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Stop being school-flakes – and follow uniform rules!



A school in Ashby-de-la-Zouch in the UK made headlines last week for allegedly removing over one hundred students from class (on their first day) for apparently turning up to school wearing footwear that was considered to be ‘unacceptable,’ thus breaching the school’s uniform rules. Now, while many parents were angered by this – in fact, if you were to read some of the social media posts, I’d go so far as to say some went ballistic – in this instance, I’d say,  they’ve only got themselves to blame.

  If these parents had bothered to read the school’s guidelines, which, according to the principal, were ‘announced before the summer break,’ they’d have known what was, and what wasn’t acceptable for this particular school. In addition, in an attempt to make their new uniform policies crystal clear, the school in question even provided visual prompts for those parents who were either too dim to get the message or were so smug they thought the rules didn’t apply to their little darlings! Yes folks; pictures of acceptable footwear was apparently posted on the school’s website. So, armed with all of this information, I’d conclude that, in this instance, the school’s actions were entirely justified.

  Look, one of the reasons I’d imagine school uniforms are worn by students is to reduce what may be the obvious socioeconomic disparities existing among them in the hope of encouraging a level playing field for everyone. You see readers, as we live in an era of high fashion brands where certain items of clothing have become a definitive status symbol – separating the haves and the have nots among us – no parent wants their child to feel ‘different’. And, while it’s awful to think that some kids may use another’s choice of clothing as a reason to pick on them or to isolate them, I’d support the wearing of a uniform as it allows less opportunity for some to be singled out by their less compassionate  peers.

  Look, my granddaughter started secondary school last week and, while the list of dos and don’ts regarding her uniform and her PE gear were longer than Greece’s national anthem…(it has 158 verses…swear to God), both herself and her mother have chosen this school and they have to comply. Now don’t get me wrong, I fully support the thinking that everyone, (and in this case students) should be allowed to express their own individuality, and I’m not opposed to that. Indeed I love the whole gender neutral uniform policy being adopted by many schools where they offer students a range of options; but again, parents need to adhere to these. Now I’m not skirting the issue (sorry, that was a terrible pun), but I believe if parents enrol their kids in a particular school, they do so in the knowledge that  they sign up to, and fully embrace that school’s rules and  mandatory uniform policies, whatever they are. Simples!

  However, if a parent is strongly opposed to uniforms, believing they restrict their little darling’s freedoms of expression, then that’s fine, and, in order to keep everyone happy, they should seek out a school more appropriate to their kids’ specific needs. Here’s the thing…our kids go to school to learn, and to gain what we hope will be valuable skills and knowledge they can confidently apply to their future real-life situations and careers. And, while school should be a place where students can freely express themselves, the fact is, in order to keep in line with the establishment’s ethos, some limitations will apply. Now, while I know some schools’ uniform policies may cause severe stress on a family’s budget, often sending many into debt, (especially if they insist on including specialist items), I’d strongly advocate for a system that prioritises a value-for-money and affordability ethos over specific bespoke elitist attire.

  At the end of the day, if your child joins An Garda Síochána, becomes a firefighter, a pilot, a flight attendant, a doctor, a nurse, a soldier, a chef, a delivery driver, a fast food operative, or a lifeguard, etc., (all great careers), they’ll be required to wear a uniform. With that in mind, school-flake parents, stop getting shirty (aagh, I did it again), and remember, you chose this school because you believed it was the best one for your kid!

Nobody does drama, difficulty and disaster like Sinead O’Connor


RTE Director General Dee Forbes should really be a travel agent for guilt trips, given the woman’s tenacity and capacity for rattling that begging bowl! Yes readers, according to the Irish Times, poor put-upon Dee has informed her staff that they must now face cutbacks as the station cannot afford to “continue as we are,” if they don’t receive an increase in funding. And about time too!

   Look, to be honest, as a reluctant licence fee payer, it has always been my belief that RTE, with its humdrum shows being fronted by tedious presenters trying to sell washed-up lacklustre guests as TV gold, has long since passed its sell-by date. I mean, excitement must surely be thin on the ground at Montrose House if someone thinks teasing has-been Sinead O’Connor as a reason to tune into last Friday’s Late Late Show is what passes for titillation. I’d rather read Donald Trump’s Twitter updates than tune into a show featuring a drama queen who appears to feel duty-bound to create controversy, viewing just about everything as an ultimate disaster.

  Don’t get me wrong, I do feel a certain amount of empathy for Sinead’s, let’s say, circumstances, but, is it so awful of me to be sick to the back teeth of her continuous angst-ridden sagas? It’s as if adversity, calamity and tragedy have now become as natural to her as breathing. Yes, the woman is a talented singer, yes, she’s clearly a troubled soul and I have huge compassion for her, I really do…but OMG Sinead love, do drama, difficulty and distress absolutely have to be your weapons of choice when appearing on d’telly?



We give out about the weather…but do we realise how lucky we are?



It’s Monday evening…and here in the west of Ireland, it’s a sunny, bright (though cold) September evening, and even though it’s normal for us to give out about the weather, the truth is that we have very little to complain about, as we hardly ever experience any major weather-related disasters.

  Last week Hurricane Dorian absolutely ravaged The Bahamas, and although, so far, the official death toll is only in the mid-forties, leaders there believe hundreds, if not thousands, remain missing, and they predict that a “staggering” death toll will be the end result. Photographs on national and international media outlets show the total and utter devastation that has followed on from the visit of the hurricane, with homes completely flattened like paper houses, and basic life necessities like food and water in short supply, and a massive humanitarian aid mission is required to try to keep the desperate survivors alive.

