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Ben there, Dunne that: Meeting the Taoisigh…

 

 

Forget substance, think style, forget policy, think personality! As Leo Varadkar becomes Ireland’s 14th Taoiseach, People Editor PAUL HEALY, who has met every holder of the Office of Taoiseach since 1979 (except for Garret), presents a tongue-in-cheek reflection on his first impressions of each one…

 

Whether I liked it or not, I met every Taoiseach we’ve had over the past 38 years (except for Garret).

 

Charles Haughey (1979-’81; 1982; 1987-‘92): A bit of a boyo, as you may have heard. There was a period in the late 1980s and early ‘90s when we stretched the expenses account at the Roscommon Champion and covered the annual Ard Fheis of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. The Fianna Fáil ones were the most exciting, because of the Haughey factor. After Haughey’s address at the 1991 Ard Fheis in the RDS, Sean Doherty invited myself and photographer Gerard O’Loughlin to a reception upstairs. When an exultant Charlie made his grand entrance later, we actually switched our attention from the free bar and watched as his presence commanded the attention of guests. When Sean Doherty introduced us, I had a few starry-eyed moments chatting to Charlie. He never mentioned the fact that Ben Dunne called to Kinsealy that very month and handed CJ over 200,000 pounds in cheques.

  Ben: ‘There’s something for yourself…’

  Charlie: ‘Thanks big fella…’

I detected no tension between Sean Doherty and Charlie Haughey in that post-Ard Fheis bar. A few months later, Sean brought Haughey crashing down, when ‘The Doc’ implicated ‘The Boss’ in the 1982 phone-tapping scandal.

Garret Fitzgerald (1981-’82 and 1982-‘87): I never met him, but respected him from afar.

Albert Reynolds (1992-’94): Interviewing Albert in the Longford Arms Hotel, I was rather chuffed when he took a phone call from Gerry Adams while in my presence. “That was Gerry” Albert casually said when their chat ended. 

  Later, I interviewed Albert in the Taoiseach’s Private Office. He was just back a day or two from the funeral of Virginia Clinton, mother of Bill, then the American President.

  “She was a great card player” Albert mused.

High office couldn’t change Albert – he was wonderfully ordinary.

Many people in this area will remember the famous marathon Fianna Fáil Convention of 1992. The hall in Ballyleague was packed, warm and stuffy, and the progress was slow. There was the usual pandemonium at the doors, with people trying to gain entry. A prisoner of procedure inside, Taoiseach Albert could take no more; so he climbed out through a window from a side room and made his getaway. He promptly took ‘forty winks’ in his car while the formalities continues inside the hall. If it was now, the unconventional Taoiseach would be judged and photographed all over social media.

John Bruton (1994-’97): A mighty man to drink a pint. He opened a bypass in Longford, flanked by fellow dignitaries and the wider public. After the formalities, a couple of hundred guests were invited to a celebration function in the Annaly Hotel. It was late afternoon, early evening. I watched as the Taoiseach of the country, holding court at the top table, drank five pints over dinner. He could hold his drink; he held office for three years, more often than not with commendable assurance. 

Bertie Ahern (1997-2008): Charlie was on to something when he described Bertie as ‘the most cunning.’ In many ways he was an actor; certainly he was all things to all people for a long time. Except towards the end, when things had begun to turn sour, Bertie was adored by the man and woman in the street. And it was ‘in the street’ that I saw Bertie’s X Factor work its magic. Canvassing in Roscommon, in campaign after campaign, he devoured the streets at high speed, smiling, winking, kissing babies and always holding a head of cabbage up for the photographer when he got to the vegetable stall in Main Street. Everyone he met seemed to love him, but the meeting was always a fleeting one; there was never time to have a serious chat with Bertie, which, looking back, was probably just as well.

