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From the kitchen table

From the kitchen table

Why it’s a joy to shop local

 

 

 

 

When a customer buys from a local business it’s a no-brainer that the majority of the money they spend remains within the community; yet each year around Christmas time, we hear about the increase in online sales sounding the deathknell for the small local business man/woman who is, against the odds, battling for survival in their bricks-and-mortar store.

  Now, while you may be reading this thinking, but sure if some in the bricks-and-mortar fraternity adapted and kept up with the times and trends, surely they’d have no trouble competing in the strong e-commerce market. And yes, while that’s a perfectly logical analysis, the fact is dear readers, without the Holy Grail that is super-fast and super-efficient broadband, our local businesses cannot even get their foot on the online sales ladder, gain traction and compete in this lucrative market.

  So what’s got Mir on her soapbox; I hear you ask! Well, I’m sure you’re all familiar with last week’s findings by the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland report which warned us that ‘small-town Ireland is facing a ‘perfect storm’ which has torn the heart out of life on main street,’ something which I think you’ll probably all agree is very worrying, making it sound like living and shopping in rural Ireland is stark, joyless, oppressive and, well, downright bloody miserable.

  However, as someone who has come from the big smoke to live here among you lovely people, I can tell you that yes, while I understand business owners are facing a major struggle for survival in Roscommon, it’s been my experience that shopping and socialising in our little towns, in particular our wonderful county town, is anything but cheerless and uninviting; nay, for me, it’s a real pleasure! And, if I may appear a little bit disloyal to my native Dublin, I find that Roscommon is probably one of the cosiest places to spend one’s hard-earned Christmas present-buying cash, because of the variety of independently owned shops, boutiques, hair and beauty salons, restaurants and hotels, and I would hate to think this report, (thorough, informative, and highly sympathetic though it is), would give consumers the impression that folks here in Roscommon are living in a Dickensian state of grinding poverty and baa humbug(esque) misery, when we are not!

  We’re full of the joys of the season and, with our trademark friendliness oozing out of every pore…I say ‘our’ and yes, I know I’m a blow-in, but you’re stuck with me, so deal with it…it means our local towns and villages are the perfect place in which even the most stressed out shopper/diner/visitor can immerse themselves when seeking the ultimate traditional Christmas experience…so there.

  And, as if proof were needed, sure only last Friday, having experienced a c**p week, my face, which, following many sleepless nights, looked like a bag of melted toffees, (even after I’d trowelled on a shed-load of make-up), lit up the second I parked my car…for free, I may add. Hearing the joyous strains of seasonal ditties chiming from the main street’s speakers, I bounced along like a born-again geriatric teenager drunk on tonic wine, such was the wonderful festive atmosphere wafting through the streets. Despite the fact I was short on time, I felt encouraged to take an hour to myself and pop into one of the family owned, independent restaurants in the town for a cup of original coffee, a homemade artisan scone and buy a loaf of their heaven-sent treacle and walnut loaf; which I’m stock-piling in the freezer for the fussy rellies when they arrive.

  So what I’m trying to say folks is that yes, while rural towns and businesses are struggling, and missing out on the power of online sales, they have the potential to win the war by offering us, the loyal customer, in-store exclusives, invitations to events that provide discounts, and other little perks that not only make it convenient for us to shop with them, but make us feel confident that by spending our money locally we are getting the best ever deal, thus creating and generating local brand loyalty.

  And yes, while buying local means convenience and better service, remember Minister Bruton, our one-of-a-kind, little businesses still need high speed broadband in order to be able to diversify and compete with the impersonal big-box retailers whom, if you call with a query, put you on hold before transferring you 50 times to a customer service individual who’s so far removed from your particular query, they couldn’t give a toss if the company loses you as a customer! Something which won’t happen with a face-to-face, bricks-and-mortar business owner!

 

Time to get the girls out for mammo number 5!

 

The window envelope marked ‘strictly private and confidential’ appeared last week containing the dreaded BreastCheck reminder that the girls are due their now routine mammogram.

  Now, while there’s been a lack of candour around some national screening programmes, (the CervicalCheck scandal still rages on), readers may know that BreastCheck, (the longest running free screening programme in the country), did finally reveal last May that reviews and re-checks of mammograms were being carried out. This could be worrying; especially if a review reveals errors were made in analysing mammograms, etc. However, like most women, I’m aware there are limitations to screening, and a certain failure rate is inevitable; so with that in mind, I’d urge you all not to fall prey to the scaremongering and to please attend your appointments – even if it’s only to see how incredibly flat your boobs can go!

  Seriously… stop the eye-rolling; I’m only tryin’ to inject some humour and normalise the process for ladies who, like me, may be unenthusiastic about having the twins handled, and then squashed between two metal plates by a complete stranger with freezing hands!

  Furthermore, even though a system of open disclosure ensuring women whose tests are reviewed will not be in place until 2019, I will definitely not be missing my mammo because, to their credit, BreastCheck is a great service, and has identified thousands of cancers through this screening process…meaning it does work! I will add that, like all screening programmes, BreastCheck are morally obliged to let individual women know if errors have been made.

 

 

Why stranger validation is damaging to our kids’ mental wellbeing

 

 

Parents, I’ve got a question for you…do you suffer from stranger validation? Do you even know what this condition is? No? Don’t worry; Dr. Mir is in da house, and I’m happy to explain the symptoms of what I believe to be a highly disturbing disorder.

  Stranger validation, (in my opinion), is an obsessive and compelling condition affecting some parents who seem to believe their children’s mental health and wellbeing is not rooted in who they are, or in the support they receive from family members and friends, rather it’s measured by how popular they are on social media.

  You see, while Roscommon parents will never suffer from this sickness, (because they’re responsible loving mams and dads), it’s a sad fact that some – well, one victim anyway – has reached such  a critical stage of this malaise, she should probably be temporarily  removed from Instagram and placed on emergency parenting skills’ support.

