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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

The passing of my favourite comedian



Taking a break from Leo, Donald, the weather and the other odds and ends that catch his attention, PAUL HEALY casts a nostalgic eye on a great entertainment era and pays tribute to a comedy icon…

“My dad knew I was going to be a comedian. When I was a baby, he said, ‘Is this a joke?’”

“I went outside the house and there was this man with his head sticking out the pavement. I said: ‘Are you from the gas board?’ He said: ‘No, my parachute didn’t open’”

“This lady stopped me the other day. She said, ‘Hello handsome, can you tell me the way to the optician’s?’”

He was easily my favourite British comedian of all time.

  I watched him for a half an hour or so on Monday night, not knowing he was dead.

  Then, the dreaded image and caption at the closing credits: ‘In memory of the late Ken Dodd (1927-2018)’.

  My heart sank.

  It had been a normal Monday night’s viewing. Switching from Claire to Matt and Ivan, I got bored with the latter, Mr. Yates being prone to bombastic outbursts (I still quite like him as a broadcaster).

  I channel-hopped and ‘landed’ on BBC 1. I was surprised to see Ken Dodd in full flow, but thought it must be a documentary on the great comedian.

  It was only when the programme ended and the credits rolled that the realisation dawned: another laugh-shaped part of our youth had died some hours earlier.

  Straight to Google…for the news that I had missed: ‘Comedy legend Sir Ken Dodd dies, aged 90’. 

  The greatest of them all, gone.

  Of course we judge these important matters, to some extent at least, through the lens of our youth, through memories that may be faded or ‘rose-tinted.’ So be it. And I am conscious that some of the showbiz stars of the 1970s and ‘80s may not have dated that well, their material, that is. Watch a clip from a comedian of that era now and it can sometimes seem dated and unsophisticated and less than hilarious. We won’t even get into the rampant sexism and racism that underpinned much of the comedy of the time.

  But, but…but…some of the comedy we grew up on really does stand up well after all these years. I would go further: some of the comedy of the 1970s and ‘80s was much better (and often much less offensive) than today’s.

  Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, the great Tommy Cooper, the unique Spike Milligan, our own Dave Allen, Billy Connolly, Kenny Everett, Bob Monkhouse and countless sit-coms more than make up for the mediocre stuff or for the material which we hailed then but which we would now admit was racist/just unfunny. There was some rubbish, but there was a lot of gold.

  In Ireland, we were enormously influenced by  British television. Up to 1978, we only had one channel here (RTE). In my book, ‘Nothing About Sheep Stealing’, I reminisced about a typical evening’s schedule on RTE.


From a Tuesday in August 1970:

7.50 pm: Mart and Market; 7.55: An Nuacht; 8 pm: Cineclub (Part 1); 10 o’clock: The News; 10.25: Cineclub (Part 2); 11.05: News headlines; 11.07: Outlook (followed by end of transmission).

The RTE schedule was a bit better at the weekends (Andy Williams/Get Smart/Skippy!) but it’s little wonder that those of us who could access British channels embraced them with such joy and excitement.

  I was beside myself with excitement when I got to see ‘The Big Match’ (with Brian Moore) on a Sunday, and of course Match of the Day (with Jimmy Hill) on a Saturday night, and the light entertainment/comedy content was simply a world away from what we had been used to on RTE.

  Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game was unmissable on a Saturday evening, Morecambe & Wise and The Two Ronnies eagerly awaited too, particularly the former’s Christmas Special.

  This was good, really good; this wasn’t Quicksilver. (To be fair, RTE produced ‘The Live Mike’ from somewhere, and it was very special).

  When it comes to the great British comedians of that era, one man whose name I would mention in the same breath as Ken Dodd is Les Dawson. Dawson was brilliant, absolutely lovable, a master of timing and delivery.

  But Ken Dodd was the king.

  Don’t mind the social media skewered polls – honestly, some of those people haven’t a clue – Dodd was a gift from the comedy Gods. You cannot take this poll-a-day era seriously. (A few years ago, The Vicar of Dibley ‘beat’ Fawlty Towers in some stupid poll, at which point I lost faith in them!).

  Back to Mr. Dodd. Maybe some of his material doesn’t date too well, but he was exceptional for several reasons. He was famous for the incredible duration of his live performances; often, gigs would last for five hours. He told one-liners at great speed; he even made the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest ever joke-telling session.  

  And he was funny!

  Dodd adored his work; indeed he was a comedy connoisseur who studied the history of comedy and researched just what ingredients were needed to successfully create laughter. In recent weeks, in his 91st year, he was still touring, still entertaining.   

  It was innocent humour from a different time, and while there is sadness at the great man’s passing this week, the tributes are also no doubt tinged with nostalgia for a golden era, for the

music hall/vaudeville tradition that is fading further into history.

  I like and admire many of today’s comedians, but sometimes when I see Jimmy Carr and others resort to extreme vulgarity and unnecessary offensiveness, I wonder if they’re just taking an easy way out. Some of today’s unfunny – indeed tiresome – ‘comics’ would not hold a candle to the comedians (and brilliant writers) who actually worked on creating clever punchlines, as opposed to relying on shock tactics and meandering ‘stream of consciousness’ observations on their fascinating lives!

  Ken Dodd belonged to a different craft, a different world. Pass little heed on the spontaneous and largely pointless polls of the social media era – for millions of people, for generations of families, for over sixty years, Ken was the greatest.

  He was a comedy genius, who spread happiness at every turn.

Who’s that man?

As Tiger Woods deftly and brilliantly chipped to within a foot of the hole from a difficult lie off the green, I thought I’d inform Matthew, our seven-year-old son, of just who that man on the screen was.

  As the ball settled those few inches from the hole and the fans applauded, I said my piece. 

  “That” I said, with a combination of nostalgia and admiration for Tiger’s amazing return to form in recent weeks, “is the greatest

golfer ever”.

  Matthew looked interested, then confused.

 “That guy that just missed?”

The Beast arrived and Late Late audience disappeared




We waited, patiently, but the Beast (from the East) didn’t dwell that much in Roscommon. The snowfall was significant enough, but there was no major dance-off between the Beast and Storm Emma on Thursday evening, and therefore no big blizzard. Still, there were substantial snow drifts in South Roscommon, and some resulting inconvenience for householders/farmers.

  Other parts of the country were hit a lot harder. But while it wasn’t as bad as we might have expected, the weather did briefly stop us in our tracks in Roscommon. Between the actual bad weather and the fear of what might be coming, two surreal enough days saw families almost entirely house-bound, normal life suspended.

  Wednesday night was pretty bad – with heavy snowfall – and by late that night, businesses and schools were beginning to make plans to close up. Road conditions were very poor on Thursday morning, and in Roscommon town, the majority of businesses didn’t open.

  People had been warned to stay indoors from 4 pm on Thursday until 3 pm on Friday. We took the warning seriously, but not everyone did. There were still quite a few vehicles passing our house (on the Athlone Road) through Thursday evening. It seemed unnecessarily reckless. As it turns out, the swirling snow and winds that were a ‘wannabe gale’ never quite lived up to the dire expectations.

  The country of course went a bit mad, emptying shops of bread and other ‘essentials’, before (almost) everybody went home and watched/listened to wall to wall weather coverage on television/radio/social media.

  On one level the media coverage was absolutely excellent, on another it was over the top and tediously repetitive.

  Keelan Shanley played a blinder in the RTE engine room, excelling at asking the same questions in slightly different ways to different people. She was superb, but at least she was warm.

  It was the reporters on the front-line who had to bear the brunt of the cold and the snow, not to mention being forced to say the same thing over and over again/pursue new ‘angles’.

   ‘Our man’ Ciaran Mullooly was flying it (from Tullamore) the few times I dipped into the coverage, unearthing a wedding party in one report and an amusing tale about writer Michael Harding’s circuitous snow-challenged journey home to Leitrim from the UK.

  I couldn’t keep watching however, as the relentless coverage (which really was over the top) became tiresome. The last thing we needed after Keelan had spoken to all reporters, a minister, the man from Irish Water, Evelyn, Sean from the National Emergency Coordination Group and two stranded tourists, was for her to cut to George Lee for a summary of everything we’d just heard.