  And so it would be easy to believe that these natural disasters tend to only occur in poverty-ridden islands, like The Bahamas, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea, but, as Irish Independent journalist Rachel Farrell, has recently discovered, the most powerful state in the world, the United States of America, has suffered enormous damage from weather-related incidents over the last 10 years or so. Almost 7.3 million Americans have been displaced in those ten years, with many losing their homes altogether, some living in hotels, some relying on strangers to help them, but many of them still have no place to go.

  There is a national emergency fund, FEMA, which set up to try to alleviate the suffering of the millions of displaced residents, but the sheer scale of the numbers, in both actual and monetary terms, means that progress is too slow, and many of those who are already homeless may always remain so. On top of those unfortunates, it is calculated that every year a quarter of a million people in America will have to leave their homes as a result of various disasters. These will be added to the already enormous list, and nobody knows when, or if, they will ever be re-housed.

  As we face into a winter where we may have a bit of frost, or, God forbid, an inch or two of snow, it’s time for us as a nation, to be grateful for the exceptionally kind climate that we are blessed with, and even though we have had some people displaced here due to flooding in recent years, as a rule of thumb we are very lucky with the weather we have, and the very little damage that it does.


Camogie was class!


On Sunday last I found myself watching, enthralled, as the camogie players of Galway and Kilkenny played out a thrill-a-minute All-Ireland senior camogie final, which the Galway girls won by a flattering six points, but it was the quality, commitment and intensity that both teams brought to the table that amazed me.

  At the risk of being deemed sexist, I would have expected loads of skill, with maybe not as much physicality, but the exchanges were every bit as tough as any man’s game, and a wonderful advertisement for camogie. Why they don’t just call it hurling, I don’t know.

  Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and full credit to the Galway girls. A couple of their players were just fantastic, especially Niamh Kilkenny and captain Sarah Dervin, but in a tiny way my heart went out to the Kilkenny team who were losing their third final in a row.  Mind you, when I thought of all their men have won under Brian Cody, I lost whatever bit of sympathy that I had.

  Staying with the camogie, and Galway were on the receiving end of a terrific comeback in the intermediate final, when Westmeath overturned a seven-point half-time deficit to win their first ever title at that grade (by two points).

  It was however the reaction of their manager, Johnny Greville, that made it so memorable, as his delight and sheer joy at the victory was just magical. I can’t do it justice in a few written words, but I’m sure you’ll find it somewhere in the land of social media, and, if you do find it, I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Anyway for me it was my first time to watch the camogie finals, but after Sunday, it won’t be the last.


Happy to hear the cuckoo!


Recently I have watched television programmes which have highlighted the damage being done to our natural habitats, and how birds like the corncrake, curlew and the cuckoo have more or less disappeared from our countryside. And so it was with a large amount of joy that, this morning, at about 7.15 am, I heard the unmistakable sound of the cuckoo.

  I know that sometimes she can sound a bit like a pigeon, but this morning there was no doubt – the sound was perfectly clear, and could not have been anything other than the sound of a bird that we tend to regard as a bit of a parasite. (This is because the cuckoo has the reputation of taking over the nests of other birds). That may or may not be true, but regardless, I definitely heard a cuckoo this morning – and was delighted to do so. A sceptic (or two) wondered if I was dreaming, as 7.15 am is a bit early for me, but I have no doubt…I was wide awake and heard what I heard. Wouldn’t it be great if they were to make a comeback?

And finally…

Finally for this week, we have only four weeks to the big dance in Dowd’s of Glinsk…so from Monday next we will be hitting the highways and the byways, and calling to as many doors as we can get to. Hopefully your generosity will be as good as it has been for so many years now.

  Two great causes, Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund, have benefitted greatly over the years, so please God we can once again dig deep and help people who are less fortunate than we are.

  The Lancers are all set for the night, which, by the way, is October 12th, so put it in your diary…and we look forward to seeing you all over the next week or two.


Till next week, Bye for now!



Back to work…



We had a very nice, and very welcome, holiday in France during August…I’ll write a bit on our latest French ‘sojourn’ in next week’s edition.

  Back home…and as ever, Brexit and Trump seem to be dominating the news agenda, plus the beef farmers’ crisis (see report by Dan Dooner this week; comment from Seamus Duke).

  Speaking of Brexit/Trump and such matters, the great man – Donald – was in Biarritz (for the latest G7 summit) while we were in France during August. What the locals think of Brexit and Trump and all that type of thing, I can’t really say. Well, I did meet one French man who greeted me in a café under a television showing Trump and Macron in conversation. The French man asked where I was from. Then he gestured towards the television. He raised his eyebrows, shrugged disapprovingly, and muttered his disdain. Enough said. He wasn’t great at the English and I wasn’t great at the French. The language of anti-Trumpism sufficed.

  Anyway, it’s good to be back. I’ll throw in my tuppenceworth here on the issues of the day over the coming weeks, as I resume writing this column. As ever, I mostly avoid the serious stuff on this page, instead taking a wry and hopefully humorous view of matters. After all, you really do have to laugh…


Surreal soap…!


I caught a glimpse of the laugh-a-minute Eastenders the other day (Memo to self: insert ‘I don’t watch it; it just happened to be on when I was in the room’ here)…and it was the familiar mayhem.