  I’m talking about US-based parenting blogger and mother-of-five Katie Bower, whose different, and I’d say skewed, approach to raising kids caused me some concern last week, when, sharing a picture of her son on his 6th birthday on Instagram, where she has over 52,000 followers, this mother brutally revealed to complete strangers, that her little boy, ‘receives the least likes’ out of all her children, and then begged complete strangers to click ‘like’ on his photo.

  Now, while I’m no Mary Poppins when it comes to raising kids, I’d like to be fair and cut Katie some slack here and assume that perhaps her earning power generated from brands that sponsor her is based entirely on what she, and her followers, perceive to be her picture-perfect family. However, I do believe that teaching our kids to measure their value in the amount of likes they generate on social media is just cruel, and, if I may add…a touch sad. In addition, I really have to ask if this mother is sitting her five kiddies down on a regular basis and showing them how many likes they each receive? Is she generating competition between the siblings and encouraging them to pit their individual attractiveness against each other by suggesting that, as one of them typically receives less likes than the rest, he’s ‘statistically’ the ugly duckling of the family?

  Like all kids, and indeed like Katie’s other kids, this little boy is a beautiful, innocent child who is worryingly being parented by a woman who seems to believe affirmation and acceptance doesn’t come through nurturing your kids and showing them love, instead, her perception of validation clearly comes from the positive reaction of  randomers sitting at a keyboard. Pathetic or wha’?

Are push presents now a thing?

Staying on the subject of parenting, (and again, I’m not perfect but the view is pretty great up here on my high horse), but I want to ask how many of you gorgeous Roscommon mammies have received a ‘push present’ when you gave birth?

 

  I only enquire because practically-perfect-in-every-way, model/reality star Vogue Williams, upon giving birth to son Theodore, received a (que gag moment), ‘push present’ of a rare tanzanite necklace from rolling-in-the-moolah hubby Spencer. That’s nice!

  Look, I don’t know about you ladies, but when I gave birth it was because I wanted to have a family; I never once thought I should be compensated for my excruciatingly painful efforts; because, for me, a healthy baby was the ultimate gift.

  However, come to think of it, given I received two stale custard creams, a cuppa, and twenty stitches in my lady bits immediately post-birth, (I delivered a 10lb human for God’s sake, give me some credit) a simple thoughtful gesture like a Tiffany bracelet, a diamond eternity ring or even a feckin’ cheap bottle of plonk from her dad would have made me feel just that bit less sore, and that bit more special.

Look picture-perfect for Santa at RosFM’s fundraising event

Community radio is alive and doing pretty well in Roscommon town, however RosFM does need our help in order to keep informing, entertaining and educating listeners. It’s for this reason volunteers have asked me to remind readers about RosFM’s Christmas beauty and masterclass fundraiser which will be hosted by blogger ‘Faces by Grace’. 

 

  The evening of beauty, which should prove to be the perfect platform for all stylish fashionistas to gain valuable make-up tips this Christmas, is sure to be a big success.

  Run by dedicated volunteers, RosFM depends heavily on fundraising events like this to help them improve and expand their broadcasting schedule so that it better serves the needs of local listeners. Remember, community radio cannot legally depend on advertising revenue, and seasonal fundraising campaigns are important to their future sustainability.

  So, save the date, it’s this Friday, 30th of November, from 7 pm to 10 pm in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon town.

  I’m told tickets are €25 and are available from www.eventbrite.ie, the Abbey Hotel, and at the door on the night. Attendees will be entered into a free raffle to win a ticket for Club Rossie’s ‘Win a House,’ competition.

 

Are we accepting violence against women as part of our culture?

 

 

Watching Virgin Media’s 5.30 pm News on Monday night, through no fault of the excellent broadcaster who was simply reporting the day’s stories, the three leading items focused on violence perpetrated against women. Stopping in my tracks, I suddenly realised that, due to the prevalence of these savage assaults, I am not only living in a country that appears to tolerate this repulsive violation, it accepts it as if it were almost part of our culture. And that’s not something we, as a right-thinking society, should ever be sanctioning.

  Something else we should not be sanctioning is victim blaming and shaming; and yet, only recently in a rape trial, a barrister representing a 27-year-old individual who was accused of raping a 17-year-old teen, directed, (with unbelievable callousness in my opinion), that the jury should reflect on the type of underwear worn by the child. And yes, that’s what she was at the time of the alleged incident, a child, whom, at 17, was below the age of majority. The accused was found to be not guilty.

  But I digress…back to Monday’s News, where the  first segment dealt with an 85-year-old defenceless, wheelchair-bound Dublin grandmother called Jenny Powell; a gentle woman who has dedicated her life to helping animals. Ms. Powell was brutally beaten with a hammer by a gang of wimpy scumbags who got away with €20. The other items dealt with the grooming and the heinous rape of a young woman by a polluted pervert when she was a child of just 12; and the rape of a woman by a depraved degenerate she met on a dating site.

  Now it may, (it may not), have escaped your notice folks, but this very Friday marks the beginning of the 16 Days of Action, an annual campaign initiated by Women’s Aid, opposing violence against women. And,  while some of you reading this may tut-tut, wring your hands, and express how shocking these crimes are before moving on with your lives – and there’s nothing wrong with that reaction, it’s perfectly reasonable – I have to say that despite the empathy we show towards these harmed women, despite the high profile public awareness campaigns and the training initiatives being rolled out, as well as the support of the fantastic charitable services who do their best with limited funding, the latest statistics – which were registered by Women’s Aid in 2017 – that a staggering ‘15,833 disclosures of domestic violence’ levelled at women was noted during ‘21,451 contacts’ with the service, makes for distressing reading.

  These figures must clearly indicate to any right-thinking individual that, instead of getting better, the situation is escalating to a much more disturbing level. So, instead of the outpouring of upset and shock displayed by the public, the Government, and by legislators in response to the rising incidents of persecution, oppression and the torture of women, I’d suggest that what we need is an entire shift in public perspective.

