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Why are Brits obsessed with blustering Boris?

 

 

 

As the blustering, bumbling blond bombshell Boris Johnson measures up the windows for curtains and the floors for carpets at 10 Downing Street, I have to wonder if, like the US, ego-led politics has also become  the order of the day in the UK. I only ask because it appears that Britain, having been led, (kinda) by what appears to have been a steady and desperate-to-please  Theresa May, is now worryingly on course to elect the man who was once dumped from his job as a journalist with The Times newspaper for allegedly ‘fabricating quotes’. Now, given his colourful domestic life, (and bearing in mind he represents a party that continuously toots its family values horn), I’ve no doubt Boris will provide us columnists with plenty of attention-grabbing headlines. Meaning, while his tenure won’t be dull, it may certainly prove dangerous for those of us living on this side of the water. Then again, the philanderer-in-chief could unexpectedly prove to be our new BFF!

  Estranged from wifey number two, the man with more bounce than Zebedee (for younger readers, he’s the Jack in the box from The Magic Roundabout), has, as we know, recently become embroiled in a public domestic with his girlfriend. This incident has rendered the face of Brexit’s ‘leave’ campaign to become the subject of headlines after nosey curtain twitchers, sorry, concerned neighbours, upon hearing raised voices, had the presence of mind to record the row through their adjoining wall. They then dialled 999! For the record, nothing was found to be amiss. However, since the incident, the loved-up pair have spent every waking moment publicly pledging their love and devotion to each other. Pass the puke bucket please.

  So, due to all of the above, Ireland, indeed, the rest of Europe, has now become preoccupied with Boris and his domestic situation; much in the same way we’ve all  been caught up with Trump and his dalliances. Indeed, there’s not a day goes by that some social commentator is not moaning about self-serving opportunist Boris, his messy private life, and his unsuitability for the big job in the big house. And yet, despite all of the kerfuffle and the, let’s say, impropriety, with old BJ being alleged to have fathered a child, (possibly more), outside of marriage, with him both writing and saying some gravely offensive things about minorities, the man continues to remain strangely popular. In fact, only last week, even as it was reported that the Foreign Office managed to persuade the BBC to edit out a comment from a documentary where BJ, (come on, it’s short for Boris Johnson…keep up), allegedly dubbed the French as being “turds,” – très embarrassant – fans, who seem to eat up his tasteless tirades, were still supporting this tactless old Etonian toff. I must say that when pressed over his alleged vulgar remark, the PM-in-waiting did say he had “no recollection” of the comment. Comme c’est pratique! Then again, I’ll bet he won’t remember that, upon leaving his alma mater, when asked to document their aspirations in life, as some of Boris’ fellow students quoted poetry, the over-excited enfant terrible allegedly wrote that his dream was…wait for it…‘To secure more notches on my phallocratic phallus’.

  Mind you, word is that car maker Vauxhall, who has a French owner, and who gives employment to approximately one thousand Brits, are delaying a decision on building the new Astra until they see how Brexit is going. Clearly they’re not fans of blustering Boris. Now, as the situation is looking extremely serious with a no-deal scenario seeming likely, if I were BJ’s PR guru girlfriend, (in his dreams), and wanted to grace the halls of Downing Street, instead of smashing the crockery, (allegedly), I’d be advising him to stop sounding like he’s reading from a Father Ted script. I’d warn him to stop being a tabloid sensation, and urge him to get something for what could prove be a highly fatal case of foot-in-mouth disease. 

 

Vive la rainbow revolution…but let’s not ignore our most vulnerable and our voiceless!

 

Our country played host to its biggest and most colourful Pride parade last Saturday, the theme of which was Rainbow Revolution. I was delighted to see   members of An Garda Síochàna, Macra na Feirme and the GAA, as well as many senior politicians, making their debut appearances, as they stood loud, proud and in solidarity with their friends and families.

  The entire event instilled me with a wonderful noble and pure, live-and-let-live vibe; showcasing the bright and the beautiful side of our country.

  However, on the other side of the city, indeed, across the entire country, peaceful protests, attended by passionate and humane animal welfare advocates, were taking place in order to highlight the darker side of our society. I’m talking about the scandal that is our unscrupulous and cruel greyhound racing and coursing industry.

  Look, I’m not going to use my column as a soapbox to preach; regular readers know how much I adore and advocate for all animals and their welfare. However, I will say that, following RTE’s ground-breaking and heartbreaking documentary ‘Running for their Lives’ I’ve been approached by a great number of you caring Rossies, (including those admitting to enjoying the  ‘odd flutter on the dogs’) expressing their utter outrage and horror, telling me they were totally ignorant to the plight of some of our greyhounds.

  Now, scandalous and eye-opening though this expose was, sadly its content was not news to me. But this week, I have to do something I don’t often do, and that is congratulate RTE on a difficult but balanced job well done. In making this documentary, RTE has exposed the extensive and systemic brutality inflicted on these gentle creatures on a daily, often hourly basis. Indeed folks, the torture begins for these puppies the very second they’re born, with an astonishing 6,000 greyhounds inhumanely slaughtered annually for committing the simple crime of being too slow, with certain Irish, let’s call them, ‘enterprises,’ despicably terminating their lives for just €10 a dog.

  So, while The Good Country Index has ranked Ireland as being ‘among the most humane countries in the world,’ I’d have to wonder if they looked at the barbaric way in which we treat our vulnerable and our voiceless animals. When it comes to Irish greyhounds, it appears that despite the fact that the Greyhound Racing Act 2019, (signed into law last month) gives the Irish Greyhound Board, (IGB) greater powers to make regulations for the traceability of greyhounds, I fear that Ireland’s concept on animal welfare will forever remain pathetically poor. Putting in place any animal welfare act and not enforcing it and then acting shocked and outraged in public when cruelty is exposed, yet still supporting it and providing it with €16.8 million in taxpayers’ money, (this year alone), doesn’t showcase concern, rather it smacks of hypocrisy and culpability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chilling cruelty in our greyhound industry exposed

 

I have to say that generally I am not a man who watches television programmes that expose different types of abuses and wrongdoings, although I am aware that over the years RTE’s investigative reporters have exposed all types of corruption…involving everything from dishonest politicians to unregulated ESB environmental damage, to health care standards, to the misuse of steroids, to the over-prescription of tablets and so on.

