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Living with a litigation culture

 

 

 

It’s Saturday morning, and I am at work in Athlone. One of the things I like to do (hope the boss doesn’t get the Roscommon People) before it gets busy is read the morning papers, and this morning I am struck by the number of reports there are on various (and totally different) types of lawsuits.

  ‘Solicitor to the Stars’ Gerald Kean won a libel case against The Star newspaper, and a payout of €160,000, in a case that (funnily enough) merited a big feature (including photos) in The Daily Mail, but doesn’t appear to have been covered in The Star itself!

  Meanwhile, a lady who sued after falling from her horse during a Hunt, lost her damages claim. As someone who has had minor involvement with Hunts people, I would have to question why this young lady was ever advised to go down the legal route, as to my untrained legal mind her case seemed to have very little chance of success.

  In a nutshell, she sued the Hunt and the landowner after she suffered severe injuries when she had a fall. However, the Field Master of the Hunt had inspected the obstacle and advised the riders not to jump it, deeming it to be too dangerous. Apparently the young lady had fallen too far behind and didn’t hear his instruction, but the Judge ruled she should have kept reasonably close to the Hunt Master (to be in a position to receive such advice).

  In other cases, a stores worker sued after bruising her eye, but she too lost her case as an award of more than €31,000 was overturned – the High Court Judge found it “was her own fault” – and a former amateur boxer who claimed €60,000 damages for injuries received in a car crash also had his claim dismissed. He had said the only sport he had taken part in since the accident was swimming, but social media had footage of him taking part in boxing, so he too lost his claim.

  The overall conclusion that I have come to is that we now live in a ‘sue environment’ but thankfully judges are at last showing some sense in dealing with these cases, and no longer dishing out ridiculous awards. My advice to you is, if you decide to follow someone for anything, stay off social media, or your every move will be documented and followed.

  Now it goes without saying that I am not in any way condoning this new culture, but like it or not it seems to be here to stay, and everyone and every organisation is fair game, so we all better be on our guard or someone will find a reason to make a claim.  

Is it time to call time on Eurovision?

I managed to miss the Eurovision Song Contest at the weekend, but I see on all the papers that Madonna’s appearance, and performance, was a complete disaster. One critic in the Daily Mail described it as a nightmare of a performance, while The Guardian simply said it was excruciating.

  Thankfully I missed it all, but it seems to me that it’s time to consign this contest to the scrapheap.

  Britain’s entrant, Michael Rice, who finished last with only 16 votes, said the vote was totally political, with everyone against Britain for leaving the EU, and there can be no doubt that by now the actual song is of very little consequence, and it’s all down to politics.

  However, the huge extravaganza generates so much money that there is no way it will ever come to an end. The Netherlands will host it next year, and  once again Ireland will fail to make the final, and Britain will come close to the bottom (they have been last four times in the last sixteen years), and the truth is even if we had the best song ever written, it would make no difference. We don’t have enough political pull.

  Despite putting big money into the contest each year, thereby keeping them out of the semi-finals, the UK has never been in the top 10 in the last decade. If things stay that way the day might yet come when ourselves and Britain simply say ‘what’s the point?’ – and we both pull the plug.

Two major golfing achievements…

This weekend the golfing world is celebrating two monumental achievements. The first one is I will refer to is probably the better-known one, and that is the history-making win for American Brooks Koepka, who became only the fourth man to win four majors in only eight attempts when he won the USA PGA title on Sunday.

  He joins three of the biggest names in golf – Woods, Nicklaus and Hogan – in doing that, and his name will forever be immortalised in golfing history.

  The second major feat may not be quite as well covered in the international media, but on Friday evening, in the Castlerea Golf Classic, a hitherto unknown player had the huge honour of getting a birdie at one of the two new holes that were in operation, competitively, for the very first time.

  That player was of course myself, and one of my playing partners, Alan Devine, (my brother Duff, and my publican Mikeen were the other two) took a photo of me as I celebrated my own history-making moment.

  I don’t know if it was the first ever birdie on this hole, but it doesn’t matter, as it was definitely on its first day of play. Anyway, Alan got it developed and framed, and on Saturday evening at the presentation of prizes in the clubhouse, I was presented with my own memento of my big moment, and in case you don’t believe me…the picture is printed right here for your pleasure.

  The Classic itself was a huge success, with more than forty teams competing over the two days. Liam and Valerie Callaghan, people with a very strong connection with Creggs Rugby Club, claimed the first prize along with two team-mates.

  The presentation night was really enjoyable. There was great music and craic, and all the speeches highlighted the huge effort put in by the club members, volunteers, and others to have the course in such pristine condition. The overwhelming feeling is that Castlerea Golf Club is in a good place and facing the future with confidence.

  As for me, I will never forget the day I made my own golfing history, and I thank Alan for recording the photographic evidence. I had intended to frame the ball I did it with, but unfortunately I sent it out of bounds at the next hole – and sadly I failed to find it. Such are the joys of golf at the highest level, but I can console myself with the thought that even Koepka had a few wobbles before he clinched his record-breaking win.

 

And finally…hurling heroics

Finally for this week, as the Roscommon footballers prepare for their big Connacht semi-final against Mayo in Castlebar on Saturday, what about the achievement of the hurlers, who, after two unexpected victories, over Kildare (home) and London (away), have made it through to the semi-final of the Christy Ring Cup.

  After the difficulties the hurlers had last year, it’s great to see them bounce back in such a positive way, and as hurling is confined to a relatively small area in the county, it must be a constant struggle to keep it alive.  

  As a result, any success is more than welcome, so very well done on their wins so far – and let’s hope they can keep up the momentum and maybe even win the Christy Ring. What a story that would be!

Till next week, Bye for now!

 

Don’t opt for the cop-out – get out and vote on Friday

 

 

 

It’s so easy to be very cynical about politics. I have often slipped into that mode myself in over thirty years of covering it. However, this week I would be urging people to go out and vote on Friday.