  Now I know that Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has great plans to bring proposals to Cabinet regarding the commission of a second Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland (SAVI) report into looking at incidents of sexual violence by the end of the month, (and well done to him). Against the backdrop of his impressive rhetoric, (and the fact Christmas is on the horizon, and we know this is typically a time when, for various reasons, violence against women spikes), as someone who has identified in this publication as a survivor of a violent rape, (and while I don’t presume other survivors share my curiosity…they may), I’d like to ask the Minister what strategies he plans to put in place to protect Irish women while the steering group is putting this report together? It’s my opinion that the only way we’ll stop the women of this country facing and suffering any future intolerable atrocities levelled at them, is to focus all of our efforts, services and resources around implementing prevention, as opposed to constantly reverting to the tenacious tendency of blaming the victim for causing her own misfortune.

 

Helping Roscommon’s needy kitties this Christmas

 

‘Tis the season of caring and sharing, and you may have noticed there are a lot of fundraising charity events happening around the county at the moment. Well, if I could be so bold as to point readers in the direction of a fantastic little local charity called TNR South Roscommon, who are holding a fundraiser on Sunday, 2nd of December in the Athleague Community Centre from 11 am to 3 pm. 

  TNR South Roscommon is a group of wonderfully dedicated volunteers who help homeless kitty cats in the Roscommon and Athleague areas. They do tremendous work by making their meagre funds and resources stretch towards humanely trapping and neutering, as well as providing vital veterinary health checks and vaccinations for these vulnerable feral cats, before returning them to their natural habitat where they can live their lives without further reproducing, thus stabilising the population.

  TNR South Roscommon also carry out the successful rehoming of the gorgeous kittens they have lovingly managed to socialise ensuring they live their lives in a caring family environment instead of trying to survive on the streets where they’re exposed to an existence of poor health, hunger, neglect and abuse.

  So, if you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, or just want to grab a coffee, a piece of cake and a friendly chat with a fellow kitty cat lover, do drop by and show TNR South Roscommon your support this kitty-mas; it will be most welcome.

 

 

McCabe was wronged because they couldn’t handle the truth

 

 

 

 

 

The entire process of the Garda ‘whistleblower’ scandal has taken out two Ministers for Justice, two Garda Commissioners and two senior civil servants, although it must be noted that while the dispute had begun long before Nóirín O’Sullivan took the helm, her tenure as boss was constantly dogged by it. May I add that the publication of the resulting Disclosures Tribunal has exonerated her of mistreating Sgt. McCabe and of helping to orchestrate a smear campaign against him. I also stress that Frances Fitzgerald got a clean bill of health when she was vindicated and found to have ‘acted appropriately’. In addition, Alan Shatter was himself vindicated in the courts.

  However, perhaps the biggest loss resulting from this shocking controversy is the ‘whistleblower’ himself, Sgt. Maurice McCabe who has retired from An Garda Síochána following 30 years of service for the simple reason that the man who really should be hailed a hero, felt it was ‘the only decision’ open to him. Now while I believe the force has lost an incredibly brave and honourable member – a man who at all times had only the interests of the country he served at heart – Maurice’s decision to opt out is absolutely the right one to make; both for him and for his family. Why? Because, despite the fact the force has missed a wonderful opportunity to retain McCabe’s services where he could teach rookies how to relate to the public, how to earn their respect and admiration, and, in general, how to be a good copper, there’s no way back for him.

  And, while Minister Charlie Flanagan has said the nation owes Maurice “a debt of gratitude,” I’d go one further and say give this amazingly strong human being the Scott Medal in honour of his bravery.

  While we’re at it, let’s give a shout out to Lorraine McCabe, the incredible woman who stood strong and silent by her man; who held her head high, who never wavered, not for one second, even when the man whose babies she bore, was disgustingly and wrongly accused of child sexual abuse. I won’t use the vile words former Commissioner Martin Callinan is alleged to have uttered when he tried to taint an officer trying to do his job, because this is a family publication. But I’ll give you a possible reason for Callinan’s nauseating attempt to blacken a man’s good name…he couldn’t handle the truth.

  Now I can tell you, while an apology from An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan and the current Garda Commissioner Drew Harris will go nowhere near soothing what must have been the unspeakable emotional turmoil this solid couple have endured for over a decade, I’m sure it’s welcomed and received with the same sense of human dignity, respect and integrity that has become indicative of their upstanding behaviour.

  We can expect that Mr. McCabe (it’s odd not to address him as Sergeant, but he’s now like the rest of us…livin’ on civvy street), is due a level of financial compensation, especially from Tusla; but I’d say no amount of money will ever be enough. And, while I’m not pre-empting anything regarding an amount of remuneration, it must be said that Tusla’s mishandling of a file and an incorrect allegation levelled at McCabe was beyond doubt a travesty. Okay, Tusla have very publicly apologised for their titanic feck-up; in fact, if Carlsberg did catastrophic cock-ups, this one would defo be an award winner. However, for the record, there are upstanding, blameless people working within Tusla who do a fantastic job, so let’s not sully their good names.

  Look, if anything good is to come of this debacle, and if citizen McCabe is to leave any legacy, it’ll surely be that Commissioner Harris will learn lessons going forward regarding the process by which the force he leads operates and delivers its service to us, the citizens it protects. He should also look at how the force treats its hard-working and admirable coppers, (many of whom are stationed here in Roscommon), and make sure they’re treated with the due regard and respect they deserve. I wish the McCabes every best wish and happiness.

 

It’s Movember lads…you’ve got 30 days to cultivate that luscious lip warmer

 

It’s Movember folks and that means raising awareness of men’s health issues like prostate and testicular cancer, etc.  Oh, and it also means all you sexy Roscommon Mo Bros who’ve been putting off growing and cultivating a bit of hair on your upper lip can now do it in the name of a good cause.

However, do bear in mind lads, despite the fact menopause has given your poor elderly maiden aunt a weak bladder and regular hot flushes, much to the woman’s mortification, the ‘change’ has now managed, (without auntie even trying) to allow her grow a substantial soup straining set of old lady whiskers that’d put Magnum PI, (or a ‘70s porn star) to shame; yet you, ya big hunk of masculinity, may only be able to manage a slash of peach fuzz on your chinny-chin-chin; but don’t get too disheartened.