  However, the other night I had the misfortune to tune into a programme investigating the treatment of underperforming greyhounds, and I can honestly tell you I have seldom been as disturbed as I was by what that hour of television revealed. Up to 6,000 greyhounds are killed each year in Ireland, just because they are of no further use, racing-wise.

  Footage of a knackery in Co. Wexford where a poor dog was shot in the head, and could be seen writhing on the ground for a few seconds after the barbaric act, chilled me to the bone.

  That was bad enough, but later we saw a greyhound thrown into a barrel of boiling water in China and being boiled alive. Whether or not that particular poor creature came from Ireland I don’t know, but the programme alleged that Irish greyhounds are ending up in China, a country we are not allowed to send our animals to, and where there is apparently absolutely no consideration shown to the animals, and where unspeakable cruelty seems to be the norm.

  Now I am well aware that we have loads of perfectly genuine greyhound trainers and owners out there who care properly for the animals’ welfare, but there are also unscrupulous people involved in the industry (as in everything) who just couldn’t care less.

  For me, as I’m sure for lots of viewers, this programme was highly disturbing. It was one that I didn’t really want to watch, yet I just couldn’t stop doing so. It truly proved that when it comes to barbaric and inhuman acts, the human population is hard to beat.

There’s almost a sting in this tale…

It’s summertime and in my opinion one of the nicest things about this time of year is the great stretch in the evenings. For huge numbers of people, it’s an opportunity to spend some quality time in the garden, and at least for a while we become experts on flowers, plants, greenfly, slugs, moss, and compost, and all kinds of things that make up a gardener’s life.

  Everything is vibrant. The roses and shrubs are in full bloom, and the hedge needs to be trimmed to keep it (sort of) tidy. The birds are singing, and, as they say, everything in the garden is rosy, and life couldn’t be better.

  And so it was on Wednesday of last week, when I was slaving (a definite lie) away at work, that my good wife Carol decided to trim the aforementioned hedge, got to work on it, and inadvertently disturbed a wasps’ nest. She was immediately surrounded by (according to her) hundreds of angry hornets, but thankfully she took off like a scalded cat and managed to make the safety of the house without receiving any stings. She also got our little miniature Jack Russell safely inside.

  Now there can scarcely be anything more terrifying than being attacked by a swarm of angry wasps, so when things settled down, we decided to have a look, and lo and behold, we discovered another nest just a bit further down the hedge. By now alarm bells were ringing, and we decided it was time to call in the experts, so I rang former St. Joseph’s footballer (don’t hold that against him) Alan O’Keeffe, proprietor of AOK Pest Control, and asked him to sort out the wasps for us.

  It is now Friday morning, I am once again slaving at work (another lie), and the good news is that Alan came, saw, and conquered, and we are now a wasp-free zone again. I can’t thank him enough for getting rid of those dangerous visitors, and Carol can now finish trimming the hedge.

  Now it’s easy to trivialise these things, but even though these nests were the size of an average bird’s one, we hadn’t noticed either of them. Alan told us one of them was there for quite some time, and had a huge amount of eggs, and he reckoned by September we would have been completely overrun – not a nice thought.

  All I can say is, keep your eyes open – obviously hedges are places of interest to these little pests.  Above all, remember they are extremely dangerous and will attack in numbers, so take no chances, call in the experts and get rid of them once and for all –and enjoy your garden for the rest of what will hopefully be a long, hot (not too hot) summer.

 

Centenary celebrations as legend Eddie
Kehir to guest

 

It’s hard to believe it now – when teams like Clann na nGael, St. Brigid’s and others dominate the club football scene in County Roscommon – but give or take a century ago, down the road in Donamon we had a team that won the County Senior Championship in 1918/19/20 and ’25.

  Oran’s Mikey Monaghan tells me they are having a Centenary Celebration this weekend for the team that achieved all those wonderful victories.

  In 1925, Donamon defeated Boyle Army Barracks – which was called the 3rd Infantry Battalion. A Battalion that still exists, it’s based in Kilkenny City, and accordingly Oran are playing the 3rd Infantry Battalion football team in Rockfield on Sunday next, 7th July at 1.30 pm.

  Now Mikey sent me loads of stuff about Donamon and Oran, material which would nearly take up a full book (now there’s a thought for you, Mikey). There were loads of names involved with those Donamon teams that kept cropping up with Oran teams through the years. Among the players that played back then were Stephen Keher, father of the legendary Kilkenny hurler, Eddie, and Stephen’s brother Bertie. Stephen was subsequently transferred to Kilkenny, where his son made such a name for himself, and is still regarded as one of the all-time greats of hurling. The good news is that Eddie Keher will be the Guest of Honour at Sunday’s proceedings. I wonder if Stephen had stayed in this area would Eddie have had the hurling career that he had? I suppose we’ll never know.

  Admission on Sunday is free, but a commemorative match programme will be on sale for only €5. After the game everyone is invited for a cup of tea and a chat, and from there on to Kenny’s in Rockfield, where a relation of my own, DJ Cush, will be providing the entertainment. Knowing some of the older Oran lads like I do, I can guarantee the craic will be ninety, so don’t forget, 1.30 pm on Sunday in Rockfield  – and I hope to see you all there.

Till next week, Bye for now!

Carers’ crisis: But do they care?

 

 

 

The role of the carer in our society has never been as important as it is now. The demographics show that our population is living longer, and as a consequence care of the elderly is becoming a bigger and bigger challenge for our society.

  A lot of carers look after elderly parents and relatives without a word of complaint. They want to do this work and they are saving the State a fortune. But there are people out there who want to stay in their own homes but who have nobody to look after them – and this is where there is a major problem.

  A couple of months ago the shortage of home help hours was highlighted in several parts of the country. While the evidence on the ground was damning, there was a blanket denial by Minister Simon Harris and his Junior Minister Jim Daly that there were any cutbacks, indeed any shortage. Either they are hoping this problem goes away or they are not on top of their brief.

  It goes without saying that it is far better to keep people in their own homes for as long as that can be achieved. The cost of doing so is a fraction of what it costs to keep people in acute hospitals and nursing homes. But that message doesn’t seem to be getting through to the Government or the HSE. I read this week where 146 people are awaiting home care packages in County Roscommon alone. That’s a lot of people to be affected.