  Some chap was in the Queen Vic bar…holding customers hostage at gunpoint. Not the greatest actor of all time, he was engaging the manic stare which ‘baddies’ are presumed to call on in these circumstances. Unsurprisingly, virtually all the locals seemed to be in the pub, even though it was early evening (they do drink a lot in the soaps, don’t they?). Naturally, a pregnant woman was singled out by the hostage-taker. Meanwhile, good old Phil Mitchell (laughably trying to look tough) seemed to be trying to break into the bar with an iron bar, with a view to being the hero of the (half) hour.

  A few questions: (1) Is this interminably dreary ‘soap’, with its diet of violence and misery, really appropriate viewing for 7.30/8 pm? (2) Why did I watch it? (3) How come the Queen Vic is doing so well? It’s amazing people still frequent it, considering all the trouble there’s been there over the years…(4) If there’s a television in the Queen Vic and you tuned into BBC 1 on it most weekdays at 7.30/8 pm, what programme would be on?


A helping hand…


Monday morning, and for some strange reason, the television was on. Rushing around, I could just about hear the soft but firm tones of the man’s voice. Ah, probably Dr. Phil, I thought. I usually only see him once or twice a year, and that’s always late at night. Dr. Phil is yer only man. From what I could hear on Monday, he seemed to have a lost soul on as a guest…a bumbling, deflated, middle-aged man beset with woes.

  It sounded like Dr. Phil was patiently trying to hold his guest by the hand, to lead him towards a better way. I could hear the usual gasps from the audience, the familiar self-pity of the guest, then the smooth, calming tones of the presenter.

  It was only when I finally glanced at the television that I realised it wasn’t an episode of Dr. Phil; it was Leo and Boris’ press conference in Dublin.


Grumpy man talks for three hours…


Oh dear – he’s at it again. That noisy neighbour’s been sounding off yet again – and I, for one, am getting tired of it!

  Once, he was a majestic, magnificent footballer, easily one of the greatest ever to grace the Premier League. There has never been a Captain Fantastic quite like him. We were proud of Roy then – this marauding Irishman who lorded the midfield battlegrounds with Manchester United – and we should still be proud of him now.

  But then, as retirement sat uneasily with him, he slowly turned into a bit of a caricature. And now he’s at it again. In last week’s now famous Off the Ball Roadshow, attended by over 2,000 people, ‘Keano’ fired in all directions. To be fair, the tirade was offset by a considerable amount of humour and some wisdom. Gary Neville was present in a supporting role; in reality, it was all about Keane.

  His fans will say it was sensational, that he’s unique…box office. He’s certainly box office. But should he be? Is it not all getting more than a bit tiresome? I’ll acknowledge that, as an interviewee in a cliché-ridden industry, Keane has always been refreshingly different…he’s honest, candid, a straight-talker, often very entertaining and insightful.

  But there is also the strong suspicion that he is now at least in part performing a role for his audience, playing to the persona that has formed. The media utterly worships him. People expect drama and controversy when he’s in town. At the Bord Gáis Theatre, the presenters poked, and Keano responded. The crowd lapped it all up. Roy made sure to deliver his steely stare, the one that’s supposed to have people quaking.

  Disquieting too is the reality that Keane can be nasty, vindictive, bitter, as he was at times during the Off the Ball Roadshow. Churlishly and childishly, Captain Fantastic claimed to have no empathy for Alex Ferguson, Keane’s ancient grudge seemingly more important than all their shared good times, not to mention Sir Alex’s brush with death. Or was Keano just playing up to the persona?

  Irish international players whom Keane was coaching (with Martin O’Neill) less than a year ago, were ripped into, served up to a mostly salivating audience for cheap laughs. Does Keane really expect many job offers when he thinks it’s okay to poke fun at players that he was working with ten months ago? Is this really professional conduct by the great self-styled perfectionist?

  For all the good one-liners, the ‘value’ he gives, the noisy neighbour is becoming a pain. Prone to hypocrisy. Too personal with his put-downs. Too angry. Too self-centred. Box office, perhaps, but many of us will choose to look the other way. A world class player is in danger of becoming a bitter world class bore.   



A battle for the heart and soul of rural Ireland




I am not of farming stock, but the ongoing protests at the meat factory gates around the country symbolise far more than a battle for better prices for cattle. It is a battle for the heart and soul of rural Ireland. This is not only a problem for the meat companies, it is a problem for the Government too. They will have to decide what they want for the future of rural areas.

  I understand that the demand for beef is down and that the factories feel that they cannot pay any more, but the farmers cannot be expected to be losing money hand over fist, as is the case at the moment. It is very hard to see a way out of the impasse at the moment, but unless there is a solution found we will be facing an even bigger problem for rural Ireland than any we have at the moment.

  The threat of South American beef flooding into the Irish market in the next five years plus the depressed price for cattle is making it a very worrying time for farmers. The easy solution is to appeal to the EU for further financial supports, but that is not sustainable in the long run. The factories and the big processing firms will have to play ball too, as in the long-term their future is at stake as well. We also have to remember that there are thousands of people working in these factories, many of whom have now been temporarily laid off.

  We have experienced a massive flight from the land in the past decade in particular. Local shops, pubs, garda stations and post offices have been shut down. The motorways into Dublin and Galway are overflowing with cars every day, as rural people flock to the cities for work. Sports clubs are struggling to field teams at underage level as population levels in country areas fall year after year. Soon we will see small rural primary schools closing down – that’s the reality.

  The Government might think that this dispute is nothing to do with them, but the quicker there is a solution the better for everyone in rural Ireland. The authorities will have to decide what do they want in the future. Do they want a vast wasteland where there is little more than forestry in rural areas, or do they want to try to keep people on the land?