  Still, plaudits to the media, the Government, the various agencies, and most of all to front-line and emergency services and volunteers, all of whom played a great part in standing up to the Beast and Storm Emma.

  Now (hopefully) for something completely different…



On tonight’s Late Late Show, there are just thirty audience members, and most or all of them will be the night’s actual guests. It’s odd, almost eerie, and while Ryan is understandably anxious to push the ‘show must go on’ philosophy, you wonder was it really the right call to proceed with a Late Late Show once it became apparent that the general public wouldn’t be able to attend on account of the weather ‘crisis’.

  The upshot is that we just can’t take our eyes off that tiny audience, and the visual impact is all the more stark because the camera is content to show off all the empty seats surrounding the motley group.

  They’re like a group of forlorn, worried-looking prisoners who have been rounded up by grim-faced guards, their fate unknown. It turns out that their ‘punishment’ is to sit through over two hours in ‘captivity’ in the LLS studio and be subjected to yet more talk about the bad weather.

  Joe Duffy’s smile looks just a little forced; indeed everything looks and feels a little forced. This is an odd mix of celebrity and ‘ordinary folk’, at least some of whom were probably thinking they could have had a more enjoyable night elsewhere. They resemble strangers with little or nothing in common who have been thrust together at a dull party.

  Fair play, I know how well intended the decision to proceed was, but RTE might have been better off cancelling the Late Late Show and sticking on a Bond movie.

  Instead, it’s ever-cheerful Ryan as Bond, taking on The Beast from The East, Storm Emma, selected villains and Graham Norton.



No national newspapers on Friday and Saturday was bad enough, now there’s the prospect of little or no sport this weekend. There was no Six Nations action scheduled, the GAA fixtures are all off, and the Winter Olympics have been cancelled due to snow (well, actually they’re over).

  Thankfully, most of the English soccer schedule has survived.

  All we can do is watch another sad episode in the Arsene Wenger drama. The Arsenal manager’s decline is sad and it really looks now as if it might be irreversible. I can understand why young Arsenal fans (in particular) must be very frustrated by the club’s (relative) struggles in recent seasons. But Wenger’s great achievements at his peak should never be forgotten and this ought to end with dignity rather than in a toxic atmosphere. Part of the problem is that Wenger has stubbornly hung on too long. But he’s a good man, he was ahead of his time, and his best Arsenal teams played some of the most sublime football the English game has seen. It’s looking unlikely, but I hope there’s one more hurrah in Arsene and then a dignified goodbye.



I couldn’t get to the Oscars, with the snow and all that…plus Roscommon’s allocation of two tickets had been snapped up by Chris O’Dowd and Paul Young, from the Boyle wing of Hollywood.

  The highlights, on RTE 2 tonight, were a little underwhelming. Meryl Streep looked regal and a touch smug (I suppose you might too if you were on Oscar nomination number 31); Jane Fonda looked amazing; Saoirse Ronan was radiant and unfazed by not winning (her Oscar(s) will surely come in the future). Frances McDormand is quite a character, and was predictably animated and quirky when she made her acceptance speech. Host Jimmy Kimmel did fine – hosting the Awards is a tougher job now in this #MeToo era.

  Indeed, in light of the sexual assault and harassment controversies that have emerged from Hollywood and elsewhere, watching the Oscars just isn’t quite the same as it used to be.

  Besides, I got bored with all the faux niceness emanating from the gushing speeches. I switched over to Matt and Ivan, where The Man Who Will Never Change – Deputy Bernard Durkan – was well on his way to winning Best Supporting Actor for his defence of Leo & Co.


Bracing for the 'Beast from the East'

Monday/Tuesday (all week)

There was a ‘run’ on milk in Roscommon town on Tuesday. And the sun was splitting the stones.

  By Tuesday evening, word was that the crisis was over, for then at least, in that milk had become available.

  Mind you, later that night on TV3, Matt Cooper/Ivan Yates showed er…dramatic footage of bare-shelved supermarkets, people seemingly buying up essentials as if there was no tomorrow.

  Or rather ‘as if there was snow tomorrow,’ which I gather there will be. At this stage, after all we’ve been through, there had better be.

  What a few days it’s been! Some of the ‘old people’ must think we’re losing the run of ourselves.  

  These are heady, heady days. For well over a week, the nation has been living in a state of dread, dread of what’s coming, dread of the apocalyptic event that we knew we could not prevent.

  And, sure enough, poor ould Marty got booted out of Dancing with the Stars. Apocalyptic indeed, but it’s not as if we hadn’t been warned – he’s been rubbish for weeks. 

   More than that, there’s been the never-ending fear of the ‘weather event’ that’s on its way.  

  Some of the old people – the initial guardians of our young state – must indeed think we are losing the run of ourselves. 

  Even when I was a young fella, back in the early 1970s, there was no talk of ‘weather events’, no mass media coverage of what might happen, no fancy naming of storms and gales and fleeting winds.

  These days, ‘weather events’ have become big business, an almost permanent crisis on our doorstep, even a potential political timebomb.

  For the past week or so the nation has been gripped by what it might be gripped by from midweek. 

   I can hardly remember what life was like in Ireland BC – before Cusack. Evelyn is everywhere. Years ago, the weather just happened, and the odd television or radio station we had just updated us every now and again through a po-faced grimly-dressed weather forecaster.

  Now, we live in an era of glamorous weather forecasters (although winking Gerald is gone), while the aforementioned Evelyn seems to live in a Star Trek type engine room, the Met Éireann hub in which our fate and faith rests.

  And I still haven’t worked out whether or not the omnipresent Evelyn wants to be on television or not, because while she pops up all over the media, she sometimes comes across as ever so slightly abrupt, even eccentric. She can be as scattered as some of her showers.

  I first noticed this side of her with her very haughty dismissal of an amateur (you know, the ‘postman from Donegal’ type) weather forecaster during a Liveline debate a few years ago. Evelyn has a major hump with ‘unconventional’ forecasters, as she’s entitled to – after all, she’s in the scientific end of the business. She’s quirky in her interviews; on balance, I think she likes being the centre of our universe at times like this.

  Indeed, at the pre-mentioned times like this, all sorts of experts are wheeled out and suddenly almost every television and radio show has one on, explaining the difference between orange and yellow warnings, half of them falling just short of having a legal advisor beside them for fear of the dreaded post-event charge of having got it all wrong.

  This fear of ‘getting it all wrong’ or even of a public perception of having over-reacted or under-reacted is particularly concentrating the minds of senior politicians.

  A Government is unlikely to fall over a misdiagnosed ‘weather event’ but it could slip in the polls if it makes a mess of things, and this Government, high on its Storm Ophelia success, is taking no chances this week!

  Minister Eoghan Murphy is being careful not to say a word out of place, fearful of any hostage to fortune – but in fairness, he’s doing a diligent ‘weather watch/warning’ job so far. Leo, who had enough Orange Alerts thanks to Arlene last week, has been low profile enough as of yet, but no doubt he’ll brave the elements for some photo opportunities later this week, and who could blame him!

  It’s 12 noon on Tuesday as a write, and the weather is defiantly summer-y, well, it’s a bit cold, but still very pleasant. But, by all accounts, bad stuff is coming from Wednesday night/Thursday morning – the ‘Beast from the East’ to Leinster, with snow and storms in tow for the rest of the country. Expect most of the kids in the country to be very happy, and (though he won’t show it), RTE’s Paschal Sheehy, if he’s honest, will be in his element too.

  On a serious note…take care, get the bread and milk in, do drive carefully or not at all, and watch out for elderly family and neighbours. Most of all, do not take any chances on the roads. 

  Now, all we can do is wait. Now, it’s over to Evelyn. Evelyn, in whom we trust, Evelyn, our Everywoman. Evelyn for President if this madness continues.

* In other news (held over due to lack of space): Syria, vulture funds, gang crime and other stuff that has nothing to do with the weather.

An update (Wednesday)

Okay, fair enough, it looks like the warnings may indeed have been accurate enough; I wrote above over Monday and Tuesday…this morning (Wednesday) we awake to snow and a notable drop in temperature.