   

  Minister Harris and Minister of State Daly are in total denial with regard to the reduction in home help hours when the HSE figures (and those above) show the true position.

  It’s a vicious circle. We have acute hospital beds being clogged up by elderly patients who are ready to be discharged but who cannot leave because if they return home there is no home care package available to help them survive and live independently.

  I was reading last week about an 81-year-old woman in Sligo who was discharged from hospital recently after a broken leg and life-saving surgery. Her home care package was 15 minutes per day! The most efficient home care worker in the world would hardly have taken off their coat before they would have to leave again. It just makes no sense at all.

  But it’s a symbol of the chaos in our health service at the moment and it would appear that there is no one able to sort it out. Last week we had people bringing in sandwiches to hospitals because support staff were on strike. We have a situation where there are 487 consultant vacancies throughout the country, and people wonder why there are hospital waiting lists.

  Yet, the home care situation is one that can be solved with extra staff and extra funding. Getting it right will actually save hundreds of millions of euro in the long run. Surely Simon Harris and his officials can solve this problem at least. We owe it to our elderly to try to ensure that they can stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Get it sorted now and stop pretending that there isn’t a problem there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Healy's week - July 5th

 

A waiting game…

“Both ends of Oscar Traynor Road will be closed…”

  That’s what the man on the radio said, but we didn’t really care!

  In fact, we wouldn’t have been too worried if aliens wearing Michael Healy-Rae replica caps and singing Daniel O’Donnell’s greatest hits had landed in the middle of Oscar Traynor Road.

  We didn’t want any more weather or traffic updates…just get on with the draw!

  It was Monday morning on RTE Radio’s flagship ‘Morning Ireland’ – and the waiting was no fun.

  The fourth round qualifier draw in the All-Ireland Football Championship was due. It would bring a little more clarity in terms of the likely make-up of Roscommon’s Super 8s’ group.

  It had been a long weekend. We watched Tyrone pretty much swat Kildare aside, followed by a typically dramatic Mayo show, our neighbours prevailing and avoiding Armagh-geddon. We enjoyed the hurling on Sunday, but the draw was always on our mind.

  Des signed off on The Sunday Game by reminding us that the draw would take place “during the sports bulletin” at 8.35 am. Sleep tight.

  I turned the radio on at 8.25 am. 8.35 am came and went. Ads. News headlines. Weather. Traffic.

  “Both ends of Oscar Traynor Road will be closed…”

  Both ends! Who cared! (Surely the great soccer man (Traynor) was not delaying the GAA from beyond the grave?). 8.36 am came. 8.38. This was too much, too tense, almost like that shower scene in Psycho…

  8.39 am, and finally Pauric Lodge introduces GAA President John Horan and our own Kevin McStay, the latter in to conduct the draw.

  More diversions then as Pauric and John chatted about topical GAA issues…as, across the country, players, managers and fans waited…waited…and waited.

  And we weren’t even in the draw – but we were more than interested observers. The draw would produce a roadmap, of sorts.

  Finally, white smoke…or blue and white smoke, or red and white smoke. Roscommon will kick off the Super 8s with Cavan or Tyrone at home in the Hyde. Followed by Dublin, then Cork or Laois.

  It was 8.46 am or so. On Morning Ireland, back to the news…but the day’s important work was done. The waiting was over, the speculation could start…

 

Tom fitted in well here…

I was very sorry to hear of the passing of the actor Tom Jordan. In recent years, the down to earth Fair City star was a familiar presence in Ballyleague, Roscommon and surrounds, having moved to these parts (with his wife, Julie) a number of years ago. And how well Tom fitted in here.

  When you met him, you inevitably thought of him as Charlie, because of his long-standing role as Charlie Kelly in Fair City. Tom/Charlie became a household name due to his role in the popular soap, but, over a long career, he had many more notable acting achievements, including a number of film roles.

  It’s only a year or so since I met Tom in the Shannonside studios, both of  us there for the ‘Review of the Week’ on the Joe Finnegan Show. He was very easy to talk to and seemed to love life ‘down the country’. A gentleman. He will be fondly remembered all over the country, as an actor of considerable note, and as the face of Fair City. And he will be very much missed in his adopted county of Roscommon. May he rest in peace. 

 

Yeah, right…

Former Justice Minister and all-round modest chap Alan Shatter was asked by Barry Egan (Sunday Independent) if his new book is “about settling scores or revenge?” He replied: “I have no interest in that”.

  The book is titled ‘Frenzy and Betrayal: The Anatomy of a Political Assassination’. The author is Alan Shatter. Mmnn!

  In any event, his book should be very interesting, as should Seamus Mallon’s recently published autobiography.

 

Revealed! How Roscommon ball
got into Kilkenny shop window…

 

In this column last week, I referred to seeing a ‘Roscommon football’ sitting proudly and prominently in the window of a quaint shop in Kilkenny.

  I was there the weekend before last for a family social occasion, and while on a walkabout with my brothers, we made the mysterious discovery! And mysterious it would remain (for then) because the premises was closed…and I couldn’t enquire.

  This week, thanks to feedback from readers, I’m delighted to report that the short-lived mystery has been solved.

  The shop is owned by a lady called Pauline Scully. Her late husband Tom was a well-known Clare man who worked as a cobbler in Kilkenny. The shop in question was famously called ‘The Heel Bar’. One of my sources says: “You could spend the day there talking hurling and football”.

  Padraig Leydon (ex-Kilkenny People), originally from Knockvicar and a huge Rossie fan, also confirmed that the shop is owned by Pauline Scully, and that she is an Athleague native.

  He wrote: “The Roscommon man who has the Roscommon football in the window in Kilkenny is Michael Crehan from Athleague who is living there with his sister, Pauline.

  “Pauline was married to a mighty Clare man, Tom Scully. Sadly Tom passed away some years ago and is buried in Athleague”.

  Padraig confirmed that Pauline and her late husband Tom ‘dressed’ their shop window for years with Clare and Roscommon GAA uppermost in their minds.

  He wrote: “For years that window has always supported Roscommon and Clare. At the moment the window is solely for the Rossies. Long may it last!”