  Anyone could give you a thousand reasons why people should not bother to go to the ballot box. Throwing your hands in the air and declaring “sure they are all the same” or saying “I have no interest” is a cop-out. The reason that we have elections is that people have their say every so often – and I am of the belief that people should go out and exercise their franchise. It’s not like it’s a big deal, or hard to do.

  There is not much point in sitting up at the bar counter giving about politicians of all parties and none if you pass up the chance to go out and vote. In fact I would completely dismiss the opinion of anyone who could easily have gone out and voted and who just didn’t bother, yet still feels they have a right to complain.

  I listened to an RTE Radio report on Monday evening that listed the jaw-dropping amounts of money that MEPs earn and the expenses that they are entitled to, and it would make your blood boil. But the system we have is working reasonably well, and whether we like it or not, Europe is where it’s at. With Brexit coming down the line, we may as well have a say in what’s going on.

  On the local scene, people know most of the candidates who are standing in their area. County councillors don’t have much power but they can have some influence on what services are available in their own local area and throughout the county.

  There are many big issues to be considered, such as the farming scene, rural Ireland, climate change, housing, homelessness, education, emigration and crime. If ordinary people do not go out and have their say, standards among those whom we elect will slip even further – and God only knows it’s poor enough as it stands. So go out and vote on Friday, regardless of whom of what you decide to vote for.

  This Saturday there will, as usual, be huge interest in the election count, and particularly at local election level. The fact that the GAA have fixed the Roscommon v Mayo Connacht semi-final match for Castlebar on Saturday evening at 7 pm means that I will be missing my first election count in 30 years.

  Some of the most exciting (and longest) days and nights of my career were spent in places like the stage in the Dr. Hyde Centre, The Mall in Longford and the Travellers Friend Hotel in Castlebar. You can complain about the length of time that it takes to complete these counts, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It adds to the tension and the excitement, and all human life is there.

  There is excitement and cheers, bitter disappointment, recriminations and tears. There are opinions, rows, speculation, tallies, agreements, speeches, surprises, transfers, recounts, endless cups of coffee – and exhaustion at the end of it all.

  To be honest, I will be sad to miss it all, but if Roscommon could ever win in MacHale Park, it will make it all worthwhile! Good luck to all concerned this weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

Leeds United fans 0 Rest of the World 1

 

 

 

 

If you happened to see a few middle-aged men wandering around aimlessly last Thursday – as though worn down by the stresses of the world – their sad demeanour may have had nothing to do with Brexit or bills; quite possibly they were ‘just’ deeply distraught Leeds United fans.

  I got home from work that fateful and now forever damned Wednesday evening, having succeeded in avoiding social media and any update on how THAT match was going. (Leeds were at home to Derby County in the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final, and leading 1-0 from the first game).

  In the normal world, that would be a good thing.

  Anyways, I closed the curtains and opened my heart to the possibilities, sitting down to watch this monumentally big match which I had recorded, and the result of which I had avoided. 

  They say it is the hope that kills you, but when it comes to Leeds United in Championship play-offs – this supposed route back into the Premier League – I never allow actual hope to get in the way of the inevitable sense of foreboding. To be honest, it’s the qualifying for the play-offs, rather than gaining automatic promotion, that ‘kills’ Leeds fans. 

  Because Leeds, irrespective of how brilliant they’ve been all season, invariably flounder in these wretched play-offs.

  Some things in life are inevitable, they just keep happening. Our dog, it seems, will always act surprised and bark when the postman’s van arrives in the morning, as it does every weekday morning. Ryan Tubridy will always try to be cool and funny when he’s interviewing a comedian (why does he do this? It’s not as if he produces a lavish meal that he ‘prepared earlier’ whenever he’s interviewing a celebrity chef). I digress…

  Anyways, Leeds, it seems, will always blow it when they get to the Championship play-offs.

  It’s not enough to lose; they have to torture us in the process. In that second leg mayhem the other night, Leeds went 1-0 up against Derby, making it 2-0 on aggregate. An incredible atmosphere at Elland Road…thousands of fans chanting, singing and waving scarves. The Sky commentator musing about it being all over, Leeds marching on. It was, of course, madness. Drama had to reveal itself. And it did. Leeds imploded, Derby won 4-2 on the night, 4-3 overall. At least we were spared getting to the play-off final, and the delusion of escape.

  There is only one way for Leeds to return to the Premier League, and that’s by finishing first or second in the Championship, thus gaining automatic promotion, avoiding this play-off tightrope.

  Next season, I’m hoping Leeds can go straight up, that they can imperiously soar above this play-off torture. It is the only way, the only chance of escape. There is too much at stake…too much at stake for Leeds United, for their huge fan base, indeed for haunted middle-aged men throughout Roscommon…(to be continued, no doubt).

 Musings on First Holy Communion Day…

 

It was such a happy day, a joyful occasion…as it always is.

  Our son Matthew was one of a large number of children receiving their First Holy Communion in Roscommon Town last Saturday. The sun shone brightly, and a little unexpectedly.

  This is always a happy, inspirational ceremony. It’s one that many local families throughout the region have already experienced this year.

  It’s an occasion that glows…the children at the centre of it…sharing their day with siblings, parents, grandparents, further relations, a community’s embrace. 

  In these busy times, there aren’t that many communal events that can create such a calmness, such positivity. Maybe it’s because innocence is at the heart of it. And also, of course, because it’s sacred.

  Sacred. The First Holy Communion ceremony is after all a religious ceremony, and a powerful one too.

  By 10.40 am last Saturday, there were hundreds of people outside the Sacred Heart Church. The excited children…in their beautiful dresses and their dashing suits. There was a little giddiness, and lots of nervous energy…not just on the part of the kids, for the parents too. Pockets of people here and there, everyone dressed to the nines. Mostly they exchanged compliments about the kids, savoured the occasion, but, being honest, some drifted into other important snippets of small talk.

