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Drinking alcohol when pregnant…why risk it?

Pregnant women should make their own informed choices – but they need more support, understanding, information and education on this issue

Go anywhere in the world and tell people you’re Irish and they’ll fondly say things like “Aah Mrs Brown” – however, following last week’s staggering revelations that suggest nearly 80 per cent of Irish women expose their unborn babies to alcohol with around 45 per cent actually binge drinking during the first trimester, I imagine the next time I manage to go abroad and introduce myself as being a proud Irish mammy, the thorny subject of consuming alcohol while pregnant may raise its ugly head. 

 

  Now this could be due to a recent study, led by Dr Linda O’Keefe of Cambridge University and published in medical journal BMJ Open, which revealed that Irish mothers-to-be are more likely to drink than their counterparts in the neighbouring UK or far-flung Australia and New Zealand. In fact readers, our little country actually emerged with the highest rates of drinking at 90 per cent prior to getting pregnant and 82 per cent while actually being pregnant.

  Now I don’t know about you, but as someone who has twice given birth, I find these revelations worrying and I have to ask myself why this is happening. You see, while there are both medical and government guidelines designed to advise and educate women regarding the dangers of consuming alcohol during pregnancy, I wonder if they’re clear and concise enough to get the message across? I also wonder if different doctors are taking a somewhat more realistic and personal approach with their individual patients.

  You see, a few weeks ago TV presenter Maia Dunphy, whom I would regard as an intelligent mother-to-be, someone who is in the public domain, someone that women would look up to and someone who is excitingly expecting her first child with her hubby, comedian Johnny Vegas, got rather annoyed when people made comments regarding her taking an alcoholic drink during pregnancy, saying “I’m not taking heroin, I’m having one drink,” adding, “I’m not drinking drinking, but I’m probably having one or two drinks a week, like a glass of wine with Sunday lunch or a beer.” Hmm. Interesting.

  Now this comment took me by surprise because it came from a lady with brains to burn and who presented a documentary on RTE called ‘Merlot and Me,’ where she focused on her own relationship with alcohol and while my first thought was – why risk it love – my second was well now, Maia is not the type of woman to put her child at risk and I’m sure she’s sensibly consulted with her obstetrician. Maia is a responsible woman, who, like me, researches and analyses all of the facts before making a decision.

  Now, while I believe all mothers want to do what is right for their child, please don’t think I’m on an awareness crusade here. That’s Leo Varadkar’s job as Minister for Health and maybe he (and his Department) needs to up their game when it comes to educating women, because it seems they’re getting mixed messages; but, having done my own research (while pregnant), on the worrying effects of alcohol on an unborn, which can include heart defects, poor muscle tone and problems with movements and balance, learning difficulties, problems with thinking and speech, etc., and, despite my doctor at the time saying an odd glass of wine or beer was ok, I decided that if, as an expectant mother I couldn’t, for the sake of my precious unborn’s health, go on the dry and stick to sparkling water or fruit juice for the nine months, then it was utter thoughtlessness on my part.

  But I stress that was me and I abstained because, having also read further literature on the subject, I concluded that perhaps those few beers or glasses of wine may expose my babies to Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) because that aul gargle was going to travel down through my bloodstream and straight into my unborn babies’ tissues and organs, breaking down slowly in their fragile bodies, making their blood alcohol level increase, possibly rendering them harm and leading to lifelong, mild to severe damage. As I said, it was just a ‘risk’ but one I personally wasn’t prepared to take.

  Now I’m not campaigning for sainthood here because I actually do have a dirty little secret and it’s this…now that my child-bearing years are behind me I adore nothing more than winding down with a few drinks; I looovvvee my vodka, I looovvee my Jack Daniels, and, at this stage of my life, I’d imagine my official blood group is probably AB Smirnoff, but I have to stress that during both pregnancies, and even in the six months leading up to daughter No 2’s conception, not a drop of the hard stuff passed my lips. Swear to God! Oh, ok, I did have the odd swig out of the gripe water bottle. I didn’t say I was Mother Teresa!  

  However, while I believe tackling the consumption of alcohol in pregnancy is critical, I most certainly do not agree with some scaremongers who insist that drinking whilst pregnant should be declared a crime; nor do I believe humiliating, annoying or berating pregnant women is the way to go either. And, for the record I don’t support those who want to control the minimum price of a bottle of wine saying it’s the only way to achieve zero tolerance in pregnancy. 

  Instead I would strongly advocate for more support, understanding, information and education for parents-to-be, because let’s be honest, pregnant women should be afforded the right to make their own informed choices but they can only do this if they’re given all of the facts. I mean, c’mon, no mother wants to look at her precious new born infant knowing their future has been severely damaged by what was possibly her own irresponsible behaviour; now does she?

 

Paul Healy's Week

 

Any day

You collect the clutter, not thinking you’re collecting it – you’re just not throwing it away. How long are you meant to keep bank statements for, or indeed bills?

How long are you meant to keep documents relating to house insurance or the car for? Into folders they go…for when you need them again…when they’ll be easy to find and handy to have. Yeah, right. It never quite works out that way.

Then, when junk is being sorted, perhaps once a year – the big clear-out – the turmoil in your head as you wonder whether or not you should hold on to certain items. ‘We got that on holiday in such and such a place.’ ‘Keep that, it could come in useful.’ ‘There’s another part to that…I think it’s in the attic…we’ll keep it, just in case.’ ‘That would look nice in the hall.’ (No it wouldn’t).

So we keep the stuff, relentlessly building up the clutter, week on week, month on month, year on year. Not letting go, but perhaps demoting them…from the ‘good’ rooms to the lesser rooms to under the stairs and eventually to the shed. Keep the stuff, throw nothing away, in a way we’re saving money, aren’t we?

Then, the day inevitably comes when you ring up and order a skip – again. Hire the skip, pay for the skip, fling everything into the skip, including the paint cans with tiny quantities of paint, the bits of utterly useless timber, the broken toys and discarded lamps and ornaments. You keep filling the skip, you’re going well, and then… ‘Oh, look what I’ve found! Haven’t seen that in ages. Will we keep it…? It might come in useful some day…’

Sunday

So we were at a very enjoyable family Christening celebration, and then, at the appointed time, we tuned into Willie and Donie from Brewster Park.

The early updates were encouraging enough; then it got better and better, and by half-time Roscommon were in a great position, five points in front. Fermanagh started the second half well, but Roscommon steadied the ship.

Willie was sending greetings to listeners all over the world and Donie was tut-tutting about the referee; but Roscommon were on the cusp of a great championship statement of intent, because any win away to Ulster opposition in the championship is a superb afternoon’s work.

I left for seven or eight minutes to impart the good news of Roscommon’s healthy lead, returning to the radio just as Fermanagh were awarded a penalty. Or ‘not a penalty” as Donie would have it. (And replays that night on ‘The Sunday Game’ seemed to support Donie’s view).