 

* Many thanks to Cathal Brady in Elphin for his help in solving the mystery of the Roscommon ball in the Kilkenny window. Thanks also to Nigel and Padraig Leydon.

 

 

We teach them how to tie their shoelaces…but have we taught them how to empathise?

 

 

It was a murder that made absolutely no sense, nor did it hold any logic or coherence. An event so unprecedented in the history of the State, and hugely traumatic for the three families involved, it also proved to be sickeningly distressing for the entire country as a whole. How on earth could two 13-year-old children murder another child in such a predatory and brutal fashion? How could one of those murderers not only have 12,000 obscene and disgusting images downloaded onto two mobile phones, but how and why didn’t anybody know?

  Now, in a week filled with uproar and anger aimed at the lunacy of certain individuals who broke the law by illegally posting information online regarding the alleged identities of the two convicted teens, I have to say, given the sickening details of the case, I do understand why feelings are running high. However, let me stress that, in compliance with The Children Act 2001, the convicted must not be exposed to ‘avoidable intimidation, humiliation or distress’. So, rein it in folks and instead, hold the beautiful Ana Kriegel’s memory deep in your hearts, and please allow justice to take its natural course.

  It is for this reason, instead of keeping the spotlight on the two murderers and how the verdict will negatively affect their lives, (because I honestly don’t care about them), I’d like instead to keep a focus on their victim, the little lady who could have been anybody’s daughter. The vulnerable and much-adored child whose life these two so cruelly and so mercilessly terminated in order to satiate their own sickening perversions.

  Seemingly friendless and socially isolated from her peers, it’s clear that Ana’s parents loved their adopted daughter beyond words. Indeed, the Kreigals were enormously proud of their remarkably beautiful statuesque teen, whom we’ve learned was more mature and more sensitive than many of her contemporaries. Due to Ana’s unique qualities, I’d imagine that jealous, malicious bullies singled her out as being ‘strange’. Indeed, (in the words of one of the accused), Ana, who was just two years’ older than my own granddaughter, and, whom, like most young teens, loved to sing and dance, was sickeningly compartmentalised as being “a weirdo,” who wore “kind of slutty” clothes and “looked like she wanted people to look at her”.

  Well readers, these statements clearly indicate to me that, even in the face of evidence being stacked against the accused duo – indeed, proof, showing clear culpability – it’s obvious that bare-faced and blatant victim-blaming remained a constant undercurrent in this horrific crime. In short, Ana was viewed as not only being vulnerable, but as somehow deserving of her fate. To those who stole her life, this powerless, emotionally frail young lady was nothing more than an object. A thing to be sexually assaulted, brutally beaten and callously abandoned among a pile of discarded condom wrappers, broken bottles and other decaying pieces of filth.

   As a result of my psychology training, I know, and understand, that children who murder other children may themselves have been neglected, abused and/or have experienced a turbulent home life. However, I’m not suggesting whatsoever that this was the situation here. Indeed, let me stress, during this high profile case we heard how these two boys were ‘well-mannered’, coming from ‘normal’ middle-class families who’re held in high esteem. Of course there was nothing normal about the abuse and murder of Ana. 

  Truth be told, there was something distinctly barbaric and bloodthirsty in the method in which they not just robbed this child of her innocence, but also of her life. And, as information regarding the Gardaí’s interviews was released, it became clear that Ana was seen by her murderers as someone who was disposable, as someone without any friends, and, as someone they could reject, humiliate and finally, use as a target and an outlet for their sick, voracious and violent perversions.

  As parents, we play a vitally important role in teaching our kids to know and understand when they’ve been unkind and when they’ve hurt others. We have a duty to educate them how to have empathy. Tragically, it appears for those who bullied, brutalised and murdered Ana, this cognitive and compassionate emotion was not so much lacking, rather it was clearly missing altogether. Now this could mean that both boys experienced some sort of, (let me suggest) ‘mind sickness’ disturbingly diminishing their natural abilities to be humane and compassionate to a beautiful young girl who was desperate to fit in. Or it could mean that their parents, (who may well be good people), didn’t properly communicate their expectations regarding their kids’ moral development. Who knows? Either way, a child is dead and two children are incarcerated for her murder. I wish for Ana’s beautiful, gentle soul to rest in peace and for her parents to heal and recover from the trauma of their heart-breaking and intense loss. I’m also mindful of the acute distress this heinous crime has brought upon the convicted boys’ families and my thoughts are with all involved, (including the Gardaí), at this painful time.

 

Maura…make the most of  this fleeting opportunity at fame!

 

Toned, tanned, and on d’telly would be how I’d sum up the cast of Love Island! Now that’s without ever watching a single minute of a show whereby the contestants’ survival depends entirely on not just being part of a couple, but one that’s deemed by the viewing masses to be aesthetically appealing.

  Now let me say, I’d rather stick bamboo shoots up my nails than watch this type of tripe. However, given the constant media coverage of the participants, who’re all, by the way, remarkably endowed with impossibly perfect bodies, (nope, not a minger among them), I’ve been able to keep up to speed with the goings-on both in front of the cameras and, er, under the sheets.

  This leads me nicely to local-girl-from-small-town-made-good Maura Higgins, whose antics have generated quite a lot of personal snipes, dubbing her ‘a sexual predator’ and a ‘man eater,’ prompting some readers to stop me and ask about my own take on the Longford lovely.

  Now, as I don’t know Maura at all, it’d be impossible, (and wrong) of me to form an opinion of her based purely on that perilous popsicle-sucking incident. Oooh, me nerves! What I will do though, is offer her some motherly advice and say…feck the begrudgers love…you’re playing a blinder. Make the most of this fleeting opportunity at fame and don’t you dare melt into the background when this sham show’s bubble bursts. And, when the malicious hatemongers hawk their stories to the meeja, remember hon, you were placed in an artificial situation, indeed, manipulated for other people’s amusement, and, rather than sink into the scenery, you excelled and you did your family proud. Good on ya girl!

 

Why we need minimum pricing to tackle alcohol woes

 

 

One of the regular readers of this column often gently chides me over my occasional mention of Mikeen’s pub in Creggs, and of the social happenings that take place there. This man feels that I am promoting the use and abuse of alcohol, an accusation that I of course totally deny.

