Last year a video of a person who was killed in an accident on the M50 was widely circulated. Every day, violent rows and every kind of extreme sexual and violent behaviour is shared – and it goes around like wildfire.

  It’s only the tip of the iceberg as hundreds of these messages and videos are shared every single day, without any censorship at all. That’s quite apart from all the porn and violent sites that are just a click away as well.

   Most mature adults would be able to deal with this carry-on without too much bother, but God only knows what effect it is having on young people. I hear politicians appealing for restrictions on these major companies – which is an honourable stance to take – but that ship has sailed a long time ago. Restricting them here would be impossible unless the same restrictions were to apply in every other country as well.

  The responsibility for this stuff being seen by young people has to be with parents. Buying a smartphone for a 10 to 12 year old is not a good idea if it is not monitored strictly. They are powerful mini-laptops in your pocket.

  That’s not even to mention the whole vexed question of bullying. A report this week reveals that most of the online bullying that goes on among school going kids happens at night. So when your little darlings go up the stairs at night with their smartphone in their hand, anything could be happening. I know that it’s scary, but it’s a reality.

  Social media has been a phenomenon of the modern age. Applications like Twitter, Whatsapp, Facebook and all the others have some great advantages and have been a very positive addition to many people’s lives in this era of instant news.

  There is a very dark side to it too – that’s the reality. Parents just have to take responsibility for what their kids are looking at. Expecting the politicians to do it isn’t the answer.

  In the next month there will be many requests from young people for their parents to buy them a smartphone for Christmas. It would be wise to stop and think about the responsibility having that phone brings. Most kids are okay and well adjusted and unlikely to do anything very serious, but there are those who would be adversely affected by looking at this material. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was swing-gate – not the media – that finally un-seated Maria

 

 

Now folks, I don’t wish to keep harping on about Maria Bailey; God knows, I’m sick to my back teeth of the whole sorry saga. Indeed, as she was the architect of her own downfall, I’m not surprised the chronicles of swing-gate finally served to, ahem, unseat her. Therefore last week, as she (in my opinion rightly) continued to face a public backlash regarding her claim (which she ultimately dropped) against the Dean Hotel, and was removed from the Fine Gael ticket in the next general election, I thought this would be the end of this excruciating soap opera. Alas it’s not…and you can thank Senator Michelle Mulherin and her ridiculous comments for that.

  Okay, initially I was prepared to overlook Ms. Mulherin’s catty remarks regarding coverage of Ms. Bailey’s predicament, claiming they hadn’t been “proportionate or fair”. But then she referred to what she described as the “incessant coverage and abuse” allegedly levelled at her former party colleague, and asked if “she (Bailey) was a man, if she would have got it,” (the ‘it’ I assume being either the ‘abuse,’ or the ‘coverage’ or both); so I had to comment. Indeed I had to ask if perhaps Senator Mulherin is actually genuinely concerned for her ‘friend’ or if she’s using the whole mess as an excuse to garner a few column inches for herself…given her own er, discord with the meeja!

  It’s possible Ms. Mulherin, (she of the 130 phone calls allegedly made from her Leinster House phone to an individual in Kenya, which, according to her weren’t ‘personal,’ controversy…yeah…insert raised eyebrow emoji here), is trying to place a more sinister spin on the Bailey outcome. And if that’s the case, then in my opinion that’s as shameful as it is ludicrous! But, for the sake of balance here, I must mention that Ms. Mulherin did pay back those phone charges in full, however, it’s clear from her hostile utterances that the Senator’s still miffed at the meeja attention surrounding the whole affair.

  But I digress…back to Ms. Bailey…and let me say that if you were to pay any attention to Senator Mulherin’s ‘if she was a man’ reference, (and for the record, I don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking there was some kind of ‘sexist’ motive behind Maria’s removal, when in fact, there isn’t.

  Let me try to put things in perspective here for you, Michelle. I believe Maria Bailey was de-selected because she made a number of very bad decisions and ill-advised choices. She waited way too long before she dropped her case against the hotel, and by doing this, it was she, and she alone, who allowed the saga to drag on as long as it did. Then, by creating what I can only describe as being a publicist’s nightmare, Maria took part in that now infamous interview with Sean O’Rourke, without what appears to be any preparation whatsoever. In doing this Michelle, your BFF placed her foot firmly in her own mouth…but she didn’t stop there…oh no. Instead of holding her hands up, immediately declaring how terribly sorry she was, and how stupid she felt, before promptly shutting up, Maria poured petrol onto the fire, setting in motion the string of events that perpetuated her own downfall. Simples!

  Yes Michelle, what happened to Maria Bailey had nothing got to do with the fact that she’s a female, nay, it had everything to do with the fact she acted foolishly and she was naïve...or vacuous. (You decide, readers). However, as Maria now takes time out to reflect on her future, I’d like to wish both herself and her family the very best!

 

Why I believe KBC bank chief Johan Thijs would make a great panto villain!

 

We’re well into silly panto season readers, (oh no we’re not), and, as we all know, in order to be a roaring success, every panto production needs a realistic baddie…enter stage left Johan Thijs!

  Yep, in my opinion, given his disgracefully impudent, disrespectful and callous ‘move on’ remarks regarding the tracker mortgage scandal, rendering this offensive man to find the whole episode “annoying,” I believe that KBC Group’s chief executive would make a perfectly wicked ‘boo, hiss’ villain! Am I right?

