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Our senior citizens have a right to live with dignity and pride – don’t isolate them!

Shocked by two very different deaths of elderly people in our country – and angered by the deficiencies within our society which they highlight – our columnist appeals to readers to look out for vulnerable family, friends and neighbours…

Few things shock me; maybe I’m becoming accustomed to bad news, I really hope that I’m not. However, last week’s sad news that a  lady in her 80s was found dead in her Wexford home, having lain undiscovered for a staggering two months, really took the wind out of my sails.

  To those neighbours, sorry ‘shocked neighbours,’ who clambered like rats off a sinking ship, and who fell over themselves to speak with the Irish Independent in an effort to garner some precious column inches with their pathetic, whiney and contemptible, “We didn’t really know too much about her. She is from Wexford County I believe. All I really know is that she had been living in the town for some time,” and “I know she doesn’t have any family in the area;” I have to say, shame on you; you’re a disgrace; you’ve got the collective compassion of a boiled beetroot.

  In fact readers, call me cruel and nasty if you like, but in my opinion, if humanity were a crime, these heartless neighbours’ faces would be top of our country’s ‘most wanted’ list; along with those of this poor lady’s family; if indeed she does have any still living – because you all left her desolate; depriving her of human contact and that fact alone had to have seriously psychologically and catastrophically affected her, especially in her final moments. Now look, we know that evolution has programmed us to mind our own business and let people get on with their lives and that’s grand; an individual is entitled to live alone and independently if they so choose; we are all entitled to privacy, but for God’s sake folks, couldn’t one neighbour/family member have exercised a shred of decency and kept even a discreet eye on this vulnerable lady?

            Couldn’t one of you have taken her for a little drive to the park to smell the flowers or called around and brought a drop of hot soup and a bunch of flowers? Would that have been such a bitter pill for even just one person in the community to have swallowed?

   I have to say, when writing this column, I did a bit of research and what I found has alarmed me. You see readers, according to statistics compiled (and based on our last Census), there are remarkably high levels of elderly people living in isolation in rural Ireland with County Roscommon, yes, us, recording some of the highest rates (in fact our county lists the second highest rate across Ireland), of people over the age of 65 living alone. Now folks, as you lift your third cup of skinny, non-fat, non-dairy (that’s me), decaf Latte to your freshly-glossed lips with your newly-manicured paws and excitedly compare Christmas shopping lists with your mates, know that somewhere nearby there’s an elderly gentleman or an elderly lady who has nobody to engage or share a joke or a hug with; let alone a cuppa…now isn’t that alarming?

  But nasty things don’t just happen to our senior citizens living in rural Ireland; oh no. Last week, you probably read about 37-year-old Dubliner Sabrina Cummins; described as “a murderer and brazen, hard-nosed liar,” by Mr Justice Tony Hunt, (I think you’re too polite, Your Honour) as he handed down a sentence that would see this vile individual caged for life for the murder of vulnerable pensioner Thomas Horan.  

            I won’t go into detail regarding the vicious torture that was visited upon this poor man, but his grisly, violent death once again drove home for me, the sheer neglect and disregard that we, as a nation, appear to have for our senior citizens who have, I think you will agree, just as much right to live with dignity and pride as the rest of us human beings!

  So, this week, I want to ask readers to reflect on the deaths of those two vulnerable, elderly people and spare a though for your own family, friends and neighbours who, although possibly in good physical health and appearing to be capable of taking care of themselves (for now), may, on the inside, yearn for some companionship, to just pick up the ‘phone and ask “Hi, how are you?” You never know, you too could also benefit from making that call.  

  After all, our senior citizens have contributed to their families, their communities and their country, meaning they’ll be well equipped with a vast repository of buried memories and interesting, tantalising tales that could entertain, enlighten and educate you; possibly even resulting in a valued mutual friendship for you both.

  So today, as the biting, cold weather and dark, lonely nights draw in, I want to say:

  Kids…yes, mine included, ring your mother and not just when you need me to write you a witty slogan or a promotional business blurb!

  Teenagers…stop fiddling with your body piercings and ring your Nana and Grandad, they would love to hear from you and I can guarantee, as a Nana myself, they’ll derive enormous pleasure from listening to your energetic stories. Also, remember teens, grandparents are non-judgemental, meaning they’ll offer you a soothing, caring ear and useful advice based on a lifetime of experience.  If readers are passing an elderly neighbour on the street, stop and say hello. Now I have to tell you a couple of weeks ago, while driving on the motorway, I noticed an elderly lady walking along the hard shoulder; carrying a shopping bag. I immediately slowed down, indicated, stopped my car, got out and walked after her to ask if she was okay and if I could offer her assistance or a lift somewhere…well she snapped the head clean off me, snarling (that) she walks that road every day and advised me to mind my own business. 

  I’d no choice but to leave her be, however, I was concerned for her safety and contacted the local police, telling them of my encounter and was surprised to hear, “ah yeah, that’s Mrs X, she walks that road every day into town and does her shopping, did she take the head off ya, she gets annoyed when people offer her help?” Well, while this feisty and independent senior lady is entitled to do her own thing, I’m still glad I stopped and checked up on her.

  So you see it’s not always straightforward but if you can, offer to help, offer to walk a dog or clean a gutter, secure a lock to a door or provide a drive to the doctor or company on a hospital visit; post a letter or contact a family member or just sit and chat and enjoy a cup of tea together.  When it comes to our elderly and vulnerable, if we fail to maintain the garden of friendship and humanity their dignity will simply wither and so, sadly will they; dying tragically, alone and scared, like that poor lady in Wexford or violently like that poor man in Dublin.

  As we enter the season of goodwill folks, if you do nothing else this winter and before another vulnerable senior citizen crumbles and dies alone, please try to recognise the signs and show them friendship and empathy. Cheers.

Resilient response to Paris atrocities shows that good can overcome evil

It’s a nice enough Monday morning after a wild (weather-wise) weekend but l suppose it’s understandable that there is no other story dominating world headlines more than the terrible atrocity that took place in the French Capital, Paris, on last Friday night.

Over 130 people were coldly and callously murdered as they went about their ordinary everyday business, by Islamic state suicide terrorists, while another 352 were injured, with almost one hundred of them being in a critical condition.

Without being a medical genius, it’s safe to assume that there will be another good few fatalities from those injuries, so a night out at such diverse things as a soccer match, and a rock concert, or just having a meal or a drink, was to end for so many people in unimaginable tragedy.

As an ordinary Joe Soap who is no expert on international conflicts, and who doesn’t really understand who is to blame for allowing such a thing to happen, the huge fear is that it seems almost impossible to prevent such a random series of attacks from taking place.

Up to now there seems to have been some misguided reasoning behind their attacks like the one on the offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, but the terrifying thing about Friday night’s massacre was the fact that everyone and anyone was a target – men, women or children, it made no difference.

However the big thing for us all is to carry on doing all the normal things that people do and it does appear as if the population of Paris is resilient, courageous and determined not to let the terrorists bring down their city.

It’s another example of good defying evil, and hopefully good will come out on top. All we can do is remember the dead and injured in our prayers.

‘Drama in the hall’

Changing subjects entirely and many years ago when I was a young lad, before the arrival of televisions and all other modern entertainment gadgets, people came up with all kinds of ways to amuse themselves and we can all remember different acts coming regularly to the local national schools.

Punch and Judy shows were always popular, and there were magicians, clowns, jugglers and comedians (some not so magical or funny) calling every month or two, and as children we would always look forward to the visits of the travelling snow people.

Out in the world inhabited by the adults, local halls played a huge part in providing entertainment for the parishioners, and, in my time, I can recall boxing tournaments, badminton, indoor soccer, concerts, fashion shows, dances, discos (not in my time), and parties of every kind taking place in our local St. Mary’s Kilbegnet Hall. And of course there was the drama.