 

Musings on First Holy Communion Day…

 

But always it drifted – quickly – back to the children. The children were in their element. Their big day. When the local teachers (also stars of the day) called the children to order, they  quickly formed a queue, clasping their hands in prayer, preparing for this milestone step in their young lives.

  The ceremony was very special. It was much more inclusive than it used to be (many years ago). There was a lovely touch when three of the First Holy Communicants stood behind the altar and sang. Others read from the altar – superbly. The children received the Eucharist with reverence and were a credit to their parents and their schools.

  Walking up the aisle, they had been paired off, a boy and a girl at a time. As their parents beamed with pride, they completed this opening part of the ceremony with great formality, some of the boys careful not to make too much eye contact with their ‘partner’, as if unsure about this close encounter. (Thinking: Did we really agree to this?).   

  Fr. John Cullen celebrated a lovely Mass, which featured beautiful music from the Choir. A sense of happiness prevailed. And of sacredness. A fast-moving world slowed, for now at least. When the ceremony ended, the cameras and phones came out. The sun was still shining. The children had been great. It was, and is, one of the special days.

 

After rubbing shoulders with stars, it’s back to home comforts!

 

 

 

It’s another Monday morning, and I am once again sitting at the kitchen table writing away. The sun is splitting the stones outside, and you would be forgiven for thinking that I must still be in the beautiful sunshine of Spain’s Costa Blanca – but this time you would be wrong.

  I am down in Crosswell, home for the last couple of days, and like everyone else I am lapping up the unexpected but very welcome burst of May sunshine.

  Before I put our recent visit to Spain totally behind me, you might recall that last week I told you about the atmosphere all along the Strip, but especially in O’Riordan’s bar, for the Barcelona-Liverpool Champions League semi-final first leg, and how exciting it all was. Well, the return leg, when Liverpool produced one of the greatest comebacks ever – overturning a three-goal deficit – was even better, and the huge Liverpool support went stone mad.

  I hadn’t realised that Niall, the proprietor of the bar, is a huge supporter of the Merseysiders, and he led the many renditions of You’ll Never Walk Alone. I can only say it was a night I will never forget.

  Never one to run myself down, you might also remember that I was one of the few who predicted the outcome, and but for the fact that there is no gambling allowed in Spain, I would have had myself a little flutter, and a rare win. However, it was a mighty bit of craic, and when you factor in that on the following night we had Spurs’ own miracle when they brought off an even bigger comeback by scoring three away goals in a single half against Ajax, you really have to say that this made the two semi-finals probably the most exciting of all time. The all-English final should be very interesting and entertaining, and even though I am at best a lukewarm soccer supporter, I am looking forward to seeing another exciting battle.

  Also in O’Riordan’s, on one of the nights there we had the pleasure of running into one of our top actresses, Aoibhinn McGinnitty, a young Monaghan lady who is best known for a starring role in Love/Hate, and who was holidaying for a few days with her parents in the Cabo Roig area. She played the role of Trish, wife to the notorious Nidge, in the wonderful Love/Hate series. We got photographs taken with her. She was a lovely, friendly, pleasant young woman. We were the first to recognise her in the pub, but straight away the word got out, and before she knew it she was inundated with requests for photos and selfies, etc.

  Anyways, she seems to be still busy in what is a highly uncertain profession, but no matter what else she does, she will always be known for her performance as Trish, in what in my opinion was and is the best ever Irish-produced drama series. Why they didn’t knock another series or two out of it, I’ll never know!

  Still on the famous person trail, we also spotted the former world class snooker player, Willie Thorne, over the weekend, and he too had his fans. From what we could see he was thoroughly enjoying his visit to the little Spanish resort.

  Anyway, that’s it for another year (please God), and in truth it’s not that bad to be back, especially with the good weather, and the start of the hurling and football championships, and the return of The Sunday Game. It’s all to look forward to over the next few months.

 

Key role of local sports clubs

 

Looking back a little again, a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of sport in the lives of our young people, and the way it can help to teach them the value of teamwork, sportsmanship and discipline, but I overlooked the hugely important roles that sports clubs play in the life – both economic and social – of our little towns and villages.

  We have often touched on the decline of rural Ireland, and there can be no doubt that places outside of the cities have suffered a lot over the last number of years, but can you imagine how much worse it would be if it weren’t for the GAA, rugby, soccer and other clubs that are continuing to help to keep our villages alive.

  All this came into my head on Saturday evening, when, if a visitor came to Creggs for the first time, he or she would think they were in a thriving, vibrant village – and certainly on Saturday last they would have been right.

  Earlier in the day, the Connacht Junior rugby team had a superb win over Munster in the Interprovincial series on our new 4G pitch, and after the Heineken Cup Final in which Leinster lost out to Saracens – not in Creggs, but over in Newcastle – the eagerly-awaited Mountain versus The Valley football game took place, and for most of the evening the village was literally bursting at the seams.

  Now I have to admit that I rarely miss out on the craic in Creggs, but my social exertions in Spain had taken their toll, and so I never got to Mikeen’s, where I’m told there was an almighty bit of fun, with a large number of rugby players and footballers mingling with each other and singing and dancing for hours on end.

  It all made me realise how vital clubs are to the life of every village, because, in fairness, while not every village has a rugby club, most of them – thankfully – have a football, hurling or soccer club, and the next time one of them calls to the door looking for support for a raffle or a draw, dig deep, give them a few bob, and remember they are the lifeline of your own community. Without them, and the support of the players, mentors and supporters, we would be very much worse off in every way imaginable.

And finally…

Finally for this week, the good people in Castlerea Golf Club, which as you know by now is one of my favourite places in the world, are holding a fundraising Golf Classic over this Friday and Saturday, the 17th and 18th of May. Teams of four, with food included, is only €160.

  There will be prizes for the longest drive, nearest the pin, and €1,000 for a hole-in-one. If the prize was for dropping it into the river, I’d have a great chance. Prizes will be presented in the clubhouse at 9 pm on Saturday night. There will be music and craic, and everyone is invited.