  Now we hear that thousands of workers at meat processing plants have been laid off because of the dispute. Those people have families to support too. It’s a situation that simply cannot be allowed to continue.

  Remember, the spectre of a no-deal Brexit is looming large and such an outcome would have catastrophic implications for our food industry, particularly if there is a hard border. I know that farmers have been accused in the past of protesting too much, but while I would never support anyone breaking the law, the situation now for many small farmers is dire. It is clear to me that they are at breaking point.

  I think it’s time for Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney to step in and try and solve this before it gets out of hand and is too late. Everyone deserves a fair price for what they produce. That includes farmers and processors. The people working in the factories deserve to live too.















Roscommon school embracing and creating all-inclusive education!



I’ve always been a supporter of creating an inclusive learning environment in our education system. Therefore, I was delighted to hear that a local primary school, formerly named St. John’s National School in Lecarrow, is now open under the patronage of the Galway and Roscommon Education Training Board (GRETB) and operating under a new multi-denominational ethos!

  So this week, I’d like to say a big well done to all involved in the creation of Lecarrow Community National School for being forward-thinking, progressive individuals who have at last recognised that, in order to keep our beautiful rural schools viable, a move of this nature was necessary. I consider it to be a positive move…a wonderful opportunity for kids to become involved in an all-inclusive practice delivered by teachers whose skills, knowledge, understandings, attitudes  and resources will be employed in an education strategy that’s now gaining popularity right across the country. 

  Indeed, (and I say this with a sense of pride to those who slag off rural Ireland as being ‘backward’), isn’t it great that our forward-thinking county of Roscommon is not playing catch-up, rather we’re leading the way! Yep, Roscommon schools, and namely Lecarrow Community National School, its principal, its teachers and its students and parents are setting the standard of learning through change and transformation.

  Now I do know that part of this change of attitude is down to the fact this school is very small and a major drive was needed in order to attract new students to keep it open and ensure its continued survival; but that’s not the point! It’s all good. And what’s important here is that nobody’s kid is in any danger of having their personal religious beliefs (whatever they are), hijacked or negatively affected; so calm down. As it happens, if your child is being raised in the Catholic faith, preparation for sacraments such as First Holy Communion and Confirmation will still be implemented, but these will occur outside of the normal school hours; meaning nobody misses out.

  Look readers, we’ve known for a long time that Ireland has been bearing witness to a change in its education landscape. However, did any of us realise the roots of this reform would begin right here in our trailblazing county where liberal-minded parents and educators no longer wish for their children to be under the control of the Catholic Church? Now I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I was convent-educated and I’m Catholic, although non-practising in that I don’t feel the need to go to Mass. And, due to lack of choice in our schools, I raised my kids in the Catholic faith, and they received the relevant sacraments,  so please don’t think I’m disrespecting the Church; I’m not! And please, no letters to our editor, he’s a busy man. It’s just that I believe an education structure that sees over ninety per cent of our primary schools being under (what has been) the controlling thumb of the Catholic Church has got to be at odds with today’s societal shifts and trends. 

  In addition, I feel cheated that, as a parent, this non-denominational education choice was not available to my family when my girls were of school-going age. To that end, I’m really pleased and proud that a small local rural school in this county is embracing and creating a safe and supportive, all-inclusive environment by planning to deliver what I believe will be an equitable learning policy for all of its students!

  To the rest of the country I say…if you want to witness modern Ireland in action and experience opportunity and choice…come along to Roscommon, sure haven’t we got it all! Comhghairdeas to all involved in Lecarrow Community National School; by embracing change, your strong vision and commitment to forward thinking will ensure every student who passes through your doors will receive the excellent standard of education they deserve.

Childminders to face new legal requirements

I’ve always had a healthy respect for anyone who minds kids for a living for the simple reason it’s a tough job, riddled with all sorts of challenges and responsibilities. It’s also a job that, up until now, did not require the care provider to be registered with Tusla or undergo Garda vetting. However, in order to bring childminders in line with the National Childcare Scheme, due to come into effect next month, the new legislation proposes to address those childminders who’re self-employed and working from their own homes. Indeed, as I understand, (I could be wrong), but apparently these new regulations will not extend to childminders who work in the child’s own home because they’re regarded as being employees. Neither do these regulations apply to childminders who’re related to the kids they’re minding, i.e. grandparents, etc.

  Now, as it’s estimated there are up to nineteen thousand childminders operating across Ireland, this new approach will require them to become garda vetted, be proficient in first aid and undergo training in order to be in receipt of a ‘bespoke’ qualification, the finer points of which have not yet been determined. They’ll also be obliged to have their homes (the premises where they mind the child) inspected in order to make certain they comply with basic standards. Those who do not comply with these new regulations could face prosecution!

  Now I’ve never been a childminder, nor do I plan to be, it’s just not a job I’m cut out to do. Look, I’ll happily mind your pets, but not your kids. Now don’t get me wrong, I view those who mind young kids as being hardworking angels; but me, I just don’t have the patience needed for such a demanding job. However, I do believe in light of the recent crèche improprieties involving some childcare facilities, (not all; I’ll remind readers that there are many fantastic childcare providers in this county), this move is vital in that it offers parents a level of reassurance and children a better and necessary level of  protection.  

  Also, in view of the fact that currently out of the nineteen thousand childminders operating across Ireland, worryingly, it appears only eighty one of them are registered with Tusla. Therefore, as an incentive for parents in the market to engage the services of a childminder, the government will roll  out an allowance of up to €900 a month for those who use a registered, trained and vetted one.