Roscommon were leading 0-14 to 0-8, but Fermanagh converted the penalty and now we got that old familiar heart-in-the-mouth feeling. A run-of-the-mill story was turning into a drama.

Yet Roscommon steadied the ship again and led by five points with seven minutes remaining. Now drama turned to horror.

Listening to the final minutes on radio was like having a horror story read to you, where you know there’s a gruesome new twist waiting to be discovered on each turning page. As we willed time to move faster there was a sense of grim inevitability about events as Fermanagh relentlessly dismantled Roscommon’s lead, point by ruthless point.

We were in Paddy Finn’s in Kilteevan. Our pain was being shared in America, Australia, Asia and Europe. And in Keadue, Tulsk, Ballaghaderrren and Ballyforan. You could almost touch the shared sense of helplessness now linking Rossies all over the world.

Fermanagh just kept scoring, ripping our lead to shreds, undoing over an hour’s good work by Roscommon in a few minutes. Not even the clock would save a sinking Roscommon. When they levelled, we thought Roscommon can’t realistically win in extra-time, as all of the momentum has switched, and Fermanagh players and supporters know they have their prey trapped. But there would be no extra-time.

The suffering was brought to an abrupt end, with Fermanagh’s sixth point in eight minutes. It was an epic win for Fermanagh. We can’t deny that what unfolded is one of the very reasons why we are so attracted to sport. We congratulate Fermanagh on their victory.

For Roscommon, it’s been a rough championship ride in 2015, a season of heartbreak. But we’ve a fine young, developing team and there will be much better days ahead. In the meantime, anyone for cricket?

Monday evening

I popped back into the office for a moment at about 7 pm, checked my emails, and there it was, a statement confirming that Fine Gael Deputy Frank Feighan will not be contesting the next General Election.

Intentionally or otherwise, he made his announcement four years to the day since the fateful closure of Roscommon A&E. Notwithstanding my anger over the A&E closure and his misguided and ill-fated refusal to stand with the people of Roscommon at the time, my first thoughts were to feel some sympathy for Frank Feighan on a human level.

As I’ve often written before, Roscommon Hospital is, at the end of the day, all about the people – but there’s always been this utterly fascinating political dimension to it too, with the short-term ‘health’ of political parties locally and the fate of individual politicians in this county at the mercy of whatever twists and turns the saga takes.

While the Roscommon People campaigned aggressively on the hospital issue when the ‘war’ raged at its peak a few years ago, and while I’ve had my strong differences with Frank Feighan on the issue over that time, I believe it’s only right to express some sympathy for the Boyle man this week on both a human and a political level.

Feighan has talked a lot about standing by the Government and the country, yet he has now, to all intents and purposes, had to sacrifice his political career. He may end up in the Seanad in the future, but the cold truth is that a Dail career that might have continued for the next fifteen or even twenty years has come crashing down because of the Roscommon Hospital fall-out.

Frank Feighan has, in the end, paid a big political price. Consultant Liam McMullin told Health Minister Leo Varadkar that the people of Roscommon had been thrown to the wolves; in some respects, Feighan, who can take a fair share of the blame himself, has been thrown on the political scrapheap, ending up there because of the calamitous handling by his party of the A&E issue.

Leaving aside the premature ending of his Dail career, I also feel some sympathy for Frank Feighan this week on a personal, human level; the hospital war bruised him, isolated him and changed him. He must surely feel a weight off his shoulders this week. I hope he does.

All of this said, I haven’t changed my view that Frank Feighan could have done things differently; he made fateful decisions, he defended what I consider to be indefensible, and while one could acknowledge (admire is too strong a word) his loyalty to his party and to his own lonely position on the hospital, on every step of his journey since 2011 he was moving closer to his own political demise.

This journey-end was pretty much inevitable despite the fact that Feighan can undoubtedly point to having delivered on a series of projects to the benefit of County Roscommon and the wider constituency.

From the development of the marina at Lough Key, to the Ballaghaderreen Bypass, to funding for water and any number of other smaller projects, Feighan certainly got through a body of work. There was big investment for the hospital too. But his relentless claims that the hospital was safer – and busier – than ever before were met with scepticism by most people.

In the end, Feighan, for all his endeavour, could not shake off the shadows of 2011. Without question Frank Feighan part-authored his own downfall, but he was assisted by ghost-writers – two that spring to mind are Enda Kenny and James Reilly.

Had Feighan gone before the people, he probably would have lost his seat. He just could not shake the hospital ghost away. In reality, the decision not to contest the election was probably taken several months ago. That’s why, in 2014, FG HQ unearthed, groomed and continues to promote Cllr. Maura Hopkins as the Boyle man’s anointed successor.

I have no doubt that, contrary to the public pronouncements, this was not Frank Feighan’s decision alone. The ghost-writers who, in grim instalments these past four years, helped pen his downfall, also helped write his resignation letter.

Before the hospital war, Frank Feighan was a dream candidate for Fine Gael; personable, sociable, well-known, a vote-puller who, such was his popularity in North Roscommon particularly, could even attract support from Fianna Fail households.

When Hospital-gate happened, the political fortunes of Fine Gael’s dream team – Denis Naughten and Frank Feighan – dramatically changed.

Naughten is now an ex-Fine Gael TD and Feighan will be an ex-Fine TD within a matter of months. Fine Gael’s folly on the hospital destroyed the dream team just when it looked set to dominate Roscommon politics for a generation.

Something of an irony in this entire saga is the fact that Feighan hadn’t paid much attention to the hospital issue in the build-up to the 2011 General Election. Naughten was the top man on that issue and dealt with the HAC and with the Fine Gael health spokesperson, James Reilly. What subsequently unfolded when Reilly and Enda Kenny got into power is now history.

Naughten made the decision to resign; he could hardly have stayed, having made the running on the hospital issue and effectively drafted the letter which James Reilly so irresponsibly sent to the people of Roscommon.

Feighan made his own fateful call. Some will say there is merit in Feighan’s argument that he was better of “in government” working for the constituency than leaving Fine Gael over the hospital debacle. But ultimately Feighan could not escape from the hospital shadow.

The betrayal (by Fine Gael and Labour) over Roscommon Hospital had been too big. The hospital ghost stalked Feighan since 2011. The party could not contemplate Feighan going before the people (private FG polls indicated their best chance of winning a seat was with another candidate). Feighan had to be sacrificed.

Ultimately, the political dimension is interesting, even dramatic, a soap opera, a sport, real life too. But the hospital is about the people. The people were let down. The A&E closure should not have happened. It was a fiasco and a tragedy. Frank Feighan has paid his price.

I think, looking back, he was naïve and he was used. Also bruised by the war, and with an election imminent, the people of Roscommon wait to see if anyone will address the deficit on emergency services here. Who will stand up, in a meaningful way (not idle promises) for the people of Roscommon? We were thrown to the wolves, Liam McMullin said.

What political party or parties or individuals will save us from the wolves? And a word to ghost-writers everywhere; the people of Roscommon have long memories.