Brian Cowen (2008-2011): He popped into the Roscommon People offices, then located in the Harrison Centre, in the summer of 2008. He was friendly without being particularly charismatic. Cowen chatted briefly about the economy and the newspaper industry. I specifically remember him NOT saying: “The economy is about to crash, there won’t be a soft landing after all, the IMF are on my speed dial and we’re all banjaxed!”

Enda Kenny (2011-2017): The first time I met him was after hours in a Dublin hotel when he was a mere TD. He was very sociable. In 2011, he was still good craic, but now a new persona had to be created, a new level of gravitas adopted. Most of them do it. In the years that followed, we saw different versions of the man; including the ‘How’s she cutting?’ Enda and also the ‘International Statesman’ Enda.

I had always liked him and, as a personable West of Ireland man who got the top job, he would always have been well received in Roscommon…until, You Know What happened. When You Know What happened, everything changed.

I met him a few times, and we even had our photo taken together on one of his campaign visits to our office. I only interviewed Enda once; it was about a year before he became Taoiseach. I asked him that day for his thoughts on Roscommon Hospital. His response was vague!

Later, when he became Taoiseach, You Know What happened. This was one man who wouldn’t be holding cabbage plants aloft in Roscommon Town for a while.

In saying that, I would acknowledge that Enda did a lot of things right as Taoiseach, and, no more than Bertie, he had a fair bit of cunning.

And so, with no expectation that he’ll escape from a party convention via a window, drink five pints in public in the afternoon, or accept a €200,000 gift from a kindly businessman, it’s over to Leo…

 

‘Walks for Wheelchairs’ project in pipeline

 

 

Cllr. Orla Leyden paid tribute to Cuisle Holiday Centre earlier this week as the resort celebrated its 20th Anniversary while also highlighting the ‘Walks for Wheelchairs’ project, which has recently been submitted for outdoor recreational funding.

  Speaking to the Roscommon People, she said: “Cuisle is a fantastic facility which is of great benefit to the local community as both a venue and employer.”

  Addressing the ‘Walks for Wheelchairs’ project, she added: “I am excited about the project that was submitted recently for outdoor recreational infrastructure funding at Stoneham’s Lake which, if approved by the Department, will increase the compliment of accessible recreational amenities in this rural area close to the Irish Wheelchair Association National Holiday Centre at Cuisle and enhance the Suck Valley Way.

  “This is in addition to the additional 30 metres of accessible angling platform being developed at Stoneham’s Lake (Linn Ban lake) this summer with funding awarded by Inland Fisheries Ireland to the Suck Valley Development Cooperative working with the Suck Valley Angling hub.”

  Cllr. Leyden recognised the support by Coillte for both projects and also thanked Minister Naughten for facilitating a meeting with Coillte senior staff in Roscommon town recently which was attended by members of the Castlecoote Donamon Creggs Rural Tourism and Environmental Community Action Group.

  Cllr. Leyden stressed that the opposition of the local group to an industrial wind farm in the area was made very clear to Coillte when they met the semi-state body. 

  Describing the meeting as “very positive”, Leyden acknowledged Coillte’s assistance to date and expressed her gratitude for its support for the ‘Walks for Wheelchairs’ project and permitting access via their lands to the development.

 

Plans to enhance Boyle after Council buys Royal Hotel

 

 

Roscommon County Council says a project aimed at enhancing the centre of Boyle will progress within the next year. This follows the Council’s purchase last week of the Royal Hotel site in the town.

  The Council said it has no firm proposals for the development of the site but can confirm that it is envisaged that a project to enhance the centre of Boyle town will be progressed through the planning process within the next twelve months.

  Responding, Senator Frank Feighan said he is looking forward to a wide-ranging consultation process with local organisations. Senator Maura Hopkins said proper consultation with the community is essential.

  Complimenting the Council’s role in the development of Lough Key Forest Park and King House, Senator Feighan expressed confidence in the local authority’s approach.

  While he accepts a hotel project isn’t planned, he says the move places the need to have a hotel in Boyle on top of the agenda once more.