  Yes folks, last week, in what I’d describe as being a typically classic strutting and scheming panto moment, Mr. Thijs insulted everyone who has either been overcharged on their mortgage or who has lost their homes as a result of the controversy with his comments. And you know what? He didn’t even have the decency to place them into a fake feelgood PR-induced coma first!

  Now, while Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has reportedly described Mr. Thijs’ comments as being “ill-judged, ill-informed and deeply hurtful,” I’d like to go one step further and say the latter’s choice of words were a classic case of intrinsic indifference towards his fellow human beings. Okay, Thijs has since apologised, but it’s too little too late, and this insensitive individual should understand that the banks took money belonging to innocent people – and they broke the rules while they did it.

  Therefore, instead of expecting that we all/the country should have ‘dispensed with the issue by now’ my suggestion to Mr. Thijs would be that he might take his own advice and, ‘move on’…to another profession. Specifically something that doesn’t involve him dealing with people.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

 

It’s showtime folks! Yes, if you want to feel truly Christmassy, I suggest you pay a visit to our beautiful county town. Why? Because it’s cosy, it’s friendly, and it’s got everything you could ever want by way of a plethora of shops, restaurants, hotels, jewellers, hair and beauty salons, supermarkets and the farmers’ market…oh and free parking; all topped off with a fabulous, fun, festive atmosphere that I for one can’t get enough of.

  As a ‘Christmas junkie,’ (my granddaughter’s words), each year, I tend to get over-enthusiastic when, upon entering the roundabout into Roscommon town, I notice the Christmas lights height notice (apparently aimed at drivers of large vehicles) and that for me hails the onset of the festive season. It also gives me permission to start acting like a Magpie, and buy up every sparkly, glittery, twinkly and flashy bauble I can get my hands on; much to the amusement of he-who-thinks-he’s-the-boss! Yep, I’m pathetic. In addition, as Roscommon town plays host to some of the loveliest of shop fronts around the country, all displaying an impressive array of creativity and dedication aimed at keeping shoppers closer to home, I’d like to remind readers to remain loyal, shop local and keep the money, as well as the jobs, in Roscommon. This of course applies countywide. Remember, our local stores’ survival may depend on the benefits of the additional revenue they receive in the run-up to the festive season; so do give them a chance!

 

 

Support the rally!

 

The decision to close the Cuisle Centre is highly questionable. The manner in which it is being done is appalling.

  There is a major rally in Roscommon Town this Saturday (starting at 1 pm). We need to attend, in huge numbers.

  Time is ticking here. I am totally unconvinced by the utterly conflicting reasons put forward by the IWA for the closure. As for Minister Finian McGrath, his has been an utterly hapless contribution, in keeping with much of his Inspector Clouseau-esque period as minister! Far from offering any hope for the service-users and staff, he has hidden behind a wall of waffle.

  Let’s make our views known this Saturday – and then intensify the fight over the coming days. 

The great Niall Toibin

Another legend is gone. The word is shamefully overused these days…but not when it is used to describe Brendan Grace, Gay Byrne and now…Niall Toibin.

  Niall Toibin was a supremely talented man…a great comedian and a very versatile actor with a fantastic body of work to his name.

  I saw him live in stand-up in Cavan maybe thirty years ago…and he was brilliant.

  If Brendan Grace, Gaybo and Niall are together in Heaven now, it’s some fun…

 

Pitch perfect in Creggs

Like anybody who has seen them, I’ve marvelled at the magnificent facilities which have been developed at Creggs Rugby Club.

  I was in Creggs last week (chatting to Joe Dolan about his new pub venture in the village) and the superb sporting facility truly stands out as a monument to vision, hard work and community support.

  Current President Aidan Farrell, his predecessor Padraic Deane – and everyone involved at committee level, behind the scenes and elsewhere – all deserve great credit. They also deserve to enjoy this weekend’s celebrations.

  There are a number of matches in Creggs on Saturday (see our sports section) and the official opening of the new facilities at 4.30 pm (before the firsts’ play Buccaneers). That night, guests will gather in the Abbey Hotel for the club’s Dinner Dance. Well done to all concerned.

 

Denis steps in…

“Who’s been sitting in MY chair?” Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice might well have asked – on two occasions recently – when the Tonight Show with Ivan and Matt came on.

  It was Denis Naughten (both times)…a surge by the former minister!

  We thought Michael Fitz was the undisputed King of the Virgin Media studio. What’s going on? (And when will Eugene Murphy get the call? To be continued).

 

Banking made easy?

If you are retired and have lots of spare time, here’s a hobby which I would like to recommend: you could spend half a day every day trying to contact your local bank.

  It’s fun, it’s relatively cheap…and you might hear some so-so music along the way.

  When I tried to call a local bank earlier this week, the ‘computer’ asked me to press more buttons than Deputy Niall Collins does on an average Thursday. 

  Finally, as is the norm these days, a fairly disinterested person in Dublin answered…and, after poking about in my business, eventually connected me with the bank, which is of course only a minute or two up the street from where I was ringing.

  Yeah, I know, should have walked…

 

Free advice…

This week’s ‘Free advice to TDs’ corner: If you’re the TD sitting beside an opposition leader during one of those very important (and not at all superficial) Dáil exchanges, there is one thing – above all else – that you must remember.

  Always maintain a serious (furrowed brow) expression when your leader is speaking. He/she is invariably incredulous at the Government’s latest action or inaction…and is making a sober point.