Over the years many many top class productions have been put on on the Kilbegnet stage, most of which raised badly-needed funds for several worthy causes, and all of which were staged in front of packed houses.

And so I am delighted to tell you that on this Friday night (20th) the Kilbegnet drama group are staging a three-act play by AJ Stanley in Kilbegnet Hall with doors opening at 8 pm.

It’s a poignant moment for the local drama group, as its their first production since they were devastated by the recent very sad deaths of two of their most prominent members, Theresa O’Rourke and Maria Maloney, and I ask you all to get there early and support a very worthwhile local effort. You will not be disappointed!

Remembering road accident victims

Back to tragedy, and yesterday was the World Day of Remembrance for road traffic victims, and there was a memorial service held in a Dublin Church, as family members of those who had died gathered to remember their loved ones by placing a leaf bearing their name on a tree of remembrance, and by placing a candle on the altar.

Each week some new families are left distraught and heartbroken by the tragic death of a family member in a road accident, and only last week we saw two young lady drivers, a male driver and a male cyclist, all killed in horrific crashes.

I don’t think any family, or indeed communities, ever forget or get over the effects of road traffic deaths, and one of the major factors in such accidents is excessive speed. I have many faults as a driver (or so I’m told), but speeding is not one of them, and, if anything, I am told that I go too slow.

And so this morning I conducted a little experiment on my way to work in Lynn Antiques in Athlone, and I was surprised at the results. I decided to stick rigidly to the 100 km speed limit and waited to see how many cars would pass me.

I eventually felt like the Pied Piper, with a long line of cars behind me, something I actually hate, and even though they had loads of chances to do so, believe it or not, only one driver sped by me.

And even that’s not fair, because having got past me, whoever it was didn’t put down the boot, but stayed just slightly ahead of me. Now it doesn’t prove anything, but at least this morning, motorists were obeying the speed limits, and let’s hope they continue to do so all the time, and especially, over the Christmas period.

From antiques to technological era…

The big news, before I finish up, is that today’s piece marks my first ever email, and so it’s a historic day for me (definitely worth a Christmas Party) and even more so for Serena, Martha and Martina and all the others who have had to try to decipher my scribbles over the last six years.

As I’m doing it on my new shop tablet, I have to thank Lynn Antiques for bringing me into the technological era. I don’t mean any of that last bit, but I don’t know how to clear this yoke yet, so I’m sure they’ll read this, but they can’t give out to me, as I’ve mentioned them twice.

* (This email breakthrough is truly a media milestone, a historic day – on behalf of all in the Roscommon People, thanks for making the move, Frank! – Editor).

And finally…

Finally for this week its hard to believe it, but on Saturday, 28th of November the launch of the 21st Barrie Harris Walk takes place in Mikeen Roarke’s in Creggs when the sponsorship cards will be given out.

Everyone who reads my piece will know how important the walk is for raising funds for very many charities so let you all come to Mikeen’s, get your cards, and raise as much money as you can. I will fill you in next week, so, from my first email…

‘Till next week,

Bye for now

Purging the putrid infection of domestic violence in Irish families

Breaking the cycle and exposing abusers is the only way to purge the putrid infection that is the brutal, cowardly, sick, perverted thug who somehow gets off on terrorising his/her entire family…

This country is failing victims of domestic violence; that’s according to UCC academic Dr Louise Crowley. Now why am I not surprised? I mean, with a lack of an early intervention system being put in place where abusers could at least address and tackle their appalling and vile behaviour towards vulnerable family members, and with a staggering revelation that, during research carried out with Cork group Men Overcoming Violence (MOVE) which aims to support the safety of those experiencing domestic violence, Dr Crowley shockingly discovered that around fifty of the participants involved in the Cork programme had never even made a court appearance, meaning they escaped any form of punishment rendering them freely available and capable of reoffending, again and again and again, if they so choose. This leads me to ask – has domestic abuse reached epidemic proportions in Ireland?

  The sad facts relating to domestic violence in this country were driven home to everyone last Friday during University College Cork’s School of Law’s international conference where it was also revealed by Safe Ireland that, on average, their services receive a crisis call every twelve minutes. Now please just stop and think about that readers…every twelve minutes a woman in this country is in fear for her own life and for that of the lives of her children.  Shocking! Unacceptable! Terrifying!

  Now I don’t know about you folks, but I can do a lot in twelve minutes. In twelve minutes I can re-touch my roots, make myself a coffee and scan the news headlines, I can have a smear test or a mammogram – I mean, it’s probably the length of an episode of ‘Modern Family,’ without the commercials; and yet, for some women; our mothers, our sisters, our neighbours, our work colleagues and our friends, an intolerable existence spent cowering in their own homes means surviving through unmitigated misery.

  Women who, behind closed doors, are regularly left staggering, bloodied and breathless; scared for their lives. Women who are just about able to manage to register the sound of their broken hearts beating as it ferociously pumps fresh blood past their ringing ears; women who organise their thoughts long enough to engage their uncomprehending brains to render them emotionally capable to become brave enough to dial for the help that they so desperately and richly deserve, but help that will sadly, tragically, shamefully, fail to arrive.

  Now I don’t mean help from the likes of those brilliant agencies like Safe Ireland, agencies who provide valuable counselling, information, advice, advocacy, hand holding and support because that’s available. Thank God for these angels of mercy. What I mean is the type of help they need from our State agencies; our Government.

  Recently our entire nation mourned the cowardly shooting of unarmed hero Garda Tony Golden who was murdered as he went to the aid of a young woman who was the victim of domestic violence.

  Four months ago North Dublin woman Emma Murphy, complete with black eye and tears of terror, sat at the foot of her stairs and revealed to the world in a 38-second video which went viral, her family’s dark secret; she was the victim of domestic violence. In those 38 seconds, Emma became a survivor and a beacon of hope for the courageous 46,100 women who, in 2014, had daringly picked up the ‘phone and begged for help.

  At the time, Emma’s partner, now former partner, admitted to pushing her, pathetically explaining, “I lost the head and basically pushed her straight in the face. I shoved her in the face. It was a real forceful shove in the face. It was pretty violent and there’s no excuse at all and I’m extremely sorry for that.” He’s got no excuse but hey, he’s sorry; well that makes it all honky dory then doesn’t it mate!

  Let me say for those abusers with a short fuse who think it’s acceptable to violently push a woman in the face…the situation is now shifting lads; women like Emma – brave, strong, exceptional women – will not and should not be content to sit and suffer in silence. 

  There is no shame to being a victim of domestic abuse; there is no shame to publicly expose broken promises and tattered lives that have lain buried deep inside your family’s flesh like a rotting splinter…no shame whatsoever. Breaking the cycle and exposing abusers is the only way to purge the putrid infection that is the brutal, cowardly, sick, perverted thug who somehow gets off on terrorising his/her entire family, thinking a piteous apology afterwards will suffice.

  And yes, I did write his/her because I do know that men can be victims of domestic violence, although the incidences of this are far fewer than they are for women, however, they should never be overlooked and help needs to be widely and freely available for all sufferers.

  Those who prey on their partners and children must be outed and disgraced, charged and convicted in a court of law and I want to say to them that in my opinion, as a wife, mother, grandmother and human being that those who abuse are nothing short of cowardly predators who hold family members, (again mainly women and children), captive through their warped physical, sexual, financial and emotional violation. In fact, as hunters and destroyers, abusers couldn’t be more predatory if they had a set of claws and razor-sharp teeth. 

  Those of you who exploit your families and loved ones leave not just the physical scars of abuse; the black eyes, the bite marks, the bruises and the deep, bloody cuts but also the psychological scars; the scars not so easily recognisable but that are still discernable to those who are in tune and who empathise with your prey. Never forget there are those who can sense and feel your victims’ pain emanating from them like heat from a red-hot furnace; who can, following a short conversation during a fleeting meeting at the supermarket, quickly cop on to their nervous twitch, their ever scanning eyes and their pitiful lowered voices that your victim thinks she’s kept well hidden; but that, to the experienced eye and ear, has only served to form a network of trauma, dotted in deep crevices across their psyche. Trauma that is so normal to them, trauma they’ve lived with for so long, they didn’t even realise they’d become a casualty of the war being fought in their own sitting rooms.