  Driving to school, and on Morning Ireland, Bryan Dobson is receiving reports from around the country. He goes to Cork. Direct quote from Paschal Sheehy at 8.42 am: “I am looking out at a spectacular winter wonderland”. I knew it! He’s secretly delighted! Paschal’s expression or tone will never reveal it, but, deep down, he loves the ould bit of drama. 

  The roads in town are grand just now, but certainly there was an early blast from the beast in rural Roscommon this morning. Now it’s becoming obvious that some rough conditions are indeed ahead. By the time you read this on Thursday or Friday, I imagine we may be in standstill mode.

  I’m off to chase up some milk and bread.







Leo's plan, Dermot and Daniel and Inspector Clouseau



Paul Healy’s tongue-in-cheek
take on THAT launch in Sligo; on Dermot & Daniel; the return of Bertie; how the FA Cup can still delight; brazen banks and vultures…and memories of Inspector Clouseau...



Today, the political version of Dancing with the Stars, live from Sligo. I saw a little bit of it, and could barely suppress my excitement. Simon Coveney, rather predictably, started with a waltz, but any time someone came within range of him, he indignantly upped the ante and switched to foxtrot. Leo arrived on stage amidst much camera clicking, cheering and general fanfare, and treated fans to a typically smooth and assured performance.

  Judges Micheál and Mary Lou were measured in their comments, certainly less enthusiastic than some of Leo’s fans, who were stamping their feet, chanting enthusiastically and waving ballot papers in the air.

  Mary Lou opted for conditional praise of the dancing stars but Micheál sniffily complained that it was style over substance, too many flashing lights and flashing smiles, too many routines we’d seen before.

  Leo didn’t even wait for the judges’ scores; he knew he had the public vote all wrapped up, he knew what was driving Martin mad; the fact that Leo is the most formidable of opponents…a competitor who has the quality and (for now at least) the likeability factor, like a devastating cross between Michael Flatley and Marty Morrissey.

Friday & Sunday

With the Hollywood A-listers not taking any calls from the Late Late production team – keeping an eye out instead for the words ‘Graham Norton’ to flash on their screens – the show resorts to the usual shameless plugging of other RTE programmes.

  Thus, we have what ought to be considered the mindboggling decision to feature Dermot Bannon, a guest on Friday night purely on the grounds that two nights later a new series of ‘Room to Improve’ will air.

  Bannon’s on with Ryan (a) because his series is back and (b) because it features a makeover of the home of Daniel and Majella O’Donnell.

  What next? RTE weather presenters previewing the weather? (‘Lots of room to improve’?). On Sunday evening, we saw what all the hype was about. Dermot had ventured to Donegal to revamp the home of Daniel and Majella. I didn’t bother seeking out social media reaction, but I thought Majella was great, while Daniel was generally sulky, occasionally rude and sometimes disinterested. Still, Daniel’s input is what made the show entertaining for viewers.

  As for Dermot, he was his usual smug self. As always, it all ended happily. Whether the editing distorted the true picture or not, viewers were left with the impression that there had been ongoing tension between Dermot and Daniel. Dermot, as ever, won the day, although he did have to listen to Daniel singing at the end!


Bertie’s back. Well, he guested tonight on the Claire Byrne Show, providing a reasonably if not totally modest overview of the peace process, twenty years on from the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Bertie didn’t quite say ‘It was much better when I was in power’ but he did reference his negotiating prowess and his encounters with Tony Blair quite a lot. Possibly mischeviously, Bertie also managed to be a bit more gracious towards Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney than he was to Micheál Martin, the man who leads the party which Bertie marched to three General Election successes. Martin and Ahern are enemies now and Bertie ever so gently slapped the Cork man on the wrists over his response to the breakdown of talks in Northern Ireland.

  I’m not sure that it was wise for Bertie to twice reference the importance of not celebrating until a race is over, which he said in the context of the premature visit to Belfast by Varadkar and Prime Minister May last week (when they thought a deal was imminent). Bertie’s reference to races reminded me of his much-maligned claims at a Tribunal that he “won the money on the horses” – and I’m sure it was the same for many more viewers!


Monday evening

Wigan v Manchester City in the FA Cup. A third-tier team versus possibly the most devastating team in Europe. I catch the first twenty minutes but then go to the shop, not too worried about missing mundane manoeuvres on a Monday night.

  Later, I check in to see how many ‘City’ have scored. But it’s still 0-0 with twenty to go, and now I’m keen to see what happens. What happens is that Will Grigg scores a great goal for Wigan, on the break. The fans go crazy. Pep’s shocked superstars launch desperate siege on the underdogs’ goal. The last fifteen minutes are fantastic; the mundane transformed into the marvellous. It would seem that reports of the FA Cup’s demise have in fact been greatly exaggerated.

  Wigan hang on for a great victory and it’s impossible not to feel joy at this great giant-killing act. This is a welcome sprinkling of cup magic.

  Unfortunately, there was trouble at the final whistle, some Manchester City fans venting their anger by throwing missiles at police.

  Yobs. Manchester City fans fight after cup exit! How ungracious. It was a bit like guests at a lavish banquet sulkily smashing the plates just because a few strangers finally got a morsel from the table.

  I’m sure there will be repercussions arising from some unsavoury scenes after the final whistle (there was also an altercation between City’s Sergio Aguero and a home fan) but the enduring memory of the night will be of the joy on the faces of the Wigan players and supporters. This was the FA Cup admonishing us for losing faith in it. There’s still life in the old competition. It was a wonderful sporting upset, a Pep in the step for dreamers everywhere.


Now, we’re told, the banks are planning to offload distressed mortgages to faceless and potentially ruthless vultures from abroad.

  Permanent TSB are in the eye of the brewing storm. That bank is the prospective offender just now, but we’re told that other banks will follow suit, unless, that is, our politicians can stop this heartless throwing of Irish citizens to the wolves.

  A little while ago, I received a call from a bank we deal with. The man had a query about a standard transaction. He wasn’t making sense to me, and seemed miffed when I asked him to clarify exactly what he was saying. He muttered that he was right and I shouldn’t doubt him. I asked if he could check out the exact details and ring me back.

  “It would be better if I didn’t have to call you back” he said. “These calls are a drain on the bank’s resources”.

  Unfortunately, I didn’t think of responding: “Well, we baled most of the banks out in 2008, after your reckless conduct had been exposed, and that really was a drain on our resources!”

  Instead, I just paused and marvelled at his arrogance.

  That’s the problem with the Irish – we just don’t complain!



I see two men and a dog standing on the street, on the way to school. The two men and the dog aren’t on the way to school; we are.

  It suddenly reminds me of Inspector Clouseau (played perfectly by the great Peter Sellers) in ‘The Pink Panther’.

  Clouseau is speaking to a man, who has a dog by his side.

  “Does your dog bite?” the French Inspector asks with a smile.


  Clouseau stoops down to pat the dog on the head, and is attacked by the vicious animal.

  “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite!” a startled Clouseau exclaims.

  The man looks at him.

  “That is not my dog”.




Cap-tivating: The brothers defend Fortress Healy-Rae


Wednesday (and all week)

Word is that MacSharry v Healy-Rae brothers in the Dáil is gone viral. I check it out on online and while the row is certainly ‘very lively’, I’m just a little bit disappointed. It’s a great bit of theatre but doesn’t quite live up to the hype.

  Granted, there’s something almost artistic about that image of the Healy-Rae brothers rising together and simultaneously looking right to aim their ire and (I would argue) mock fury at the wild man of the west (played brilliantly by Marc MacSharry).

  When the two brothers almost morph into one, both with outraged expressions, right hands pointing and indignation dripping from their mouths – the duo barely pausing to calculate how many number ones this might be worth – it’s almost an image of beauty. The resulting photograph is a symmetrical stunner. Frozen in time, the Healy-Raes are poised in an image which is quite graceful and touching in its own way, two brothers defending their family’s good name, shielding Fortress Healy-Rae from the arrows dispatched by the lone attacker. In this fleeting frozen moment (well, without the sound), they’re like Torville and Dean at their imperious peak on the ice.