These pension payments are immoral!

I have to admit that when it comes to financial matters, even my own, I haven’t got a clue, and I can never figure out how businesses, even small ones, can keep track of all the things that make up their running costs, and how they can know whether they are making or losing money.

Things like staff wages, PRSI, money owed, in and out stock levels, and all kinds of things like insurance costs, phones, lighting, administration, all have to be taken into consideration, and there is no doubt that it requires a fair amount of business acumen to work everything out.

Taking all that on board, if we imagine that running a country is like running an enormous business, it’s obvious that to do so requires a huge amount of expertise, financial and otherwise, and you would think that we should have at least some of our top businessmen on board, even if only in an advisory capacity.

However, we have to put up with what we have, and so our TDs are generally a mix of all kinds of everything – and some of them are more or less pushed into positions for which they have no qualifications or relevant experience whatsoever.

The big consolation for all of them is that they will be well compensated in their retirement, but the level of compensation, in the form of their retirement packages, is bordering on the immoral.

We have any amount of ex-ministers who are taking home more than €100,00 a year, with the big two, Brian and Bertie, topping the list at almost €136,000 a year. That works out at more than €2,600 a week, and it’s hard to figure out how any business can afford to pay such massive pensions to anyone – never mind the two, especially The Great Bertie, who led the country into unprecedented poverty and hardship.

My old schoolmate, Dick Spring, is pocketing a handy €110,000 a year for his efforts, so if you want a big retirement package, get into politics. I am well aware that politicians, at every level, work hard while in office but, if you can get to the Dail at all, you’ll be well rewarded when you pack it in, or when the people pack you out.

I’m not going to comment on the Greek situation, except to say that I can’t see what difference the No vote makes – as far as I can see the country is still broke and, yes or no, they still have to get money somewhere.

Taking its toll

Talking about money, one of the most terrifying bills that we can get is the one from EFlow telling you that you didn’t pay your toll fee before 8 o’clock on the day of your journey, the toll fee can rise in stages to €152.60 for a single journey and you’d better pay up or else.

Well on today’s paper I am reading about one motorist who hasn’t paid up at all – he went through the M50 toll 1018 (one thousand and eighteen) times last year and never paid a penny. His eFlow bill now stands at more than €155,000!

If they could get that money in there would be enough to pay Bertie’s pension for next year! Get out there and collect it. I don’t know how he got away with it for so long, but I don’t think the ordinary two and sixpence would be allowed to carry on ignoring the fees without facing some legal action. I’d love to know who he (or she) is.

Have you heard of Leona Maguire?

Changing subjects entirely, and one of the most relaxing sports to watch on telly is golf.

Most weekends I take some time out to have a look at what’s going on in the golfing world. Yesterday evening (Sunday) after watching the Cats devour the Galway hurling challenge, in my opinion, at their ease, I was fiddling about with the remote control, when I suddenly found myself looking at the final couple of holes in the British Masters, being played at Denham in Buckinghamshire.

The only difference was that it was the Ladies Masters and so, despite the fact that our own Leona Maguire put in an amazing performance as an amateur player, in a professional competition, to take 2nd place in a top class field, there has been hardly any media coverage of her incredible achievement.

She was within a couple of inches of forcing a play-off for the title, but earlier today (I’m writing this on Monday), in an extensive review of sport over the weekend on RTE Radio her name was never even mentioned.

I can only imagine if it was Rory McIIroy, Shane Lowry, or any of our other male professional golfers, there would have been blanket coverage on their great efforts!

Leona’s effort, as an amateur player, was the outstanding sporting achievement of the weekend, but it hasn’t got a lot of recognition.

Herself and twin sister Lisa, are both students in Duke University in America, and despite her 2nd place in yesterday’s tournament, she had no plans to turn professional – I’m sure she will go pro some day, but for the moment I can only congratulate her on her great performance at the weekend.

Back to the hurling and I see that Anthony Cunningham told Brian Cody that he’d see him in the All-Ireland Final in September – as a Galway man I hope he does, but I fear it will only be as a spectator.

Staying with the sport, and last week I told you of the advice I had given Clare’s Shane O’Donnell – I’m delighted to say he must have taken it on board, as he scored a goal in their win over Offaly, and apparently had a superb game.

I see Clare have drawn Cork in the next round of the qualifiers so I’m sure I’ll be getting a call from young O’Donnell in the next day or two, to tell him how to put one over Jimmy Barry Murphy’s men.

And finally…

Finally, for this week, as a member of the Local Community Alert Scheme, twice in the last few days I have received texts to advise us of burglaries that have taken place in the Creggs-Ballygar area, and all over the country thieves seem to be busier than ever.

We have all read about the 100 head of cattle and sheep that were stolen in Co. Westmeath, while today I was listening to a heartbroken mother who was telling about the theft of her 13-year-old son’s entire collection of horseriding equipment.

The thieves took everything from boots to saddle, to horse box, and as the Co. Meath mother said, her 13-year-old had saved all his own money to buy these things – they were very special to him, and I suppose it shows how heartless these people are.

Anyway, it’s all around us, so keep your eyes open. ‘Till next week, Bye for now

I’m all about that base…no sculpting!

Show me a rugged he-man with a bit of meat on his loins and I’ll show you a very sexy Roscommon man!

This week, as many of my female friends are discussing, ok, embarrassingly drooling and clucking over Channing Tatum’s appearance and performance in Magic Mike XXL, it seems that I am the only one in the henhouse who hasn’t been rendered weak at the knees by this beefcake bonanza’s performance, or even felt the tiniest need to throw some balled-up Euro notes at the screen, meaning I remain entirely – well almost – immune to the himbo’s, ahem, front-loaded charms!

You see, due to already falling head over heels in lust with Mr Tatum in GI Joe The Rise of the Cobra and OMG, (steady now), Dear John – yep, you’ve got it in one, I’m a sucker for a military man – it’s safe to say, seeing Magic Mike XXL would just ruin the whole fantasy for me because, well, an oiled-up set of perfectly-defined abdominal muscles, bulging biceps and a pair of thrusting hips on a thong-wearing male stripper just don’t do it for me; even if they are on a filthy-rich Hollywood star…unless of course they’re covered in army fatigues.

Ok, I admit it, Magic Mike definitely looks hotter than that string-vested lump leaving his bum grooves all over your good sofa, but stay with me here girls and try to picture that Neanderthal when he’s scrubbed up and shaved on a Saturday night.

He’s wearing his best Chinos, smart open-necked cotton shirt, splashed on a dab of aftershave and not a sign of builder’s bum cleavage or protruding beer belly in sight and I’m willing to bet he’ll look half-human and sexier than that male stripper you’ve been lusting over, (well he will after you’ve downed a few swift ones).

I suppose what I’m trying to say – but am being very careful, as this is a highly-respected family newspaper – is that distractingly handsome, diamond-cut men with ripped, six-pack abs just don’t do it for me and I was genuinely surprised to discover that my mainly intelligent gal pals were lusting over a group of fake-tanned, much younger blokes, wearing barely-there undies while professing to buy similar skimpies for their middle aged, paunchy hubbies.