  “Boyle has seen the loss of two hotels, and combined with a number of planning permissions for hotel projects being refused, we must strive to look at all options to address this deficit in key infrastructure.”

  Senator Maura Hopkins said that it is important that development works on the former Royal Hotel in Boyle involves proper consultation with the community of Boyle in order to make the best use of this space for the benefit of further developing the area’s tourism potential.

 

European acclaim for Percy French Festival

 

2017 event to host prominent speakers

 

For the second year running The Percy French Festival has received the prestigious EFFE (Europe for Festivals, Festivals for Europe) award. The award is presented by the European Festivals Association to acknowledge exciting and innovative festivals across the continent.

  This award once again highlights The Percy French Festival as an outstanding event in the cultural calendar. The Percy French Festival is one of only nine festivals in Ireland to receive the award.

  This year’s festival, ‘Towards a Third Republic’ takes place from Wednesday, July 5th to Friday, July 7th, and will feature noteworthy speakers such as former Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell; Eoin Ó Broin, TD for Dublin Mid-West; Dr. Brian Griffin; award-winning newspaper columnist, Sam Smyth; Croatian Ambassador, Ivan Masina and many more.

  Music in the afternoon will be provided by Michael Hurley and Kathy Eastwood with ‘Essentially French’; Peader McMahon & Friends with ‘21st Century French’ and Jack & Mac with ‘Percy French meets Jack & Mac’.

  This year’s festival promises to be another highly informative instalment, which will turn a European eye on the republic and consider what might lie ahead.

  Castlecoote House will play host to The Percy French Festival from Wednesday, July 5th to Friday, July 7th. For more information log email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact 090-6663794.

 

Opportunity to apply for funding for environmental projects

 

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten is making €460,000 available to community groups, schools and individuals nationally to encourage environmental projects in the community such as allotments and community and school gardens.

0 Minister Naughten is encouraging Roscommon groups and schools to apply for their share of this funding before the deadline on 23rd of June.

  Minister Naughten stated: “Last year Roscommon received more than €17,000 under this fund for environmental projects from school gardens and tidy towns work, to awareness exhibitions and workshops and environmental clean-up projects. These projects leave a positive lasting legacy for us all to enjoy so I am calling on all Roscommon groups, schools and communities to apply this year under the scheme for their share of this increased funding.”

  Eligible projects are those that will support and complement, at a local level, national environmental policies such as those on Waste, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Air, Water and Sustainable Development. Groups seeking funding for eligible projects in Roscommon are invited to make an application directly to Roscommon County Council.

  Completed application forms should be returned by 5 pm on the 23rd of June, 2017. 

 

News...at a glance - June 16th

 

Coffee Morning for parents in Roscommon County Childcare Committee

Roscommon County Childcare Committee are hosting a coffee morning for parents on Wednesday, the 21st of June in Roscommon CCC, Knock Road, Castlerea from 10 am-12 pm.

  This is an informal morning where you can meet and network with other parents. The staff of Roscommon CCC will facilitate a discussion on the Access and Inclusion Model (AIM) and the National Childcare Programmes.

  Book your place by contacting Majella on 094-9622520 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. the 20th of June. We looking forward in seeing you there.

A thank you from Hospice

Roscommon/Mayo Hospice sincerely thank all the volunteers who helped with the recent national sunflower days for hospice in Roscommon & Mayo areas. Grateful thanks also to all the stores for their co-operation and all who gave so generously to the cause. Your kind and generous support is greatly valued and acknowledged. 

  All monies raised go directly to support local hospice palliative care services to help those in need in the local community. The service is free to all who need it.

  If you would like to become a volunteer or help by ‘regular giving’ by donating €10 per month, please call 094-9388666.  Your help would mean so much to so many.   

Lisonuffy Cemetery survey: Help sought

All the headstone inscriptions in Lisonuffy Cemetery are being recorded and placed on a database. Volunteers are needed to assist in the project. Anyone interested in helping can contact 087-9074869 or 087-1252361.