  So if you’re the TD silently sitting next to your leader, always maintain that straight face. This is (a) to give extra gravitas to your leader’s contribution; (b) to ensure no complacency on the other side; (c) because of the TV cameras.

  If your leader cracks a dry joke, you are free to laugh, but not to the extent that it lightens the mood too much, or undermines the seriousness and solemnity of what he/she is saying.

  If your leader cracks a hilarious and original one-liner, please report this extraordinary development immediately!

 

Lightbulb moment (Part 2)

My item last week on the broken street light in Abbey Street proved to be a ‘guiding light’ for another reader.

  This reader writes: “Regarding your ‘Lightbulb moment?’ piece in your column last week, it’s great to see you highlighting such issues, issues which the Council seems to ignore!”

  The reader continues: “I wish residents, business people or someone from the local schools would follow the lead of the reader who contacted you and highlight the lack of lights at the pedestrian (Zebra) crossing at the junction of Convent Road and roundabout leading onto Abbey Street, Galway Road & Circular Road.

  “At night – and in poor weather conditions any time of day – I have seen drivers simply drive past this dangerous place when people are waiting to cross – and in some case even when pedestrians are crossing.

  “All these lights have been out since at least the summer. This is not the first time this situation has prevailed. I hope the Council will address it”.

 

Pothole poser

Hot on the heels of the ‘lights brigade’ comes the ‘pothole protestors’…a reader has been in touch to highlight a section of a much-used road in the county town, the condition of which is driving him ‘potty’.

  This ‘concerned Roscommon citizen’ is referring to the road into the Centre Point Retail Park in Roscommon Town, which (as our photograph shows) is sporting a very large pothole.

  “This hole has been there for over a year now” the reader says. “When will the Council sort it out? The town would like an answer!”

  To paraphrase the old joke, we hope the Council will ‘look into’ it… 

 

 

It’s time to shout stop (again)

 

 

 

When people like me highlight closures and the withdrawal of services locally, we are often accused of ‘talking down the county’. I have lived in this county all my life and been very proud to do so. However, as someone who has a responsibility to do so, I will always highlight problems that exist when they arise – and I make no apology for doing so.

  I have to say that I am dismayed with the amount of services that have been withdrawn from our county in the past couple of years alone. Hardly a month goes by that there is not some announcement that will have a major negative effect on our community.

  First there was the downgrading of Boyle Garda Station, then we had the disastrous closure (almost complete) of the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea. Some weeks ago it was announced that the Garda Divisional Headquarters would be moving from Roscommon Town to Castlebar, and there is a now a long-term threat (albeit due to mooted refurbishment work) to continued sittings at Roscommon Courthouse.

  Earlier this month there was the devastating news that the Cuisle Centre in Donamon is to close with the loss of around 45 jobs, and this week we have confirmation from Bord na Mona that hundreds of jobs in the Midlands are to go as the ESB stops using peat altogether.

  With the exception of the Bord na Mona jobs, all the other situations receive little national media coverage. They are however huge blows within our county. It’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and now is the time for our public representatives to shout stop. It seems like the loss of services here is a relentless trend.

  Bit by bit, services are being taken away – and not being replaced – and it is happening under our noses. The fact is towns such as Roscommon, Boyle and Castlerea are commuter towns where the majority of people are getting into their cars and heading west or east to work every day.

  Local people, including Cuisle staff, were due in the Dáil on Wednesday to protest at the decision of the Irish Wheelchair Association to close Cuisle, but believe me folks, like everything else in this country, if the political will was there Cuisle would remain open. If Cuisle was located in Minister Finian McGrath’s constituency, do you think it would be closing? I think you know the answer to that one.

  The argument about the use of peat to generate electricity has been lost a long time ago but the fact remains that there are hundreds of people who have been in Bord na Mona for 30 and 40 years and who will never work again. The gaggle of ministers who visited the area on Monday say that the people in Bord na Mona can be re-trained so that they can retrofit houses. I will be amazed if that happens. They are also planning to ‘refurbish’ the bogs and turn them into tourist trails and parks. I’m not convinced by that either. A way of life for many people is coming to an end, it’s as simple as that.

  The bottom line is that as the months go by, many services are being cut and employment is being reduced in rural Ireland, especially in the midlands. How many cuts are we going to have to withstand in this county and this region before people start to get very angry? There is a general election coming up in the next five or six months. Readers should remember that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I’m sick of RTE’s ‘we’re broke’ mantra

 

Well readers, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that RTE, in a bid to save €60 million over three years, has announced a major cost-cutting plan which will include 200 job losses and a fifteen per cent pay cut for its highest earning ‘stars’.

  We’re well aware of the State broadcaster’s financial difficulties; indeed hasn’t Director General Dee Forbes, (or as I call her, the thorn-in-licence-payers’ sides) been going on and on about the cash-strapped organisation’s money struggles for years now. However, instead of doing something constructive, like say, her job, and taking responsibility for the mess, and making radical reforms, Ms. Forbes continues to insist on a licence fee price-hike in order to cover RTE’s sorry ass, and its losses – something which I find inexcusable.