  However, Movember is not all about the lads, women can get involved too by becoming Mo Sistas who encourage and sponsor their dads, their brothers, their partners and their friends to grow and cultivate a luscious winter lip warmer, raise awareness and funds, and have conversations about their own health concerns. In addition ladies, when the man in your life reaches his upper-lip limbo, (and he will), and his barely-there bush begins to itch like hell, remember, it’s gonna be your job to encourage that bad boy to stick it out. Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westlife: Dad bods, skinny jeans and flyin’ without Bryan

 

 

I should have seen it coming, I should have read the signs…but I didn’t and Westlife, aka Ireland’s answer to Take That, who warned us, nay swore, they were ‘never gonna say goodbye,’ have remained true to their word, because, following their break-up in 2012, they’re back, albeit this time, they’re flyin’ without Bryan, (formerly Brian) McFadden; and suddenly your columnist is not in a good place.

  Fans of the ‘90s bubble-gummers, (I’m not one…can ya tell?) will remember the uproar when Brian/Bryan left the lads to build a world of his own, (I’m gonna apologise right now for all the puns), in a vain attempt at forging a solo career back in 2004. When the news broke, I was one of the couldn’t-give-a-toss journos present at the press conference and witnessed first-hand the desolation and despair displayed by many a teenage fan when they learned of the highlighted haired one’s exit. And I’m not making fun of the poor girls’ associated trauma here folks, I mean, I’d  imagine life seemed pretty hollow for these young wans given what they thought was likely to be the demise of this hugely successful group following the parka-wearing no-hit-wonder’s departure! As we know, the others managed to bounce back and continue for a further eight years sans Brian/Bryan.

  Fast-forward to 2018 and poor Brian/Bryan  appears to be better known for his impressively thicker thatch…his platinum plumage thinned due to “lifestyle and general stresses” (I’d say he missed an opportunity there to join Right Said Fred, but I digress), as opposed to the upward trajectory of his solo career. He’s also credited  with somewhat incredibly offensive and ill-timed tweets, an inflated ego and a six-month driving suspension after notching up no less than ‘12 penalty points on separate speeding offences’. Wow, way to keep in the spotlight bro!

  But enough about he-of-the-thinning-mane; (and no, I’m not bald-bashing, in my opinion there’s nothing sexier than a bald man), and instead, let’s focus on the remaining fab four Westlifers whose idea of ‘dancing’ was to coordinate their movements from deftly sitting atop a high-stool to cleverly pointing every time they heard a key change whilst warbling to cover tracks. Oh, and dressing like frustrated ‘Greasers’ waiting tables in Arnold’s diner (remember TV’s Happy Days), as they murdered Billy Joel’s classic Uptown Girl!

The now grown-up Nicky, Mark, Kian and Shane, have, no doubt, since going their separate ways, experienced what we’ve all experienced, i.e. dealing with the hard lessons of adulthood. I’d imagine it must have been difficult being molly-coddled by flunkies, and living it large in five-star hotels chatting to music journos about the psychologically demanding choices associated with deciding on your favourite Subway sandwich filling, or which detox juice-cleanser you favoured. And, having now dealt with issues associated with post-boyband life, will the comeback kids manage to perfect their ‘go-to’ pose a la Derek Zoolander’s flawlessly executed, perfectly angled Blue Steel look, get ‘all dressed up for glamour and rock n’ roll’ pour their dad-bods into skinny jeans and drop a credible auto-tuned set of gigs whilst living life on the road at turbo speed?

  Now I’m not accusing the lads of lacking musical talent, I’m sure they’ve got it in abundance; but it’s a fact many a note-strangling group do take advantage of modern technology in order to help them create layered harmonies in the name of delivering seamless performances. But all that aside, I’d like to take this opportunity to congratulate Westlife on what’s clearly their incredible belief in their own abilities (and, ahem, natural-born talent), to croon what we’re told are going to be original Ed Sheeran penned ditties. I’m certain Nicky, Mark, Shane and…er, the other one, will once again raise up all those now hormonal former Queens of their hearts, igniting the one-time wannabe Mrs. Westlifers’ adulation in order that they can stand on mountains and, eh, walk on stormy seas…bless!

Lighten up Kristen, fairytales teach kids a valuable lesson

American actress Kristen Bell’s framing of the scenario where Prince Charming wakes Snow White from her poison-induced sleep with a kiss as a valuable opportunity to teach her kids about consent incited lively debate among keyboard warriors last week.

  I can understand her motives. She’s a concerned mother. I get it. That said, regular readers  know that, being a survivor of rape myself, it’s extremely important to me that, when educating young people about sex, the whole issue surrounding consent, (divisive though it is), is not just addressed in families and in schools, it’s fully understood by everyone. However, it’s my opinion that neither Grimm’s fairytales nor Disney’s adaptations of them are ever going to corrupt our kids. It’s also my opinion that Kristen, who voiced Princess Anna in kids’ favourite Frozen, a hugely successful Disney movie that no doubt did her career a lot of good and made her very rich, is being a tad hypocritical.

  Look, we all know the hot-to-trot ‘Prince’ delivering a persuasive pick-up line via an insolent pout, smouldering looks, and head of hair so fabulous it deserves its own Knighthood is never going to rock up and rescue us. And, as kids, I’ll bet while most of us, (me included) never wished to become actual Princesses, we did secretly want to be treated like one.

  The fact is, in my family, the much-loved tradition of sitting down together to watch Disney’s adaptation of a fairytale holds not just a cultural significance, it’s also something which is not going to decline in popularity, no matter how old we get!

  My most memorable Mother’s Day treat was when all four of us girls headed to the movies to watch Disney’s remake of Beauty and the Beast.

  Sure what could be more inspiring than enjoying a tale where a rose’s breathtaking blooms sit confined to a glass container, threatening to wither and die unless the heroine finally realises she needs to take action and do what we’re all capable of doing, i.e., save herself.