  As Dr Crowley and her team, and those at Safe Ireland and agencies like them continue to carry out their excellent research and work and as the conference comes to a close, discussions about domestic violence in this country should not cease. This type of thuggery and abuse is a deeply rooted insidious problem in good Catholic Ireland; in fact, when looking at the stats, it could be said domestic abuse has catastrophically become part of our culture. Tragic, isn’t it?

  What’s really tragic however is that these courageous women have essentially had their personalities stolen from them and don’t even realise they’re actually broken until they break.

  Isn’t it about time our Government protected them when they emerge on their long journey out of the shadows?

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy…on meeting a remarkable Roscommon-born priest; Ciaran Mullooly’s book launch (and Enda’s moustache); terror in Paris; watching Ireland’s crunch Euro 2016 tie by fast-forwarding; …and Anthony Cunningham’s ‘Kangaroo Court’…

Thursday

Today I meet a remarkable Roscommon man. Fr. Gerry O’Rourke, now in his 91st year, is in impressive physical condition and presently enjoying a holiday ‘home from America.’ He is a nephew of the late, great Dan O’Rourke and spent almost his entire childhood living in Abbey Street, Roscommon. Fr. Gerry has spent most of his 65 years (to date) in the priesthood in America, and is currently based in California. His has been no ordinary life; he has been to the forefront of many prominent and well-received initiatives, including in the area of peace and reconciliation amongst people (across the world) of diverse religious and political backgrounds. Fr. O’Rourke will concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in Rome next week; before that, he got to talk to me about Roscommon GAA, his life and times – and Fianna Fail!.

Friday

There are no plans (yet) for Ciaran Mullooly to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis (see previous item), but the RTE Midlands Correspondent is surely in the good books of the Catholic Church following his acclaimed documentary (first shown on RTE last Christmas) on the restoration of St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford.

Fresh from his successful foray into the world of documentary-making with ‘The Longford Phoenix,’ Ciaran has now published a book in which he reflects on challenges facing rural Ireland.

Many of Ciaran’s experiences over thirty years working as a journalist are alluded to in a book which is part-social history, part-political and part-biographical. Partly-based on Ciaran’s always thought-provoking columns in the Roscommon Champion, the book is a considered overview of life in rural Ireland, and an exploration of how – working together within our communities – we can deal with the challenges we face.

The Roscommon town launch of ‘Back to the Future’ took place in the County Library on Friday evening and a very enjoyable occasion it was.

Speakers complimented the author on both his work as a journalist and his community endeavours, to the point where Ciaran quipped that it was like being present at his own funeral!

Ciaran, if he’s reading this, should look away now, because I will take this opportunity of praising him further (normal service will resume shortly).

In between his family commitments and responsibilities for RTE, Ciaran is, as I noted on Friday night, a great community activist. I’ve seen him operating at close range; his energy, passion and forward-thinking approach are attributes that have significantly helped communities in counties Longford and Roscommon.

There are of course many other volunteers in our community who do similar work; their resilience, ambition and collective endeavour is needed now more than ever. As I said on Friday night, ‘more Ciaran Mulloolys’ in our community would be greatly to the benefit of rural Ireland.

As for the book, I very much recommend it. The book addresses, with just the right journalistic edge, issues affecting this area – the author by times challenging both himself and the reader, by times putting forward possible solutions to problems affecting this region. Ciaran writes movingly about the loss of family members – particularly poignantly about his late mother’s experience of Alzheimer’s.

Some of the proceeds from sales of the book are being donated to the Carers Association. It’s great to see ‘local’ books being published. We are taking the fight to the Internet! ‘Back to the Future’ is a great read and an ideal Christmas present.

People present…

The book launch was performed by Roscommon town actor Enda Oates. I hadn’t met Enda in about seven or eight years and didn’t recognise him at first; it turns out he’s sporting a fine moustache, as he’s playing the part of James Connolly in an upcoming series on the 1916 Rising which will be broadcast on TG4.

The assumption that people in the acting profession live an entirely glamorous life has long been debunked and it is now widely accepted that, for the vast majority of actors, making a living and getting regular work can be a struggle.

Happily, Enda’s career seems to be peaking in recent years and he is popping up regularly on our television screens (and in theatre and film). He is now, without question, established as one of our most popular, hardest-working, most-in-demand and most accomplished actors and, as Ciaran Mullooly said on Friday night, we in Roscommon are suitably proud of Enda’s achievements and ongoing success.

The attendance included public representatives, community leaders, friends of Ciaran and Angela Mullooly and many colleagues from community organisations which the RTE Midlands Correspondent is involved in.

Fresh from a very respectable showing in that morning’s Seanad Bye-Election was Dr. Keith Swanick, who arrived at the launch in great form and looking very like a politician of the future.

Dr. Keith, a Castlerea native who is based in Mayo, won’t be seeking a nomination for Fianna Fail in the forthcoming General Election, but he has his sights set on a Senate seat.

We chatted to Michael and Eileen Fahey. Eileen, a great community champion in Kilteevan, was looking forward to the following morning’s Pride of Place Awards, but not expecting further accolades beyond those already gained by the local Development Group’s inclusion as one of the nominees.

As it turned out, there would be cause for further local ‘Pride of Place’ celebrations, as both Kilteevan Community and the Roscommon Lions Club sponsored Quad Youth Centre project in Roscommon town were recognised with awards on Saturday. Congratulations to both!

Saturday/Sunday

The shock-waves following the terror attacks in Paris continue to reverberate around the world. Paris is a majestic, wonderful city with fabulous architecture, many beautiful sights – a certain grace and majesty – and populated by a proud people.

It is heartbreaking to think that this great city is now living on its nerves, a regular target for random and senseless and despicable attacks.

However, in the days since the attacks, it has been heartening, inspirational indeed, to see and hear people in France and throughout the world insist that they will continue to live life as normally as possible, in defiance of the terrorists. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Monday

We were on the road, driving, as the match kicked off. How does that happen? I guess it just does happen sometimes. I know many people are less smitten now by the exploits of the Irish soccer team than in the past, but still, this was a big, big occasion…

Yet, despite it being a big event, I’m on the road, in the car, nowhere near a television screen. The kids are insisting on ‘The Kinks’ CD being played (it’s flavour of the month in our car at the moment).

This suited me, ‘cos I had recorded Ireland v Bosnia & Herzegovina, and didn’t want Newstalk or RTE Radio giving me any update on the game. By 8.20 pm or so, making sure not to check my mobile, I was clueless as to how the game was going and getting closer to home.

‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ was blaring out and I was the only one in the car aware of the unfolding crisis. Great song, but it was time to find out how Ireland were doing.

When I finally got home to the remote, a decision to make: go live to the game – or race through what had already been recorded? I did the latter, fast-forwarding every time there was a throw-in or any such stoppage, but, needless to say, I saw Ireland take the lead in fast-forward mode, not as it happened.

So I had to rewind to see the penalty decision, all of the suspense drained, as I already knew that the spot-kick would be successful. At (my) half-time, I skipped the ads and the three wise men (Dunphy, Giles and Brady).

I began fast-forwarding through the still-recording second half, desperately trying to catch up with the live action at the Aviva. Every now and again I pressed ‘pause’, but the temptation to speed it up remained (fast tempo to this game, actually).

Yep, sure enough, I missed the second goal in real time. While fast-forwarding, I suddenly gleaned that there were more ecstatic celebrations, so I re-wound to see the goal. I finally caught up with the live version of the game with about a minute to go. I don’t know about the Irish players, but I was certainly mentally exhausted by the full-time whistle.