  As a licence payer, (not because I want to be, but because I have to be), I’m sick of the time-wasting, formulaic tripe RTE serves up under the guise of ‘entertainment’ – and to that end, I’m finding it very difficult to illicit any sympathy for Dee and her plight. Indeed, the only emotion I’m feeling this week is apathy, especially as Ms. Forbes reportedly personally receives a wage of €250,000, a €25,000 car allowance and pension contributions of €63,000, (bringing her total package in at €338,000), yet continues to put on the poor mouth. On top of this, RTE bigwigs seem to consistently make short-sighted and contradictory bad business decisions. Like on the one hand, Dee’s licence fee/State support demands tell me she’s probably living in the past, viewing RTE as it was in DeValera’s age when the national broadcaster had a duty to endorse our pure ‘Oirishness’ and push the moral codes of the Catholic Church! On the other hand, RTE’s hierarchy, (strangely appearing to actually embrace the 21st century), whined about the country’s changing landscape where younger audiences are moving their viewing preferences towards online sources…yet then makes the paradoxical decision to cut back on their digital services! What’s that about?

  With all of this in mind, let me offer Ms. Forbes an insight into the real world of media…and say that all organisations are struggling. It’s not just RTE! Indeed, this very newspaper, as it’s a complimentary publication, (not funded by the licence fee, or State support), has to, week in, week out, fend for itself. That means it depends solely upon advertising revenue in order to survive and bring our readers continuous first class content, rendering Dee Forbes and her pathetic ‘we’re broke’ stance to really grate on every nerve in my being!

  Now, let me say that I do have enormous sympathy and feel deep empathy with RTE’s researchers, producers, script writers, cleaning and catering staff, etc., who’ll bear the brunt of Ms. Forbes’ 200 job cuts, and my heart goes out to them. But with regard to the so-called ‘talent’, let me say that, in my opinion folks, you’re not worth it! Nope, you’re not all that! It’s time you realised you’re presenters – not demigods – and no other broadcaster would even think of offering you such ridiculous amounts of money! In fact, I imagine that even with the proposed fifteen per cent cuts to your salaries, you’ll likely still enjoy a very comfortable lifestyle, so forgive me if I don’t set up a go-fund-me page for you any time soon!

  And, while I’m still enjoying the view from my high horse, can I ask why there are twelve staff members working on the RTE Guide? What are they all doing? It doesn’t take that many people to run and produce a magazine. Okay, I’ll admit the Guide kinda fills a niche for something to read in the run-up to Christmas while out having a gingerbread latte…you know, when you’re not interested in focusing fully! Indeed, it probably fulfils the entertainment equivalent of downing a cheap bottle of plonk when what you really want is a magnum of Moet. In fact, the RTE Guide is a magazine I’ll buy, not because of its exceptional literary value, but because I’m feeling nostalgic and want to get rid of the coins jangling in my pocket! Here’s a thought…why doesn’t Dee drop a has-been presenter and use his/her salary to employ the Guide staff elsewhere!

 

Why is there a troubling trend of cocaine abuse in Ireland?

 

Apparently – according to a Health Research Board (HRB) report – there’s a steep rise in cocaine use in this country, with record numbers of people seeking treatment. Now, I don’t know about you folks, but as a mother, I find this to be very disquieting, especially as it’s reported that one in six of those (in Ireland) receiving treatment for drug addiction are dependent on cocaine.

  Without sounding glib, can I ask…where are they getting the money for this coke? I’m working full-time and struggle to fund my weekly bottle of wine, never mind support a drug habit, so I’m genuinely gobsmacked when I hear things like having a line of coke with a pint is deemed to be as normal as having a bag of Tayto or a cigarette. In fact, I find this to be particularly scary, especially as I’ve never even tried a cigarette and I think twice about popping two paracetamol for a headache and instead try to get rid of it with a strong coffee! But, ahem, each to their own.

  Perhaps this addiction all began during the boom, perhaps it didn’t. However, I do know that cocaine, (in its powdered form), is linked to the Celtic Tiger, with crack cocaine abuse and dependency being more linked to organised crime and those who are, for want of a better explanation, feeling disempowered. Indeed, this type of drug is decimating families and communities alike, causing pain on so many levels; and the reality is, that its use is commonplace, it’s rife and it’s readily available, with some people even ‘doing coke’ in order to see them through a simple workday. Indeed, as drug addiction services are more geared towards heroin abuse, and there are opiate substitute treatments linked to it, (like methadone), it appears, despite the fact cocaine dependency is on the rise, that our treatment facilities and services have not been able to keep up. Therefore, if you’re unfortunate enough to be consuming cocaine, I presume your best option for help is to go down the very expensive psychotherapy (or talk therapy route). But hey…I hate to sound heartless here, but if you’ve got the cash to spend on coke, you’ve got the cash to spend on a good shrink! Am I right?

 

 

 

 

When Joe met Gay…

 

 

 

 

Memories of the late, great Gay Byrne continued all week in print, online and on the airwaves. One of the most bizarre was from the never-dull Joe Brolly (in the Sunday Independent).

  Readers of a sensitive persuasion may want to avert their gaze at this point. The rest of you brave souls can read on…

  It seems that a number of years ago, the bould Joe was driving past Donegal Airport on a very cold morning. But obviously not cold enough. Joe came to a beach, and for some reason decided to take a dip. After checking that there was nobody around, Joe “stripped naked…and jumped in the freezing ocean”.

  Half an hour later, when he emerged from the water…there was one person within view. It was Gay Byrne, out for a morning stroll on the strand (and fully clothed).

  Gaybo exclaimed: “Young Joseph! What a sight for sore eyes!”.