Now readers, like a lot of woman, I am definitely an enthusiast when it comes to the fine art and science of men’s bodies and undergarments, but how could I take the gorgeous he-who-worships-the-ground-I’m-going-under seriously if he suddenly breaks into a mesmerising body roll or gyrates, bumps and grinds his way across the bedroom floor whilst wearing a skimpy pair of satin knickers that chafe, bulge and sag every time he moves and he has to excuse himself in order to expel the offending item and prevent it from garrotting his person.

However, the same cannot be said for the thousands of Irish women who’ve been ogling the Chan Man’s on-stage attire.

Look, I’m sorry, but no woman, even those who buy season tickets to Magic Mike XXL, (and you know who you are), wants her man to wear a thong. Seriously, nobody needs to witness that disturbing sight and yet, since this movie was debuted, sales of ample bum coverage underpants have plummeted while sales of tiny man thongs have risen by 40 per cent! Incredible!

Go into any department store, (which I did last Saturday), and you’ll overdose on pretty satin thongs, bikini briefs, y-backs, stretchy G-strings, slip briefs with braces attached – I kid you not – and for an extra summer heatwave bonus, little Cupid heart shaped motifs have even been sewn on.

Then do a double-take ladies as you realise you’re in the MEN’s section! I want to know where traditional black cotton with a touch of Lycra boxer shorts that covers a man from his waist to his thigh, gives appropriate support and exudes masculinity have gone.

While I’m at it, what’s happened to the good old days of the ‘dad bod?’ The days when men weren’t fearful of having an aul cheat meal, or three, where they have confidence, where they strut that gut and own that slightly protruding belly on a hot summer’s day.

Seriously, show me a rugged he-man with a bit of meat on his loins and I’ll show you a very sexy Roscommon man!

Paul Healy's Week

Saturday

If Carlsberg did All-Ireland Football Championship 2nd round qualifiers….

Okay, so perhaps not; it wasn’t a classic, but it was an entertaining match and it was a beautiful evening. I

f you’ve ever dreaded going to a party, only for it to turn out to be a great night, you’ll have a sense of what it was like to experience the weather conditions in Cavan on Saturday evening.

We left Roscommon suitably untrusting of the skies, armed with coat and umbrella, only to discover as the evening went on that the sun would rule the skies. By this summer’s standards at least, it was a beautiful evening.

The pitch was in fabulous condition too. As for Kingspan Breffni Park, it has changed a lot since I used to report on games there in the late 1980s. It’s a nice, welcoming venue, and turning into a field of dreams for visiting Rossies.

We conceded a goal within 26 seconds but such early scores rarely worry me; early goals concentrate minds! Roscommon were on their game from the throw-in, and produced some fine scores.

I think they would have won regardless of the sending off that undoubtedly struck at the heart of Cavan’s chances. Roscommon were very much up for this and while there was some sloppy play, much of the performance was very impressive.

Scoring 3-17 against very respectable opponents speaks for itself. There were excellent performances from many players, including Cathal Cregg, Ultan Harney, David Keenan and Enda Smith.

Smith’s first goal was audacious – a calm finish after a surge from halfway – although the Cavan defence was a bit too accommodating. Substitute Diarmuid Murtagh was like a child who had finally been allowed into the playground.

On now to Brewster Park, expecting more of the same!

Monday

I like a bit of nostalgia, something which may be obvious from some of my previous columns.

Ah yes, I fondly remember getting all nostalgic in a column or two in the past…those were the days.

Anyways, I’ve seen a bit of the tennis from Wimbledon, but sadly I haven’t got time to sit in front of the telly for hours on end to enjoy what I don’t doubt is superb BBC coverage.

The bits I’ve seen have been gripping enough, but I couldn’t watch without thinking of Ille Nastase play-acting with ball-boys and umpire; being mischevious with the crowd; producing eccentric shots and helping staff/volunteers to cover the court when the rain came.

Nor could I watch without thinking of Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, a grunting Jimmy Connors or even ice-cool, charmless but eerily fascinating Ivan Lendl.

Most of all, I couldn’t watch without thinking of how, growing up in Rooskey, we were entranced, summer after summer, by the coolest of them all, Bjorn Borg, the sensational Swede who won five Wimbledon titles in a row.

In particular his games against John McEnroe were memorable, and McEnroe v Borg became one of the great sporting rivalries of all time. Maybe the only moral of the story is that we have far more time to watch television when we’re teenagers.

This Saturday

This coming Saturday (July 11) it will be four years to the day since Roscommon Accident & Emergency Unit closes its doors. The war was over.There were casualties everywhere.

Much of the focus was on the impact on local political careers, on the grim-faced HSE chiefs, on the broken promises and shallow excuses of Government ‘leaders,’ but the real victims were of course the public.

The anger has clearly dissipated to a degree as the years have gone by, but my own view remains the same now as it was then: this was a gross betrayal of the people by Enda Kenny and James Reilly.

It shouldn’t have happened, not then, not that way, at least not until contingency plans or an equal or better service were in place. Claims that the facility had to close because HIQA had deemed it unsafe have been utterly discredited. HIQA hadn’t even visited Roscommon A&E.

Claims relating to cardiac-related deaths in Roscommon have also been utterly discredited. We are dealing here with very accomplished and ruthless spin doctors. In 2011 Roscommon may not, strictly speaking, have been ‘safe’ by the standards now being insisted upon, but that argument is just a smokescreen.

If the political will was there, the safety issues could have been addressed. If James Reilly had any doubts about safety and Roscommon Hospital, why did he make cast-iron assurances to voters here before the 2011 General Election? If he didn’t know enough about services in Roscommon when he dispatched his letter, why didn’t he know enough? If he didn’t know, why did he persist in issuing the letter?

In any event, any safety shortcomings could have been addressed if the political will was there. And, needless to say, we have not got the superb ambulance service we were promised.

I am not going to fall into the trap of saying ‘I know there’s millions of euro being invested in the hospital and that’s welcome’ because, as long as we’re talking about emergency services, reference to other developments at the hospital is a distraction.

On emergency services, not only is the jury not out – there’s no need for a jury. What happened four years ago was a debacle. We were, in the words of Hospital Consultant Liam McMullin, “thrown to the wolves.” As we approach another General Election, I wait with interest to hear what Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Labour, Sinn Fein and others propose in respect of emergency services in Roscommon over the coming weeks.

John Joe, tragedy in Tunisia, Midsummer's Festival and Cavan game

 

Friday 

 

There is a certain magic to the words ‘John Joe Nerney.’

  There aren’t many people around who saw him in his prime but his legend is long established.

  By all accounts he was a highly accomplished footballer, and a remarkable athlete. He played club football from the 1930s to the 1970s, meaning he was lining out for Boyle when he was well into his fifties! He ran marathons into his sixties and continued to go on regular runs for many years more.