  So you see Kristen, the moral of the story hon, is that fairytales can not just play an important part in enhancing our imaginations, they can also teach us how to blossom and provide our own paths in life.

 

 

Another fine mess…why I’m livid with insensitive Stanley

 

Last week, channelling his inner Maggie Thatcher, and offering his opinion as to what the so-called ‘Iron Lady’ would have thought of the whole Brexit border challenge, Stanley Johnson, champion of the over-privileged and, given his insensitive comments, pitiless prat, said “If the Irish want to shoot each other they will shoot each other whether there’s a hard border or whether there’s a soft border”.

  Speaking on TV show Good Morning Britain, Boris Johnson’s inconsiderate pompous father callously dismissed every devastating and destabilising era in our history as if they were collectively a batch of fun-filled, frivolous pastimes, only occasionally resulting in the disfigurement and death of our people. I mean, what does this clearly intellectually challenged Olympic standard buffoon think we are…a pack of wild savages? And, eh by the way Stanley, we didn’t ‘shoot each other,’ the fact is, historically, many of your fellow countrymen (not all, because I won’t see decent British people maligned), were guilty of starving, torturing and shooting us; but alas, perhaps they didn’t teach you verifiable specifics at your expensive Exeter College?

  Now at this point folks, despite the fact I’m positively livid with Johnson, and with him alone, I feel I must state that I have many UK friends, and I’m married to an Englishman, so I’m fully aware there are righteous, hard-working and honourable British nationals living in Roscommon, so I neither mean, nor do I bear, any ill will toward them whatsoever. In my view, we’ve put our fractured history firmly behind us in the name of peace, love, friendship, and in affording the Queen a warm céad míle fáilte, and I for one wholeheartedly embrace and welcome our British neighbours with open arms and the respect they truly deserve.

  However, in light of Johnson’s statement last week, I have to question if, indeed, we can fully depend on the UK truly being our close friend, or, (and I’m just throwing it out here), does the former MP’s very public lapsus linguae, (that’s slip of the tongue for those wot didn’t do Latin in skule), mean there worryingly still exists – across the water – a band of supercilious ‘ruling-class’ snobs who believe the British historical and tyrannical oppression of our little country, not to mention their former attempt to annihilate our Irish culture, was simply just their little way of ‘aving a right old larf? And, if so, is this belief so deeply ingrained, it has distressingly been passed down through generations? Nah, maybe this is just a Johnson family thing?

  Nevertheless, if the former is the case, (and I’m certain it’s not), but, what if it were, does it mean there’s possibly a cohort of rich gits, totally unburdened by the harsh realities of everyday life, going about dismissing the Good Friday Agreement and the peace process with the same vulgarity displayed by Johnson, hence trying to sour the now solid, trusting relationship we’ve so painstakingly managed to build with our nearest and dearest neighbours? It’s enough to make to one extremely nervous, isn’t it?

Stanley Johnson’s ill-timed comments were not only uncomfortable for us Irish to bear; I’d imagine they’ve also made many of our distinguished British friends feel twitchy.

  It’s my opinion that the former British Foreign Secretary’s father is not just a public embarrassment; he’s also the owner of a dangerous Machiavellian mouth! As someone who used to produce live TV, my advice to UK broadcasters, given we’re now into end-game scenario regarding Brexit, would be to keep this pompous individual whose grasp of history, and delicate political situations, is as naff as his trademark fluff ball, helmet of hair, (which, strangely is probably the most impressive attribute the 78 year old possesses), off the air until the entire situation is safely, securely and harmoniously resolved.

 

Blasphemy: Do you know what you’re voting for?

 

Tomorrow (Friday), sees us going to the polls to vote on a law relating to the offence of Blasphemy. Currently, if an individual is found guilty of what is defined as ‘the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things,’ they could be slapped with a fine of €25,000. There is no prison sentence attached to this offence.

  Now, while our Constitution, i.e. Bunreacht na hÉireann, came into effect on 29th December, 1937, on what’s called Constitution Day, the fact is that Blasphemy was never clearly defined…are ya with me? Therefore, in order to give the offence, (of which nobody has ever been convicted), a clear definition in law, the Defamation Act 2009 says that an individual is guilty of blasphemy if they ‘Publish or say something that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and intend to cause that outrage’. However, I must point out that there is a defence in place if the accused can prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific or academic value in what they have published or said.

Still with me?            

  Now, all of the above aside, while I’m of the opinion that holding a stand-alone referendum to remove the offence of Blasphemy is a waste of taxpayers’ money, I also believe this ridiculous  law has absolutely no place in a civilised, democratic society where we should all be allowed and entitled to express our views. So, while a referendum is an expense we cannot afford, the offence of blasphemy is a clear encroachment on free speech in this country and the Oireachtas needs to be able to change the law so that it is no longer an offence. But that’s just my opinion; it’s up to you to make up your own minds folks.

 

 

I’m glad honourable Denis jumped before he was pushed

 

 

Whether it’s your own decision to move on or whether it’s the gaffer’s decision to push you, the fact is, you need to go with your head held high and your pride intact. And, while I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I do not know former Minister Denis Naughten personally, watching his resignation – which, by the way came as no shock to me having heard Leo Varadkar’s TV3 interview where, in my opinion, he all but held aloft Denis’ P45 for everyone to see – I’m glad he jumped ship before he was pushed.

  It was the honourable and the in-yer-face Leo, thing to do. Fair play to ya Denis! And while doing so, he may have alienated some Rossies, (understandable), Denis hasn’t alienated them all, and he certainly hasn’t alienated this adopted Rossie, who loves nothing more than a fighter and a survivor; especially when it’s one whom, like Naughten, tries hard not to portray themselves as a vengeful sore loser; something which I believe will only serve to benefit his career going forward.

  I don’t need to explain, because unless you were living under a rock, you’ll have been aware of the mounting pressure on Naughten following revelations about several private, unminuted  dinners with the head of the one remaining group bidding for the highly lucrative, (in fact €500 million) National Broadband Plan (NBP) contract.  Add to that, the reasonably priced Dáil lunch – paid for by Naughten – which now turns out to have cost much more than he’d bargained for.