  He followed up with a more general “I see you are making trouble again…do make sure to keep it up”.

  So, as Gay himself might say, there you go. That is the story of the day poor Gaybo encountered a fearless, freezing and naked Joe Brolly on a beach, and (being Gaybo) reacted with calmness and wit, before apparently walking on as if he hadn’t encountered a naked controversialist on an otherwise deserted beach.

  As Eric Morecambe used to quip in certain circumstances, “there’s no answer to that”.

Managers’ mayhem!

How long before there’s a BAFTA category for ‘Most histrionic reaction by a Premier League manager on the sideline’?

  It really is beyond the joke. Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp are the biggest offenders. Probaby no coincidence that their clubs (Manchester City and Liverpool respectively) have been the pace-setters in recent seasons. The histrionics are surely at least partly put on…with a view to influencing officials and creating a media narrative that they are forever being wronged!

  The managers’ bizarre eruptions on the sideline are entertaining enough – particularly for opposition fans – but they are childish too. I know there’s a lot of pressure in top level sport, but nobody will convince me that there isn’t an egotistical and intentionally theatrical element to this behaviour. As Eamon Dunphy might say, it’s showbiz…baby!

  Guardiola went berserk over a couple of contentious decisions during Sunday’s 3-1 loss to Liverpool. At the final whistle, there was further insulting of viewers’ intelligence. First the Manchester City boss approached the officials and mouthed a highly sarcastic ‘Thank you very much’ before then claiming that he was being sincere. (The apprehensive referee looked like he was about to burst into tears).

  It wasn’t like this in the good old days! Bob Paisley simply wouldn’t know what to make of this silly behaviour.

  Brian Clough? If he was around, he’d give  Guardiola a Pep in his step…via a kick up the backside!

 

Overheard…

Overheard in a country graveyard last week when two men from ‘out of town’ finally succeeded in locating the grave of a friend.

  “He was a great fiddle player, well no, he was a good fiddle player”. 

  They proceeded, with due and moving respect, to pause and reflect at the grave of their friend, while I went about my business and ceased my eavesdropping.

Advice for Ed…

According to The Sunday Times, singer Ed Sheeran made €37.8m in 2018. And, according to the same report, Ed’s manager (Stuart Camp) made €34.2m in the same year (for managing Ed).

  Time to get a new manager, Ed!

 

Peace before the storm…

In the Late Late Show studio on Tuesday night of last week, the stars smiled and nodded as Dee Forbes, Director-General of RTE, led tributes to the late Gay Byrne.

  The very next day, Dee confirmed that the station’s highest-paid stars – people like Tubridy, Duffy, O’Callaghan, D’Arcy and Finucane – will be asked to take a 15% pay cut.

  Then on Friday, the soon to be impoverished stars sat in the Church pews in the Pro Cathedral for the funeral of Gay Byrne, with Dee prominently seated in their midst (right behind Pat Kenny, now of Newstalk).

  I wonder if they all shook hands for the sign of peace?

 

Lightbulb moment?

It seems that I am now ‘doing requests’! Our neighbours in Abbey Street have been in touch…and are anxious for some light to be shed…

  One of the street lights in Abbey Street has been broken for a few weeks, and residents would be very grateful if the Council can kindly arrange to get it working again!

  In fairness, it’s important to have street lights working…particularly at this time of year, when it’s dark early and when the weather can be harsh and conditions for pedestrians potentially treacherous.

  So, an early Christmas present from Council HQ would be appreciated…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new low as thieves target ‘Share a Dream’ Foundation

 

 

Sometimes we hear about events such as robberies and break-ins against totally defenceless targets that chill us to the bone, but the recent robberies that have taken place at a play centre operated by the Share a Dream Foundation in Limerick seems to me to be a new low.

  The Share a Dream Foundation aims to fulfill dreams for terminally ill children, and relies almost entirely on donations, and – apart from a few paid staff – also relies mostly on volunteers. They also provide Dreamland, a fantasy land which provides play facilities for both disabled and able-bodied children, and I just can’t understand how anyone would be so desperate for money that they would put the dreams of terminally ill children at risk.

  The raiders tunnelled in through a back wall in the early hours of the morning, smashed up the premises with a crowbar and an axe, stole thousands of euro that had been collected over the Bank Holiday weekend, took the new reinforced safe that had been installed after a previous raid in September, and literally broke everything that they came across.

  The founder of the charity, Shay Kinsella, was visibly upset after the robbery as he described how it costs almost €300,000 annually to run the two branches of the Foundation, and admitted it is struggling to survive. However, he said they just had to get on with it, and they had a Halloween camp last weekend which featured a visit by the Garda Commissioner on Thursday last. In his words: “To hell with the robbers, we are going to get on with it”.

  As I said, the mind boggles as to what kind of person(s) would do this, and all I can say is that no level of lowness surprises me any more.

 

Politicians must rally to save Cuisle

 

The local community has been devastated by the news that the Irish Wheelchair Association is to close its flagship holiday resort, Cuisle, in Donamon at the end of the month, with the loss of more than 40 jobs. It’s a loss that will have enormous consequences not only for all the people who used the excellent facilities, but also for the local economy.

  If ever there was a time for our politicians to make a concerted effort to try to save both the facilities and the jobs, this is it. I hope they explore every possibility to come up with a solution. If this number of jobs were lost in any major urban area there would be a massive outcry. So let the people get together, put enormous pressure on our elected representatives, and come up with a positive outcome to, at the moment, a very worrying scenario.