  Much decorated as a footballer, he went on to become President of Roscommon County Board and, like all involved in the All-Ireland winning teams of 1943 and ’44, he has a deserved place in the history books.

  Paying our respects in Boyle today, we met Tony Conboy, the great chronicler of Roscommon GAA, who confirmed that there are now just two players (Liam Gilmartin and Paddy Beisty) from that era who are still with us. Tony, of course, spoke glowingly of John Joe, whose passing is an emotional milestone for people in Boyle, Roscommon and beyond.  

  Sympathies to John Joe’s family. May he rest in peace.

 

Saturday

 

I like to try and keep this column pretty light-hearted, but there is no escaping the grim news that has shocked the county this weekend.

  The shocking deaths of Larry (‘Lonnie’) and Martina Hayes in the appalling terrorist attack in Tunisia was confirmed today.

  Martina (nee Kelly) was the youngest of eleven, born in Carrick, Kiltoom. All of her siblings live locally to this day, so it is fair to say that her family are deeply rooted in the community here.

  Indeed the Kelly family members are highly respected and popular, as, by all accounts, are the Hayes family members (Larry Hayes was from Garrycastle, near Athlone).

  The horrific murder of this unassuming, well-liked couple represents the first link (that I am aware of) between the sickening ‘modern terrorism’ and this county.

  ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) terrorism has impacted on an innocent family in South Roscommon.

  Our hearts go out to the victims’ daughter Sinead and extended family members.

  They are victims of actions that are barbaric and evil.

  They will know that they have the support and prayers of the people of Roscommon at this very difficult time.

 

Sunday

 

Roscommon town was hijacked (happily) by hat and boot wearing country music fans throughout Sunday – and what a day it was.

  We got to Roscommon Racecourse at around 2 o’clock for our first taste of the now annual ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars.’

  The huge number of cars, buses and camper vans was an immediate indication that there was a good crowd gathering.

  The weather stayed dry and the atmosphere was great as Ireland’s leading country acts – sixteen of them in all – took to the stage to entertain thousands of concert-goers.

  I had to leave for a little while so I missed a few of the acts, but I really enjoyed Jimmy Buckley, Lisa McHugh, Patrick Feeney and of course the headliner, Nathan Carter. Others raved about Mike Denver, Robert Mizzel and various other favourites.

  ‘Cowboy hats’ were the popular accessory of choice and it was notable (though not that surprising) to see huge number of young fans in the crowd.

  Country music, as promoter and concert MC Joe Finnegan said from the stage, is absolutely flying in Ireland just now, and these acts are packing out venues just about every night of the week.

  While I am reporting on the concert, I must say that the organisation was first class, and the success of the event underlines just how great an asset the racecourse is to the town and county.

  There were attractions for children, lots of food and drink available, magnificent stewarding, excellent free parking and a friendly Garda presence.

  Indeed the whole atmosphere on the day was friendly and good-humoured; this was a toe-tappin’ tonic for the town.

  Later, driving down Main Street, it was clear that the feelgood mood from the racecourse had been transferred to some local pubs, with country music revellers dancing on the streets and more cowboy hats in evidence than you’d see in a John Wayne classic. There seemed to be a particularly large number of country fans from Northern Ireland down for the concert and many of them stayed on to enjoy the Roscommon hospitality.  

  ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars’ was a great success and a very enjoyable experience. The fans loved every minute of it – and it was a timely boost to the local economy too.

  I’ll eat my (cowboy) hat if it doesn’t continue long into the future…

  

Next Saturday

 

Without doubt Roscommon is amongst the most GAA-obsessed places/one of the counties with the most passionate fans.

  Mayo’s have to be near or at the top of the tree; I would add in Cavan, where, as in Roscommon and Mayo, the hunger is fierce and the passion strong and unyielding.

  I know this, because I worked in Cavan for a few years (a long time ago), and, despite being starved of senior football success then – as now – the Cavan people seemed to live and breathe football.

  They weren’t slow about holding their under-performing footballers to account either; the older Cavan folk had seen truly great teams from the county and younger Cavan folk had grown up on stories of great men and great feats.

  As in Roscommon and Mayo…passionate people pining for past glories, always believing, whatever the ominous odds, in a return to the GAA’s top tier.

  I served my journalistic apprenticeship in Cavan and have fond memories of Breffni Park, a big, sprawling venue where Sunday afternoons can be mundane or magical.

  One Monday morning during my stint at the Cavan Leader (then run by Eugene McGee) I received a clear instruction to put together a few sentences on every single club game played on the previous Sunday. There were eleven. I made enquiries about all eleven matches, contacting club secretaries and PROs. In this era before mobile phones and the Internet (it was about 1988) I drew a complete blank on one game. It was Redhills versus Killygarry, I think (it was certainly Redhills).

  Desperate to please Mr. McGee, and with ten reports ‘in the can,’ I decided to cobble together two or three sentences ‘on the blind.’ (Well, it was a long time ago).

  Helpfully, the Irish Independent had published all the club results. The relevant one read something like ‘Killygarry 0-7 Redhills 0-0.’

  Knowing the previous form of both teams – but knowing nothing else about the game – I created two or three paragraphs.

  ‘Killygarry continued their winning ways….it’s a setback for Redhills….some fine points scored…Redhills will want to atone in their next game…humiliation for Redhills, who, uniquely in GAA, failed to score…’

  Being really clever, I headlined the ‘report’:

  ‘RED FACES FOR REDHILLS.’

  I suppose I will never meet the Irish Independent copy-taker who made the error. It was a misprint in the national paper. Redhills had scored 0-9, not 0-0.

  To add to my humiliation, Redhills GAA Club were running a Monster Draw (first prize was a car) and several club members were lined on Cavan’s Main Street the following morning, selling tickets and proudly standing beside the vehicle in question.

  I couldn’t even support their draw in the circumstances, given that I remained on the opposite side of the street.

  There are two conclusions to draw. Firstly, Redhills had (contrary to reports) a decent enough forward-line around 1988, and secondly, you really do need to check your facts as a journalist – and not make presumptions.

  Anyways, this Saturday Roscommon are off on that famous road to Cavan, on which the trick is not to get stuck behind a lorry.

  We travel to ‘Breffni’ to mix with the locals, great GAA people (especially the folk from Redhills) and with hopes high that John Evans and his team can rescue Roscommon’s season.

  Best of luck to Roscommon. 

Paul Healy's Week

 

Friday 

 

There is a certain magic to the words ‘John Joe Nerney.’

  There aren’t many people around who saw him in his prime but his legend is long established.

  By all accounts he was a highly accomplished footballer, and a remarkable athlete. He played club football from the 1930s to the 1970s, meaning he was lining out for Boyle when he was well into his fifties! He ran marathons into his sixties and continued to go on regular runs for many years more.

  Much decorated as a footballer, he went on to become President of Roscommon County Board and, like all involved in the All-Ireland winning teams of 1943 and ’44, he has a deserved place in the history books.