  There will be a timesheet in operation, so to book your place contact Catherine on 087-6182882 or Jimmy on 086-6071471. I have to work on both of those days, but with the long evenings in I should make it in time to try for the hole-in-one prize, and I hope to see you all there.

Nobody expected bargain basement broadband, but is deal value for money?

 

 

Last week was dominated by news of the much-anticipated National Broadband Plan. We had Leo gushing that every home, holiday home, farm, business and school, whatever their location across the country, will be connected to the internet through high speed broadband within seven years, at a cost to us of no more than €3 billion.

  Eh, wasn’t it once estimated at €500 million Leo? But hey, I suppose, thinking we’re all too thick to add up, An Taoiseach just glossed over that little issue and instead spun us a line by setting a target of signing the roll-out contract with the Granahan McCourt consortium before the annual Funderland for Farmers, sorry, National Ploughing Championships, takes place in September!

  Now, while the government was initially refusing to reveal how much the private investment company will commit to the deal, according to a report in the Sunday Times, Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed spilled the beans, divulging the investor’s actual stake will be ‘less than €200 million,’ making the final(ish) figure for this obnoxiously expensive project come in at an alleged €5 billion. Hmmm, while nobody’s expecting a bargain basement service, it’s my opinion we’re not exactly getting value for money here!

  To be honest folks, I became concerned when senior civil servant Robert Watt, (who is employed by our government to advise on such issues), warned Leo that, as the plan posed such an enormous financial risk, and only provided questionable benefits, he felt the whole thing should be called off, but sure, that didn’t bother our Leo whom, looking through his election-time rose-tinted spectacles, decided he’d plough ahead regardless and plunge all of our country’s money into fixing this one particular problem, thus completely ignoring our very serious housing crisis.

  Look, while rural Roscommon does desperately need high speed broadband in order to keep communities cohesive, etc., it hasn’t escaped me that, to date, we’ve had no less than four ministers, (including our own Denis Naughten) trying to deliver this strategy, and, I have to say, it’s my opinion that the whole project has now more or less morphed into a massive botch job, and, given the cock-up that is the National Children’s Hospital, I’d imagine the costs will balloon even further!

  Due to this, I reckon it’s about time our government realised they don’t possess the ability to develop and deliver its citizens with any major project on any level whatsoever. I’d go so far as to question whether they even have the knowledge, the cop on, or the technical skills required to deliver us with anything other than over-inflated, choppy-changey, pie-in-the-sky initiatives, that, once started, end up costing us billions, leading to the deal-makers spectacularly and unapologetically getting away with cocking things up and never being held accountable! Too harsh? I don’t think so, especially given you and I are being made to pay through the nose for a product, nay an asset, we won’t ever possess. I mean, we probably won’t even be able to list the plugs, cables and adaptors as part of our worldly goods.

  Let me reiterate, there’s no doubt we need national broadband, there’s no doubt we’re becoming more dependent on it, and there’s no doubt the service won’t be cheap; that much we can all agree upon – but I do wonder if this government has ever, at any stage of this process, had any notion of a vision beyond the one where they promised us the actual service; as in, if they ever sat down and looked at how it would be delivered and how we would use it, and indeed, how it would positively impact and connect those of us living in rural communities?

  I also wonder that if, in the likely event the whole operation falls flat (and it may), if anyone, anyone at all in Dáil Éireann, has even had the tiniest bit of foresightedness to put a contingency plan in place? Leo and pals would be well advised to bear in mind that, as they’re the ones who’ve decided to ignore sound advice and thrown caution, (and our money) to the wind, they’ll be the ones whom, in time, will be judged on whether or not they could deliver on any of their promises! I hope for this country’s sake, their broadband efforts bear fruit!

 

A green future is not top of our government’s agenda!

 

On the subject of climate change…I’m someone who is very environmentally friendly and aware and who actively, along with hubby, recycles, etc. Well, this week I’d have to say that while Minister Richard Bruton‘s emotional statement that “Everyone will have to make changes,” may look great as a headline, it’s clear to me that, given only six TDs showed their faces to vote on last week’s historic declaration that saw our country becoming the second nation worldwide to proclaim a climate and biodiversity emergency, a green future is not top of our policymakers’ agendas! As a result, I’m now assuming that, like everything else, until our farmers have no land left due to flooding, until our country has no clean water left to drink, and until our kids/grandkids have no parks or forests left to enjoy, etc., that, along with homelessness, hospital waiting lists, the trolley crises, and how Brexit will negatively impact rural businesses, the serious issue of global warming is not an election big ticket item, and will only be addressed when finding a solution has gone way out of our reach.

 

 

Should parents pay the price for kids’ bad behaviour?

 

 

Everyone will have an opinion regarding TD Willie O’Dea’s suggestion that parents of kids who cause public disturbances or who engage in anti-social behaviour should be sanctioned “either through fines or having their social welfare stopped”.

  Now, while I’m someone who has a low tolerance for unruly kids/teens, I have to say that yes, I agree with Deputy O’Dea’s sentiments that parents absolutely need to take responsibility for their kids’ behaviour, but, steady on, stopping somebody’s social welfare payments is a bit tyrannical!

  Look, as a soft-touch mother, I know that parenting is one of the toughest jobs in the world, and, thank God I was lucky in that my kids never once brought an ounce of trouble to my door. However, I have witnessed some parents fall about laughing while their toddler removed their nappy and painted the sitting room walls with their own poo.

  So, perhaps in order to avoid the type of anti-social actions Willie is talking about taking place down the line, instead of being an over-indulgent, so-called no-rules, permissive parent and viewing little Jimmy’s/Mary’s early-years’ poo-portraits as him/her being creative, my suggestion, (as a non-expert), would be to consider very gently checking the cherubs and establishing an age-appropriate culture of accountability in the home – because if O’Dea has his way, some parents may end up being seriously out of pocket!