  Now I make no secret of the fact that I like an odd pint of the black stuff, and certainly hold the belief that a quiet pint now and again can actually be a good thing – for a number of different reasons. But I have for a good while now been completely against the modern culture of drinking cheap alcohol at home, a practice that I believe can lead to all kinds of problems, including mental health illness and domestic abuse. The ridiculously low prices that supermarkets charge for slabs of lager or beer, or even bottles of wine, has led to this massive increase in home drinking, and successive governments here have done nothing to tackle the problem, probably because of the huge tax revenue such sales generate.

  Over in Scotland, where there are 22 alcohol-related deaths every single week, in May of last year they introduced minimum pricing, targeting cheap high strength ciders, spirits and fortified wines, and already there has been a 3% drop in alcohol sales. Now you might say 3% isn’t a lot, but in human terms that alone would save just under 80 precious lives a year.

  In Scotland, where there is an average of 683 alcohol-related hospital admissions per week, there are, obviously, families, friends and communities who are also indirectly affected by such alcohol abuse, and I say well done to the Scottish Government for taking action. They are the first country to do so, and as a result alcohol sales were the lowest for twenty-five years, so come on you Irish politicians, follow their example and do something about this scourge in our society.

  At least any responsible publican will stop serving someone who is obviously intoxicated and send them on their way. There is no such restriction at home where you can drink yourself into oblivion if you want and nobody, except your family, knows or cares. It’s time to tackle the problem – and minimum pricing would be a start.

 

Slings and sparrows

 

One of the unwritten rules of nature, human and otherwise, is that a mother will always protect her young.

  This morning, as I sat at the kitchen table trying to do justice to the full Irish (which by the way I did), I saw a perfect example of a mother doing exactly that.

  In the cavity blocks on my shed out the back, a family of little sparrows have set up home. The chicks are still in the nest, and daddy and mammy sparrow are in and out all day bringing food to the babies.

  This morning, for some reason, a group of bigger birds – about ten in all – seemed to be attacking the nest, but every time a big bird came to the opening in the wall, the much smaller mammy sparrow (maybe it could have been daddy) literally flew into the attacker and sent it on its way. When I realised what was going on, I took a hand myself and got rid of them, hopefully for good.

  So far today they have not come back, so let’s hope the little bird’s heroism paid off, and the chicks will make it safely into the big bad world. As long as they keep away from our adjacent clothes line they will have a good chance of survival, but if they dirty the clothes, they had better watch out. Just in case you think I mean that, I’m only kidding, and I hope that my intervention, along with that of their parents, may help them have a long happy life, flying round the countryside. Yes, I’m a real man for the birds!

 

Should society protect identity of young killers?

 

Occasionally, even in a world where we are accustomed to terrible, unmentionable deeds, something happens that is so extremely violent and debased that it shocks normal society to the core. There can be no doubt that the murder of 14-year-old Ana Kriegel in a derelict house in Lucan just over a year ago is one of those events.

  The two accused boys have been found guilty of the heinous crime.

  I have to say that I am concerned about the law which prevents identifying young offenders. I appreciate of course that it is the law, but I for one would be in favour of that law being changed.

  It baffles me as to why children who commit murder should be protected. Many people will feel that children who kill are capable of consciously planning what they do. We have seen in other cases where convicted killers (children) are, on release, given new identities, set up in jobs, arguably never publicly associated with their crimes, etc.

  Obviously the law is as it is, and a key aim is to protect the children in question, but I would argue that there should be some exceptions to the rule. Many people will question why murderers, whether aged 13 or 30, should be treated with kid gloves, indeed treated with more sympathy than their victim(s).

  I happen to believe that teenagers, because of the influence of social media and the Internet, are every bit as educated as adults are, and therefore they should pay for their crimes the same as the rest of us. Maybe the biggest revelation came after the trial, when we were made aware of the fact that Boy A had two mobile phones with thousands of images of violent pornographic acts. It would seem to me that the widespread accessibility of such material by a 13-year-old also needs to be addressed.

  In the meantime, nothing can bring back young Ana, so all I can say is how sorry I am to her parents and other family members, and may she rest in peace.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, as a man who plays a little golf on Castlerea’s lovely course, I watched in wonder as a totally unknown Australian golfer, 22-year-old Hannah Green, won her first ever tournament – and a major at that – when she led the world’s top lady golfers from pillar to post.

  Even after three rounds nobody mentioned her anywhere as a potential winner, as everyone expected her to bow to the last-round pressure and wilt, but she held her nerve, played a flawless 18 holes and won the Major. I have to say it was a most uplifting win. Who knows, maybe there’s a Captain’s Prize in me yet.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

Deal or no deal, Boris will be bad for Ireland!

 

 

 

There has been a welcome break over the past month or six weeks in the blanket coverage of Brexit, but that is set to return when the new leader of the Conservative Party and new British Prime Minister is chosen in the next month.

  It would appear that Boris Johnson will be that person – and if that happens, then we are in for a rough time here in this country. It has nothing to do with any row that he is alleged to have had with his girlfriend, or his private life in general, it’s to do with the fact that he doesn’t care about or (even more worryingly) understand the situation in Ireland.

  Earlier this year I visited a part of England (not far from London) which is a Conservative Party heartland. The majority of people in this particular part of the UK are ‘well to do’. They send their kids to private schools, attend Royal Ascot and the Henley Regatta, etc. They are the polar opposite of people in the north of England who wanted the UK out of the EU because ‘the immigrants were taking all our jobs’ – but the affluent folk I encountered are equally anxious that they get out of the EU as fast as possible. And they couldn’t care less about Ireland.

  You may not believe this, but the majority of the people I spent a few days’ amongst believe that the UK is a major world power. They hate having to take instructions from “the Germans and French…and Brussels”. One man said to me: “How dare those Europeans come in here and tell us what to do, we are the UK”.

  Most people might laugh and dismiss that point of view, but Boris Johnson would not be too far removed from that type of thinking. A lot of people in the UK reckon that they will be far better off outside the EU and they couldn’t care less about what happens in Ireland or what the consequences of Brexit might be.

  The worry about the likely accession of Boris Johnson to the top job in the UK is that he is very much like Donald Trump, in that he is not a conviction politician. To my mind, Boris has no vision for the country at all. He will govern on the hoof, in the style of Trump.