  Paying our respects in Boyle today, we met Tony Conboy, the great chronicler of Roscommon GAA, who confirmed that there are now just two players (Liam Gilmartin and Paddy Beisty) from that era who are still with us. Tony, of course, spoke glowingly of John Joe, whose passing is an emotional milestone for people in Boyle, Roscommon and beyond.  

  Sympathies to John Joe’s family. May he rest in peace.

 

Saturday

 

I like to try and keep this column pretty light-hearted, but there is no escaping the grim news that has shocked the county this weekend.

  The shocking deaths of Larry (‘Lonnie’) and Martina Hayes in the appalling terrorist attack in Tunisia was confirmed today.

  Martina (nee Kelly) was the youngest of eleven, born in Carrick, Kiltoom. All of her siblings live locally to this day, so it is fair to say that her family are deeply rooted in the community here.

  Indeed the Kelly family members are highly respected and popular, as, by all accounts, are the Hayes family members (Larry Hayes was from Garrycastle, near Athlone).

  The horrific murder of this unassuming, well-liked couple represents the first link (that I am aware of) between the sickening ‘modern terrorism’ and this county.

  ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) terrorism has impacted on an innocent family in South Roscommon.

  Our hearts go out to the victims’ daughter Sinead and extended family members.

  They are victims of actions that are barbaric and evil.

  They will know that they have the support and prayers of the people of Roscommon at this very difficult time.

 

Sunday

 

Roscommon town was hijacked (happily) by hat and boot wearing country music fans throughout Sunday – and what a day it was.

  We got to Roscommon Racecourse at around 2 o’clock for our first taste of the now annual ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars.’

  The huge number of cars, buses and camper vans was an immediate indication that there was a good crowd gathering.

  The weather stayed dry and the atmosphere was great as Ireland’s leading country acts – sixteen of them in all – took to the stage to entertain thousands of concert-goers.

  I had to leave for a little while so I missed a few of the acts, but I really enjoyed Jimmy Buckley, Lisa McHugh, Patrick Feeney and of course the headliner, Nathan Carter. Others raved about Mike Denver, Robert Mizzel and various other favourites.

  ‘Cowboy hats’ were the popular accessory of choice and it was notable (though not that surprising) to see huge number of young fans in the crowd.

  Country music, as promoter and concert MC Joe Finnegan said from the stage, is absolutely flying in Ireland just now, and these acts are packing out venues just about every night of the week.

  While I am reporting on the concert, I must say that the organisation was first class, and the success of the event underlines just how great an asset the racecourse is to the town and county.

  There were attractions for children, lots of food and drink available, magnificent stewarding, excellent free parking and a friendly Garda presence.

  Indeed the whole atmosphere on the day was friendly and good-humoured; this was a toe-tappin’ tonic for the town.

  Later, driving down Main Street, it was clear that the feelgood mood from the racecourse had been transferred to some local pubs, with country music revellers dancing on the streets and more cowboy hats in evidence than you’d see in a John Wayne classic. There seemed to be a particularly large number of country fans from Northern Ireland down for the concert and many of them stayed on to enjoy the Roscommon hospitality.  

  ‘Midsummer’s Day with the Stars’ was a great success and a very enjoyable experience. The fans loved every minute of it – and it was a timely boost to the local economy too.

  I’ll eat my (cowboy) hat if it doesn’t continue long into the future…

  

Next Saturday

 

Without doubt Roscommon is amongst the most GAA-obsessed places/one of the counties with the most passionate fans.

  Mayo’s have to be near or at the top of the tree; I would add in Cavan, where, as in Roscommon and Mayo, the hunger is fierce and the passion strong and unyielding.

  I know this, because I worked in Cavan for a few years (a long time ago), and, despite being starved of senior football success then – as now – the Cavan people seemed to live and breathe football.

  They weren’t slow about holding their under-performing footballers to account either; the older Cavan folk had seen truly great teams from the county and younger Cavan folk had grown up on stories of great men and great feats.

  As in Roscommon and Mayo…passionate people pining for past glories, always believing, whatever the ominous odds, in a return to the GAA’s top tier.

  I served my journalistic apprenticeship in Cavan and have fond memories of Breffni Park, a big, sprawling venue where Sunday afternoons can be mundane or magical.

  One Monday morning during my stint at the Cavan Leader (then run by Eugene McGee) I received a clear instruction to put together a few sentences on every single club game played on the previous Sunday. There were eleven. I made enquiries about all eleven matches, contacting club secretaries and PROs. In this era before mobile phones and the Internet (it was about 1988) I drew a complete blank on one game. It was Redhills versus Killygarry, I think (it was certainly Redhills).

  Desperate to please Mr. McGee, and with ten reports ‘in the can,’ I decided to cobble together two or three sentences ‘on the blind.’ (Well, it was a long time ago).

  Helpfully, the Irish Independent had published all the club results. The relevant one read something like ‘Killygarry 0-7 Redhills 0-0.’

  Knowing the previous form of both teams – but knowing nothing else about the game – I created two or three paragraphs.

  ‘Killygarry continued their winning ways….it’s a setback for Redhills….some fine points scored…Redhills will want to atone in their next game…humiliation for Redhills, who, uniquely in GAA, failed to score…’

  Being really clever, I headlined the ‘report’:

  ‘RED FACES FOR REDHILLS.’

  I suppose I will never meet the Irish Independent copy-taker who made the error. It was a misprint in the national paper. Redhills had scored 0-9, not 0-0.

  To add to my humiliation, Redhills GAA Club were running a Monster Draw (first prize was a car) and several club members were lined on Cavan’s Main Street the following morning, selling tickets and proudly standing beside the vehicle in question.

  I couldn’t even support their draw in the circumstances, given that I remained on the opposite side of the street.

  There are two conclusions to draw. Firstly, Redhills had (contrary to reports) a decent enough forward-line around 1988, and secondly, you really do need to check your facts as a journalist – and not make presumptions.

  Anyways, this Saturday Roscommon are off on that famous road to Cavan, on which the trick is not to get stuck behind a lorry.

  We travel to ‘Breffni’ to mix with the locals, great GAA people (especially the folk from Redhills) and with hopes high that John Evans and his team can rescue Roscommon’s season.

  Best of luck to Roscommon. 

Putting our children on ice is not the way to empower women!

With a nod to political correctness, creativity, innovation, and, I would imagine, a genuine attempt to demonstrate the need to improve business outcomes and corporate popularity by bringing more women into their fold, Intel is apparently considering offering to pay for its female employees to have their eggs frozen ‘as part of its retention and hiring strategy.’ How very futuristic of them!

  Well it’s already de rigueur among companies in Silicon Valley in the US with Facebook and Apple leading the trend so I suppose it was only a matter of time before it hit good old-fashioned, turf footin,’ (my new hobby), potato pickin’ Ireland.