  With the sound on it’s a bit less graceful, MacSharry losing the cool and the Healy-Rae boys lapping it up and turning the raw material of the Sligo man’s attack into electoral gold.


Thursday (and all week)

The HSE?

  Sometimes it just leaves you feeling sick.

  The HSE loves and cherishes statistics and projections.

  But the HSE can be less caring and thoughtful when it comes to people.

  Fair enough, the HSE makes changes based on what it believes is right, but far too often it does so with little obvious regard for the human consequences.

  The HSE can be callous, it can be cold, and it can be heartless.

  Maybe it doesn’t mean to be, but too often the HSE hurts ordinary, decent people with its cold statisics-based decision-making.

  I seldom let the Government of the day off the hook when controversies such as the one that has engulfed families in Castlerea arise, but this time, for now, it looks like public frustration should be concentrated on the HSE.

  Now if the Government doesn’t oversee a reversal of the closure threat hanging ove the Rosalie Unit, that’s another matter. Then the Government will be well entitled to its share of public anger and frustration.

  It remains to be seen whether or not Health Minister Simon Harris or Minister for Mental Health Jim Daly play the game which the HSE and politicians have often played, whereby they try to present the health body as some stand-alone entity free of accountability to Government.

  You know those pitiful instances in the past when the Minister of the day (and sometimes colleagues too) insults our intelligence by trying to side with the public in condemning the actions of the HSE! At such times, the HSE will do the dirty work, and the public is meant to believe that the Government is powerless to stop it. But isn’t the HSE supposed to be implementing Government policy, and also to be answerable to the government of the day?

  In any event, for now at least, public ire is directed at the HSE. But it will take political will to address this threat to the Rosalie Unit.

  As ever, a web exists, part-spun by the HSE, part-spun by the political players. In 2015, a number of Roscommon politicians (and community figures) emerged from a meeting with then-Minister of State for Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch, and all were of the same view – the minister had promised that the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea would not close, and would in fact be developed further.

  At Thursday night’s public meeting in Castlerea, Minister Denis Naughten said that, almost three years on from the ‘Lynch meeting,’ it remains Government – and HSE – policy that the Rosalie Unit should remain open.

  Yet, earlier that very day, Tony Canavan of the HSE had told families of residents of the Rosalie centre that the facility will in fact be closing.

  These families are deeply upset at the threat to the service and unhappy with the alternative arrangements being mooted. Currently twelve patients, all suffering from dementia, are resident in the centre.

  Minister Naughten’s contribution was very well received and it is comforting that a member of Cabinet is issuing an unequivocal ‘hands-off’ warning to the HSE. Senator Maura Hopkins is also active on the issue and has arranged a meeting with Ministers Harris and Daly.

  So, where are we?

  Already, the residents and families have been treated very badly.

  The HSE intends to close this facility.

  In 2015, the Government pledged that its future was safe; keeping Rosalie open remains Government policy, we are told.

  How can we, to coin a phrase, square this web?



Record-breaking usage of clichés about the weather

Every day

There are unconfirmed reports that the first six weeks of 2018 have been the busiest for usage of ‘Irish weather clichés’ since records began.

  We contacted the ‘Records of usage of clichés concerning the weather in Ireland’ Department on Monday, but it was closed due to the bad weather.

  We made contact again on Tuesday. A nice man answered the phone. We told him we wanted some statistics on Paddy’s obsession with talking about the weather. Could he help?

  “Of course I can help you. One second now ‘til I get it up on the screen here. Are ye snowed under in Roscommon? How are the roads?”

  After ten minutes’ small talk about the weather, he got down to business.

  “Oh yes, records indicate a dramatic increase in usage of clichés since the start of the year” the man revealed.  

  In particular there’s been a steady rise in usage of the following clichés:

  ‘It’s a hardy morning’.

  ‘That was some rain last night’.

‘There’s snow on the way’.

  ‘You wouldn’t put a dog out in that weather!’

  In fairness to him, our new friend was very forthcoming with the statistics.

  “I can also confirm that there’s been a 30% increase in people saying ‘At least you can notice a stretch in the evenings.’ And we’ve had a lot of reports of almost frenzied usage of ‘I wonder will the schools be open?’ and ‘Is the match still on?’ ”

He was on a roll now. He asked if there was much gritting going on in Roscommon, but we got him to focus again.

  ‘Ok, there’s been a slight increase in usage of these clichés too…’ he conceded.
  ‘The main roads are grand but the side roads are still dodgy’.

  ‘I believe there’s worse on the way’.

  ‘Do you remember a few years ago? It was minus 17!’

  We spoke to a leading psychologist who had an interesting perspective on the Irish obsession with talking about the weather.

  “Oh contrary to the assumption that the weather depresses us, I think the Irish people are cheered up no end when they can talk about the weather. They love it! At the moment, it’s all anyone can talk about and it’s distracting people from all the problems of the world”.

  Meanwhile the man in the ‘Irish Weather Cliches’ Department advised that it’s not peak ‘weather cliché’ season yet.

  “Ah no, that will come in May, when we’ll get a fabulous heatwave which will be forecast to last for at least five days. This will signal the start of serious weather cliché season. You can expect lots of the following:

  ‘It’s nearly too warm, it’s uncomfortable, it’s hard to do anything’ and ‘They had no burger buns, they’re out of them’.

  So, a happy time?

  ‘Oh no, it won’t really be a happy time. THIS is a happy time in Ireland, ‘cos the weather is so bad. When we get the heatwave in May, after an initial high, people will very soon get depressed. The most commonly used cliché from day three will be:

  ‘I hear it’s going to break on Saturday. There’s rain on the way. Sure I’d say that was our summer’.  



Sexton magic, Klopp celebrates...and I swear I don't watch DWTS!



This went beyond analysis – this, quite simply, was another of those great examples of how wonderful sport can be. 

  It was one of those priceless, peerless sporting moments, guaranteed to live in our memories all our lives.

  When Johnny Sexton attempted that audacious kick, time really did seem to stop.

  “This French wall will not crumble” the TV3 commentator had said as Ireland patiently/desperately went through numerous phases.

  Thus, faced with a seemingly impregnable wall, Sexton tried to recover Ireland’s stolen victory by going over the French wall.

  More or less in control of a fairly tedious match, we led 12-6 when we were hit by a sucker punch, the non-doubting Teddy Thomas dancing past several flat-footed Irishmen for the game’s only try.

  Now trailing 13-12, Ireland looked to have thrown victory away. We sought to rebuild from the rubble, but the French half looked a long distance away. With time up and Ireland slowly gaining ground, we were one handling error away from a sickening defeat. I have re-watched Ireland’s subsequent 41-phase play four times since the game ended; I still fear that something will go wrong! It is a riveting passage of play.

  Finally, Conor Murray’s pass to Sexton, and time stops. Ball leaves boot. You’d have put your house on a hard luck story revealing itself now. Sexton’s kick rises over that French wall which had refused to crumble. The ball spins into the disdainful rain. The players lift their heads, the Irish in hope, the French in fear. Unbelievably, it’s looking like Sexton had the accuracy, the distance, the courage. The camera closes in on the Irish out-half; his head tilts, as though willing the ball to its destination, then he starts a slightly ungainly run of joy, reminiscent of Mick McCarthy’s celebration on the sideline when Robbie Keane scored a late goal against Germany in the 2002 World Cup.

  It was indeed a great sporting moment. The TV3 team, fresh from winning the Six Nations rights from RTE, were in dreamland. I imagine that Michael Corcoran on RTE Radio probably got a bit excited too, but I find it hard to listen to him, because he’s just too partisan! All day on the TV3 panel, Ronan O’Gara confirmed his status as a superb analyst; a pleasure to listen to.

  A fairly mundane match had somehow muscled its way into the sporting hall of fame.


The Premier League moves along, sometimes dull, sometimes dramatic, always immersed in grotesque levels of money, refereeing controversies and laughable exhibitions of egotism by showboating managers.

  When Liverpool went 2-1 up against Spurs in the 91st minute, Jurgen Klopp almost matched Usain Bolt as he sprinted along the touchline, celebrating in his usual ‘Look at me, it’s all about me’ fashion.