  As in the case of Trump, it would appear that regardless of what accusations are made about Johnson’s private life, he will get away with it. His rival, Jeremy Hunt, is just too bland to be able to defeat him. Unless something very substantial and negative comes out about Johnson, then he is set for No. 10.

  The depressing reality for Ireland is that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal it will be a disaster for this country and our economy. At this stage that scenario is far more likely than unlikely. It is something that we should be worried about.

  I wouldn’t be the biggest fan of Leo Varadkar in the world, but looking at Trump, Boris Johnson, Putin and Macron – to name but a few – we are lucky here that we have a number of calm politicians running this country. However, it won’t make much difference if Prime Minister Boris Johnson pulls the plug on the EU – without a deal.

 

 

Networking, Boris, The Dubs and Kilkenny...

 

 

Crossed wires

All morning, I had thought my mobile phone might be playing up (turns out it was just a dire signal in Abbey Street).

  So I rang Vodafone, off the landline. The ‘computer’ gave me four options. I pressed button 2.

  A human answered. Completely forgetting that I pay by direct debit now, I ventured that the bill might be outstanding. That might explain why my texts were stubbornly refusing to budge. Had my service been cheekily suspended?

  The man excitedly switched me…back to the computer.

  The computer informed me that I owed €153. I was surprised, but went to make a credit card payment for the full amount.

  The computer waited while I keyed in the relevant numbers. Then the computer said ‘Sorry, technical difficulty’ and switched me back to a human.

  But not before I was on hold for two minutes, listening to some loud and silly music.

  A man came on the phone and asked me what the problem was. I explained that I thought I might owe a few bob, that the computer had informed me it was actually €153, that I had attempted to pay, and now an unexplained technical difficulty had arisen.

  The man, when faced with a problem, in the great tradition of men…switched me to a woman.

  On checking, the woman informed me that I in fact owed nothing…€53 (not €153) had been due by the 23rd, and it had been paid by direct debit. This was Monday, the 24th. That reminded me that I am on direct debit!

  Now I had the upperhand. “But the computer just tried to take €153 off me a few minutes ago”, I said to the woman. (I made it easy for her, adding that the computer had referred to technical difficulties).

  She saw an opening. “Well” she said, without missing a beat, “I know we had some technical difficulties earlier today…but I thought they had been resolved”.

  Mmnn. I asked if there was any fear of the payment (for €153, that I had stupidly tried to make) going through.

  “Oh no, that won’t happen” she answered, very quickly. “Not when it said ‘technical difficulties’”.

  So we’re sorted, I said, worn down by the numbing silliness of it all. “Yes” the woman answered, “have a nice morning”.

  I don’t know what became of the money-grabbing computer. Probably on a tea-break, scheming.

Having a laugh…

I know Brexit is a bit of a circus, I know Boris is…shall, we say, colourful…so I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

  But I just feel that our media sometimes adopts a sneering, disrespectful tone when interviewing UK guests about the ongoing chaos across the water.

  I mean, it’s one thing for the man and woman in the street to roll their eyes and express amusement/disdain over the ongoing Brexit saga, but a little more decorum and respect from some of our media personnel is surely desirable.

  After all, when Ireland was depicted in stereotypical ‘bejasus’ terms in Eastenders many years ago, there was uproar here. Likewise, we get very sensitive just about any time anyone across the Irish Sea says anything negative about us.

  Yet, respected media folk here think it’s okay when interviewing UK guests to scoff and poke at the likely rise of Boris and the ongoing Brexit drama. The excellent Jonathan Healy, by no means the only one prone to it (Pat Kenny and others too), couldn’t contain himself when interviewing former Tory Minister Edwina Currie on Tuesday. Our man in Newstalk was out of the traps straight away, letting Ms. Currie know just how farcical we think it all is. Boris was a buffoon, the Conservative leadership race was a circus, Boris as PM will have no business going back to Brussels looking for a new deal, etc.

  Maybe we should be a bit more respectful and allow our neighbours to sort out a party leadership race and ensuing Brexit process without bellylaughing in their faces?

Maybe I was dreaming…

 I hate it when the telly doesn’t work.

  When I turned the television on the other day, there was no sign of Marty Morrissey – or of Mary Kennedy either. I frantically channel-hopped, but the grim reality continued to manifest itself. There were programmes on about rural life, sport, house makeovers, gardens, reality shows, pets, music and culture – but not a single sign of Marty or Mary.

  I dropped the television into the TV repair man and he promised to investigate this extraordinary, inexplicable malfunction…

When you win 14 out of 15…

In extraordinary scenes, Dublin fans did not invade the pitch following their side’s er…thrilling Leinster Senior Football Final win on Sunday.

  Crowds of esctatic young (and not so young) Dublin fans did not rush from the sideline into the centre circle and joyously celebrate the nine-in-a-row. The referee did not have to wave them off, with furrowed brow.

  A GAA spokesperson said: “We can’t have this, we will be launching an immediate investigation”.

 

Who put the ball in the Kilkenny shop window?

 

Kilkenny is a great place to visit. 

  I was there on Friday night for a family social occasion, an informal one.

  The Marble City never lets you down. It crackles with atmosphere. The place was teeming with tourists. The streets are quaint, intimate, colourful. Everyone is friendly. Side streets hint at the prospect of more variety, more quirkiness. Everywhere you go, there are reminders of Kilkenny’s status as hurling royalty. Photographs, memorabilia, souvenirs, boys walking down the street with hurl and sliothar in hand, like we’ve sleepwalked into some sort of promotional GAA film.

  We had a nice bite to eat in the Langton House Hotel, followed by another stroll through the streets, then a night sampling the local bars. During our walk, a mysterious sighting: we were intrigued to spot, in a shop window, a ‘Roscommon football’ (pictured). It was the only football in that window; the shop was closed…the mystery remained unsolved. So, GAA-wise, the Cats and the Rossies ruled in the Marble City last Friday night.

  The pubs in Kilkenny are great…most of them are dark (as in dimly lit), character-filled, places which are rich in heritage, history, personality. Antiques and hurleys and odd things dangle from the walls. In one bar (‘The Field’) there’s a 16 foot long hurley hanging from the ceiling. Everywhere, there is music…live music…the city swaying to a welcoming, friendly beat. Locals, some of them with weather-beaten faces, others young and vibrant, mingle easily with delighted, captivated tourists in a flurry of talk, laughter and song. In one bar, a man who looked (and dressed, honestly) like Abraham Lincoln, provided great entertainment, with his guitar, good singing voice and ready banter.