 

No parade for Ireland to rain on!

 

To sporting matters, and I certainly didn’t anticipate the South Africans winning the Rugby World Cup in such an emphatic manner last Saturday, and while I don’t really think that I wanted England to win, I was more than a bit sorry for them to lose the final by such a large margin.

  In a strange way it would have been amazing if the English had won, because it would be some craic for Ireland to welcome them as world champions to the Aviva in the Six Nations in the spring, and to try and spoil their party.

  As long as I live, I will never forget our visit to Twickenham in 2004, when the victorious World Cup champions were having their first game since the final, and it was billed as the homecoming party to top all parties. I can recall being patronised by the home supporters before the game and the poor Irish were objects of pity, such was the trouncing we were going to get.

  After that famous 19-13 Irish victory, with Girvan Dempsey scoring the winning try in what the commentator described as the “shock of the century”, all hell broke loose, and to be an Irish supporter in Twickenham that day was one of the great memories of all time.  

  Even the train journey out of Twickenham with the ashen-faced, shell-shocked English supporters will live forever in my memory and, while I am not unhappy with the Springboks’ victory, I would not have minded another chance at taking the English down a peg or two! Sadly it was not to be, but it turned out to be a fantastic tournament, despite the weather, and we can only look forward to 2023 and another helping in France.

 

Locals honoured for blood donations

 

Three local men were honoured at a big do in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, recently when they all received Gold Pins in recognition of each having given more than 50 pints of blood.

  Micky Lundy, formerly of Glinsk but now of Galway, Larry Donoghue of Moate, and Pat Connolly, formerly of Creggs but now of Four Roads, were all presented with the Gold Pins, and I have to say it is some achievement to have donated so much blood over the years, so heartiest congratulations to them all.

  I only had my blood accepted a couple of times before rejection set in due to the many things that were wrong with me. However, I always thought that if true that Guinness is good for you, then my blood would have been priceless and full of iron! It wasn’t to be for me, but well done to those three local donors who have continued to donate for such a long time.

‘Don’t look ‘Bat’ in anger…’

 

In lighter matters, I see in recent newspapers that poor old Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame bought himself a lovely £9.2 million country mansion in Hampshire, only to find that as well as being home to himself and his wife and family, it is also home to a family of protected bats.

  As a result, the extensive renovations that he had in mind for the property have to be very carefully managed. For example, all lights on the first floor have to be switched off until they are completely replaced because they are “emitting light and high frequency noise into the roof” where the bats are presumably currently residing. No work of any kind can be carried out between November and March, which may prove to be a bit of a nuisance, but I have no doubt Noel will soon build his ‘Wonderwall(s)’ and sort it all out.

  However, you would think if you were going to spend all that money on a house you would at least get it checked out first, but I suppose for Noel Gallagher that kind of money is only a drop in the ocean.

‘The man who built Birmingham’ hits 80!

 

The ‘Man who built Birmingham’, Glinsk legend, Tom Lally, celebrated his 80th birthday in Dowd’s recently with a big bash including music by Jason Travers. Funds raised on the night are going to Cancer Care West. There was also a singing competition on the night, and Bert Curley was the popular winner.

  Anyway, congratulations Tom, well done and here’s to many more to come!

  Speaking of Cancer Care West, and indeed the Lourdes Invalid Fund, we are to present the bank drafts from our recent dance to the representatives of both charities at a soon to be arranged suitable date, so we’ll keep you posted!

 

Gay shaped a nation’s conversation for decades

 

 

 

When the broadcasting revolution happened in Ireland in 1989 – when legal local radio began – those of us who were interested in current affairs had a template for our work – and that was Gay Byrne. If you wanted to know how to do it than you could look no further than ‘Uncle Gaybo’, because he was simply the best.

  His passing on Monday has led to an outpouring of sorrow and more importantly respect, the like of which is seldom seen in this country – and it is well merited too.

  I was not a massive fan of Gay Byrne as I felt that he was condescending and intolerant at times when people disagreed with him, but there is no doubt that he more than anyone else shaped a nation’s conversation for decades.

  Since his passing on Monday, I have heard some people say that he was in the right place at the right time as there was little opposition when he as at his peak. RTÉ had the radio and TV sectors to themselves and he had a captive audience, but I think that is unfair on Gay Byrne. He still needed to have the skill to engineer the debate that was so badly needed in this country and he was a master at that.

  He raised issues that were never discussed in public in this country before and the women of the country hung on every word that he uttered on his radio and TV programme. He raised and took on issues that at the time no one else would have dared to. What I admired about Gay Byrne most of all was his fearlessness. If he thought the issue was relevant he discussed it and he didn’t care who didn’t like it.

  In fact Gay Byrne took the pressure off governments and major organisations in this country because he was addressing issues, particularly social issues like homosexuality, birth control, divorce, sexual and physical abuse and rural isolation. They were issues that the powers that be in the ‘70s and ‘80s were shying away from. But not Gay. If it was relevant, he took it on. He shone a light into the many dark corners of Irish society and we are a better country for it.

  He was obviously a man who loved broadcasting. After he retired he went on to present programmes like ‘The Meaning of Life’ and a radio show on Lyric FM. He had a brilliant broadcasting voice and those who worked on his shows always said that he was a hard taskmaster and a perfectionist.