Monday Morning Blues? Just watch the news!



I never suffer from the ‘Monday Morning Blues’, but last Monday I definitely got out of the wrong side of the bed and probably should have actually stayed between the sheets and ignored the alarm when it went off just after 7.30 am! I woke up with a sore throat, a slightly fuzzy head, and a rattling cough. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the shower was cold, the oil boiler wasn’t working and the lad who told me two months ago that he would come and fix both the shower and the boiler won’t answer my calls and seems to have vanished off the face of the earth!

  However, one thing my late mother always taught me was that there is someone, somewhere, always worse off than you and when I went downstairs and turned on the TV last Monday I realised straight away she was right…

  Hurricane Dorian was ripping the Northern Bahamas asunder, with record winds tearing down power lines, whipping roofs off homes and other buildings, turning cars upside down, and generally wreaking unimaginable havoc on the local population. Hundreds of people were left homeless, and were forced to relocate to schools, churches, and other shelters.

  Closer to home and we there was a huge fire in a multi-storey carpark in Cork which destroyed at least sixty cars, and which left hundreds more abandoned in the gutted remains of the building. Many of the cars have to be removed individually by special crane, but obviously nothing can happen until the building is examined and declared safe.

  On top of all that we had news of yet another mass shooting in America, when for the second time in four weeks, the state of Texas was rocked by the brutal murder of seven people with another twenty-two injured, including a toddler who was shot in the face. It all started after police pulled the shooter over for not using his car’s indicator. Whatever was going on, his response was to open fire on the policemen, hijack a postal van, and shoot indiscriminately at passers-by, until he himself was shot dead outside a cinema complex in the town of Odessa.

  Suddenly my sore throat seemed less annoying, my cough and my fuzzy head were much better and even the boiler and cold shower weren’t as big a problem as before. Mind you, I am still trying to contact my plumber who’s still ignoring my calls, so there’s no guarantee that tomorrow I won’t be back to square one.

Church acknowledges Marion’s healing

Changing subjects, I have often told you that one of my favourite places anywhere in the world is Knock Shrine, and in truth, it has nothing to do with religion as such, but more to do with the peace, tranquility and serenity that just seems surround the place.

  However, some years ago, on a visit to the shrine, I bought a book entitled ‘I was cured at Knock’ by Athlone’s Marion Carroll. In her book, Ms. Carroll told of a visit she made to Knock, in September 1989, at a time when she was wheelchair bound, incontinent, blind in one eye, and partially blind in the other, and with her muscles wasted and her speech and throat badly affected. Against medical advice, she attended the Anointing of the Sick in the Basilica, and, after receiving a blessing, walked pain-free from her stretcher!

  Well, yesterday for the first time, the Church acknowledged that the seriously ill woman had been healed in Knock, and while falling short of declaring it a miracle, did say that it ‘defied medical explanation’. As with most church matters it took a while - 30 years to acknowledge that the healing took place – but I think it’s a very welcome development.

  The Anointing of the Sick takes place each day during the pilgrimage season at 12 pm and 3 pm Mass, and many people go there to pray for themselves and sick friends and relations.

  There is obviously no guarantee that anyone will ever again be cured, but the very fact that the Church has acknowledged that Ms. Carroll was will give hope to many more sick people, encouraging them to travel to Knock, and that can only be a good thing.

Castlerea’s golden girl returns from Madrid

What about the performance of Castlerea’s Aoife O’Rourke, who became the first Irish female boxer since world champion Katie Taylor to win an Elite European Championship gold medal when she overcame Poland’s Elzebieta Wojcik in the middleweight final in Madrid last Saturday evening. It is a monumental achievement for the Castlerea Boxing Club member, and please God she will get to the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, continue in Katie’s steps and bring home another gold medal!

Minor mishap and major omission!

Speaking of bad Mondays, I would think that the Galway minor footballers, who lost Sunday’s All-Ireland final in extra-time after going a goal ahead with only a couple of seconds left in normal time, endured a pretty bad one! On the other hand, the Galway part of me was wondering if the senior final could go to a replay then why not the minor one?

  Devin Toner, whose omission from the Rugby World Cup squad is bewildering, and Kieran Marmion, whose omission, while not as bewildering but still unexpected, must also have experienced the Monday Morning Blues and rightly so!

  When all things are considered, I, and most of my readers (I hope) really have very little to feel ‘blue’ about!

The ‘ups and downs’ of being Pope!

Sticking with Church matters, and over in Rome on Sunday the Pope was late for his regular Sunday morning audience after he was trapped in a lift. The Pontiff was left there for 25 minutes before firefighters rescued him, allowing him to keep his Sunday appointment.

  One of many people’s biggest fears is getting stuck in a lift, but the 82-year-old Pontiff didn’t let it get him too down, and he asked for a round of applause for the firefighters before carrying on with his duties, albeit a little late.

Finally for this week…

It’s almost time for our annual fundraising dance for the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West. We will be hitting the road very soon and calling door to door with our tickets, looking for your support for the sixteenth year in a row. The dance, with music by the very popular Lancers is on in Dowd’s, Glinsk, on Saturday, October 12th and as usual, we look forward to your ever-generous support.

Till next week, Bye for now!

HSE’s Capital Plan is just a glitzy bandaid!