  At the end of a longish night…a man looked like Mick Galwey, because he was Mick Galwey. The former Munster and Ireland rugby star was having a pint with friends. Chatting to him for a few minutes, I found Mick to be a modest gentleman (he confirmed he was well aware of Creggs RFC). Galwey, while the holder of an All-Ireland senior football medal with Kerry (1986), is actually resident in Kilkenny for over 20 years. 

  Next day (Saturday) I walked for ages through Kilkenny’s streets, browsing in a couple of book stores, a coffee here, a coffee there, and the mandatory walk to the impressive Kilkenny Castle grounds. There were tourists everywhere in this buzzing city.

  By 5.30 pm or so, the local musicians were beginning to ghost back into the bars with their guitar cases. The restaurants were getting busy. So-called ‘hens’ and ‘stags’ were getting ready to party. In our hotel, about a dozen Dublin men, ranging in age from 30-ish to 70-ish, were having great craic. A few checked the horses in The Star, as the rolling news on Sky Sports updated us on Boris Johnson’s not so private private life. The sun was shining on the Marble City. It was time for me to head to Roscommon, with a few books and a souvenir ‘Cats’ sliothar. Along the pavements, tourists rolled their suitcases towards hotel lobbies, and behind me, vibrant, friendly Kilkenny was ready for another busy Saturday night.

 

 

Cervical smear scandal is what happens when the ‘system’ puts cost over quality

 

 

Well folks, you know it’s a slow news week when stories like Trump’s mouthpiece Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ intention to vacate her role as White House Press Secretary and the great Irish ‘motor-insurance rip-off’ revelation generates surprise, speculation and debate among social commentators. I mean, you don’t need to be Mystic Meg to know the writing was on the wall for the woman who appeared to try and condition the public into thinking that journos are the enemy of the people. You also don’t need to be Einstein to know that, when it comes to motor insurance fees, this country’s practice and approach is a complete joke. It has long been documented that drivers, including me, are being hit with such preposterous premiums, it stood to reason the industry’s profits would sky-rocket from €16 million in 2016 to €227 million in 2017! So, no bombshell revelations there.

  However, what did shock me to the core was Dr. Gabriel Scally’s latest disturbing findings relating to the ongoing CervicalCheck controversy. You see, when Dr. Scally was initially brought on board to carry out a scoping inquiry into what went wrong with the health screening programme, he was told there were six laboratories involved in reading the slides. However, due to the Doc and his team’s excellent investigative skills, it has now transpired that a staggering sixteen laboratories were involved in the overall process. Now, worrying though this is, what’s actually more alarming is the fact that the HSE, the National Cancer Screening Programme and CervicalCheck allege they had absolutely no clue that this was going on! Really? How very odd! Now, while Dr. Scally did reassure us that he and his team “have not come across anything that would indicate to us that there are quality failures in any systematic way,” in relation to these previously undiscovered labs, as far as I’m concerned, that’s got to be cold comfort to the women unfortunate enough to be affected by this travesty.

  Look, as this stage, I want to urge readers to keep a focus on the fact that health screening programmes, while they’re not diagnostic, are both vital and lifesaving. Nonetheless, they’re only effective if a proper set of protocols are put in place. And I’m afraid,  it’s clear, given these disturbing findings, when it comes to women’s health in this country, in this particular instance those protocols were not in place, and not only was due diligence ignored, but safeguards appear to have also been totally disregarded. I mean, you only need to look at the fact that one lab, which allegedly tested over ninety thousand slides, was only accredited retrospectively. As it stands, I have very little confidence in a regime that enters a ‘shock-horror-please-pity-us. Sure-we-were-clueless. Those-deceitful-labs-never-disclosed-that-part-of-their-practice-was-to-outsource-work’ as some pathetic line of defence. The HSE bigwigs need to stop gambling with women’s health, and, instead of anchoring their decisions on cost, they should start focusing on quality.

  It stands to reason folks, if our so-called health service is tendering out work to organisations, the result of which can be a case of life or death, the absolute least they could do is know that this organisation’s personnel are up to scratch, can actually carry out the specific work they’re paying them for, that they know who these people are, and vitally, they know where they are. The women of Ireland have an absolute right to know three things…where our cervical smear slides are being sent, if the information we are being provided with is accurate, and that those tasked with providing that information can stand confidently over it.

Family homelessness is a plague that has spread nationwide

Well folks, it appears that family homelessness has hit an unprecedented high. And no, this is not just a big city epidemic; this is a plague so highly virulent, it has spread nationwide. This tells me that we are now witnessing a situation whereby our government is  tolerating a structure that sees families, (like yours and mine), being forced into leaving long-term rental accommodation because their private landlord has either moved on or changed his/her mind with regard to their property, etc.

  Now that’s not just my opinion. These are the findings of Focus Ireland, whose Director of Advocacy Mike Allen, while speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last week, revealed ‘the homelessness crisis is taking place in the private rented sector’.

  So, one minute you’re renting a beautiful house; one where you’ve lovingly decorated, and where you felt happy and secure enough to call it your home. Indeed, a haven where you’ve integrated yourself and your family into the friendly local community, where you’ve enrolled the kids in schools and established yourself in a job. Then suddenly, out of the blue, you get the call telling you to leave, rendering you terrified you’ll end up living on the side of the road.

   Now this is no fairy story folks, rather it is – tragically – the case for many hundreds of families whom, through no fault of their own, and whom, despite having a decent income, are unable, for various reasons, to get a mortgage. However, these families are able to afford to pay rent. Indeed, they not only religiously pay that rent on time; they lovingly take care of the landlord’s property as if it were their very own. Now I am not, and would not, tar all landlords with the same brush. As we know, while there are disreputable ones, there are also excellent decent ones spread right across this county. In fact our own landlord is a gentleman. But the sad fact for many renters, i.e. those who have been, and who currently are, in successful residencies, (and the Focus Ireland stats back this us), is that they can often find themselves left at the mercy of their landlord’s whims and are sometimes given insufficient notice to vacate a property. When this happens, not only are families/couples left without somewhere safe and secure to lay their heads, but their entire life also begins to fall apart. And, if a relocation means that jobs and school placements are put at risk, then the onset could mean a possible breakdown in an entire family’s mental health, wellbeing and structure. I tell ya folks, when this State places its citizens in a precarious situation where they cannot find a place to call home and where government policy is to ignore the desperate need to build houses, then it’s my opinion that we’ve not just lost the battle for a roof over our heads, we’ve catastrophically lost the entire war for our basic human rights. I don’t know about you readers, but for me, this is definitely not good enough. 