  The survey will commence on Friday, 16th of June and end on Saturday, 17th of June. The inscriptions data will be available on the Internet when the process is completed. 

Creggs Lip Sync Challenge is this Saturday night!

Creggs NS Parents Association present ‘Lip Sync Challenge’ in Creggs NS school hall on Saturday, 17th of June at 9 pm.

  The full list of acts are – Queen: Bobby Jennings; The Supremes: Eve Smyth, Laura Curley, Kate Hanley; House of Pain: Eugene Hanley; 5ive: Conor Gore, Gerry Keegan, Enda Conneran, Shane Dowd & Noel Gately; Cher: Elaine Hanley; Meatloaf: Michael Fitzmaurice, TD; Guns N’ Roses: Grace Curley & Shane Curley; Tina Turner: Anouska O’Grady-Lohan; Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton: Frank Brandon & Jacinta Hanley; Dire Straits: Tom Connolly; Liam Gallagher: Darragh Connelly; Sister Act:  Dympna Hurley, Emma Curley, Bobby Jennings & Edel Maloney.

  Tickets (€10) are available in local shops or on the door. 

Salsa babies at the Arts Centre!

Roscommon Arts Centre’s relaxed and informal music performances for little ones are back this Saturday (17th) with Salsa music for little ones.

  These great little concerts are aimed at children from birth, right up to 3 years old, with one performance for 0-18 month olds and another for the slightly more boisterous 18 month-3-year-old groovers!

  Professional musicians Stephanie Pawula and Gilles Gary’s performances will be full of the infectious rhythmic swing of salsa music as you and your little one relax on one of our comfy couches or explore the space as you get moving with your toddler around the floor.

  Bossa Nova Babies (0-18 months) takes place at 12 pm and will last approximately 40 minutes and our Bossa Nova Boppers (18 months-3 years) are welcome at our 2 pm show. These family friendly events are designed to be informal and relaxed. Buggies welcome – you can feed during the show and there’s even a changing mat on hand, if needed!

  A wonderful bonding experience, babies go free to this event. One adult ticket is €10, with additional tickets priced at just €5 each.

  Pre-booking advisable on 090-6625824. This programming initiative is in partnership with The Hawk’s Well Theatre, Sligo.

Threen NS 5K Fun Run

The Threen NS 5K Fun Run will be held on Sunday, 25th of June starting at the school at 12 pm. Registration will take place from 11 am. Admission costs €10 per person or €20 per family. Your support would be greatly appreciated.

 

People Platform - June 16th

 

An Open Letter to Minister Denis Naughten                                                                                                                                        

Creevyquinn,

Roscommon

Dear Minister Naughten,

I feel compelled to write to you after hearing the decision to grant planning permission for a 34-acre solar farm at Creevyquin townland, Roscommon. It is scheduled to be built across the road from houses lived in by my family and neighbours, about a mile from the town.

  Fifteen families from the neighbourhood showed their disapproval of this solar farm project by signing a petition aimed at stopping it going ahead. However, we were not listened to. It seems to me that residents expressing their views is a waste of time. Let me make it quite clear to you minister, I do not want a solar farm in Creevyquin.

  It is my strong view that residential areas such as Creevquin are totally inappropriate locations for the size and scale needed for solar farms. In this case, Roscommon Co. Council has allowed the go-ahead for this large-scale development, a decision which I believe to be against the wishes of the majority of the community.

  I have no objection to the building of solar farms, however, there is an appropriate place for them and it’s not across from family homes. We can already view wind farms in Sliabh Ban in Strokestown from our front gardens. With regard to the solar farm, please do not give the excuse that we will not see them.

  Minister, in ‘The Irish Examiner’ on January 9th, 2017, in relation to solar farms, you stated “we need to start bringing people with us” instead of “bulldozing ahead and telling people we are going to do this, that, or the other.” You promise “this will not happen on my watch.”