  Now I don’t know about you readers, but in the past, when I’ve applied for a job I did it mainly because it was somewhere I wanted to work, my qualifications fit their specifications, it was close to home and, mostly because it paid well. Never, ever in any scenario, even a science fiction one (and I’m a huge Trekkie), did I think, yeah, I’d like to work for this organisation because they’re very kindly offering to provide me with an incentive scheme; a perk, if you like, where I can avail of the extremely intrusive, invasive, painful and personal procedure of having a medical specialist harvest and then freeze my eggs.

  Egg freezing (or for nerdy readers, oocyte cryopreservation), is an expensive medical procedure, costing approximately €16,000. It allows a woman to have her eggs harvested, stored and replanted into her uterus at a later stage in her life, when she feels she’s ready to have children. This could likely happen at a time when her fertility is at a stage where her age and perhaps medical circumstances may have prevented her becoming pregnant naturally; and, bear in mind, for anyone thinking of having this done, there is no cast-iron guarantee that when your eggs are implanted a pregnancy will occur. Are you with me so far?

  Now, according to Intel’s very capable vice president, Cork native Margaret Burgraff, “nothing is off the table,” when it comes to her employers becoming industry leaders in so-called ‘diversity hiring.’ Mind you Ms Burgraff quickly adds that she personally doesn’t want her “workplace involved” in her fertility. Smart woman. I fully agree with her.

  For me, as a working woman, the use of the term ‘diversity hiring,’ to describe my gender and to refer to what is actually the potential recruitment of 51 per cent of the population is flipping derogative, downright insulting and bloody sinister with the phrase womb raiding immediately springing to my mind. I mean, come on, in my opinion, any employer who dangles the offer of this procedure in front of any female employee is pushing the boundaries too far because they are effectively telling us that women are good…we like having women on our workforce, we embrace them; but mothers, nah, mothers are bad; they interfere with progress.

  Ok, look, I can see where the offer of this procedure could somewhat liberate career minded women from the shackles of wanting to get pregnant, putting blossoming careers on hold while they take maternity leave and then struggling to get back into their stride; and as a career minded woman/wife/mother myself, I can definitely relate to that line of thinking; but dear God, haven’t we got enough problems already without a sinister directive coming from our employers?

  I remember when I joyfully announced to work colleagues that I was pregnant with my second daughter following an 11-year gap after my first pregnancy 22 years’ ago.

  Now this was my choice, I was lucky enough to be able to plan both pregnancies and I empathise with those women who can’t. However, my then boss, a misogynist and himself a father of four, hit the roof. He ranted, raged and shouted at me that he’d thought I was “done with all that nonsense,” and announced he would be sending me to work in the “upstairs office, effective immediately because I am not having a pregnant woman on display in my organisation. It’s bad for business.” 

  As I said, that was 22 years’ ago and he wouldn’t get away with it now. I steadfastly refused to be shut away like a fairground freak and told him so by using some very colourful language. I also told him that if he pushed me I’d shame him by arriving into work each day wearing a sign that said ‘unclean’ dangling from my neck.

  I believe women need to make a decision to have their families based entirely on when it’s right for them – this is what I did – and not when it suits their boss. I also believe that Apple’s statement saying, “Apple cares deeply about our employees and their families, and we are always looking at new ways our health programmes can meet their needs,” when they launched their egg freezing incentive is particularly soulless and will lead to stripping their potential female workforce of the very assets that set them apart from their male colleagues. Bosses should be reforming work practices and policies to suit women not plotting and scheming how best to keep us chained to our cubicles.

Great hurling stories – then and now!

 

A long time ago, probably in the late 1970s, the Creggs Junior Hurling team, captained by its founder and probably sole selector, Ollie King, and backboned by such wonderful hurlers as myself and The Rasher, set the hurling world alight and qualified for the County Junior Final, where we came up against our near-neighbours Ballygar.

  In one of the greatest games – that bits a lie – ever seen (by at least 20 lucky supporters) the match ended in a welter of excitement, and the referee declared it a draw, and so it had to go to a replay, which was to take place on the following Sunday week. Unfortunately Creggs Rugby Club had an important league match on that Sunday and as there were six of us involved in both codes, in order to have a team, we had to find six hurlers as quickly as possible.

  The Rasher used his Clare connections, and so on the morning of the replay, as we headed off to Tuam for the rugby match, a well-packed car from Ennis was heading to Creggs. Six members of the very well-known family – the Beirnes from the Mountain – took to the field for that replay, and after another titanic struggle, the cup unfortunately headed off to Ballygar, thanks, if I remember correctly, to a super performance by Kilmore’s Seamus Kelly.

  One of the Beirnes from the Mountain turned out to be a certain Barry Smyth, who happened to be the centre-half back on the Clare senior hurling team of the time, and despite the disappointment of losing the Roscommon Junior Final he later had a very good intercounty career. Anyway, fast-forward to September 28th 2013, and Clare senior hurlers are crowned All-Ireland champions after an epic replay against Cork, and another young Ennis lad, Shane O’Donnell, becomes an overnight sensation and superstar when he scores 3-3 in that match.

  Last Saturday night my nephew Colm and Shane O’Donnell had a joint 21st Birthday Party in Ennis, and I had the pleasure of meeting and having a bit of a chat with the Clare hurler. They are playing Offaly in the qualifiers on next Saturday evening, and Davy Fitz only let him go to his own 21st on the condition that he didn’t drink, which he certainly didn’t, and it once again highlights the extraordinary sacrifices intercounty players have to make nowadays.

  Even though it’s two years since his All-Ireland heroics, the young O’Donnell was in serious demand for photos and selfies, but in fairness to him he handled every request with patience and good grace, and even though he didn’t actually say it, I got the feeling that he was very honoured to be in the company of another great hurler (that was me) who had almost won a Roscommon Junior medal.

  We had a great night in Ennis, and congrats to the two lads – I gave Shane a few tips as to how to improve his game so I look forward to seeing Clare play later on to see if he took my advice on board. Maybe if all goes well for him, Davy Fitz might find a place for me on his management team.

  Talking of management teams, the present Creggs one masterminded one of the great shocks on the local football front when last Saturday evening our lads beat a very strong Castlerea team in the O’Gara Cup by a point, 3-7 to 0-15. Well done to all the players and especially Gerry, the two Johns, and Steven – maybe at last the ghosts of 1983 can be laid to rest.

 

Summer Cabaret…

 

Back to stars and superstars, and in this locality Annette Griffin singer, harpist and TV star is as big as there is, and as I told you last week herself and John Staunton are presenting a Summer Cabaret Dinner & Show every Wednesday evening in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris, starting on Wednesday, 8th of July.

  There will be music, song, comedy, food and the summer line-up is amazing – Patrick Feeney, Brendan Shine, Tenor Sean Costello, John & Annette, The Riverdance Themed Turley Duggan Dance Academy and the fabulous comedian, Frank Forde, are some of the wonderful artists who will feature every Wednesday, along with the excellent House Band, ‘The McWilliam House Band’.