Tuesday

Today’s papers have extensive coverage of the confirmed demise – in instalments – of Anthony Cunningham’s doomed management of the Galway senior hurlers.

Cunningham bowed to the inevitable on Monday night, bringing an unseemly saga to a close by stepping down.

He parted with a strongly-worded press statement, in the course of which he complained bitterly of being the victim of a ‘kangaroo court.’ I share his sentiments. My view is no doubt an old-fashioned one that some people will feel is tunnel-visioned, but I think so-called ‘player power’ stinks.

Players should play, managers should manage and administrators, who are answerable to the clubs, should deal with the business end of things.

Anthony Cunningham has been treated appallingly and I suspect the players have only succeeded in putting more time and space between Galway hurling and the ‘Holy Grail.’

We shouldn’t be playing important games in season of woolly scarves and caps

For the first time in a good four weeks, it’s wet, wild and miserable as I sit into the trusty old Volvo’s replacement (hopefully temporarily) on Monday morning.

I head for the not so welcoming building in Athlone where I busily (don’t believe that bit) pass most of the working week.

Lynn Antiques and Gallery are now the occupants of what used to be the old Adelphi Cinema, and in truth, even on the hottest summer’s day (what’s that, I hear you asking) it’s necessary to keep the jacket and jumper on.

So now that the winter looks to be, finally, on its way, I’ll be digging out the Long Johns and the woolly scarves and caps and getting ready for a spell of harsh, artic weather.

I’m not sure why the weather is on my mind all this morning but I think it’s because I watched part of the big Connacht Club match between Clann na nGael and Castlebar Mitchels which was played in Roscommon’s Hyde Park on yesterday afternoon (Sunday) and I pitied the players, on both sides, as they tried to play good football on a soggy pitch, where it looked to me as if the ball would barely bounce at all.

Anyone that ever played any sport would know that there is nothing as difficult as a surface where the ball almost gets stuck when it lands.

And while I know there’s a huge debate going on in the GAA regarding club versus county fixtures – and there is an effort being made to sort it out – it’s ridiculous that county finals and other important club games are still being played in the middle of November.

There’s a picture on the Irish Independent this Monday morning of the goalmouth in O’Moore’s park in Portlaoise where the home team hosted Kildare’s Sarsfields in a Leinster Club quarter-final, and it looked to me as if a small corner-forward could nearly be drowned or suffocated if he was to be upended in the square – anyways it’s all down to the fact that there are too many competitions and players are being asked to do way too much.

So something has to be done.

My TV review

Changing subjects, and over the weekend I found myself staying in on both Saturday and Sunday nights (and Friday as well) and so I had an unusual opportunity to watch what was on offer on our television screens.

I saw yesterday how some fellow went to jail rather than pay his TV licence fee of €160, and based on what I watched over the few nights, if his objection was related to the quality on offer, I’d have to say he was totally correct.

Friday night on RTE has for a good few years been dominated by ‘The Late Late Show’ and, in fairness, there has been many an occasion when we have seen shows of the highest order – comedy, controversy, music and chat that we saw on Friday night (and Saturday nights in the early years) have often kept it going till the following weekend’s show, and, in particular, Gaybo seemed to be able to attract the very best of national and international guests.

Sadly, Friday night’s show was, in my opinion, totally forgettable. So much so that I can’t remember any of the guests but, true to form, Corkman Graham Norton saved the day with his BBC show, featuring our own Michael Fassbender, actresses Julie Waters and Kate Winslet, rapper (and apparently actor) 50 Cent, and musical guest Ellie Goulding.

It’s hard to know what makes Norton so brilliant but even though, as a rule, I like Ryan Tubridy, the two shows were like chalk and cheese.

In fairness to Tubridy, and Ray D’Arcy on Saturday night, they do their best with second-rate guests and even Jonathan Ross – whom I watched on Saturday night – doesn’t come close to matching Norton for sheer fun and entertainment.

Ross had A-listers Joan Collins, Danny DeVito and actress Sheridan Smith and I’m told he was absolutely livid when his big musical act, Ariana Grande (who I had never heard of) didn’t turn up at all, but even with three excellent interviewees it didn’t come close to matching Graham Norton’s offering and it just confirmed, as far as I’m concerned, that the Corkman is out on his own.

On Sunday night we had The X Factor results. I missed some of Saturday night’s show – must have fallen asleep, while (I think it was the Sunday) I watched a lovely lady, Carol Kirkwood, getting voted off Strictly Come Dancing, I have to say that (as the reigning Creggs Harvest Festival waltzing champion, with my partner (dancing) Nora Connelly) I have seldom seen such a poor dancer.

How she lasted seven weeks is a complete mystery. I didn’t see Wee Daniel, but he must have had to have two left feet.

Talking of two left feet, Stetsons and Stilettos on Sunday evening was very enjoyable, and if any home-grown programmes saved the weekend for me, that one did, as it focused on loads of young country music followers all over Ireland who are learning how to jive and it culminated in the All- Ireland jiving finals in The Square in Monaghan town.

Table Quiz

I’m looking forward to watching the next episode on Sunday night next, but, thankfully, Tom Connelly is holding another Table Quiz for the ‘Ray of Sunshine’ charity in Dowd’s of Glinsk on Friday night at 9.30 pm – local man Batty Egan is heading out to Kenya to help build a number of houses for severely disadvantaged young Kenyans, and the table quiz at €20 for a table of four is to provide the funds to enable him to do so.

Tom is the quizmaster and also sets the questions, and he is asking for your support for a very worthy cause. I’ll be there. At least I won’t have to watch The Late Late Show.

And finally…

Finally, for this week, and staying with Dowd’s, last Wednesday night week we had the great pleasure and privilege of presenting the proceeds of our recent dance, which was also held in Dowd’s, to the representative of the two charities involved –Cancer Care West and the Lourdes Invalid Fund.

Both of these charities do enormous work in helping so many sick and disabled people in or immediate area and it’s a great thing for all of us to get involved, to do some little thing to help them, even in a small way.

Thanks to everyone’s efforts and support we were able to hand over cheques for €1,850 each – a total of €3,700,

‘Til next week, Bye for now

Maybe he’s just not that into you, Tinderella!

Not everyone engaging with Tinder and related ‘dating sites’ is in the line of our columnist’s fire this week, but she is strongly of the view that people should ‘put on their glad rags’ and go out and meet men and women the old-fashioned way…face to face!

Tinder has been in the news quite a bit lately, what with a disappointed 36-year-old separated mum ringing in to  Ryan Tubridy’s radio show last week to tell the world how her first experience of using the online dating app has left her feeling ‘naive and gullible,’ going on to further explain how she was ‘shocked after meeting a man on the app who abandoned contact with her after they slept together three weeks into their relationship,’ apparently saying how she was unaware of the so-called ‘sharks,’ that are currently circulating in dating waters and had, very helpfully, rung Tubs to let people know that she was peed off. You see, apparently her hero has dropped off her radar but is still on the prowl for women on Tinder. Oh he’s a right brat now, isn’t he!

  Now first of all let me say this to that irate caller, I feel for you Tinderella, I really do love, but the fact of the matter is…You’ve been Catfished, get a clue and move on…Romeo certainly has! Also, you’re right, you are definitely ‘naïve and gullible’ if you went out with a man you found on a dating app and then genuinely thought he wasn’t going to be interested in just having casual sex. 

  I mean, anyone who thinks that Tinder and other dating apps are going to be exclusively full of Prince and Princess Charmings looking for their happily ever after really need to have a good old reality check. In my understanding, (I could be wrong), dating apps are mainly useful for those who are looking for an always available, regret free, no strings attached booty call. Mind you, there could be a thousand reasons why this bloke heartlessly dumped this woman…so my advice to her is just pick one, any one, then move on and stop ringing radio shows to air your dirty laundry so publicly because it’s hardly good PR for attracting the next guy now is it? If you don’t I’m afraid I am getting a clear image of you ten years from now wallowing alone as a sad modern day Miss Havisham decaying in your raggy dress and pearls until the end of time.