  Can you imagine Kevin McStay or Jim Gavin behaving in such a manner? Er, no.

  Still, it keeps us entertained, I suppose!

  Meanwhile, back in The Championship, my club Leeds are in some disarray again. The soccer world is patiently waiting for the return of the great Leeds United to football’s top flight, but it looks like we’ll have to wait at least one more season.

  Briefly top of the league in September, Leeds have failed yet again to maintain any form of consistency. Now down to 10th, it looks as if fans will at least be spared the anguish of the club flirting with promotion; it is, after all, the hope that kills you.

  The Leeds board responded to a run of poor results in the usual manner, that is by sacking the manager. ‘You’re fired!’ they told Thomas Christiansen at the weekend, and now Leeds are looking for their 7th manager since 2014 and their 10th since 2012.

  When we do eventually get back to the Premier League, I’d hope all previous managers will be invited back for the celebrations. It might be awkward – and crowded.


Radio coverage of GAA is great, but sometimes I prefer to dip in and out, letting the game develop a little before I return for an update.

  This afternoon, I’m driving to Rooskey, and it’s time to check in on the match. 

  We’re nearing Ballyleague, and Roscommon are in a spot of trouble.

  Shannonside are reporting from the various grounds; Longford are impressing against Derry, Leitrim are leaking scores to Laois, and it’s shaping up to be a fruitless trip to Tipp for Roscommon.

  It’s turning into a dull enough GAA afternoon; I need a break from the unfolding tedium in Tipp.

  I decide to switch stations for some music. A great blast from the past – Johnny Cougar (‘Hurts so good’) – guides us through Cloontuskert.

  By Scramogue, curiosity gets the better of me and I switch back to Shannonside.

  Roscommon are five or six points behind. Back to music.

  Passing the beautiful Kilglass Lakes, I give in to temptation and switch the dial again. Leitrim have un-Laoised carnage on their opponents and scored three goals in six minutes, but it’s not quite enough to avert defeat.

  No news just now from Thurles, so it’s back to music and a quick visit to Newstalk. I’m done for the day. But a half mile from Rooskey village, I relent. Back to Thurles for the grim news. But there’s drama to report. Diarmuid and Willie are on fire. Murtagh has goaled, and the Rossies are raining points too.

  Willie is in full flow, and suddenly a dull GAA afternoon has sparked into life. Roscommon score 1-5 without reply in the time it takes to get from the Kilglass Gaels GAA pitch to the Dromod Road. Now that’s good going!

Later on Sunday

Drama on tonight’s Dancing with the Stars:

  There were gasps when Amanda Byram and Nicky Byrne staggered on to the stage, spontaneously cracking bawdy jokes while making faces at the audience.

  Meanwhile, a mass brawl broke out between the contestants after simmering tensions erupted.

  Chaos then as Marty Morrissey launched a Cantona-like kung fu kick at the judges after they scored him poorly.

  If only.


I always thought Gerry Kelly, in the news this week after he was filmed removing a clamp from his car, was a tough old nut.

            The Sinn Fein man, a former IRA activist who became a fairly major figure in the peace process, has always retained his hard man image, perhaps finding the transition from paramilitarism to parliament understandably difficult. You could say that, for Gerry, the wheels of democracy have turned slowly.

  Still, Gerry got elected by his people and attained a grip on power. He’s been in the driving seat during talks aimed at restoring power-sharing.

  Gerry will survive this controversy, but it’s a test for the party’s new leader, Mary Lou.

  She can’t afford to park this issue and just hope it will go away. Surely Mary Lou has to clamp down on this type of behaviour?






Tony O'Donoghue, dancing celebrities and Donald Trump



The Roscommon People has obtained secret damning recordings which reveal some further outrageous comments which RTE soccer correspondent Tony O’Donoghue has made off-air to Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill.

  Last week, O’Neill sarcastically challenged O’Donoghue about an off-air comment the RTE man made prior to their interview post Ireland’s World Cup play-off collapse against Denmark. 

  O’Neill: “Just before we did our interview you said to me, ‘Hard luck’, just before we went on air. What did you mean by that?”

  We can now reveal that this isn’t the first time that O’Donoghue has made outrageous pre-interview comments to O’Neill. 

  According to our information, the RTE rotweiller-posing-as-reporter has also said ‘Good morning’ and ‘How are things?’ on previous occasions. There are also unconfirmed reports that O’Donoghue said ‘Hello’ to Roy Keane on one occasion.

  We asked O’Donoghue to explain this bizarre behaviour but he snapped back ‘How are things in Roscommon?’

  On a (slightly) serious note – because the above is obviously tongue in cheek/not true – what do we make of the latest box office interview involving O’Neill and O’Donoghue?

  Well, there have been times in the past when I’ve felt that O’Donoghue’s line of questioning (of O’Neill and some of his predecessors) was a touch provocative, and often creating the impression that the interviewer felt a need to reflect the inevitably outspoken views of the three wise men on the RTE panel (Dunphy, Giles and Brady).

  Inevitably, when O’Donoghue raised the views of the panel with the Ireland boss, sparks would fly. 

  But the bottom line is that O’Donoghue has a job to do – and he is certainly never rude or anything other than cordial.

  O’Neill’s job, or obligation in these interviews, is, I would suggest, to answer questions with an appropriate degree of dignity, not to mention respect for the Irish fans.

  O’Neill’s smart-assed conduct last Wednesday (24th of January) was the cause of yet another gripping but unpleasant chapter in the O’Donoghue/O’Neill saga.

  The Irish manager’s tone with the RTE man was petty, childish and rude.

  O’Neill’s new contract is likely to place him on over €1m a year in his role as Irish manager. In return for this, he surely ought to be accountable to the Irish public.

  He owes all of us a lot more respect than he’s been showing. He could start with Tony…


The word from Mullingar is that Matty Forde (38) is on fire. The word from California is that Tiger Woods (42) is doing very nicely indeed in his latest comeback tournament. And the word from Melbourne is that Roger Federer (36) hasn’t yet dropped a set as he marches towards another Australian Open Final.

  Thankfully, by Saturday evening, Michael Glavey’s had survived Matty’s magic, the Wexford ace unable (despite his very best efforts) to save his club, Kilanerin, in the All-Ireland Intermediate Football Club semi-final. Matty scored 0-7, but marvellous Michael Glavey’s prevailed.

  The Ballinlough club will have the best wishes of everyone in the county with them as they take on Moy of Tyrone in this Saturday’s All-Ireland Club Final.

  I kept an eye on Tiger’s progress via Twitter; he finished the tournament at - 3, relatively high up in a quality field. Apparently Tiger was very wayward off the tee, but his short game was brilliant. Crucially, he is pain-free. The golf experts will probably tell you that a brilliant short game is key to winning tournaments. Could the legend actually become a force again?

  Before I headed off for the Hyde on Sunday, I caught up with highlights of the Australian Tennis Open on BBC. I fell in love with tennis many, many years ago. When we were youngsters, BBC coverage of Wimbledon was eagerly awaited each summer. I’m pretty sure that it was the only tennis we ever got to see! As such, it was savoured in much the same way that we were in dreamland when the world snooker fortnight kicked off at The Crucible.

  As with the snooker, tennis had great characters then. Although Bjorn Borg (ice cool and always winning) ought to have been in the then-despised Steve Davis role, he was my favourite. John McEnroe, half-Irish and fully moody, was of course unmissable. Jimmy Connors was box office too, and do readers remember the charismatic, terrifically entertaining Romanian, Ille Nastase?

  Anyways, I digress. As the years went by, tennis lost its characters, the big servers took over, and I got on with my life.

  I’ve tuned in on and off over the years. Last year the watching world marvelled as Roger Federer, then 35, claimed a first Grand Slam title since 2012. On Sunday, I watched the BBC highlights, unaware of how the Australian Open Final had gone. Marin Cilic contributed to a good final, but Federer prevailed, winning in five sets, and becoming the first man to win 20 Grand Slam titles. He did so, at 36 years of age!

  I enjoyed the feats of the sporting oldies over recent days. I’m sure there are many more examples of ‘old-timers’ still defying the passing years.