Next week’s elections will be first major verdict on Leo’s administration

 

 

 

On Friday week (24th of May) the people will go to the polls in the European and local elections in what will be the first major test of the Government since they took office. 

  On the 14th of June 2017, Leo Varadkar was elected Taoiseach. It will be very interesting to see what the verdict of the public will be. The European elections will give a reasonable idea of how the public are feeling after two years of this current Government.

  There are mixed signals in the Irish economy. On one hand there is plenty of employment, and wages are growing at a modest rate. However, there are a number of huge problems, not least the chronic housing situation, homelessness, unaffordable rents and the fact that in the larger urban areas, young couples simply cannot afford to get on the property ladder.

  Fine Gael’s traditional strong support among the farming community is also under the spotlight as many farmers are disillusioned at poor prices and dwindling incomes. The massive overruns in spending on major infrastructural projects like the Children’s Hospital and The National Broadband Plan have led to accusations of financial recklessness.

  But despite all those problems, and the fact that Leo Varadkar is prone to shooting his mouth off from time to time – something that gets him into bother – it looks like Fine Gael will probably hold on to their national vote of about 30%.

  Fianna Fáil are in a very difficult position. They can claim that they are ‘acting in the national interest’ by propping up the current Government, and while they have been very critical of some Government policy, the bottom line is that they are keeping them in power. They are caught talking out of the two sides of their mouth all the time.

  They have some strong candidates running in the Euro elections and will be in with a chance of taking the final seat in this Euro constituency, that’s assuming that Mairead McGuinness, ‘Ming’ and Matt Carthy will hold on to their seats. Micheál Martin will probably hold on as leader but it would be very unusual for the main ‘opposition’ party not to have gains in a mid-term election – but that’s what’s likely to happen. Not a great sign for the future if we have a general election within the next 12 months.

  Having said that, it is almost inconceivable that the party would not win a seat in this constituency, with Brendan Smith and Anne Rabbitte in the field. It would be a very poor result indeed if one or other were not to take the seat made vacant by Marian Harkin.

  Sinn Féin have three high profile outgoing candidates in the Euro poll and Matt Carthy, Lynn Boylan and Liadh Ní Riada should all be re-elected. The dramatic rise in support for Sinn Féin has stalled and they seem to have reached a plateau somewhere short of 20% nationally.

  Labour are struggling badly. There was a time when the party would do well in Dublin in particular, but those days are over. They may have an outside chance in the Capital with Alex White, but that’s about it.

  The Independent sector is well-populated. There are a number of interesting candidates this time around. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan looks like he will retain his seat in this constituency but it will be interesting to see how Clare Daly and Mick Wallace do in Dublin and Ireland South respectively. Peter Casey may have a chance in this area but I have a feeling that Ming has cornered the ‘protest’ vote.

  Despite the fact that Brexit has dominated the news headlines over the past 12 months and the fact that many of our farmers are in receipt of payments from the EU (in terms of grants), I am of the firm opinion that there is very little or no interest in these European elections. The fact that they are being held on the same day as the local elections will ensure a decent turnout, but I shudder to think of how low the turnout would be if they were held on their own.

  However, it won’t lessen the intensity, as this election will be hard-fought. The prize for the winners is massive…a huge salary and generous expenses, which is guaranteed for five years!

  In this constituency I am predicting seats for Mairead McGuinness, Matt Carthy, Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan and Brendan Smith.

 

 

Finally, some election atmosphere…

 

 

 

Eight days to go, and while you couldn’t say there’s election fever, there’s finally some momentum to Election 2019. Just about!

  Election candidates have relished the excellent weather recently and are out in force, canvassing away. The recent Lamb Festival, the Roscommon v Leitrim match and Roscommon Races were all a bonus for candidates in that they presented an opportunity to meet large numbers of people in the one location.

  In relation to the local elections, the feeling throughout the county amongst people who are interested in this type of thing is that there are probably four to five very strongly fancied candidates in each of the three six-seaters…with one/two seats up for grabs in each area!

 

Thoughts on ‘Pool and Spurs

I was only six or seven years of age – yes, it’s so long ago, Eamon de Valera was probably our President, and the Bay City Rollers were probably in fashion.

  It’s my first memory of seeing, and being mesmerised by, soccer. There was a soccer match on the television – which was rare enough in those days. In black and white, of course. I was smitten by the style and panache of one of the two teams in action. Or were there three teams? I remember being confused. There was one team, and then there was Spurs…and Tottenham Hotspur. What was the commentator at? Eventually it dawned on me…Tottenham and Spurs were the same.

  I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for them, with their swashbuckling style, their sense of adventure. Many, many years later (but still a long time ago), I went to an Arsenal-Spurs game. Such excitement! The superstars I  daydreamt of in Rooskey were suddenly there in the flesh. I waited in wonder for Glenn Hoddle, Ossie Ardiles, Ricky Villa and Liam Brady to display their magic. When it ended 0-0, I felt suitably cheated!

  And now Spurs are in the Champions League Final, following an amazing victory over Ajax, another team with plenty of ‘swash’ and ‘buckle’. What Spurs have achieved is remarkable. I met a few still-stunned Spurs fans at the weekend (there are some out there, in Rossie-land) and yet…much as I like the club, my heart is with Liverpool on this one, in this unlikely football fantasy.

  Why? Because Liverpool have been wonderful this season, a relentless, thrilling, honest leave-everything-on-the-pitch football force. I didn’t much like their manager, Klopp, when he first arrived in England. Now I’ve warmed to him. His team has been superb. As has he.

  Liverpool’s extraordinary win over an admittedly defensively pitiful Barcelona gave us one of the great soccer nights in decades. And there really is something very special about big European football nights at Anfield. When the fans sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ there, it is pure hair-standing-on-back-of-neck stuff. Even when I was a teenager, a passionate Leeds fans then as now, there was something special about Anfield on European football nights.