  In addition, if you cast your mind back to April when news of the now infamous and inappropriate contact Denis had in November 2016 with a lobbyist who was acting for Independent News & Media in relation to a proposed takeover bid of the Celtic Media group, then – playing devil’s advocate here – I’d say, in all fairness to Leo, (and I like to think I’m fair-minded), I can see why he probably felt his former Minister had dropped the ball one too many times lately.

  Now while I firmly believe Naughten behaved unwisely, it has to be said he was in an impossible situation, one where a key part of his remit was to provide broadband for the one million plus people who were depending on him. So in my opinion, the poor man was simply trying to do his level best regarding a set of circumstances that were doomed and flawed the very second Eir was allowed to cherry-pick the cream of the crop of customers, propelling the rest of us, (550,000, but I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong), into broadband purgatory.

  Actually, while I’m at it…can I just ask why nobody is going ballistic over that massive betrayal? I mean, why aren’t we all furious over the fact our government, (sorry, our inclusive, fair-minded, reforming government), abdicated its duty to make sure this vital service reached all taxpayers equally, and not just the select few? Or is it far easier to make one man – whose fate was cruelly sealed when he was left with little or no choice – the country’s punchbag? I have no inside knowledge, but I do believe that Naughten engaged with the only entity left in the tendering process for one reason, and one reason only, and that is, nobody wanted to begin the entire painful competitive process from scratch, and, having no other route open to him other than to see this debacle through to its conclusion, and secure us our broadband, he tried hard to break down barriers and keep the remaining contract bidder on side! 

  Denis Naughten, you appear to me to be an affable and a decent gentleman; you hold your head high, hon; you may be down, but you’re not out. I wish you well.

 

Imagine a world with superhero Kanye as POTUS!

 

Love him, loathe him or think as I do that he’s an over-rated ass-kisser with way too much influence and money, it’s clear that Kanye West’s or ‘Ye’ as he wants to be known, circus (esque) meeting with fellow narcissist Donald Trump in the Oval Office last week smacked more of two attention-seeking man-children desperate to show the world that they’re a pair of prize prats!

  You see readers, as human beings were fighting for their very survival during Hurricane Michael, West, the man who seems to believe he has so much God-given talent he could quite possibly be a deity himself, disturbingly cuddled and stroked the publicity-obsessed, erratic, will-full Trump’s ego, both appearing to be totally and embarrassingly immune to the fact the death toll was rapidly rising in Florida!

  I mean, at one stage I actually wondered if what I was looking at was a spoof fly-on-the-wall-mock-u-drama instead of a real-life situation starring a raging racist misogynist, and his deluded, be-fuddled, post-modern, cross-cultural, rapper side-kick, (he’d say genius), who thinks a baseball cap will give him the super powers needed to become the next POTUS!

  However, it was during the very moment a journalist asked Trump if Kim Kardashian’s hubby  could be a future presidential candidate, that the chilling spectre of fear licked over me like fiery flames as Agent Orange turned and replied: “could very well be,” and I realised this egomaniac’s twisted fantasy could actually come true. Just wondering, would his election slogan be ‘Yes We Kanye’?

 

Primary health care should not carry a price tag

 

 

According to Minister for Health Simon Harris, “We are making history,” with the introduction of last week’s Regulation of the Termination of Pregnancy Bill in the Dáil. And, whatever your views concerning the introduction of abortion services in this country, it’s true that, since last May’s referendum to repeal the Eight Amendment, we are indeed making history by legalising this, shall we say, ‘medical procedure,’ making it available, without any cost barrier, for those who want it or who need it.

  However, in our already overstretched and over stressed joke of a healthcare system, which is about to enter the usual annual winter trolley-crisis cock-up, and where over 718,000 patients, many of them elderly, are agonisingly waiting on a hospital appointment, I’d like to ask if, given the obvious sensitive against-the-clock nature of undergoing a pregnancy termination, does this mean this service will now be taking priority over other services? And if so, in light of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association’s annual conference which was held in our neighbouring county Galway last week, and where president Dr. Donal O’Hanlon told us there is a ‘chronic shortage of consultants, beds and other facilities in the health service,’ with five hundred permanent hospital consultant posts remaining ‘unfilled,’ I’m gonna go out on a limb here and ask how deluded does Simon Harris have to be to believe this new free abortion initiative, (vital though it is), will run smoothly?

  Thankfully, I have never been in a so-called crisis pregnancy situation, (although I was a teenage mother), I do understand there are a million reasons why a woman chooses to terminate her pregnancy, and I’ve always tried to remain wholly objective when writing about this very emotive and heartbreaking subject because while I know it’s a personal decision, I also believe it’s an extremely painful one.

  Over the years, I have personally supported, held the trembling hands, and shed what seemed like the perpetual tears of despair with friends who have undergone terminations. I have equally held the hands and shared in the overwhelming anguish of those who have fought tooth and nail to either become pregnant or indeed, to carry their precious babies to full term. And so, with total impartiality, and I hope, sensitivity, I’d like to say that if accessing our new abortion services will not carry a price tag, (which is perfectly acceptable), I would fully agree with those who call for any costs relating to maternity services, which are also equally a major part of our primary healthcare system, to also be universally available to those who need it. I mean fair is fair after all! However, the question still remains…where is all the money coming from Simon?

  Mind you, I’d say all in all, last week was quite a busy time for our little nation with the introduction of the controversial legislation that brings stringent rules and regulations around the sale of alcoholic drinks passing through all stages of the Dáil, thus   paving the way for Big Brother to introduce procedures around placing cancer warnings, minimum unit pricing, advertising restrictions, a broadcasting watershed, and the segregation of the aul uisce beatha etc., from other products in supermarkets in the vain hope it’ll reduce our alcohol consumption.