In a barber shop today, I glanced at one of the tabloids, and was devastated to read that one of the most talked about contestants in RTE’s horrendous (I don’t watch it) Dancing With the Stars had been “very down for two days” after critical comments from one of the judges.

  Thankfully, it appears that three days on, he had picked himself up with the help of his dancing partner. 

  Is the world officially gone mad?

  I inadvertently waltzed into ten minutes of this over-hyped rubbish while channel-hopping on Sunday evening.

  If you’re a fan, good for you, but to me, it’s another example of RTE (TV3 are guilty of this too) shamelessly copying a UK format. I suppose you can’t blame them, given the guaranteed high ratings.

  What’s really pathetic about such shows is the absence of any free thinking; every aspect of the template has to be copied, clichés abound, and, needless to say, every opportunity for people to offer glowing compliments/display false modesty is enthusiastically grasped. Don’t start me on Nicky Byrne…

  Not content with foisting this on us on a Sunday night, RTE then allows Dancing with the Stars to infect several radio programmes midweek, as inane presenters and guests continue the hype.

  ‘Tune in this evening to find out what dance Marty will be doing on Sunday’ sort of stuff. 

  Please make it all go away!

  I love television, but when it comes to ‘Dancing with the Stars’, I’m reminded of that memorable Groucho Marx quote:

  “I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book”.

Trump in statesmanlike shock… will normal service resume?


It’s 1.50 am and that relatively topical Trump chap’s doing his favourite ‘Look, I’ve got gravitas’ facial expression. 1.50 am, what to do? I decide to stick with it. Maybe I thought it wasn’t safe to go to sleep. Who knows what might happen? After all, the last time I was watching Donald Trump on television this late at night/early morning, he was still (just) a reality television star; when the world woke up the next morning, he was President-elect of the United States.

  Now, Sky News is live from Capitol Hill, excitedly counting down to Donald Trump’s imminent and first State of the Union address.

  There’s footage of the President leaving the White House, copy of speech in hand as he sits into ‘The Beast’, the nickname given to Trump’s Cadillac State car.

  Moments later, the massive cavalcade arrives at Capitol Hill, and I’m hooked. I stay with it for a further hour and a half, watching Trump’s address in full.

  And to this viewer, the guy delivered a very impressive speech! The whole spectacle was of course razzamatazz as much as anything else. Trump received numerous standing ovations, almost all of them led by Republicans, Democrats occasionally joining in (albeit in stiff upper lip mode).

  I would go as far as to say that Trump was statesmanlike; it was a measured, well delivered speech during which he held a few olive branches out to Democrats. They still looked like they felt they were being addressed by an imposter. Trump’s central message (if you can believe it) was that (a) America comes first and (b) he wants to unify the country.

  Trump was quite convincing as he listed off his administration’s achievements, claiming a huge increase in employment, and looming wage increases arising from historic tax cuts. He was firm on immigration – much to the disdain of many poker-faced Democrats in the audience – but adopted a softer tone than usual.

  Quite honestly, if you didn’t know how much of a circus his chaotic first year has resembled, you may well think this is a statesmanlike, firm, fair and maybe even impressive President!

  All I’m saying is, for all his faults (and not infrequent obnoxious behaviour), he’s some operator.

  Whether this generally well-received address has a hope in hell of acting as a turning point in terms of Trump’s general conduct and divisive relations with Democrats/half of America/much of the world, remains to be seen.








Three days in Austria (one in Munich)…




An early rise is traded for the promise of new adventures.

  After spending four days in Germany (this column, Roscommon People 19/1/18) we’re moving on to Austria today, January 5th. Destination: Salzburg.

  Leaving captivating, cobblestoned Rothenburg, we head, on foot, for the town’s quaint train station. Six people, six travel bags, six sets of memories stored. The train station is like something you’d see in a 1950s western. Adjoining it is a small coffee shop where there are four grim-faced men seated at a table, whiling away the time with a pack of playing cards. Of course they all looked up when we entered.

  The journey will involve taking three trains over five and a half hours. When train number two stops at Rosenheim, the carriage starts to empty. For the first time on this trip, we are a little unsure of what to do next. Do we in fact have to switch trains here? As the final passenger, a burly man with a big moustache, passes, we ask for advice. 

  “This train,” he says, “goes on to Salzburg. The front half of it!”

  The train, apparently, would split in two; with only the front half continuing into Austria. 

  “Don’t try and walk up the middle of the train, you must go on to the platform first!” our English-speaking German friend adds. We got off – and back on – with seconds to spare. 

  The journey from Munich to Salzburg unveils spectacular scenery; the unfolding majesty of the Bavarian Alps is a mouth-wateringly beautiful introduction to our new destination.

  We arrive, and I do my very important counting routine.

  Six people, six travel bags, and half a train.


This morning, we join tourists from around the world on the ‘Sound of Music’ tour. The famous film was shot in various locations in Salzburg in 1964. The cheerful guide insists on playing songs from the movie and encouraging everyone to sing along. It’s an enjoyable tour, which lasts three and a half hours, culminating with a visit to the fabulous Church which was used for the wedding scenes in the film.

  Just before everyone gets off the coach, the guide says there’s another attraction which can be visited on foot. The Mirabell Palace (where some of the more famous Sound of Music scenes were shot) is a majestic building with magnificent gardens.

  Our guide fills us in.

  “It has 142 rooms and was built by Archbishop Wolf Dietrich in 1606…”

  Wow! What a man. Respect!

  “For his mistress and their fifteen children”.


Known as ‘The Festival City’, Salzburg is a major tourist attraction. ‘Hohensalzburg Fortress’ is a ‘must-see’. It’s a spectacular sight, a castle which served as a military stronghold. We travelled to the top of it on a Funicular, a ‘cable railway’ which shoots from the ground into the air along a track.

  Later, the city centre is buzzing, tourists everywhere. The almost complete lack of homeless people visible on the streets in Germany and Austria was notable. But three characters here have prime position beside a landmark bridge in the beautiful city centre. They stumble in and out of the path of largely oblivious tourists, never straying too far from their bottles of hard stuff. It’s fairly apparent that their past – and their future – is inside those bottles.

  We move on, passing a jewellery store where some of the watches on display are priced at €12,000. Stare into the jeweller’s window, past the jaw-dropping price tag, and you will see the reflection of the merry men, with their half-empty bottles and their fully empty dreams.

  We’re standing in a room in a house in the centre of Salzburg. It’s no ordinary house, no ordinary room. In this room was born Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It’s fair to say that he went on to great things. By the age of five, Salzburg’s most famous son was a dab-hand with both violin and piano. He went on to become one of the greatest composers the world has ever seen.

  Having browsed around Mozart’s birthplace for an hour or so, we step back into the street to discover the awful truth: the bottom half of the building is now a Spar outlet. No disrespect to Spar, but this seems a bit harsh on the memory of the great man. Surely a step too Spar? But wait, there’s more. A glance in Mozart’s birthplace/Spar reveals that every possible effort is being made to cash in on the renowned son of Salzburg. A mind-boggling array of products/souvenirs have been given the Mozart treatment; there’s Mozart chocolate, Mozart playing cards, Mozart pens, Mozart toys, Mozart keyrings. And it’s not just Spar, far from it; the entire street (dozens of shops) has been turned into one giant, unashamed ‘Cashing in on Mozart’ extravaganza.

  Shocking, although I do buy a cute miniature Mozart violin, complete with case…

  Over coffee, I check out the bould Archbishop Wolf Dietrich in a guide book.

  “The Archbishop did not take celibacy too seriously” it says. “He did not try to hide his affair with Salome Alt, who bore him fifteen children. On the contrary, he built a palace for his mistress in 1606, which he named Altenau”.

  It was later renamed Mirabell, because his successors wanted to distance themselves from the playboy Wolf Dietrich.

  A final thought on Salzburg city centre: fabulous style (both women and men). Much evidence of affluence. And they love their fur coats!


The highlight of our trip came today – a cable car ride to a spectacular mountain-top at Grodig. It’s 1,853 metres high.