  I never met Gay Byrne but I grew up with him. Every Saturday night ‘The Late Late Show’ was essential viewing in our house, as it was all over the country. His radio show was listened to by the majority of the women in the country and he rarely disappointed. Someone said this week that when the husbands walked out the door to go to work, Gay Byrne walked in with his radio show.

   More than anyone else Gay Byrne has been instrumental in this country growing up and becoming more accountable in a number of very important areas. He was an incredibly skilful broadcaster who knew how to get the best out of ordinary people and believe me that is a very difficult thing to do.

  The word legend is bandied about far too often in the media when people pass away but I can think of no more appropriate term for Gay Byrne. He was a broadcasting legend.

May he rest in peace.

 

 

Bye bye, Maria...thank you for playing!

 

 

Well it all kicked off at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire, the place where – ironically – my great hero Michael Collins used to hide out (in room 210 allegedly) with Kitty Kiernan; yet last week, this historic hotel could provide no hiding place for Fine Gael ‘swing-gate’ TD Maria Bailey! The (some will say disgraced), TD’s efforts to sue the Dean Hotel in Dublin after she fell off a swing at their premises had sparked the urgent review of her place on Fine Gael’s party election ticket. I must mention that Ms. Bailey later dropped this case.

  However, the resulting controversy could spell the end of her political career, and while I believe we all make mistakes, in my opinion anyone who submits an inflated claim regarding an incident where personal responsibility is probably a clear-cut issue, yet isn’t big enough to admit they were wrong, er, kinda deserves what they get! Too harsh?  Well, if it all goes pear-shaped, Maria could always take up acting as a career. I mean that aftermath Oscar-winning, blame-shifting ‘please pity me’ performance she gave on Today with Sean O’Rourke was so breathtaking, I’d go so far as to say it could have rivalled the screen antics of drama queen Bette Davis herself! 

  In a time where businesses are closing down due to rising  premiums and where insurance providers are insisting their escalating costs are due to unethical claims, it’s totally understandable that a prominent TD’s puffed-up claim would enrage the taxpayers. I know it certainly angered me! Mind you, as the local Fine Gael members’ recommendation regarding a review will now go to the party hierarchy with respect to Ms. Bailey’s political future, (a decision on which I believe won’t be reached until next week), it’s my opinion there could still be a few twists to this sorry saga! You see, it’s likely that it won’t be an easy task to remove what is a democratically selected sitting TD; therefore this whole scandal has plunged Fine Gael into uncharted territory. But hey, as they’re consistently throwing taxpayers like you and me under the bus, it goes without saying that it serves them right. 

  As for Ms. Bailey, well, while I don’t think her actions warrant the reconvening of the Nuremberg Trials, as she did drop a major clanger, I’ll admit it’s really hard for me to garner any sympathy for her. Indeed, as she awaits her fate, I’d imagine the embattled TD is possibly feeling sad, lonely, jobless, party-less, friendless…in fact, the poor thing’s probably only seconds away from recording a country album (only joking, love).

  But allow me to be empathetic here and say to Maria that if part of her overall argument is that we, (the poor taxpayers) don’t know all of the pertinent facts, then my response to her would be…outline them for us! If this TD has any information that can save her seat, she shouldn’t be holding back, she should be revealing it…otherwise, if she doesn’t, well, it’s gonna be a case of bye bye Maria, thank you for playing!

 

We should punish all sex abusers, whether male or female

 

Last week, following her guilty plea to two counts of ‘defilement of a child,’ a 25-year-old female secondary school teacher was jailed for having sex with her then fifth-year 16-year-old male student. Now while some of my kind-hearted readers have stopped me to say they “felt sorry for the young woman”, let me state that as far as I’m concerned, she did the crime, and she should do the time.

  I understand this woman’s defence has argued that she was, at the time of the offence, a 23-year-old ‘young and inexperienced teacher,’ but I’m glad she was punished by our courts’ system. Indeed, I personally find it insulting that we, as parents, are expected to believe on any level that an individual could fully qualify as a teacher, nay, a shaper of young minds, and not know that it is illegal, and it is wrong, to have a sexual relationship with a minor. Let me be balanced here and say that there are many instances whereby a consenting younger male (who has reached the age of majority) can engage and enjoy a physical relationship with a consenting older female, however we should never, ever underestimate the fact that some women can, and do, control. And some women can, and do, abuse. Indeed, as this particular case, and its implications regarding a serious breach of trust between teacher and student, and teacher and parent, has clearly highlighted for us.

  Now it goes without saying readers, that if the tables were turned and a male teacher had engaged in sex with an underage female student, I’m certain the perpetrator would not have been afforded the sympathetic ‘mitigating circumstances’ defence made available to this predatory woman. Nay, there’d have been an outcry, and rightly so. And, while I’m no specialist, just a concerned citizen, I’d like to ask the ‘child abuse expert’ whose court report stated that this abusive woman ‘was not a paedophile,’ but was basically, bless her, just a naïve and immature soul, to explain how they reached such a conclusion. While this expert is obviously a highly respected professional, the thing is, based on the high standards around integrity and sound judgement set out for being involved in the teaching profession, it’s evident a criminal act was committed. In view of that, perhaps this ‘expert’ might now like to take a long hard look at their own forms of rational reasoning. Just a suggestion.

  Seriously readers, it’s about time we prosecuted and punished all sex abusers, be they male or female, because the seriousness of such heinous crimes should never, ever be left to hang primarily on the gender of the one who commits these vile acts.