  I like and admire Spurs, but Liverpool have been a joyous rolling pleasure this season. After running Manchester City so close in the Premier League, few would begrudge them victory in the Champions League Final.

    

The Late Late: A-pealing as ever

So in this dream, two top TV executives fly in from the US (where else, for the purposes of this sarcastic piece?).

  They got down to business pretty quickly.

  “So, like we said in our email, you guys have the longest running chat show in the world! You guys are sitting on a phenomenon! Like we said, we gotta check this out! Thanks for meeting us!”

  Being some sort of an Independent guru in the television industry (in this dream), I spluttered: “Eh…you’re going to love it. Are you absolutely sure it’s this Friday night’s show you want to see?”

  The American guests were sure, they had flown in especially.

  The older guy reasoned: “We’ve had Carson, we’ve had Letterman, we’ve had Jimmy Kimmel, we’ve had Stephen Colbert, we’ve had James Corden…we need something new!”

  Sadly, there was time in my dream – just before I woke up – to proceed. And so it came to pass. The two American TV agents, with their big budgets and their desire to find out what was the secret behind the success of the world’s longest running chat show, sat in the Late Late Show studio.

  It was last Friday night. There was nothing I could do. It was too late.

  The executives watched, open-mouthed, when Ryan featured some ladies from the ICA demonstrating how to peel potatoes. 

  They steadied themselves a little when the ‘entertainment’ show then diversified into a discussion with a group of teenagers about exam pressures and such issues.

  I pretended to be asleep (well, I suppose I was) when the pregnant mannequin/robot was brought on to the set, and Ryan and two ‘midwives’ proceeded to deliver a ‘baby’.

  The American TV executives were more bewildered than angry. We had a drink afterwards.  

  “Exam students, old ladies peeling potatoes, a robot giving birth, I can’t understand it” the older guy said, shaking his head while enjoying his Guinness. “I don’t get this Late Late Show thing, I don’t know if we could possibly work with that template…”

  I did some thinking on the spot…I had just started to tell him about Daniel and Majella’s B&B roadshow when I woke up…

  

 

 

Lust, land and murder-most-foul in rural Ireland

 

 

 

It had everything…obsession, revenge, greed, grief, emotion, lust, land and money, all culminating in the brutal, cold and calculated slaying of what we now know was a much-loved gentleman, Bobby Ryan. However, in what has been described as the longest running murder trial in the history of the State, we found out that, during this multi-layered case, killer Patrick Quirke’s appalling act was not, as we first thought, committed as an out of character crime of passion, (or, in keeping with the drama, a crime passionnel), rather it was all about one man’s voracious appetite for craving and control.

  Throughout the compelling circumstantial evidence, we also learned that, unlike those notorious gangland murders occurring across the country that we read about here in our lovely Roscommon idyll, as the jury of six men and six women found the respected award winning farmer, financial investor and all-round-good egg Quirke guilty, the man now facing life behind bars was far removed from the hoodie-wearin’ gun-totin’ macho thug; rather he was a well-dressed,  middle-aged gent embroiled in what now appears to have been a seedy sex situation who harboured murderous thoughts, believing he could get away with committing the so-called perfect crime. Without being disrespectful to the memory of murder victim Bobby Ryan, this case bore all of the hallmarks of a Hollywood movie plot.

  Now, while I’m glad Mary Lowry is reportedly ‘in a new relationship,’ following what must have been her extremely distressing and mortifying ordeal, we must not fixate on the woman, whom, due to her illicit affair with murderer Quirke, was unfortunate enough to be the crucial witness on whom the whole case rested. She will, with a lot of soul-searching, and hopefully the support she needs, be able to move on.

  However, for wronged wife Imelda Quirke and murder victim Bobby Ryan’s family, whose unbearable loss may never leave them, I fear rebuilding their shattered lives will prove to be much more strenuous. During the trial, I admit, on a personal level, I felt a lot of sympathy for Imelda and I admired her for faithfully and loyally accompanying Quirke to court each day; for stoically standing by him, and for clearly loving him. (It wouldn’t have been me). It was evident that, as the thirteen weeks ticked by, and with each sordid revelation, the trial took its toll on this slightly built woman whose killer husband once described in a letter he sent to agony aunt Patricia Redlich, (which formed part of the evidence), as having been ‘a tremendous support and (who) loves me deeply’. Now while I don’t get it, I do understand that some women, (and some men too) can become infatuated with a ‘bad boy/girl,’ winding up in a match made in misery; and I hope Imelda can rebuild her life independent of her ruthless husband.

  We must also never forget Bobby Ryan or his grieving family; most especially his adult children Robert and Michelle  who are now left to try and pick up the remnants of their shattered lives following their dad’s horrific death at the hands an evil manipulator and his poisonous trail of ruination.  Quirke’s devious, cold-blooded and heinous crime will not only leave a stain on their lives, it’ll also leave a smear on the decent folk of Tipperary who do not deserve it, as well as on the landscape as a whole. I extend my deepest condolences to the family of Bobby Ryan who, despite being visibly tormented by the evidence, showed enormous dignity throughout the trial. I’ve no doubt their precious dad would have been proud of his children’s distinguished composure.

It must be said that at this time, lawyers for Quirke are allegedly considering grounds on which to launch an appeal.

 

What’s in your hea-ad Leo?

 

Well folks, it seems it wasn’t enough for An Taoiseach to leave us ‘spinning around’ with embarrassment following his now famous fawning letter to singer Kylie Minogue, where he enthused about how he’d love to welcome the pop icon to our Emerald Isle – because he’s only gone and done it again, and this time on the streets of Limerick where he dueted with young County Offaly busker James McKelvey during his rendition of The Cranberries’ classic Zombie!