  Personally I’ve never been on Tinder and have never had the need to use dating apps because, luckily, I’m married to my soul-mate and we met when he approached me in a garage forecourt…now if that doesn’t sound sleazy I don’t know what does but it was all above board I can assure you; he thought I looked like I needed assistance with my car and, being a gentleman, approached me. For the record; I didn’t…need assistance, that is.  

  However, I do know quite a few friends and one family member who uses the Tinder app and who have gone out on a few dates, some good; some leading to second dates and one or two disasters that brought us out in hysterics, however they tell me they all feel the same as Tubridy’s caller did, i.e. duped! So, my question is, why use these apps you lazy, crazy lot?  Why look for men and women on dating apps that appear to list the Who’s Who of Creepy Ville? Why depend on a site that pulls your personal information from your social media page to create your profile and then effectively tells you who ‘matches’ your particulars encouraging you to ‘swipe right’ if you find their selection pleasing and ‘swipe left’ if you think they’re Quasimodo?  Who does that? People who do not know and trust their own mind and their own judgement…that’s who!

  I mean, if a guy is sitting on his fat ass on the sofa all day long, or even sitting emotionless on the loo, because this is how impersonal some dating apps are, trying to sell himself like some cheap pimp patrolling the docks then there shouldn’t be enough bullsxxt, dinner dates, polite conversation or even copious amounts of lovey-dovey text messages in the whole world to make you his hoe dear. I’m sorry but someone needs to tell it to you like it is. If a person is making up a load of codswallop about themselves in order to make sure it fits with what you want to hear, then folks, it’s clear to me they don’t want a lasting relationship they just want to sit back and count their conquests; end of.

  So, get up off your asses folks, put on your glad rags and go out and meet people the old-fashioned way…face to face; and while you’re doing that, let me enlighten you about some (not all) of those loser trolls, stalkers and creepers who may hide behind dating sites.

  There is a massive difference between a person in real life and a person on Tinder. He/she has taken about a gazillion selfies before he/she’s Instagrammed or Photoshopped and finally posted the one that makes him look like Brad Pitt and her look like a Bond girl.

  So what if he/she ‘swiped right’ on your profile photo, get a grip and understand he/she’s ‘swiped right’ on fifty other profiles…he/she’s a shallow git who likes you ‘cos you’re arm candy material and I’ll bet he/she hasn’t read even one single line of your chat because, guess what, it’s not your brain or your dazzling personality that interests them!

  Some people only use Tinder or dating apps for validation or to relieve boredom. These are the ones whose insatiable egos constantly require massaging, meaning they engage with others and tot up their positive ‘swipes,’ as a way of measuring their personal ‘market value.’ It makes them feel popular to have such a range of potential eejits they can choose at will and of course when the mood takes them they’ll dial for a booty call and they’ll keep dialing until they snare some silly sap who is willing to drop over and become their ‘fun buddy’ to ease their boredom of a winter’s night… and nobody is any the wiser.

  However, if anyone is thinking of hoping a stint on a dating app will sort out their love life, it would be worth their while to note that, according to research firm GlobalWebIndex (GWI), it’s a worrying fact – well I’d find it worrying – that 30 per cent of Tinder users surveyed are actually married and 12 per cent surveyed are in a relationship. Now I am not for one second suggesting that those users who are ‘spoken for’ are looking for deep, unmeaningful sex, God no, they’re not big fat cheaters; I’d imagine they’re simply ‘browsing,’ doing research and, ahem, keeping abreast of their social skills through ‘interacting’ with other like-minded tech savvy individuals. How industrious of them.

  Look, I’m not saying that all those who participate on Tinder or other dating apps are merely only hooked on engaging in orgies; that is not the case, and I’m sure there are genuine users who want nothing more than to settle down to a life of bliss, creating the quintessential nuclear family; also I’m sure there are other users who just want to make friends and see dating apps as a bona fide social outlet to test the water when it comes to their dating skills. Nothing wrong with either of those reasons.

  Mind you, ya don’t have to go through the whole rigmarole of joining these sites and putting yourself through the emotional wringer to try and find out how to make a success of that first date! Not at all, I can sum it up for ya in one line…Just turn up naked; oh, and bring wine!

Paul Healy's Week - USA Special

On a recent family trip to America, Paul Healy picked up some bits and pieces for his column…so, here goes… reporting now on… beautiful Boston; meeting a charismatic Batman in Times Square; sightseeing in New York; a be-witching night in Salem; Halloween magic on Beacon Hill… and the dude on the bus…

‘Something for the column’

So there I was, twenty-two years ago, lying in the back of a hearse (I will explain), pounding along the highways and byways of Australia.

Stopping every now and again in the hope of locating a fax machine… That was 1993, and I’ve learnt since then that, when a (so-called) columnist is on holidays, a newspaper can wait for its column… Twenty-two years ago myself and Fiona and my future sister-in-law Sinead had embarked on a wonderful trip to Australia.

At the time, I was writing a column – ‘Hold the Back Page’ – for the Roscommon Champion, and I had, a little rashly, committed to sending home four columns over the course of our month in Australia.

The columns would reflect the highlights of the holiday. Our month in Australia began in Gympie, north of Brisbane, where Fiona and Sinead’s uncle – former Roscommon footballer Coman Reynolds from Elphin – was by then an established member of the community.

Coman and his wife Emma were very successful (they still are!) in the funeral undertaking business, which is how the visitors from Ireland came to borrow an old, retired car/hearse in which to explore The Gold Coast.

Fiona took to the driving challenge brilliantly; at times I actually did have to lie in the back (they have low ceilings). I probably had the best view anyone’s ever had from that position.

Anyways, actually writing the column with pen and paper was merely time-consuming; finding a fax machine each week was a nightmare.

Twenty-two years on and, notwithstanding the mind-boggling technological advances since, I gave no such hostages to fortune when we went to the USA on a family holiday last month.

Writing about your holidays in a newspaper is a bit strange, but no stranger than publicly admitting to being a Leeds United fan; anyways, people usually say ‘sure you’ll have something for your column’, so here it is…something for my column…a column from the USA…without notes, just from memory…and not by fax.

Thursday, October 22

I realise now that I should have taken notes. Let’s see…okay, we flew from Shannon to Boston, an enjoyable flight with a memorable ending for us.

Our five-year-old son, Matthew, was watching as most passengers thanked the Aer Lingus staff as they disembarked. So he too said ‘thanks’ to one of the staff, who was suitably charmed and responded by asking if Matthew would like to see the cockpit of the plane. Moments later he was sitting in the pilot’s seat posing for a photograph.

Thursday-Saturday

Boston is beautiful, friendly, atmospheric, small enough in city terms to feel intimate. If you’re near Boston Common, you’re pretty centrally located. It’s a lovely park, populated by locals, tourists, squirrels and statues.

From the moment you step into Boston Common, you really begin to inhale the magic of this city. We were staying with relations, in a beautiful residence in Beacon Hill, an idyllic area of Boston where quintessentially American streets, quaint shops and stylish houses merge to form a very special place.

Although more than a week to Halloween, residents were busy adorning their houses with extravagant, tasteful and expensive decorations. We were assured that Halloween in Boston would be very special indeed. From our experience (it was our second visit to the city) the people of Boston are extremely friendly and welcoming. They’re sports-mad too, obsessed (from what I could see) with the various sports, especially American Football.

The local team, the New England Patriots, are on a winning streak just now. This is proving very exciting for the locals and it was easy to get caught up in that excitement as they hammered the Miami Dolphins, making it seven wins in a row for the Bostonians.

A trip to the Museum of Science in Boston is recommended. We spent a few very enjoyable hours there, but really a full day needs to be set aside for this particular treat.

Over the weekend we spent some time in Lakeville, a beautiful, peaceful ‘country area’ away from the bustling city. America in ‘The Fall’ is very special and the colours of the trees and the cascading leaves was absolutely stunning.