On Monday of this week An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris launched the HSE Capital Plan and on the face of it, it was all sweetness and light and everything is going ‘full steam ahead’ which is great to see and hear. However, it does not take a genius in investigative journalism to see what the real story is when you drill down a little into the reality of what is happening.

  I am certainly not going to do a hatchet job on our health service in general as there are many positive things happening and the majority of the staff who work in the service are top-class, but there are so many problems that a glitzy announcement in Dublin will not paper over the cracks.

  The reality is that the massive overspend at the Children’s Hospital will definitely impact on other HSE projects despite what Government politicians are saying. On Monday, Simon Harris announced 250 new HSE projects. It would be an interesting exercise to come back in three or five years’ time to see how many of those projects have been completed. The two new A&E Departments in Galway and Limerick are so badly needed. The planned 30 new Primary Care Centres are also badly needed but the big question is who will staff these centres?

  The reality of the Irish health service in 2019 is that there are almost 600,000 people on waiting lists. The INMO have just reported that overcrowding in our hospitals in August was the worst on record for the month. There are over 1,000 nursing vacancies in Ireland at the moment. There are 487 consultant vacancies as of the start of September and there is a chronic shortage of GPs prepared to work in rural areas. If the health service is to keep up with the rising elderly population, thousands of extra hospital beds will be needed over the next ten to fifteen years just to stand still.

  This is not just a Fine Gael problem, however. Successive Health Ministers including Mary Harney and Micheál Martin have tried and failed to fix the problems in our health service which seems to be getting worse as the years go by. The demographics are going to dictate that the service will have to expand as the number of people living longer increases so these problems are not going to go away either. In fact they are set to increase.

  Have I a solution? If I did, I would be a wealthy man, and I realise there are no easy or quick fixes but for the Taoiseach and his Ministers to gloss over the massive problems that exist with glitzy announcements from time to time is not going to provide one more bed for someone who needs it nor will not bring forward badly needed surgery for patients.

  The winter is on the way and it’s all fine and dandy if you don’t have to use the health service especially if you are a public patient. But away from Brexit it is by far the most pressing problem that the Government have to deal with on an ongoing basis.


Why clicking won’t create a connection with your child




Last week, a controversial Channel 4 programme not only generated uproar among certain childcare bodies, it also caused righteous indignation throughout the judgemental moral policing brigade. Indeed, there was even the good old, fail safe, online petition being widely shared on Facebook etc., (ignored by me, but signed by over 30,000), hoping to prevent a TV show called ‘How To Train Your Baby Like A Dog’ from airing.

  Now for those who’ve been living on the moon and missed the whole hoopla, the show featured dog trainer Jo-Rosie Haffenden teaching parents to use a clicker and treat method, which is usually used to train dogs, to keep their unruly kids in line. Now, as a former TV producer/script writer, I have to say, congrats to Channel 4; this was TV gold. It contained all the ingredients needed to generate publicity and copious column inches. 

  However, as someone who has raised two kids (and two husbands) into adulthood, adopted seven dogs, and fostered quite a few, and, as I was head of education at the Dublin SPCA for many years, you can imagine I was glued to this programme. And, while I understand this dog trainer’s reasoning, especially when dealing with a three-year-old who, let’s face it, had pretty ugly and violent outbursts and the 18-month-old who refused to sleep alone; I feel her so-called motivational approach to childcare is a cop-out technique for lazy parents. Why? Because it allows them to dodge their responsibilities.

  You see, I’m someone who has trained dogs…yet I never used a clicker. I used the positive reinforcement method of offering my fur babies a small treat immediately after they performed my desired action…sit, stay, bed, etc., however, (when dealing with humans) I’d be highly sceptical of Haffenden’s strategy. 

  Look, don’t get me wrong, I know these methods work perfectly well with dogs because timing is of the essence when dealing with canine family members who have, quite literally, less than a second to associate their behaviour with receiving their reward. This means, if you, the pet parent, don’t come across pretty quickly with that delicious delicacy, your dog will move onto something else and will then associate their next behaviour with receiving the goodies…get it?

  However, kids, (as any parent with half a brain will tell you), can act up due to being tired, being hungry, being anxious, or by feeling ill etc., meaning a biccie’s not gonna cut it.

  And yes, it’s true, sometimes the little rug-rats are just plain bold, but the fact is, they depend on us, as responsible caregivers who are, (we hope), emotionally mature enough to shape them into responsible, independent thinking adults. This practice, (and I’m no parenting coach), is something which I believe will only be achieved by reasoning and conversation, and not by making clicking noises and shoving a fun size Snickers down their necks several times a day!

  Kids, in my thinking, need a natural outcome to their behaviours, be they good or bad; and while dogs thrive on positive reinforcement, young kids, who have high impulsivity and little self-control, will thrive on being allowed to make a choice. More importantly, they’ll flourish by being encouraged, (by you), to work out if that particular choice/behaviour they made was in their own personal interest.

  In addition, (and I hate to laud the qualification bit, but, like Haffenden, I’ve also studied psychology, so I’m just highlighting the similarities between our backgrounds), and I believe her parenting methods are in danger of creating a hierarchy of good and bad food; as in chocolate good…carrots bad. Ok, I concede, that yes, treats may provide temporary control over kids, but I fear they could, in the long run, sadly trigger a future resistance in them to take responsibility for their personal actions.

  My advice? When it comes to training your fur babies, concentrate on getting them to do what you want them to do, as opposed to what you don’t want them to do; they’ll thrive on it. When it comes to the kiddies, connect before your correct, because if they learn to always sit and obey you, they’ll likely become submissive adults and pathetic people pleasers unable to think or reason for themselves, and no parent wants that for their child.