  Out canvassing for votes, cool-dude head-boy Leo was joined on the streets of the Treaty City (and on vocals, doo-wop, doo-wop) by MEP Sean Kelly and Senators Maria Byrne and Kieran O’Donnell, and, looking painfully awkward, (in my opinion), in the course of only one chorus, our country’s leader managed to quash every single quality that might have made him even moderately desirable to voters – as well as being majorly distinguishable to other nations’ heads of state – as a hard-nosed skilled Taoiseach, capable of running our country.

  Now I don’t know about you folks, but from where I’m sitting, it appears that Leo’s team of spin doctors totally missed the mark, and I have to ask what was ‘in their hea-ads, in their hea-ads,’ because if last week’s busking shambles was evidence of their pathetic attempts to mould him into some affable bloke-next-door who gets up early in da morning so he can be down with da kids, they need to realise that this time, their plan has totally backfired.

  You see, by encouraging him to stop for an off-the-cuff, out-of-tune-croon, Leo’s out-of-touch handlers have turned our designer suit wearing man-boy/fan-boy from being a leader whom now, more than ever, (given Brexit), urgently needs to embody a confident, skilled and experienced negotiator, into a bungling self-conscious juvenile who looked (and acted) more like a reject dumped from some cheesy manufactured boyband!

  And so, in response to Mr. Varadkar’s comment where he praised busker James – telling him “You’re really good, and I don’t do bullshit” – I have to say, neither do I Leo love, and, bless you, you were woeful and are defo not my ‘golden buzzer’ act!

 

Rossies showcasing their very best

 

Congratulations to everyone involved in making last weekend’s annual Lamb Festival a huge success. Myself, himself and herself, (darling granddaughter) headed to our county town on the sunny Sunday for what was a great day’s entertainment, and marvelled at the delights and creativity of the local craft stalls housed in the town centre’s marquees, before heading along to the family fun day in Loughnaneane Park where we met lots of lovely locals manning (and womaning) the many information stands.

  One such delightful lady was Roscommon Town Tourist Information Group volunteer Cáitlin Browne (I hope I’ve got the spelling correct), with whom I had the pleasure of chatting as hubby wandered round the castle and granddaughter queued to take part in the soccer skills comp. (The queue was too long and she gave up in favour of going for lunch). Well done to the Tidy Towns’ committee who did an exemplary, and very difficult job of keeping the park litter-free, especially as I witnessed some adults, (not the kiddies), shamefully discarding rubbish on the grass.

  Now, as I’m a vegan, I did not partake of any of the food on offer, but I can appreciate the enormous efforts put in by the hard-working committee, the volunteers, the restaurants, the sponsors and the exhibitors, who all lovingly showcased our county town at its very best.

 

Letter from Spain: Climate change, Champions League…and craic

 

 

 

It’s Monday morning, and as I’m writing this, sitting at the kitchen table, it’s cloudy outside and I am thinking about global warming and climate change, and all that kind of stuff. I’m wondering what way they will affect our weather in the future – a future that my generation may not be around to see, but which our children and their children certainly will.

  Now the fact that it is cloudy outside on the Bank Holiday Monday would not normally register with me, but today I am on the east coast of Spain, in an area known as the Costa Blanca, where rain or cloudy conditions used to be very rare visitors. In all the years that we are coming here we have almost never seen a wet day…it would be a never-ending run of cloudless skies, glorious sunshine, and high temperatures, and if anyone went home as white as snow, well, it would be their own fault.

  And so last Tuesday night, as we took off from Dublin Airport, we wondered what kind of weather was in store for us. For the last few weeks curiosity had us keeping a close eye on the Spanish weather charts, and in truth it seemed to be raining almost non-stop over there.

  We had heard stories about beaches being almost washed away, and it was said that the Easter tourist trade was completely ruined. The taxi driver who collected us at the airport confirmed all that we had heard, but said the good news was that the worst was over and that all had settled back to normal.

  And as I write this, almost a week in, I can tell you that today is the first bit of cloud we have seen (it’s almost lifted now), temperatures are in the mid-20s (just ideal for us) and the sun will be back again in a few minutes. This is an area that relies entirely on sunshine to keep its thriving tourist trade alive, so any major weather change would cause enormous economic concern to the locals.

  Anyway, back to Dublin Airport, and as we finally got our place in the queue for taking off, we noticed a commotion at the front of the plane, where it transpired that a lady had taken ill. Credit to the Ryanair staff…it was all handled with total professionalism. We had to turn around and go back, and by the time we came to a halt, the ambulance had arrived, and medical personnel were on board in a matter of moments. After the usual examinations, the lady was brought off to hospital, and we later found out she had only fainted and will (please God) be fine.

  As for us, we took off ninety minutes late, but we were all glad to hear that the lady would be okay, and for an airline that gets a lot of bad press, I must say I was impressed with the way the staff handled it all, including, for a change, keeping us (the passengers) informed as to what was going on, and as to our possible departure time.

  The delay meant we were very late getting to Cabo Roig, and all we were fit for was bed. However, since then, we have caught up with the nightlife on the famous Strip, and I have to tell you tell you the craic is as good as ever, the Irish pubs are doing a roaring trade, and we have already bumped into a number of Rossies – and I’m sure we’ll meet a few more before we head back to the Emerald Isle.

 

‘Pool magic

 

Changing to sport, but staying in Spain, on Wednesday of last week I watched the Barcelona-Liverpool Champions League first leg semi-final in O’Riordan’s on the Strip – and it was a most interesting, enlightening and enjoyable experience.

  The place was absolutely wedged, but the support was just about even, with the Spanish supporting Barca, and a great Liverpudlian crowd supporting the Merseysiders. It lent itself to a great atmosphere. We were sitting beside five true Liverpool lads, and as the game went into the latter stages they were actually delighted with what was going on. Liverpool were by far the better team, and Lionel Messi had almost disappeared out of the game. And then the little magician woke up and turned the tie on its head with a couple of bits of Messi magic.