Most of the houses around Lakeville, and this is typical of rural USA I imagine, are made of timber. The houses, while invariably similar in build, are quite individualistic in design.

Typically the lawns in front of them are ‘open plan,’ with no walls or fences. While we were there, householders were going to amazing lengths to prepare for Halloween, with skeletons and ghosts and ghouls adorning the houses and gardens!

Sunday, October 25

After three great days in Boston (and with more to come) we took a four-and-a-half-hour bus journey to spend three nights in the city that never sleeps.

It was our first ever trip to New York and we were staying in a hotel centrally located in Manhattan, with a good view of Times Square. We walked from the bus station, and within a moment or two found ourselves sucked into the dizzying madness of Times Square. It’s all lights, billboards, people, noise, colour, fun and frenzy.

On Times Square, just about everyone is trying to make a buck. Our children love the hit TV show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and (in our first highly cultural move) we found McGees Bar in Midtown Manhattan, where the comedy series was created.

It serves good food too! Later that night, we were relaxing in Times Square – paradise for people-watchers – when, seemingly out of nowhere, Batman suddenly appeared… Why he came to our aid I don’t know…it’s not as if we were in any peril or anything.

So, as Matthew (aged five) stared in awe at what I must admit was a very charismatic and authentic looking Batman, the guy himself engaged us with all his charm.

Moments later he had the kids crouching down in the middle of Times Square with himself (Batman) on their tail. He was a nice guy and the pose he set up made for a great photograph, so I certainly didn’t begrudge him the few dollars’ tip, but I do recall saying to the children ‘Let’s get out of here before Superman arrives.’

Monday-Tuesday

We spent most of both days hopping on and hopping off the buses, which offer excellent tours of all the leading sights. And what sights there are to enjoy…Madison Square Garden, the Empire State building, Wall Street, Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty (by boat) and much more.

We visited Ground Zero/9/11 Memorial, where silence reigns, minds weighed down by the overwhelming poignancy. Later, we branch off into a side street and pop into a souvenir shop.

There are hundreds of little items featuring landmark attractions in New York, and, given our location, many mementos relating to the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

I buy two or three items, hand in a fifty-dollar note and am stopped in my tracks when I glance at the receipt: My change is ‘9 11’ – nine dollars and eleven cent. That felt very strange!

Wednesday, October 28

After a morning spent visiting the Museum of Modern Art, as well as Central Park and a few more attractions, we’re taking a 2 pm bus journey back to Boston.

For the only time on our holiday, there’s rain, and it’s pelting down with a vengeance. At the back of the bus there’s a guy who’s clearly had more than Rice Krispies for breakfast. His head is bobbing back and forth like he’s some sort of demented tennis umpire and next he starts joining his hands to form an imaginary gun. He points out the window and hisses out gunshot sounds.

Then he leans over to the woman sitting in front of him and asks her what day it is. He gives her three options: ‘Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday?’ With the rain pelting down and a five-hour journey to Boston ahead of us, we’re a bit rattled by the behaviour of the ‘Passenger from Hell.’

We’d booked online and distinctly remember not requesting a terrorist. As his erratic actions continued, the woman who had been given the multiple choice question regarding what day of the week it was mouthed ‘He’s freaking me out’ in our direction – and other passengers were also beginning to look around a little nervously.

So I walked up to the front of the bus and conveyed our concerns to the driver. She was at that point trying to navigate the bus through busy New York streets, but at the first opportunity she pulled over, marched down to the back seat and firmly and professionally confronted the ‘dude,’ asking if he had taken any illegal substances and/or if he was under the influence of alcohol.

He looked surprised. “No mam, I’m just enjoying the ride.’ When the driver informed him that other people weren’t fully enjoying the ride and that some passengers had expressed concern about his behaviour, I took a keen interest in the shapes which the raindrops were forming on the windows of the bus.

Next, she frogmarched him up to the front of the bus “so that if you need anything, you can ask me.” We were glad to note that there was quite a bit of protective glass around the driver’s seat.

The ‘dude’ continued to act a bit strange in his new seat but after an hour or so he had calmed down quite a bit.

A woman in front of me would probably have made mincemeat of the young man. She’s chatting to her mother so loudly that everyone hears the conversation. It seems they need to meet a lawyer next week but the lawyer has been messing them about and now he wants to bring their meeting forward by an hour or two…

The woman in front of me is having none of it. ‘Hell Mom, he can kick rocks! If that dumbass thinks we gonna get there early just to suit him, I’ll deal with him…cos I’m gonna have my coffee and muffin and he can sit on the highway!’

Thursday-Sunday

So, after a six-hour bus journey, we returned safely to Boston, where a really special Halloween weekend atmosphere was ‘brewing.’

On Friday night we went to Salem, travelling by ferry. It was a wonderful 50-minute journey from Boston Harbour which showcased the fabulous city skyline.

Salem is where witch trials were held in 1692, with several local people being executed for allegedly practising witchcraft. Now this town has been transformed into an impressive tourist attraction, all themed around witches and all things scary. Even the police cars have witches logos on them!

The former home of the trial Judge is now known as the ‘Witch House’ and most of the residential buildings are evocative of witches and witchcraft.

We didn’t get there until 6.30 pm in the evening but it was the night before Halloween, so a perfect time to be in Salem. The place was thronged with tourists.

There are ‘haunted houses’ aplenty, museums, restaurants and bars, souvenir shops, and lots of witch-related sights to see and things to enjoy. Over 40,000 people live their normal lives there against the background of the entire area being one big witch-themed attraction.

Then on Saturday night, we discovered that all the exciting talk of Halloween on Beacon Hill had not been overstated. It seems Halloween is ‘massive’ in the USA. In Boston there were big queues outside a popular shop containing hundreds of costume options for adults and children.

From about 6 o’clock in the evening, the magic happened. All of the mystery of the much-hyped Halloween celebrations faded as a spectacular experience presented itself. Thousands – yes, thousands – of people descended on the streets of Beacon Hill (all traffic cut off) and began trick or treating in a wonderful atmosphere of fun and friendship.

Just about everyone was kitted out in a great costume, making this a spectacular and heart-warming sight. All doors were open; children queued for candy, reserves of which eventually ran out, such was the extraordinary scale of the crowds. A truly memorable night.

Monday, November 2

Anyone I spoke to about the US Presidential election was mortified at the prospect of Donald Trump winning.

Maybe it was just the people I spoke to… Coverage of the campaign was pretty much wall to wall on television.

Glancing at the newspapers meanwhile really brought home to me that racial tensions are still very much to the fore in the USA – race and alleged discrimination seemed to dominate the papers.

It was the last day of a great holiday, the memories of which we will cherish. A bit of a shopping blitz, (daughters Emma, Alannah and Ciara had to spend their last few dollars), final photographs taken, and then, a cab to Logan Airport, where, in security, a smiling American police officer stuck a security sticker on Matthew and said: ‘You’re in charge.’

Five hours or so later, we were back in Shannon Airport, and there wasn’t a dumbass to be seen anywhere.

Good ol’ country music on the rise once more

You will know by now – or if you don’t, you mustn’t pay much attention to my weekly ramblings – that I am a great follower of Irish country music, and I particularly like Mike Denver and his band, of which of course Sean ‘Bozo’ Moran, from Castlerea, is the long-time and very popular drummer.

I have told you before of great nights jiving at the Race Dance in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon, to Mike and the boys, and it would remind you of the old carnival days (and nights) when literally hundreds upon hundreds of dancers would take to the maple floors of the marquees, which magically would spring up all over the country in every town, village and crossroads during the summer months.

Then, sadly the more sophisticated discos took over (although I had many a good nights crack in the forerunner of them all, Miss Ellie’s in the Royal) and I suppose the show bands bit the dust.

And, in truth, I never thought we would see the day when bands and their superstar lead singers would once again be pulling in the crowds to venues, including marquees all over the country.