Is Garda revamp the future of positive policing?


An Garda Síochána is set for a major revamp and, as speculation arises as to whether this restructuring will prove to be good or bad for the future of community policing, you’ll have to pardon me for stating the obvious when I say that only time will tell.

  However, as this new policing model will see a series of localised mini police forces cutting the districts down from 28 to 19, and having regional headquarters, á la the proposed new HSE structures, I for one am viewing this as a positive move. 

  You see, so long as the overhaul doesn’t mean job losses, the whole idea of Ireland, especially rural Ireland, having more community focused Gardaí is, as far as I’m concerned, very positive. Indeed, our very own community guard, (I won’t name him in case I embarrass him), is absolutely first class. He’s linked in with everyone on his beat, he waves to us as he drives by, chats with us if we meet him in the street, and he knows everyone and everyone knows him. Due to this visibility and his friendly manner, we all know our community guard is not only accessible, he is highly relatable, making him, in my opinion, the perfect example of what this county needs; and well done to him…he knows who he is!


Hold your nerve Ireland!

According to champion fist bumper Boris Johnson, the odds in favour of striking a deal with regard to the backstop are ‘touch and go,’ meaning he’s still hopeful. How pathetic!

  To this end, I want to be reassured that Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney have put in place the necessary intervention strategies needed to make sure we’re properly prepared for Brexit and the political instability that’ll derive from it. I also want to be reassured our government won’t fall for BJ’s slapstick bish, bash, boom, high octane, high energy spin.

  You see, from watching the whole pomp and bluster showcased during his recent whistle-stop EU tour, I’d have to comment that Boris sounded more like a football manager than a credible head of state and I’m now wondering just how disjointed his thinking is. I mean, is Boris so obtuse he’s prepared to play political chicken with his country’s future? Is British politics and British society so fragmented they’ve allowed their leader to convince them they can still get a deal through at this late stage?  

  My advice to Leo and Simon…don’t cave…hold your nerve, and wipe that grin of Boris’ face. You wait, he’ll break; he’s got to!


No battle but plenty of great music in Aughrim!



It’s Thursday evening of last week, and, after a quick turnaround after work, Carol and myself hit off for the historic village of Aughrim, where on the 12th of July 1691 the bloodiest battle that was ever fought on Irish soil took place, between the Williamites and the Jacobites. There were over 7,000 people killed, and the resounding victory for the forces of William III was the turning point which effectively ended the resistance of those loyal to James II, who had earlier been deposed as king.

  However, it was not for a history lesson that we headed for the Galway village, but rather for a night of music and song in Valerie’s, where, just as in 1691, a large crowd had gathered but thankfully, this time it was all about fun and enjoyment, and I have to say it was just a fabulous night’s entertainment.

  The first big source of joy to me, and other people of my vintage, was that the show was taking place in an old style marquee, and just for a moment I was back in my youth at the local summer carnivals with all the showbands playing.

  However, as soon as the show started with a set by Meath country singer, Matt Leavy, I was right back in the present and even though I had never seen or heard him before, I was very impressed with him and his 25-minute set went down very well with the appreciative audience.

  The main reason that we found ourselves in Aughrim was the fact that Twink’s daughter, Chloe Agnew, (Twink being a longtime friend of Carol’s) was also on the bill. Having been a member of the Irish super group, Celtic Woman for a good few years, she is now on her own, and a highly regarded performer in Los Angeles.

  Personally, I thought she might struggle with an ageing country audience, but I needn’t have worried, she was every inch a star and kept the theme going by doing all country songs, finishing with a fabulous medley of Dolly Parton numbers. In truth, she is a real classy performer.

  Carol and I met up with her for a chat after her set and she was really delighted to be in Aughrim, and thoroughly enjoyed the unusual experience of appearing in a marquee.

  Next up was Foster and Allen and it was the first time that I had ever seen them live (don’t know how I missed them for the 44 years they are performing) and they were just brilliant - great musically, but also great craic. You could see how easy it came to them - they did a number of their best-known songs, and the full house really warmed to them.

  Mick Foster sang a new (to me) song about an accident a lad had had in the middle of the night, involving a mousetrap on a chamber pot (don’t ask), and it brought the house down. I can only say they are some entertainers, and at some stage I will try to see them in a full Foster and Allen show.

  All week I had heard that the one and only Nathan Carter was going to make a guest appearance, and for once the rumour mill was accurate! His full band, his mother, grandfather and grandmother were all there, and seeing him also for the first time live, I wasn’t disappointed. His energy, life, personality and, of course, his singing was indicative of his superstar status, and even though my musical ear is non-existent, Carol couldn’t get over the quality of his band, which brought an end to a wonderful night’s entertainment. As a fellow I met in the loo said to me: ‘Who’d think you would ever see such a show in little Aughrim?’

  As I headed back home, I thought to myself that having been known for hundreds of years as the venue for our bloodiest battle ever, from now on it may well be known for music and craic! Fair play to Valerie and her crew for having the guts to put on such a brilliant show. If my old stents keep doing their job, and if she does it all again next year, I will definitely be back!

  The whole thing was on for the weekend, with a highly-rated American all-girl country band there on Friday night, as well as other performers on Saturday night, so I just hope the crowds turned up all weekend, and kept the tills ringing. It costs a lot to put on these type of weekends, and people like Valerie deserve to be supported.