 

Pension auto-enrolment is a key policy tool…apparently!

 

Apparently readers, under criteria announced last week, those of us working in the private sector who’re between the ages of 23 and 60 years, earning over €20 grand a year will, (if we don’t have a private pension), soon find ourselves auto-enrolled into a government scheme! So, I hear you ask…what’s this gonna cost me?

  Well, as far as I understand, workers will make a contribution of 1.5 per cent of our wages. This will rise to 6 per cent over ten years. So, a significant enough amount…I hear you say!  But hey, our employers will match this on earnings up to €75 grand! As for the government…what’ll they pay into it? Ah well, at the time of writing, the suits hadn’t yet bothered to reveal what their financial input will be. You could say that on one hand this may be a nice top-up to our State pension, but, on the other, as a defined contribution scheme, the whole situation could prove highly unpredictable, and you, me and other suckers, sorry workers, will probably, as usual, bear the entire risk! Apparently this will happen on a phased basis from 2022!

 

 

Gay was in a league of his own

 

 

 

There was nobody like Gay, nobody on a par with him, nobody in his league. He operated in a league of his own.

  I liked what John Bowman said this week as the tributes poured in for the voice of our nation. Bowman said the first half of the 20th century was Eamonn de Valera’s Ireland, while those born after 1950 had grown up in Gay Byrne’s Ireland.

  He was wonderful, box office. It was some feat to present a unique two-hour entertainment show live every weekend…for 37 years. Throughout those decades, he also hosted a hugely influential morning radio show. The breadth of his broadcasting talent was extraordinary, this maestro effortlessly switching from serious to light-hearted…a unique, gifted combination of broadcaster, journalist and showman. His greatest qualities as a broadcaster were his ability to listen…and his genius for the disarming question, a technique which helped lift the lid on many dark secrets in a nation that had perhaps more than its share of them.

  Over the years I often wondered what it would be like when this day came. The day when Gaybo died. He was such an enormous influence in our lives, such a link between generations. He utterly dominated our cultural and social landscape. Everyone has a view to what extent he led, shaped or facilitated change in a conservative Ireland…but everyone will agree that he had a major influence on that journey. Even if you disagreed with him, you bowed to his brilliance. He was courageous too, taking on all the institutions of the State, including his own employer!

  He held politicians, the Church and spoofers to account. He had a brilliant instinct for gauging the mood of the nation…and ended up playing that very significant role as, over time, we became a sophisticated, open, tolerant and enlightened nation. He infuriated some people along the way, but so be it. This wasn’t Gay’s agenda that was re-shaping Ireland. Essentially he was the gifted medium through which a long and sometimes difficult but necessary national conversation took place.

  It’s hard to put it better than the Irish Times editorial of Tuesday: “He was the nation’s arch provocateur and favourite son, shocking transgressor and father confessor”. 

  The highlights of his career were numerous, and I will return to this subject in the future. For me, the outstanding Late Late Show moment was possibly the Padraig Flynn interview. Watching it again on Youtube, I appreciated the brilliance of Gay’s role. True, Flynn made an eejit of himself, but this television gold – which led to the Flood (later Mahon) Tribunal – was really mined by Gay’s genius.

  Where another broadcaster might have probed with long, meandering questions that a politician is used to rebuffing, Gay used his lethal, disarming technique.

  Gay: “Running three houses…do you need three houses?”

  Gay: “You know Tom Gilmartin?”

  The trap was set.

  The day when Gaybo died came this week. The response has been as I would have expected; an emotional, nostalgic outpouring of memories and tributes on an enormous scale. A nation rewinding the clock. It’s been moving to hear of Irish people abroad saying they’d like to be at home at a time like this. We grew up with Gay. We often gave out about Gay, but mostly we were mesmerised by him, especially at his stunning peak, when he ruled our screens and airwaves and held the hand of a changing nation. The day of his death finally came, and it is sad. But it is also time to celebrate and remember a uniquely gifted broadcaster and showman.

* It’s a busy news week in Roscommon, with the Cuisle closure dominating. Therefore, it was late when I got home from the office on Tuesday night. I watched a recording of the Late Late Tribute Show…along with our 21-year-old daughter. It was fascinating watching her reaction to the various archive clips…of Gay in his prime, his guests, the debates and rows, the fashion(!)…maybe most of all, of the audience members (from the ‘70s and ‘80s). I wondered what she really thought of it all! Together we sat watching two Irelands…the one in the studio (the one we live in)…and the Ireland of Gaybo’s Late Late Show.

Horse talk…

I read with interest where a racehorse which was seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) was hauled before the High Court. Apparently ‘Labaik’ was once owned by a drug dealer. The High Court ruled that the horse had been purchased with the proceeds of crime.

  A clear case of putting the horse before the court…

Jester Jim!

 

There is only a bounce of a ball between us all, Dublin manager Jim Gavin told the media at the recent All Stars banquet.  

  Hopefully Jim’s career as a stand-up comedian will go as well as his managerial one!

 

Funny Fintan?

 

It was once my favourite TV programme…but I have to agree with the popular wisdom that Have I Got News For You is not remotely as good now as it was at its peak.

  Presumably what they need to do is invite the funniest possible panellists to join team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

  Imagine my reaction then when I saw our own Fintan O’Toole – yes, Fintan O’Toole – grinning back at me on last week’s episode! (In fairness, Fintan did well).

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