  Again, in The Irish Examiner on April 28th, 2017 it is reported that solar panels are being introduced into four remote areas of bogland in Roscommon, Kildare and Offaly. Creevyquin is not a remote bogland. It is a thriving residential community expanding year after year with a strong tradition of families helping each other in times of need.

  You are the Minister of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources. I am asking you to stand together with us, the residents of Creevyquin, now – so that this totally unsuitable development will not go ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Evelyn Killeen McCrann

 

Deputy Fitzmaurice responds to criticism from Fine Gael

In last week’s ‘People Platform’, Fine Gael activist Gary Stephens accused Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice of using alleged rumours about Roscommon A&E for his own political advantage. Deputy Fitzmaurice, wrote Mr. Stephens, is a backbench TD “who deals in rumours” and who should stop using the hospital for political gain. Deputy Fitzmaurice has submitted the following response:

Dear Editor,

In reply to Gary Stephens’ letter last week, I wish to make the following points:

  * Gary must be suffering from amnesia as it was Fine Gael and Enda Kenny who closed the A&E Unit at Roscommon County Hospital in 2011.

* It is rich for Mr. Stephens and Fine Gael to make accusations about broken election promises after what happened with regard to Roscommon County Hospital during the 2011 election campaign.

* Many undertakings on health services locally which I sought and were agreed in the negotiations for The Programme for Government last year have not been delivered upon. For example, demands such as for a 24-hour air ambulance service and several improvements in the area of mental health services have not been delivered.

* I never stated at any time that the re-opening of Roscommon A&E was up for negotiation but the rumours to that effect came from members of his own party.

* My decision to sit on the opposition benches last year came about because I am a man of my word and the Government could not deliver on a number of red-line issues and promises I made to the people who voted for me. I was not going to compromise for the sake of a few extra euro and the promise of a state car.

  With the chaos that exists at UCHG on an ongoing basis there could still be a role for Roscommon A&E in the future and I will continue to fight for local health and other services as I promised the people of this constituency that I would do.

  I think that Mr. Stephens’ use of the phrase ‘I had to laugh’ at the start of his letter is most unfortunate as it is people’s lives that we are talking about here.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Fitzmaurice, TD

Small businesses in Roscommon: Some encouraging signs…

Here at the Roscommon People, Roscommon’s locally owned newspaper, we’re thrilled to see a quite sudden and very welcome surge in instances of new businesses opening throughout the county.

  Times are still very difficult for small businesses but it’s extremely encouraging to note that four or five new businesses have opened in Roscommon Town in the past six weeks or so as well as some new enterprises springing up in other parts of the county.

  Just four months ago Scramogue woman Stephanie Brennan (pictured) took the plunge in Strokestown and now her House.Of.Hair. hair salon is receiving great support from the local community.

  We spoke with Stephanie this week and on page 9 of today’s Roscommon People we feature this terrific local success story.

  Towns like Strokestown were badly hit during the recession and it’s really positive to see young entrepreneurs showing courage by opening their own businesses. People like Stephanie are to be congratulated and deserve the support of the local community.

  Also this week (pages 3 and 56) we feature the 10th anniversary celebrations at the state-of-the-art Lynch Flooring, Golf Links Road, Roscommon.

  Lynch Flooring started out in 2007 (in the same year as the Roscommon People) and proprietor Gabriel Lynch and his team have now built up a huge customer base both locally and from further afield. 

  Indeed the regular influx of customers from adjoining counties to businesses like Lynch Flooring is a huge positive for Roscommon Town as a whole.

  It’s great to see local businesses such as Lynch Flooring successfully trading through difficult times and emerging stronger than ever. It’s been a great success story and we say ‘Happy Birthday’ to Gabriel, Annmarie and the team at Lynch Flooring!

  As ever, the Roscommon People encourages our 80,000 readers to shop locally…support our local employment providers and keep ‘local money’ in circulation locally!