Well, thankfully, it has happened once again. Last Friday night week, it was great to see that Dublin 4 and RTÉ finally recognised the unbelievable rise in popularity of good ‘ol’ country music’, by devoting a large section of The Late Late Show to showcasing the talents of several Irish country singers, both male and female.

Among the many stars on show were the new King of Country, Nathan Carter, and the new Queen, Lisa McHugh, but for me, it was the old stagers, Big Tom and Philomena Begley, who really stole the show, and it was great to see Big Tom in such good form, even though, as he said himself, he was only “about 55 per cent”.

He sang his huge local hit, Four Roads to Glenamaddy, and to be fair to him he sounded as good as ever, and practically every one on the show acknowledged that himself and the late Larry Cunningham paved the way for all the new kids on the block to reap the present rewards, and that without the efforts and hard work of Tom, Larry and others, might not have been there at all. I’m told that 1.3 million viewers tuned in to that Late Late Show, which brought it into Toy Show numbers, so it’s fairly safe to say that it will be done again in the near future.

And for the moment, it’s pretty obvious that country music is back on top of the heap – no doubt, because fashions come and go, it may all change further down the line, but as of now, get out the cowboy hats, and the jeans, and the boots, and head for one of the many country music venues that are cropping up all over the place, and have yourself a good ‘Old Country Jamboree’!

Tell them I sent you! Before I leave the subject of bands and music, back in the old days Ballintubber (the Roscommon One, not the Mayo one!) was home to two of Ireland’s top show bands, The Premier Aces and the Rhythm Stars.

And I ran into Sylvie one of the Treacy Brothers, who backbones the Rhythm Stars, a couple of weeks ago, and in view of the return of such bands as Ray Lynam and the Hillbillies, and Gina and the Champions, I asked him if there was any likelihood of a comeback by the Ballintubber band.

And the good news for all their followers is that he didn’t rule it out! I’m not saying it will definitely happen, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely – watch this space.

Finally the Government takes action on crime

Changing subjects entirely and, this Monday morning, the national papers are full of the news, that the gardaí are launching a high-profile operation aimed at tackling high-volume crimes, like burglaries, and putting the perpetrators of such crimes behind bars.

All right-minded people would applaud such a venture and hope it strikes a major blow against the gangs who are roaming the country, and robbing it blind.

After years of downgrading Garda resources, and closing some 140 Garda stations round the country, thereby making it easier for the robbers to do their dirty deeds, and make successful getaways, it seems that at last, the Government are supplying the finance to upgrade the gardaí into a well-equipped modern crime-fighting force.

A major investment in IT and a new upgraded fleet of vehicles will play a big part in the success of the new anti-crime initiative, but on the basis that prevention is better that the cure, you’d have to wonder why the situation was allowed to get so much out of hand.

It is all the result of a short-sighted policy by this Government, and in order to save a few bob, law and order has been sacrificed, and many hundreds of our citizens have suffered – some of them so grievously that they may never recover. Let’s hope for all our sakes, that this new initiative is a roaring success.

Rural Ireland is a joy – without crime

Living in rural Ireland, when no one is out robbing it, is one of life’s great joys. Yesterday, (Sunday) as myself and my wife, Carol, were out for our almost daily walk, we wondered about the amazingly mild weather we were experiencing on November 1, and the irrefutable evidence that our season’s are definitely changing – seemingly for the better.

We take our walk up a small country road – you could almost call it a boreens – and, as we walked along, we could see loads and loads of blackberries in full bloom (maybe that’s not the right word, but you know what I mean), while there were various wild flowers still alive long after they should have died off.

At home, Carol tells me that her roses (the ones the pup Hope hasn’t knocked over, as she plays her football) have come out for a second or maybe even a third time, so whether it’s that global warming or not, nature is certainly going through unusual changes, and it looks like a white Christmas is a complete non-runner.

Till next week. Bye for now.

The WHO doesn’t want us to bite off more than we can chew!

In the wake of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) damning report on processed meats, such as bacon and sausages, our columnist defends meat-lovers – even though she is a vegan

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) when it comes to contracting cancer, there’s a list of hazards as long as my arm; i.e. smoking, indulging in the demon drink, some forms of oral contraceptives, outdoor pollution and going anywhere near asbestos being just a few of them.   

  However, last week, consuming processed meat, for example, chowing down on your traditional and ceremonial Irish rasher, sausage and pudding brekkie of a Sunday morning or heading out for your cheeky Friday night, after-the-pub-hot dog, batter burger, kebab or chicken nuggets have all now been added to what I would call their hysterical apocalyptic list of ‘carcinogenic’ items as being a ‘potential’ cancer risk, leading to lots of confusion and knee-jerk reactions from a lot of people. Not me! 

  You see,  I’d like to draw readers’ attention to the word ‘potential’ here, meaning ‘possible’ ‘probable,’ or ‘prospective,’ and say that despite this warning, I still went out and bought hubby’s favourite smoked bacon rashers, grilled them to a crisp,  just as he likes and popped them on his crusty bread rolls along with lettuce and tomato and generously slathered on his ‘must have’ cholesterol hiking butter and preservative-laden red sauce to make him his beloved BLT work lunch.  And yes, I do love this man, and no I am not trying to shorten his life. I just don’t buy into scare-mongering of any kind and firmly believe that a little bit of what you fancy in measurable proportions will do you no harm – and I do mean measurable proportions here. Hubby doesn’t eat this type of lunch every day!  It’s a once a week treat.

  Also,  I make this comment, not as a doctor and not as a nutritionist because I’m neither and I am sure health professionals will probably disagree with me, and that is their right – they are the experts here, not me.

  However, folks, I make this comment as someone who believes there are far, far worse things in the world that can potentially kill us – things like the stress that accompanies the release of such reports would be just one example or the panic due to the possible job losses suffered as a direct result of the financial fallout being another…you get my drift, so I believe, like most decent and sensible Roscommon people that I have more important things to do with my life than pay too much attention to the torrent of negativity these latest findings have raised.

  However, being vegan myself; I haven’t consumed any animal products, as in, no meat, fish, poultry or dairy etc., since my teens because I’m committed to animal welfare and want to save all animals, believing and understanding that they are sentient beings; meaning in my opinion, animals feel hurt, fear, pain, sadness, happiness, love and joy etc., just like we humans do. In short, I love animals and believe their lives matter… end of.

  But that’s just me and when the WHO issued its latest hazardous warning, I didn’t smugly smile to myself and wag my sickly, bony, calcium deficient finger in a gleeful ‘na, na, na, na, na’ cackle. Instead, like others, I shared the link on my Facebook page and advised people to read it and make up their own minds as I do with any other newsworthy item I happen across.

  I also asked myself if these boffins were the same nerds who appear totally confused as to how much red wine is good/bad for us to consume.

  However, when I cook for hubby or we have visitors round, or when my meat loving granddaughter comes to stay, I don’t turn into a weird, posturing, tree--hugging, boring brittle-boned dictator, insisting on a flesh free environment…not in the slightest. In fact I provide for everyone’s diet and tastes and make a meat-free…and no, not taste-free, but a yummy, alternative pour moi. And for the record I do not agree with how certain animal rights organisations/groups spread their message, which can often be quite aggressive, so I tend to march to the beat of my own drum, which is once again, for me, animals, and their welfare matter, and I feel an uncontrollable compassion towards them and believe in educating people in so much that if they ask me for information I give it to them…but only if asked.

  I believe that when someone has evidence and facts, it is only then, as adults, that they are fully equipped to make their own, unbiased, impartial and informed decisions.  That said, I will stress that choosing a vegan lifestyle is not easy – nooooo, not by any stretch of the imagination folks.  In fact, it can often prove stressful as some restaurateurs (not all) tend to hate people like me and panic when I walk into their establishment and enquire as to their vegan option…normally a plate of diced sweet potato (which I detest) or a plate of stir fried onions and peppers, which is not really a choice now, is it? It’s more of a punishment and evidence of their unimaginative fayre du jour. 