  Now while this Bill, described by Simon Harris  as  being “ground breaking legislation,” clearly represents a milestone for this country, (and given it has been before the Oireachtas since 2015, I’d say he’s delira to see the back of it), I do agree and empathise that, in many Irish households, (not all), alcohol consumption has caused enormous devastation to families; however, while this highly significant legislative step might make it look like our government is doing something, it remains my opinion that moderate alcohol consumption in a reasonable manner will not negatively affect our society.

  So Simon, instead of banning the booze, and treating us all like inebriated dipsos, why not become proactive in rolling out a comprehensive education and advocacy service regarding its misuse and abuse?

 

We owe Emma a debt of gratitude

 

She could have spent every waking hour she had with her family, however, the heroine that was Emma Mhic Mhathúna whose cervical screening slides were misread, resulting in a failure to pick up abnormalities leading to her being diagnosed with cervical cancer, used what precious little time she had left on this earth to fight for social justice for women like you, me and her five babies. This young mother of five, this boundless warrior, had a singular determination to fight the battle for truth, and fight she did; however, last week, Emma died without ever managing to secure the one thing she strove to achieve…full and unconditional accountability for her devastating circumstances. You see, despite the fact negligence was proven, liability was admitted and she received a settlement of €7.5m; today, as I write, CervicalCheck has still not ordered an investigation to ascertain what went wrong with the entire programme!

  While I feel absolutely heartbroken for Emma’s family, and for the 221 other women directly affected by this devastating cancer scandal, (however it’s likely that not all of these 221 women at the centre of this debacle who got wrong test results are victims of negligence), I must point out that the importance of the CervicalCheck screening programme should never be underestimated.

            I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again; I believe, beyond a doubt, that a routine CervicalCheck saved my life; it picked up my, let’s call them, ‘invasive’ cells, and I would urge all women not to lose confidence in this vital service. 

  Emma Mhic Mhathúna made an enormous impact on this world, one that far transcended her fight for the truth. Never hesitant to speak her mind, this eloquent human being effortlessly traversed the worlds of  motherhood and influential activist; may she rest in peace.

 

 

Why I’m lovin’ Oíche Shamhna Roscommon style

 

 

 

Hi, my name is Miriam and I’m a recovering Hallowe’en hater! Now don’t get me wrong, it’s got nothing to do with scary movies, nor has it got anything to do with dressing up; I’m a big drama queen who loves nothing more than trowelling enough slap on her face to cover an entire RuPaul Drag Race Convention. Besides, what mature woman in her right mind would pass up the opportunity to morph into shape-shifting Mystique…yep, still trying to wash that blue body paint out of my orifices and my unmentionables. 

  So you get it; I’m a fun girl, well, a fun aul wan in denial, who likes to go a little crazy at Hallowe’en.

However, if you’re a former animal welfare officer working in Dublin, as I once was, then Hallowe’en and the build-up can be a living hell. Let me explain…

  The areas in which I worked turned into war-zones with the ‘traditional’ bonfire stockpiling beginning in September. This gave a licence to gormless thugs, (and, strangely, some of their parents, who were usually filthy drunk) to build towering inferno skyscrapers next to houses, cars and sheds, and then set them alight. If that weren’t destructive enough, many would throw (unlicensed) fireworks and bangers onto the blaze for good measure, before rejoicing in perverted hysteria! 

  Now you may well call me a waspish aul killjoy, trying to pour cold water on the poor kids’ fun, but when you’re passionate about animals and are heartbreakingly tasked with rescuing (or retrieving) a poor innocent dog or cat who has been walking around their own garden, (because their owner has ignored public pleas to keep them indoors),  and who instead, has, through no fault of their own, strayed into the uneducated cretins’ path, and then is, let’s say for the sake of decency, ‘horrifically abused’ and you, (as I have) are called to clean up the mess, then I’d imagine, you too would hate Hallowe’en.

  I can tell you readers, I bore witness to sights that broke me. In fact, so horrendous and endemic was animal cruelty in certain ‘hot spot’ areas around Hallowe’en that I refused point blank to allow anyone adopt a cat, in particular black kitties, for the simple reason, through research and experience, the organisation I worked for found there was a strong predilection for sadistic individuals to use them in certain torture rituals. Due to this, I worked in tandem with members of Dublin Fire Brigade and An Garda Siochána promoting positive animal welfare and the responsible enjoyment of the spooky season.

  However, I did say I’m a former Hallowe’en hater because, since we relocated to rural Roscommon, the run-up to Oíche Shamhna, and indeed, the night itself has passed without incident, i.e. it’s stress-free and as quiet as the grave, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the whole experience, even going so far as to try and keep up with the Addams’ family; (for those scratching their heads, they’re TV’s fictional scary bunch), by decorating the house two weeks beforehand with pumpkins, seasonal wreaths and swivelling skeletons etc., And sure who doesn’t adore drinking delicious pumpkin lattes and downing Roscommon’s finest restaurants’ spooktacular eats and treats so  indicative of this ghoulish gore-fest!

  Now don’t get me wrong, I do love my native Dublin, and will always stand up for it. But since moving to Roscommon, where I keep my hand on the tip of my car’s steering wheel ready to wave and acknowledge my fellow friendly motorists as they pass by; where the reassuring aroma of turf  (as opposed to the scorched stench of someone’s torched property) creeps up your nostrils at Hallowe’en, where everyone knows everyone meaning teens are unlikely to cause trouble and step out of line, and are instead, likely to be a lot more respectful, possibly for fear their parents (and the local community guard) would get wind of their antics; I’ve now warmed to the supernatural season.

  Of course I’m not suggesting that Hallowe’en Roscommon style passes without incident, (I’m sure the poor Gardaí and the emergency services are kept on their toes); however, from my own personal experience, in this neck of the woods,  you’re less likely to see an out of control gang of kids, (some as young as 11-years-old) discharging  incendiary objects in your direction while others, only slightly older, get high, neck bottles of beer and hurl aerosol cans and other explosive devices onto bonfires…all done in the name of a celebration!

 

Leave the diesel alone Paschal!