  The show, which starts at 9 pm (Dinner at 7.15 pm), is suitable for all ages and guarantees an unforgettable night of music, song, and dance. Dinner and show tickets are only €45, while the show itself is €25. Group discounts are available, and after the show you can dance the rest of the night away in Kavanagh’s Bar to the sound of Trevor Moyles. It sounds like a really exciting night out so make sure you hit for Claremorris on any (or every) Wednesday night till the month of September.

 

Palpable grief at

murder of locals

 

Monday morning here in Athlone is usually what I can only describe as fairly mundane and boring – nothing much happens until around midday, and if you get to talk to anyone it’ll be about the weather, the terrible telly programmes that are on during the summer, and, depending on whether or not the other person likes sport, the results of the major games that took place at the weekend.

  Today however, is very different and it is safe to say that Athlone is in a state of shock – the horrific murders of well-known local couple Larry and Martina Hayes in the massacre on the beach in Sousse, Tunisia on Friday, has cast a shadow over the midlands town and there is a palpable sense of grief and sadness all around the place.

  I didn’t know the Hayes family, but I do know Martina’s brother, Billy Kelly, and as I drove into work this morning I heard him being interviewed by Joe Finnegan from Shannonside Radio, and it was distressing to hear the hurt, pain, helplessness and anger in his voice.

  I suppose we look at the News and see all the terrible atrocities that are taking place in the name of some Islamic religion or other, all over the Middle East, and while we might be a bit perturbed, in reality we just shake our heads and think to ourselves “Thank God it’s over there”.

  Well, as and from last Friday that safety net is well and truly gone, and as Billy said this morning these people could literally strike anywhere, and no one anywhere is safe anymore – it’s a chilling thought, but we all now have to live with it.

  It’s ironic to think that any other time the whole town would be buzzing with the unbelieveable victory the Westmeath footballers had on Sunday, when, after well over a hundred years of trying, they finally managed to beat their neighbours Meath in a Senior Football Championship match. However, as laudable an achievement as it is, and any other time it certainly would be, today it doesn’t seem to matter very much, and, I suppose it puts everything into perspective. All I can do is express my sincere sympathy to the Hayes and Kelly families. May Larry and Martina rest in peace.

 

‘Till next week,

Bye for now 

    

Thin may be in – but being body positive’s where it’s at!

There is way too much pressure on women to be thin, says our columnist, who believes social media, for all its wonderful aspects, is having a negative effect, causing ‘an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents’…

In the materialistic, image-obsessed world we live in, there are so many negative impulses and influences on us to have the body beautiful – especially for us women, so it’s vital we listen to the important messages our bodies are sending us. I mean, it may seem obvious but I’m going to say it anyway…we should respond to our natural urges to eat when hungry and to stop when full. Simple isn’t it!

  However, sometimes, there is an overwhelming pressure to judge and compare ourselves to others. This begins when a slow desperation creeps in and, very often it becomes impossible to conquer. This desperation is all about insecurity, survival and the will to control our own destiny. How do I know? Been there, done that! This desperation can even lead to destructive impulses; the type that are felt by every person who has suffered from the debilitating and chronic effects of the illnesses known as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa; ailments that are becoming far more common, but, popular to what sufferers believe, do NOT, in any shape or form,  create the body beautiful. In fact they destroy it!

  I thought I’d address this issue in light of last week’s appalling headlines surrounding Zara Tindall (Britain’s Princess Anne’s daughter) who was lambasted by unkind critics for turning up at that over-hyped and highly privileged pomp fest Royal Ascot displaying what critics are calling a ‘mum tum.’ Now while I feel no solidarity whatsoever with the British Royal family I do feel so sorry for this young woman who was forced to defend herself, even rebutting rumours that she was ‘pregnant,’ just because her hip bones don’t protrude far enough to set off airline security scanners.

  It’s my opinion there is way too much pressure on women to be thin and this fact was highlighted  earlier this month when the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland Bodywhys said they saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of people contacting their services last year for help. 

  Now, for me, this would be a cause for concern because it’s my belief that anorexia and bulimia can strike anyone at any time; however, many sufferers will never admit to falling prey to this heartbreaking disorder because they’re afraid of its implications. Due to this, I would advise that the most important thing for those who are suffering is to understand that they’re not alone and to remember that as they are vibrant, valuable members of society; are daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, husbands, brothers mums and dads; people will understand and will want to help.

  I don’t have any medical training but research has led me to believe that in most cases of eating disorders, the sufferer has previously undergone difficult life experiences such as bullying or has possibly been through the untimely death of a loved one. These experiences are nearly always accompanied by feelings of depression and/or a compulsive obsessive disorder which is likely to be a contributing factor.

  I also understand the myth that anorexia sufferers hate their food is just that…a myth. Sufferers actually like their food but their bodies are the one thing they can have complete control over meaning their bodies and food become the enemy. As I said, just my understanding.

  There’s hardly a day goes by that my Facebook page isn’t showered with images shared by friends of some photo-shopped, perfect, fabulous, flawless yet impossibly skinny model which surely must cause psychological and negative effects to many women.  I know I feel distinctly dowdy, frumpy, ugly and old when I see them. And last week when I was uploading a group photo onto Facebook one of the women in it warned me – now didn’t ask me mind, she warned me – not to attempt to tag her in it unless I’d first ‘instagrammed’ her!

  Yes she’s become all kinds of obsessed with Instagram and has, along with my two daughters become part of its reported 300 million active monthly users. This meant contouring her jawline, widening and brightening her eyes, making her lips look fuller, altering her skin tone and doing God knows what else rendering her totally unrecognisable to the beautiful woman she actually is.   

  “Seriously?”  I asked; “sure if you want to look like that love, we’ll need a Genie in the camera not a filter system,” but hey, given what happened to poor, put-upon Royal, Zara Tindall when some happy snapper caught her belly at a bad angle; I suppose my friend had a point and as I’m one of the few people who do not subscribe to Instagram…no, what ya see is what ya get with me; I had to bow to her wishes and didn’t upload the pic.

  But look readers, it’s no secret that the big bad world of social media, wonderful though it is, and much as I love and embrace it, has actually caused an awful lot of anxiety for many, especially our susceptible, highly impressionable young adolescents; becoming a dominant, mostly positive but often negative force in their everyday lives with some allocating way too much time and putting way too much relevance on image-related activities in their desperate bid to self-objectify and reach their so-called perfect idyll.

  We would do well to take a leaf out of the unperturbed Zara Tindall’s book when she replied to those unkind harpies following the circulation of her unflattering photos, dismissing them with “I’m just a normal girl.”  Er, “Normal Girl” with millions in the bank sweetie. But nonetheless she’s a girlie who oozes self-belief and self-esteem and I for one, tip my tiara to her.

* For more information/help on eating disorders log onto www.bodywhys.ie or PH: 1890 200 444 or 01-2834963

 

 

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