  When I enquire if the proffered, limp stirfry has been cooked separately or doused in the same fat as, say, the rare, blood-dripping burgers, the audible sigh of impatience from the waiting staff makes me worry if, when the monotonous offering does return, freshly fried in vegan friendly oil, it may well also contain the chef’s odd sneezer or three. Hence, due to this lack of choice and understanding,  we don’t eat out too often; nor are we usually asked round to worried friends’ houses due to the host/hostess’s panicked enquiries of “Jesus, what do you feed a woman who eats nothing?”

  Look, folks, you continue to eat and enjoy your food. Life is too short to stop looking forward to that plate of cabbage, mash and bacon smothered in thick gravy. Besides, despite my refusal to eat anything with a face or that once had a pulse, or consume dairy products, I do know fresh, unprocessed meat is full of important dietary requirements like iron, various vitamins and proteins, but I would just state the bleedin’ obvious here and say that modified, shrink-wrapped, salt, preservative and nitrate laden processed products of any kind, including meat, cannot be very healthy for anyone to consume or depend upon as their staple daily diet, now can they? But, again, check this out with your doctor and make your own choices.

  I would however advise that if you are going to cook and consume meat, do as I do when carnivores arrive at my door and visit your local organic butcher and shop local and support local Roscommon farmers.

  You see by doing this you’re helping to sustain local enterprise and keep funds in our county, and God knows we need it badly. Shopping local also means we get to make a connection and form a relationship with our local suppliers who’ve abstained from poisoning their produce with additives and preservatives because they don’t need to as the food comes fresh from their nearby farms and fields.

  So I suppose it’s up to you, the consumer, to decide. Do you want to sustain local enterprise, support local farmers/butchers/food suppliers/markets/jobs, i.e. humanbeings who are your neighbours and buy your meat and veg locally or do you want to support multinational conglomerates who peddle GMO laden pulp as suitable, sustainable and now, questionably healthy food?  Again, the choice is yours.

  For this happy cow however, it always has and always will be that as long as there is breath in my body, I’ll only consume  plant-based foods, including veggies, fruit, grains, beans, seeds and nuts…or is that just that I am nuts? Bon appetite.

Creggs Harvest Festival provides a much-needed boost to a village in decline

For all of us who live out in rural Ireland, it’s an undeniable fact that communities are dying on their feet, and the easy thing to do is to accept the inevitable, and let our villages and small towns have a long, lingering, and painful death.

Creggs has been my home village for practically all my life. I was born there, went to national school there, played my rugby and football (and hurling) for the village teams, and apart from a spell in the late Sixties and Seventies, I have lived in the locality all my life, and of course, I have witnessed at first hand, the terrible decline of our little border community.

In my young days, we had a library – my mother, Mrs B, was the librarian – a forge, six pubs, six or seven shops, a Garda station, manned by a sergeant and three guards, and, no matter what you wanted, from the proverbial needle to an anchor, you could buy it in any or some of the grocery or hardware shops spread around the village, which we certainly took for granted.

Today, we have one pub, a Garda station with one Garda, the village shop and post office with petrol pumps, and butchers, and on the credit side, since my youth, we have gained two garages and a chipper. But, no matter what way you look at it, we have lost a lot of the old vibrancy and vitality.

34th Creggs Harvest Festival was one of the best ever

And yet this bank holiday weekend, Creggs has been lively, busy and alive, with the staging of the 34th Harvest Festival, and despite the negativity of continually being told that the festival has very little to offer, it continues to draw the crowds and year in, year out, people flock to Creggs to take part in and support the many different activities.

I am writing this on the bank holiday Monday and, from all the information that’s coming my way, everything (almost) has been very well attended, and the feeling is that it has been one of the best festivals ever.

The quizzes on Friday night were huge successes and set the tone for the weekend! Earlier on Friday night Seán (Bags) Keegan, our legendary goalkeeper, reciter – he is the best recitation giver, along with Mick Roarke, in the country – was honoured, and rightfully so, as the parish’s ‘Personality of the Year’ and I’m told the celebrations went on long into the night.

The Tidy Towns Dance on Saturday night was packed and on Sunday the Dog Show was the most successful ever, with all the contestants looking and behaving their very best, and the auction in aid of the school was also very well supported.

Now I won’t bore you by going through every single activity but if there was one disappointment, it was the lack of support for the parish dance in The Parochial Hall on Sunday night.

But despite the small crowd, Seán Brennan put on a fantastic show and, for all of us there, it was one of the best nights crack ever.

Monday morning came with a good drop of rain, and the sceptic would think that the Fair Day would be a disaster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth – we had the usual turnout of asses, foals, and horses of all shapes and sizes and, in the middle of it all, we held a very successful Irish National Pudding Tasting Contest.

The result in the White Pudding contest was a win for Kelly’s from Newport, while in the Black Pudding we had a very popular local winner with Declan Maloney claiming the honours with his own homemade creation!

They were both very well received and congrats to each of the winners, but especially our own local one – well done, Declan.

We had traditional music from the Griffin Family on Monday afternoon, a one man tour-de-force of dancing and joke telling by Kevin Cunniffe, music in Mikeen’s by PJ Davis.

My harvest came to an end at about six o’clock when I headed home after a few hours of top class entertainment – I’m sure there were many much later than I, but as I’m finishing this piece on a wet Tuesday morning, I think we can look back on another successful harvest festival.

And so I’m back to where I started! Rural communities can fight back, and while it may only be one weekend in the year, it’s vitally important not to let such festivals go under.

We all get fed up at having to attend so many meetings, but nothing can go ahead without people being involved in organising different events, so as the curtain falls on this year’s harvest festival, if there are people in the area (this would also apply to every other village that puts on any event) who would like to get involved don’t be shy, get on board, and let’s all work together to keep rural Ireland alive, at least in our case, for the October Bank Holiday Weekend.

Suspend judgement on processed meat findings

Anyway that’s enough about that, so changing subjects entirely, and this morning I have to admit that the findings of the World Health Organisation’s study, which effectively says that processed red meat causes cancer, should be causing me great concern, as it includes the ingredients of the staple diet of most Irish people (certainly at weekends) – the traditional fry-up! We are told that rashers, sausages – I wonder what’s the story with the black and white pudding – and all kinds of stuff may be, potentially, bad for us, but after careful consideration, I’ve decided to wait for absolute definite confirmation.

And as I near the end of this piece, I’ve just taken out the pan, and I’ll take my chances with a full Irish fry – pudding and all, and hope for the best.

Halloween disco at Kilbegnet

In the local scene (again, says you) there is a children’s Halloween disco with fancy dress, on Friday night, October 30, in St. Mary’s Hall, Kilbegnet from 7 pm to 9 pm, with admission only €5.

Meanwhile, I have to congratulate the Glinsk pool team who won the Brian Enda Kilcommons Trophy by defeating their arch rivals from Creggs in Mikeen’s on Sunday afternoon. Well done Glinsk, but I can’t understand why I didn’t make the Creggs team.

Finally for this week

Returning to the big dance that we held (what seems an eternity ago) a few weeks ago in Dowd’s, Glinsk, we are presenting the proceeds to the representatives of the two charities, the Lourdes Invalid Fund and Cancer Care West, on Wednesday night, November 4, at 8.30 pm over a cup of tea in Dowd’s.

We raised the fantastic sum of €3,700 so each group will collect €1850 each. As always a huge thanks to all the people who supported us by buying tickets, by coming to the dance and by giving spot prizes!

To all the crew who gave up so much of their time to go out selling the tickets, to Tommy and Delores Dowd for hosting us so well, and being so helpful, and of course to Frank Nelson for putting on such an entertaining show.

It will be a low key presentation but anyone who wants to join us on the night will be more than welcome.

Till next week, Bye for now

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