  Despite my fear of flying (and heights) I’m signing up to this. About twenty people squeeze in, adrenalin and anticipation rising.

  Our girls helpfully point out (and they’re not joking) that just before he ‘took off,’ the man operating the cable car blessed himself!

  In any case, it’s a wonderful experience; the view as we journey upwards is breathtaking.

  I must admit that when we got to the top of the snow-covered mountain, I was a nervous wreck for a few minutes. They’ve carved into a section of the mountain-top and built a bar and restaurant (no ‘Mozart-themed’ food or drink thankfully); so far, so good. But there’s also an opening, and an opportunity to walk on to the peak of the mountain, perilously close to the barrier-less edge.

  “This is madness!” I say to our son Matthew (7).

  He responds: “Well…there’s free WIFI”.

  After a few minutes, I’ve settled down. We take photos and savour this spectacular experience…but I’m glad to touch ground again. 


Goodbye Salzburg, hello Munich. More trains, beautiful scenery, busy platforms, flawless counting…six people, six travel bags. After off-loading the bags at our hotel, it’s on to visit a concentration camp.

  Located ten miles northwest of Munich, Dachau was the very first concentration camp set up by the Nazis (in 1933). Originally meant to hold about 6,000 ‘political prisoners’, at its gruesome peak, 48,000 were crammed into the place, in horrible conditions. Between 30,000 and 43,000 people are estimated to have died in the camp over the course of 12 years.

  I had imagined that visiting a concentration camp would probably be eerie, emotional, uneasy, unpleasant. And it was all of that. But it was well worth visiting.

  Maybe my judgement was clouded by thoughts of our destination, but from the moment we arrived in the town of Dachau, the whole place felt miserable, dank…as if you were breathing in the stench of its wretched past. A bus took us the short journey to the concentration camp. Nothing has been altered; this camp is now as it was then. From the outside, it is ugly and grim, and it gets worse. There is no admission charge, presumably because taking money would add insult to infamy.

  Inside the gates, the massive yard where thousands of prisoners lined up each morning, many of them randomly beaten at the whim of sadistic brutes. Torture and death was a daily reality, misery the best you could hope for. You can almost smell the secrets of this yard.

  There’s an excellent museum adjoining, which contains fascinating information (and artefacts) relating to Dachau and the horrors that shape its legacy. 

  As darkness crept in and with the camp due to close at 5 pm, we hurried along, to see more. Within minutes we were in the gas chambers and other killing rooms. I will spare readers any more details. You leave Dachau feeling sick in your stomach; passing through the gates, leaving behind the ghosts of yesteryear and the guilt of today.

  Monday night in Munich. The pedestrianised High Street/boulevard (called Stachus) is a wonderful, atmospheric area. The Christmas decorations still in place, Munich city centre was a colourful, vibrant and exciting sight; there’s a wonderful range of attractive shops and restaurants, and large crowds of people.   

  The kids tried some ice-skating and we tried some hot German punch.

  Later, a walkabout reveals some stunning, historic buildings, but the night is moving on. After a bite to eat in a lovely Italian restaurant we return to the hotel, where the receptionist is pleasant but painfully slow!

  Great trip. Back home on Tuesday – and never mentioned the war once.




Four days in Germany...



Today (January 1st), we’ve arrived in Germany for a first-ever post-Christmas break. Earlier today we rang in the New Year in Roscommon; a few hours later we were on a Ryanair flight. All six of us are here; Fiona, myself and our four children. We have six travel bags and we will be travelling around Germany and Austria by train. What could possibly go wrong?

  After arriving at Stuttgart Airport, we taxi to our hotel, which is further ‘out of town’ than we and the old Internet thought. The good news is that the hotel stands in the impressive shadow of a huge stadium. It is next-door to it. I investigate, and yes, it’s the home stadium of Stuttgart FC. It’s the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Being so close to a great European football stadium gives me butterflies; I’m a boy again. Unfortunately, there’s no football until later in the month. It seems they take a break in January in The Bundesliga. Still, it’s nice to spend two nights next door to the home of Stuttgart FC, and I pass a half hour in the adjoining fans’ store. But I’m not converted from my loyal and long-suffering support of Leeds United.

  In the hotel this evening, we discover that the bar/restaurant has been adorned with an Irish name. Yeah, right. At least they’ve gone to the trouble to stock Guinness. After we order food, I glance at the drinks menu. Beside ‘Guinness’, they provide a description (for the benefit of the bewildered):

  ‘Guinness: A velvety black Irish beer with a creamy finish accompanied by slight coffee note.’

  The gentle sales pitch notwithstanding, I invoke the ‘Be suspicious of Guinness abroad’ rule. Unashamed porter prejudice. I order a local beer and it’s grand.


A day trip to Heidelberg. It’s the beginning of a week of train journeys. We plan to stay two nights in Stuttgart, two in Rothenburg, three in Salzburg and one in Munich.

  Fiona and the girls will oversee the travel plans…checking train times, working out what ticket packages should be purchased, determining when and where we transfer, locating the correct platforms, very impressively getting a family of six across a landscape that is new to us.

  Me? I will relentlessly count us and our travel bags.

  My job’s not as complex as it sounds: Basically, every time we step off a train or tram, joining a new busy web of commuters on a platform, I check that there are six of us and six bags. And every time we step on to a train or tram I do the same. And every time I reach ‘six’ I exhale a satisfying man sigh and then try to catch up with the rest of them.

  Heidelberg is a historic town and a beautiful one. We’re only there for a few hours. The highlight is our trip to Heidelberg Castle. It’s a pretty spectacular experience; an epic, winding walk to the summit, then a sensational view of the old city from its peak.

Castles and museums are great, but I can’t resist people watching. The various train stations don’t disappoint. Back at Stuttgart Main Station, there’s all human life and smoothies and hot dogs and jewellery and crafts.

  “You have to try hot dogs (Wiener Würstchen) in Germany,” the girls told me; I did, and I didn’t like them.

  A weathered looking middle-aged man leaning against a wall raises his crutch and shouts what I’m confident are German expletives into the stranger-dotted nothingness of his day.

  Occasionally we have to check a detail or two about our schedule and so we find ourselves in a spacious ‘Information Room’ at Stuttgart Main Station. There’s no-one in front of us so we march up to the desk. “You have to get a number!” booms the highly unimpressed lady behind the desk, looking at us as if we have stolen every bit of joy from her life. So we get a number and join a ‘queue’ on a long bench. Beside us, a cocky man speaks in a cocky tone into his mobile. Then he lights up a fag. The woman behind the information desk roars at him. The desk almost shakes. The offender responds with a crude and rude gesture which involves his finger. Within sixty seconds, two police officers arrive, usher him outside and he’s soon apologising and pleading innocence.

  Half an hour later, still inside the walls of the station, he’s lit up again, a few feet away from angry crutch man and a lifetime away from obeying the law.


The hotel in Stuttgart was very good and the staff were friendly and helpful. I might return when Leeds draw Stuttgart in the Champions League. The staff all ‘had English’, so we didn’t bother much with our German phrasebook. A range of free coffees from a machine in the lobby went down a treat with us. ‘Have a nice day’ some American guests said to us as we checked out, and we intended to do exactly that. Today we are travelling on leg two of our journey: to the medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

  Arriving at a tiny train station later, we disembark from the train. Six people, six travel bags. A ten-minute walk to the town. We weren’t sure what to expect, but our hopes were high. Once we got there, we were bowled over by the beauty and charm of this town. All the more enchanting because it was still Christmas, Rothenburg is like something you’d see in a Disney movie. Beautiful cobblestone streets, unusually shaped and quaint houses, magical shops, a breathtaking square, majestic and historic buildings…we loved it.

  There’s a fabulous town hall, historic churches and museums, and particularly enjoyable was our walk around the old city walls.

  Our hotel was ancient and all the better for it, the lobby adorned with antique paintings and memorabilia reflecting the area’s history.