Readers will know that traditionally, up to 2014, Budget Day would land during the first week of December; just in time for the Christmas shopping splurge…or not, depending on the outcome.

However, ahead of next Tuesday’s big budget reveal, (well, it’s hardly a revelation, considering the government’s  been drip feeding us carefully stage-managed titbits for months now), Paschal Donohoe, (the owner of what is possibly Ireland’s most irritating voice), is fully expected to implement a few paltry cuts to our Income Tax and our USC levies.

  However, I’m sure in true spreadsheet-bulimic style, (give, take, give, take), Paschal will snap his fiscal wallet shut and slap a big juicy increase on the excise duty on diesel meaning those of us who drive diesel cars will see our weekly outgoings ballooning even higher than they have over the past few weeks. Has anyone noticed how expensive filling up for a journey has become? Sure it’s enough to make me choke, because, and here’s the kicker, while I’m no tree hugger, I am one of those eejits who fell for the manipulative spin that switching from petrol to diesel was a positive step towards saving our planet.

  However, in hindsight, in a clear case of daylight robbery Irish style, I realise the government didn’t actually want me to be environmentally conscientious; they just wanted me to possess something they could tax, and then strip me of my ability to use it! If you want to take the knife out of my back Paschal love, please leave the diesel alone!

Does Menopause Treaty render our warranty on worth to expire?

 

 

Having been part of a couple since I was 15 years old, I’ve never actually been on the so-called ‘dating’ scene. However, while watching a clip of ITV’s This Morning last week, I’ve come to the conclusion that, if you’re single, and of a certain age, (as in a fabulous mature lady), then dating twenty-first-century-style should probably be reserved for the extreme sports enthusiasts!

  Yes girls, it seems, unless you’re a woman who’s prepared to lurk in dark corners, avoiding bright lights for fear they’ll show up your wrinkles, then those unattached minxes among us will probably either need to drastically alter their aging appearances, or channel the confidence of a daring trapeze artist willing to dive into the dating pool without the benefit of a safety net!

  Yes readers, it appears once a woman reaches a certain milestone, something which I’m going to call the Menopause Treaty springs into action, cruelly reminding us the best before warranty on our worth has long expired, pulling the pin on the live grenade that was once our youthful beauty.

  Now it’s not the grey roots that have ruffled my feathers this week, nay it’s a certain Dr. Linda Li, cosmetic surgeon extraordinaire, who works in association with an online dating site, Beautifulpeople.com where members brutally get to  vote on whether or not new applicants are eligible to join… based on their looks alone!

  Speaking on This Morning last week, Dr. Li callously informed presenter Ruth Langsford, who is, in my opinion, a stunningly attractive and highly intelligent middle-aged woman, that, if she were to join her dating site and was ‘rejected’ for not being ‘beautiful’ enough, not to panic; help was at hand. Whew!

  While the doc didn’t actually tell Ruth her face had more lines than British Telecom, she rudely pointed out her “early signs of facial ageing,” her droopy “upper eyelid skin,” and her “smile lines, (which) are a little more prominent,” helpfully adding “we can soften all of that”. Aaaww bless, chin up Ruth hon; and, despite what Dr. Linda says…you do only have one of them!

  Now where was this talented yet arrogant doctor when women like Ruth, me and the rest of the wrinkled female population were spending a fortune on miracle creams for our faces, stomachs, thighs and boobs that, having breastfed, now sit comfortably on our waists? Add in the fact that having painfully pushed out our brood, it’s likely our once solid pelvic floor muscles have become so stressed, we’ll never again be able to burst into a fit of laughter without first secretly contracting our vaginal muscles for fear we’ll accidentally pee ourselves!

  While I’m sure this doctor was only offering her professional opinion, and is not, (as I shouted at the telly), the devil incarnate, (although, you could probably confuse them both in an identity parade), she did come across as being overcritical and dismissive of older women, especially when, in a voice that sounded more like a rusty hinge, she touted for business by delivering the final blow, saying when women age, “it becomes more and more difficult to maintain a slim figure, so when we disrobe, it may make us more comfortable to have a slimmer figure and liposuction is a great way to do it”. 

  And there was me thinking that spraying on the fake tan as though I was Michelangelo would make me look more desirable in a nightie; when, in actual fact, it probably settles in my wrinkles, making me resemble an over-ripe mango!

  So much for going about life thinking hubby adored me for my lived-in look, when, in fact, he’s probably only attracted to my cryptic crossword solving abilities; and, if I want to hang onto him, (in the face-lift specialist’s opinion), I’ll need to hop off that hamster wheel of oblivion, have my entire head cosmetically removed and join her Beautifulpeople.com dating site!  

  Yes ladies, it appears that once we reach middle age and the kids have left home, unless we reassess our critical failure measures, (i.e. our time-worn skins), our have-it-all-dream will turn into a lift-it-all-nightmare. I’ll tell you this, if the ESB could have harvested the steam rising from my body during that interview, Roscommon’s energy problems would be forever solved.

 

Allow Gardaí the scope and space to get to know us as a community

 

An Garda Síochána remained the big story last week. This was due to the findings of The Future of Policing in Ireland Report coming up with 50 radical recommendations, which it suggests should be implemented over what I’d imagine to be a pretty narrow four-year timeframe.

  As our police force was founded nearly a century ago by my hero Michael Collins, and on the 8th August, (which, coincidentally is my birthday), I’d assume it’s going to take a lot longer to change a culture that’s been growing steadily for such a long time. 

  In addition, if these findings are to be taken seriously and not join all of the other expensive recommendation-filled reports gathering dust in filing cabinets around the country, then an independent individual must be tasked with overseeing them.

  However, throwing in my own tuppence worth of insight into the mix here, I’d urge the government (and the public) to start cooperating with An Garda Síochána and to treat them as the community focused and friendly professionals they clearly are.

  We need to return to a time when our Gardaí were allowed the scope and the space to be able to knock on our doors, introduce themselves, and get to know us, and not just as the citizens they’ve sworn to protect, but as locals who are ready to offer them the cooperation and the respect they so richly deserve.

 

 

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