– PH

 

 

Leyden dismay at Government’s wind farm plan

 

 

Cllr. Orla Leyden said that she is dismayed at the Government’s decision not to increase the mandatory setback distance for high powered wind turbines from the current 500 metres from homes. While turbines will have to be built a distance of four times the height of the turbine from residences, she said that this simply does not go far enough.

  Cllr. Leyden, who made a submission to the Department’s Wind Energy Guidelines, sought a minimum distance of ten times the height of the turbine from residences.

  She said: “I’m really disappointed in Minister Naughten and Minister Coveney who had the opportunity to put safeguards in place to protect rural communities threatened with industrial wind farms and failed to do so. They have completely ignored the detrimental impact of shadow flicker on residents living beside wind turbines with those affected saying they can’t sit in their gardens or work or relax in their homes with the constant battering of the flicker in the afternoon and evening.” 

  She added that she was also concerned as to how the noise levels are to be monitored, how robust the system of monitoring is and ultimately who will be responsible for enforcement.   

  Cllr. Leyden said: “Many people in Sliabh Bán are negatively impacted by noise emission from the industrial wind farm on the mountain and their concerns have not been addressed to date. This is not acceptable.”

  Cllr. Leyden has called on Minister Naughten to go back to government and increase the set back of wind turbines to residences to at least ten times the height of the turbine and to bring in legislation through his department to cease all subsidisation of onshore wind energy in Ireland.

 

Ex-CIA Chief John Brennan makes another visit to Kilteevan

 

The former Director of the CIA, John Brennan, has made yet another return visit to Kilteevan, Roscommon, where his late father was born.

Mr. Brennan was Head of the CIA for four years under the Barack Obama administration, vacating the role earlier this year. 

Mr. Brennan, who has made a number of private visits to Roscommon over the years, came to Kilteevan with his father, Owen, and his brother, Tom, for The Gathering celebrations in 2013. His father has since passed away. 

It has emerged that Mr. Brennan called to Kilteevan Community Centre this week to see the tree which was planted there by his father in 2013.

Mr. Brennan was presented with a book of photographs which recorded Kilteevan Gathering events.

Mr. Brennan expressed his delight for the welcome he had received for The Gathering and said he looks forward to visiting Kilteevan again in the near future.  He stressed the importance of the visit for The Gathering to his family and especially to his father, who died in December 2016.

A delighted Eileen Fahey, Chairperson of Kilteevan Tidy Towns, says the long-term vision around community development in Kilteevan is becoming a reality.”

Commenting that “Kilteevan is definitely on the map!” Ms. Fahey noted that in the past week, eight visitors from the United States have called to the village.

Last week as the Kilteevan Tidy Towns group went about their weekly tasks in preparation for adjudication, five members of the American branch of the Mapother family arrived to chat to locals. The Mapother family played a significant role in the history of the Kilteevan area.

The visiting family expressed delight in following the Kilteevan Heritage Trail and discovering research that had been carried out on their ancestors in 2004 by Kilteevan Community Development Group.

The visiting family, who reside in Georgia in the USA, indicated that they and other relatives of the Mapother family intend returning to Kilteevan in the near future.

Other visitors from the USA came in search of a relative that was married in Kilteevan Church in 1843. The visitors were very impressed to find the building (now the Community Centre) was still standing and playing a significant role in the social life of the Kilteevan community.

These welcome visitors to Kilteevan highlights the importance of the funding and support given to community and Tidy Towns groups. The supports continue to develop attractions into rural areas and plays an important role in promoting local tourism.   

 

 

 

 

 

Hopkins hails the Leo era!

 

Senator Maura Hopkins says she believes new Fine Gael Leader Leo Varadkar will be an excellent leader for the party and the country.

She said: “I am very happy to have supported Leo Varadkar to become leader of Fine Gael. I have always had a very strong working relationship with him since being elected a councillor.

“I believe him to be a modern, progressive politician and I have every confidence that he will be an excellent leader both for Fine Gael and most importantly for our country.”

Senator Hopkins says she now looks forward to working closely with Mr. Varadkar in his new role.

 

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