A year’s a long time in world rugby

Onto rugby, and it’s hard to believe that only a year ago we were second favourites for the World Cup, and supporters here were eagerly looking forward to the finals in Japan and talk was of reaching our first ever semi-final, and perhaps winning the whole thing out.

  However, in the wake of the heaviest defeat we have ever suffered against our ‘old enemy’, England, there is an undeniable air of despondency about our chances with people now saying that we may not even get out of our group, and may be on our way home before the quarter-final stages.

  Now it’s hard to accept that our Grand Slam winning team of 2018 has fallen back so far that the bookies have us as the eighth favourites to win it out now, but, sadly, the evidence all points to the fact that we are way behind even a number of our Six Nations opponents. The truth is that we seem to be way off the pace. Why this has happened is hard to figure out, but for a long time now the two players who were rightly regarded as the best in the world in their positions, Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton, have been suffering with injuries and loss of form and, in my opinion, if they fail to recapture their best form in time for Japan we indeed could be on an early flight home.

  Hope however springs eternal and maybe, just maybe, this team may rediscover the form and attitude that brought the Grand Slam just over a year ago. I’m sure the many supporters who are actually spending their hard-earned money to go to see the Irish team in the group stages are praying it will be worth it. When I put it to a friends of mine that they might try to get their money back before they went, such is the poor form of the Irish team, I was told in no uncertain terms that the trip to Japan is going ahead regardless! That person is still looking forward to the potential trip of a lifetime and rightly so!


Rory’s feeling like 15 million bucks!

Talking of money and still sticking with sport, I watched enthralled on Sunday night as Rory McIlroy won the Fed-Ex Cup, and in the process picked up a winner’s cheque of a mind-boggling $15 million. It just goes to show the mentality of top golfers like McIlroy that money wasn’t his main motivation at all. His focus was to beat the World Number One, Brooks Koepka, and he wasn’t slow in letting the world know how much beating Koepka meant to him. I’m sure the $15 million was nice - but according to Rory at least, the win was even nicer!

  I myself have just returned from playing nine holes on Castlerea’s lovely course but the only resemblance between my game and the one that Rory plays is the ball and clubs - nothing else is even remotely alike!

  Anyway, Rory’s victory has once again propelled Irish golf to the very top of the world game following hot on the heels of Shane Lowry’s recent win in the British Open, and there is no doubt that thousands of tourists will visit our shores over the next few years to sample some of the delights our world class golf courses have to offer. It’s great to have so much positivity in the world of Irish golf, and all I can say is long may it last.

Always look on the bright side of life...


Finally for this week, the news for optimists is good as researchers in Boston have shown that looking on ‘the bright side of life’ can actually help you to live longer, with optimism adding between 11% and 15% to most people’s lifespans.

  I always thought I was optimistic enough but as these results show, optimists are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, tend to be thin and not fond of a drink!

  As I’m out on all three counts, maybe it’s time for me to re-evaluate!

Till next week, Bye for now!

The Kingdom come but ‘drive for five’ should be done!



Gaelic football plays a huge part in the lives of so many of the people in County Roscommon. There is huge passion for the game in the county and it has remained that way over the decades.

  This Sunday history could be made when Dublin attempt to win five All-Ireland senior titles in a row when they face Kerry. In common with every other county in the country there will be huge interest in the match here.

  It’s a world away from the thousands of people who go out every week on a voluntary basis to help out with teams from U-8s to senior not only in football but in hurling, camogie, and ladies football also. The GAA is a massive cultural movement that is unique to this country. But it’s in the big games that we see our heroes, the great players and where the history books are written.

  I am no different to thousands of Roscommon people in that I was brought to games from the time I was able to walk by my late father. But to be brought to an All-Ireland final as a child was the highlight of the year. In 1962 the family car was adorned with Roscommon flags as we headed east only to return empty handed after being beaten by Kerry.

  By the time 1980 had come my father had been gone for almost 10 years so we made our own way to Croke Park only for Kerry to knock us back on our heels again. There were a couple of years since when Roscommon were close to getting there after that but it hasn’t happened since. But there is absolutely nothing to match having your county involved in a major All-Ireland final. We got a taste in 2006 with that never to be forgotten win for the minors.

  I was there in 1982 to see Offaly deny Kerry the five-in-a-row when Seamus Darby scored that last minute goal. It was the biggest roar that I ever heard in Croke Park. To win one All-Ireland is difficult but to win five on the trot is almost impossible.

  So will we see history being made this Sunday? I have a feeling that we will. Most neutrals are glad that Kerry are there to play Dublin and not Tyrone. There is a chance of a football match breaking out as Kerry will definitely play.

  But in the humble opinion of this writer, Dublin have players who can stand shoulder to shoulder with any of the greatest that have ever played the game; Stephen Cluxton, Jack McCaffrey, James McCarthy, Brian Fenton, Con O’Callaghan, Paul Mannion and Ciarán Kilkenny are up there with the likes of Jacko, Pat Spillane, Mikey Sheehy, The Bomber and John Egan and all the other greats.

  I hope that it’s a great game. Dublin play a great brand of football that combines the long and short game and their power and precision will be the key. The only thing that may beat them on Sunday is the weight of history on their shoulders. It’s the only unknown factor.

  I love being around when sporting history is being made. Kerry would dearly love to deny the Dubs the ‘five-in-a-row’ and that would write another famous chapter in their illustrious history if that were to happen. But under the very astute management of Jim Gavin, Dublin can weather the Kerry storm and take the title for the fifth year on the trot…I just hope that when we look back on the game on Monday that we have plenty to talk about.


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