  When he scored his second and Barcelona’s third goal, to their eternal credit the Liverpool fans actually applauded. Funny enough, I thought Liverpool were the better side throughout, and I think they will score three or four in the home tie. The difficulty will be trying to keep Suarez and Messi scoreless, and that may be beyond them. But if I could put on a few bob (which you can’t do legally over here), I would have a little flutter on Liverpool. 

  By the time you read this on Thursday you will know how it went, and I will have to brave the large crowd again in O’Riordan’s, and maybe even drink a few pints of his good Guinness if I want to watch the second helping. It’s a tough life. 

Editor’s note: Frank’s column was submitted from Spain on Monday, as explained. Liverpool did score “three or four” – four actually – on Tuesday night, and they did keep Suarez and Messi scoreless. Frank’s flutter on Liverpool would have been a successful one. Well done Frank, and we trust that the atmosphere in O’Riordan’s was pretty special!

And finally…

Finally for this week, the excitement is building ahead of two big sporting occasions in Creggs on Saturday, 11th of May. We have the Junior Rugby Interprovincial game between Connacht and Munster at 2.30 pm on the fabulous new 4G pitch at The Green, with a number of our own Creggs players involved.

  Later that same day at 7 pm the big local football derby will take place – the Mountain versus the Valley in the Paul Devaney Memorial game at the GAA grounds. Both of these games are sure to draw huge crowds to the village, and if that wasn’t enough sport to keep you happy, the Heineken Rugby Cup Final between Leinster and Saracens is sandwiched in between. Sadly that is the day we return from our visit to the sun, so I might miss the lot of them. 

  Hopefully, however, you will be there, and if you come from either the Mountain or the Valley, bring your boots, (togs optional) and you might just become a local hero by scoring the winning goal or point. If you do either, you will be guaranteed free drink for an hour at least. As for me, I have a foot in both camps, so whoever wins will be okay by me!

 

Till next week, Bye from Spain!

 

Eugene McGee…the ultimate straight talker and one of the finest men I have ever met

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never was a column called ‘Straight Talking’ so aptly named, given this week’s subject, which is on the late Eugene McGee. Like so many people, I was shocked and saddened to hear of his passing as the news spread on Sunday morning last.

  In the days since the news broke it is amazing how many people have expressed such fond memories of the great man from Colmcille. I am certainly no different. He touched so many people’s lives in a positive way.

  Of course he will be primarily remembered as the man who steered Offaly to probably the most famous All-Ireland senior football final win of all time, in 1982. But he had so many more strings to his bow.

  I first met Eugene in the late 1970s when he was in charge of a famous and very successful UCD team that included our own Tony McManus. Tony often regaled us of fantastic stories of his coaching methods and no-nonsense approach, and how when you first met Eugene he appeared off-hand and gruff but once you got to know him he was anything but that.

  He was a man who was way ahead of his time in terms of his attitude and thinking. When local radio started in 1989, there were many people in the local newspaper industry who viewed this new form of media as a possible threat. However, Eugene was one who embraced the idea and was of the opinion that it would be a big addition to local communities. And of course he was proven right.

  As the Shannonside GAA commentator and reporter in those early days, I sought advice from Eugene many times. He was always so helpful and supportive. He was very quick to point out anything that he disagreed with too!

   But Eugene McGee was far more than a GAA coach and newspaper columnist. As the Editor of the Longford Leader (and for a period, the Cavan Leader) he was a tireless advocate for people in rural Ireland. He used his high profile to highlight many issues in terms of unemployment, emigration, health services, transport and infrastructure. He spared no-one in power if he thought they were selling rural Ireland short.

  He had a brilliant mind, whether it was to do with the GAA or other issues, but his dour demeanour meant that some people thought he was off-hand and gruff. But when you got to know Eugene you realised that the exact opposite was the case. He loved seeking out people’s views. In recent years we would chat on the telephone and it was clear that his passion on rural issues and his love affair with Gaelic football had never waned.

   In recent years, because he had some health issues, he was not as frequent a visitor to Croke Park as in former times. The last time I met Eugene was in Croke Park at the Roscommon v Dublin Super 8s match last year. He was in good form. We had a long chat about different issues, including blanket defences, club matches, Offaly football, Roscommon football, and whether Dublin would win the All-Ireland again. As we parted that day he said: “You know, it’s nice to be back here again”. He loved the big day – and especially the big day in Croke Park.

  He was a fearless GAA columnist and regularly lashed the GAA when he saw fit. In fact I remember at one stage there was talk about banning Eugene McGee from the Press Box in Croke Park because of the nature of some of his journalistic output. Thankfully sense prevailed. The criticism was coming from one of their own, a man who loved the GAA and who knew its positive impact on communities around the country.

  There are so many stories that I could tell about Eugene over the years, reflecting his blunt, straight talking way of going on.

  I recall one of the first Sundays since Shannonside had begun broadcasting, and on air was a presenter who didn’t really have a clue about sport. At one stage he read out the following: “And the latest score from Ballybofey is ‘Finn Harps 0, Longford Town one point’”.

  The phone rang immediately. It was Eugene McGee. He told the woman who answered in studio: “Would ya tell that bloody eejit that there’s no points in soccer?” – and immediately put the phone down.

   Another story much quoted in recent says is of Eugene’s comment on the morning of the All-Ireland final between Offaly and Kerry in 1982 when a journalist asked him how badly did the Offaly players want to win the match.

  He snapped back: “There are men in that dressing room who haven’t had a pint since last Wednesday night”.

  So many more of those stories about Eugene will be shared this week by those of us who were privileged to have known him.

  This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will do the ‘Darkness Into Light’ charity walk. Eugene McGee brought light and hope to many people throughout the country over the years.

  He was one of the finest men that I have met in my lifetime. An innovator, a deep thinker, a very intelligent, witty and caring man who spoke straight out as he saw it, and who never suffered fools in any walk of life. We won’t see the likes of him again. To Marian, Linda and Conor, I extend my deepest sympathy.

 

 

 

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