  A few doors down, an Italian restaurant which we liked. On our first night there, three young American men took a table near us. In their 20s, at a guess. They placed their order. Soon they are talking about Trump, about what is happening to their country. I listen for a minute or two. Their conversation is considered, concerned, constructive. They are despondent about the state of the Republican Party and not thrilled with the Democrats either. “I can’t believe the Republicans haven’t split (since Trump)” one guy says. They despair for their country. It’s interesting listening to them; heartening and reassuring too. I can’t help but think that any one of these three articulate, patriotic, likeable lads would probably make a more stable and sensible President of the United States than the present incumbent.


There are souvenir shops everywhere. Some of the shops in Rothenburg ob der Tauber are magical in terms of their beauty and quaintness. There is a huge emphasis on Christmas decorations…toys, souvenirs, gifts, jewellery, thousands of beautiful items, many of them unique and hand-made. Things are quite expensive…but so tempting.

  They are obsessed with cuckoo clocks: entire walls are adorned with beautiful variations of clocks. Some of the Healys are sitting ducks for the cuckoos. One tongue-in-cheek gripe with the owners/staff in these shops however; most of them had the ‘Staring suspiciously at customers’ thing going on. When you went into a shop, you invariably got a friendly hello, but after that, eyes and sometimes feet follow your every move, as though you have a getaway car outside. Understandable, I suppose, but a bit off-putting!

  In one shop, the woman behind the counter had a shockingly stern expression. Everywhere I turn, I feel her eyes shadowing me. And she’s standing beside a display of penknives. I buy a miniature car. Apparently it’s an ambulance.

  The woman perks up. “Ah, you need a doctor!”

There’s a Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg and it’s well worth a visit. We called in and couldn’t leave. It was fascinating. Over a number of floors, this renowned museum details much of the extraordinary history of crime and punishment in that area in medieval times. There are numerous original items on display. Reading about the torture meted out to people is fascinating.

  People sentenced to death usually faced a very grim end. Often, undesirables were literally hung, drawn and quartered in front of a baying public in the town square. Others were drowned or boiled to death, or impaled or decapitated by a sword of axe. You could be executed by being set on fire or being crushed.  

  We read of the various gruesome methods of torture/shaming/punishment for people deemed to have offended the powers-that-be. 

  It was entirely usual for people to be humiliated in the town squares. Men and women were put on public display wearing ‘shame masks’ while locked into stocks or some such restraining device.  

  Ah, all these centuries on, we had to shake our heads and see the…er…humour in some of this. Two women who were bickering would be marched into the square and shackled together, their heads stuck through a gap in a piece of timber, their hands jutting out through two holes. There they remained, unable to move, staring at eachother, released only when they had made up. There was even a shaming mask for ‘bad musicians.’ And if a man treated his wife badly, locals came around and took the roof off his house.

  After two hours of all this fascinating torture trivia, it was time to leave and return to the bright, mild afternoon outside.

  Anyone for coffee? Or a ‘German hot dog’?

Next week: Three days in Austria…including ‘The Sound of Music, a Concentration Camp and Mozart’s birthplace’


Choirs, Marty and glossy magazines...



Well done to our great friends in the Roscommon Solstice Choir, who – entirely predictably – lived up to the high standards they’ve set in recent years with a beautiful, moving and wonderfully evocative festive concert in Roscommon last week.

  The Sacred Heart Church was a simply sensational and sacred venue for the concert. Packed to capacity, the Church looked fantastic. Well done also to the St. Brigid’s Choir (guests on the night) who contributed handsomely to a very enjoyable evening.

  Mindful of what would be entirely reasonable reservations about my credentials as a music critic, and in the hope that the two choirs in question will forgive me for singling this gentleman out, I take the liberty of suggesting that probably the most memorable contribution on the night was that of special guest Paul Hennessy, whose version of ‘Oh Holy Night’ attracted a merited standing ovation.

  Paul, St. Brigid’s, the wonderful Solstice folks, and not forgetting Choir Conductor Andrew Reynolds and MC Eugene Murphy…they were all superb on what was a very special night. Obviously the Solstice Choir members greatly enjoy what they do, but we should never underestimate the hours they put in and the fact that this is an entirely voluntary effort.

  The concert was in aid of the Shalom Charity and the genial Fr. Padraig Devine made a fine speech, during which he expressed his great appreciation to all concerned – the huge attendance included – for their great support.

Friday night

Another horrendously tedious Late Late Show (or certainly the bits and pieces that I endured were).

  No disrespect to Marty Morrissey or Norah Casey, but if I’m interested in them signing up for some dancing reality show – and I’m not – I’m certainly not interested in half an hour of the Late Late being dedicated to their utterly dull observations on same. I like both Marty and Norah, but please RTE, what’s with the embarrassing attempts to create a persona around Marty beyond what he actually is?

  Marty’s a sports commentator/presenter, can’t we just leave it at that? I’ve no problem with him doing reality shows – fair play and all that – but why is some ‘legend’ being created around the man? Actually, how long to go until he’s introduced on some show as a legend? Has it happened already? I know I’m beating an old drum here, but does anyone else remember when the Late Late Show had guests like...Peter Sellers, David Niven, John Cleese, Spike Milligan, Tony Curtis, Billy Connolly…Mother Teresa?

  Mind you, while I’m prone to the odd bit of Late Late/Tubridy bashing, fair is fair, he’s brilliant at the Toy Show. He was born for it! (If he ever gives it up, we can always line up Marty!).


I’m glad that it’s not considered in any way unfashionable to hail the slightly difficult-to-define but undeniable impact that the late Keith Chegwin had during our youth.

  I’m in good company in fondly remembering the man who, while never an ‘A list celeb’, was an infectiously happy presence in our lives in the era of ‘not many tv channels.’

  Here, for example, is a tweet from RTE man Ciaran Mullooly, of these parts:

  Sad news. So many memories of this man presenting SWAP SHOP segment on Noel Edmonds Saturday morning show on the Beeb: TV star Keith Chegwin has died aged 60

   I agree with Mr. Mullooly. Like millions of people of the proverbial ‘certain age’, I have very fond memories of the always-happy Mr. Chegwin from his television glory days.

  And by the way, if you haven’t seen Keith’s performance in Extras (with Ricky Gervais), it’s well worth checking out on Youtube.

  Now, having rightly paid tribute to Keith Chegwin, we can reluctantly return to the ‘real world’ and issues like Trump, Brexit and that damned weather…


This week sees the birth of a new Roscommon publication. We’ve enjoyed putting together ‘Roscommon People Plus’. The magazine features a number of interesting interviews and opinion pieces. We were delighted to receive contributions from guest writers Denis Naughten, Paul Hickey, Mary Gallagher, Paul D’Alton, Brendan Cox and Nicole Glennon. Their contributions compliment the articles of regular People writers Dan Dooner, Miriam Kerins and Seamus Duke.

  We’ve tried to produce something a bit different; a relaxed read, a celebration of Roscommon, a seasonal ‘plus’ for our loyal readers. There are some really nice articles that can be enjoyed over the Christmas period, when reading ought to be a priority!

  The magazine also showcases much of what’s available in County Roscommon in terms of shopping options, dining out, socialising, things to see, services, etc. In this regard, we appreciate the support of our advertisers. We are confident that this bright and breezy magazine, a new concept for Roscommon, is a great medium for these businesses.

  As ever, we urge the public to support our advertisers, to support local businesses generally. You only have to browse the pages of Roscommon People Plus to be reminded of all that’s on offer in our great county.

Another thought…

I often (well, occasionally) think there might be merit in living in a media-free zone. Fair enough, it might not suit me, given my career choice, but it would be an interesting existence.

  Imagine, for example, if, during that relatively recent mother of all recessions, a person lived in a small cottage in a remote area – managing to be self-sufficient – with minimal contact with the outside world, and no radio, television or papers?

  In this Morning Ireland-less existence, our hero would have been largely oblivious to the constant negative narrative that gripped our country, also the talking down of our economy, and the ‘bad news’ that invariably happens but which is often pounced upon with an unseemly enthusiasm by the media.

  ‘Our hero’, spared all of the stuff the rest of us had to listen to/see/read, would almost certainly have had a considerably less stressful existence than if exposed to the outside world.

  On encountering a stranger, they might even have been in a position to say ‘What recession?’ – or, these days – ‘What is Brexit?’


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