 

Up the Rossies!

The county is on a high this week, and it’s all down to the new Connacht champions and their spectacular second-half comeback! Comhghairdeas lads. You did yourselves and your county proud.

 

 

Black weekend for maroon men…but congrats to Roscommon!

 

For as long as I can remember, Monday has always been regarded as the most depressing day of the week, and as I sit at the kitchen table on this cold, wet, miserable June morning, I have to admit that this Monday certainly lives up to that reputation.

  For all of us who have the maroon and white blood of Galway flowing through our veins, this weekend was as demoralising and disappointing as any in living memory, with the hurlers bowing out of the Leinster Championship on Saturday night – after going down to the Dubs – to be followed by a pathetic footballing performance when losing to the Rossies in Salthill on Sunday.

  In fairness to the hurlers they owe us nothing, and apparently they went down, as they say, with their boots on in a super game of hurling, but sadly the footballers seemed to totally lose their way when a really strong Roscommon team put them under pressure.

  Now it goes without saying that all players go out to do their best, and sometimes when things start to go wrong it can be very hard to rectify matters, but I make no apology for saying that for a long time now I have had no faith in the football philosophy of the management team.

  ‘Negative’ and ‘defensive’ would be the two adjectives that I would use to describe the Galway set-up. Why they continually slow everything down and go backwards when in attack beats me, and on Sunday, even when down by two or three points towards the end, they still played to their so-called system, going sideways and back instead of going bald-headed for the scores they needed.

  The long ball which the Rossies used to great effect – although they too got loads of men behind the ball – could easily have yielded some dividends, although there can be no doubt that the better team won, and well done to Anthony Cunningham and his very committed men. I believe they will be very hard to beat in the Super 8s, and nobody will look forward to meeting them.

  As for Galway, they have a shot at redemption through the qualifiers, and I sincerely hope the management let them off the leash and encourage them to have a go. They have some decent footballers, although physically the wearers of the primrose and blue seemed to be much stronger and better built, and, maybe (although unlikely) they could still make it to the Super 8s.

  It is somewhat ironic also that the managers of the Dublin hurlers and Roscommon footballers are both highly regarded Galway men, but each of them has a job to do, and fair play to both of them for a job well done.  

  However, with all that being said, the real reason I’m depressed this morning is that I told everyone who would listen to me last week that Kilkenny and Wexford would draw, that Dublin would beat Galway and the Rossies would do the same – but I never put one cent on those results with the bookies.

  I am not a gambler as such, with a very occasional flutter only, but for some reason I never even thought of wagering a few bob and as a result I am thoroughly deflated this morning. It’s not often that I could beat the bookies, but this was a lost opportunity. The good (or bad) news is that I’m off to Kilbeggan Races later today, so maybe I’ll make up for missing out. I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.

 

On my tourism bucket list…

 

At the moment we are slap-bang in the middle of concert season, and acts like Elton John, Bon Jovi, Michael Buble, Metallica, and the Spice Girls, amongst others, have all performed in Ireland recently. One of our premier concert venues is Malahide Castle, where there are 270 acres of beautiful parkland, along of course with one of the oldest and most historic castles in the country.  

  A week or so ago I paid a visit to the castle, and just as with our own Forest Park, it really is a spectacular location, and a wonderful amenity to have in the area. The day I was there was one of the lovely summer days we had recently, and the park was packed with tourists…families having picnics, children, dogs, walkers, runners and cyclists, and the atmosphere was just so lovely and relaxing.

  The gardens are vast, and full of all kinds of exotic plants and flowers, and while I would be fairly lukewarm about such stuff, my wife Carol was totally immersed in all things horticultural, and I nearly had to call security to get her out of the gardens.

  The area where the concerts are held is really just a big open field with loads of room, and I’m told George Ezra is performing to a sold out crowd there on Friday night. Sadly I won’t be there, but I’m sure it will be a fantastic night in what is a fantastic venue. It’s funny how we can know so little about places. I was totally unaware that Malahide has an amazing beach, which sadly is not safe for swimmers, but great for walking or sun bathing, and that it’s a village full of interesting pubs and restaurants, as well as having the renowned Grand Hotel, where, while the pint of Guinness was €5.60, the opulent surroundings made it worth it.  Anyway, it made me realise that it’s no wonder this island gets so many tourists, as there are so many wonderful areas to visit, and so much beauty to see. In truth, even though we live here, a lot of us have never got to see most of our famous attractions.

  For me, the Giant’s Causeway remains on my bucket list, while closer to home I have never got to Clonmacnoise, The Hill of Tara, the Arigna Mine experience, or even Athlone Castle. Better get on my bike or time will pass me by, and I’ll leave this world with a lot still to see.

And finally…

Finally for this week, I have to admit that I have no interest whatsoever in the TV show Love Island, and have never watched it and never will. But I can’t avoid the major impact Longford girl Maura Higgins has made in her short time on the show.

  All the papers are reporting on complaints that the programme has received about her amorous advances towards Tommy, the brother of heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury, with hundreds of viewers unhappy with her allegedly predatory behaviour.

  Now correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what this show -– and other such reality shows – are all about? Hasn’t this programme the express aim of, as they say, finding love – and if there’s a bit of how’s your father thrown in that’s all the better (and certainly better for the ratings). I also seem to remember that our Longford lady laid her cards clearly on the table when she joined the show, by saying that she would do whatever it took to get her man, so it seems to me she is simply doing what she said she would. So what’s all the fuss about?

  However, I can tell you that no matter what comes down the line, I will not be tuning in. Give me Blue Bloods and Magnum P.I. any time.

 

Till next week, Bye for now!

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