Log in
Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Choirs, Marty and glossy magazines...

 

Recently…

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!).

Monday

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…

Now!

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?’

 

Ah yes, a cause for Christmas chee

r…

 

A transcript of mobile phone conversations between two old friends has fallen into our hands and we’re very irresponsibly reproducing extracts of same. ‘Maria’ is homeless and ‘Paddy’ is on a hospital trolley…

 

Friday

Maria: I hear you’re in hospital Paddy, how are you?

Paddy: Ah I’m on a trolley the past three weeks, but don’t worry about me. My plight is nothing to that of Charlie Flanagan, the Justice Minister, he’s been subjected to a smear campaign. Awful, it was, had his name ‘traduced.’

Maria: Ooh, that sounds painful. I know it’s terrible the anguish that some people have to go through.

Paddy: Are you still homeless?

Maria: Ah yeah, me and the three kids, but look, everything’s relative. I know Simon Coveney said he’d have us all housed by last June, but to be fair to him he was offered Foreign Affairs, and who could really turn that down? So no hard feelings there. No, look, we’re philosophical about the situation here on the street. There’s always someone worse off. I mean Shane Ross had to consider that trip to North Korea recently AND the worrying inconsistency creeping into Manchester United’s play. He was actually tweeting about ‘United’, with genuine concern about Mourinho’s tactics, and there we were just being selfish, thinking about our own predicament.

Paddy: Fair point.

Maria: Anyways, are you going through hell on that trolley?

Paddy: Ah look, it’s not ideal, but it pales into significance compared with the developing crisis in the Dail. I mean, what are we like? Last month, with all due respect, you were complaining about being homeless with your three kids in the bitter cold…and to be honest I was a bit peeved at still being on a hospital trolley. Could none of us spare a thought for all those opposition TDs who are desperately searching for political accountability – and emails?

Maria: I feel so shallow.

Monday night

Maria: Hi Paddy, any news?

Paddy: Well, I’m watching Twitter, nothing yet, but I gather that Leo and Micheal are meeting again, so fingers crossed. How are you?

Maria: Oh absolutely freezing, still homeless, but look, everything’s relative. It’s nothing compared to the suffering of Brendan Howlin or Timmy Dooley, well, going by their faces anyway.

Tuesday

Maria: Hi Paddy, I’m still homeless!

Paddy: I’m still on a hospital trolley!

Maria: But I’m getting a sense that there’s brilliant news.

Paddy: I heard, it’s magical!

Maria: It seems the latest trawl of emails in the Department of Justice did the trick.

Paddy: The crisis has been averted. It was nail-biting, high stakes, brinkmanship. I’m so proud of them all. I can’t wait to watch Ivan Yates and Matt Cooper…if I turn at a particular angle on this trolley I can see the telly in the ward through a tiny gap in the double doors. 

Maria: Ah it’s great the impasse has been broken, I could hardly sleep last night; mind you, I hardly sleep most nights! I’ll be tuning in too; there’s a television shop up the street here, just past the bins. It’s brilliant! Anyways, thank God the week-long saga has been brought to a dignified end. 

Paddy: Yes, and a Government member has just said that they’re going to get back to “dealing with the issues that matter to people now”. Wonderful news!

Maria: Ah brilliant. Thank God for our political leaders.

Paddy & Maria: Happy days, Happy Christmas!

 

 

And what weight was the baby…?

 

 

 

 

Here at the Roscommon People, we always like to publicise exciting new arrivals at Dublin Zoo – we just do!

  And this week, Dublin Zoo is delighted to announce the birth of a southern white rhinoceros calf. The male calf, yet to be name was born to proud mother Nyala and weighs approximately 50kgs.

   The youngster is Nyala’s first calf and the birth marks another significant success for Dublin Zoo as part of the European Endangered Species Programme, established to assist the survival of the southern white rhinoceros.

   The newest member of the herd now joins Sam, Reni, Chaka, Zanta, Nyala, Ashanti and Zuko (born at Dublin Zoo in 2016). Dublin Zoo is open seven days a week from 9.30 am to 4 pm. For further information on Dublin Zoo visit www.facebook.com/dublinzoo and www.dublinzoo.ie.

Saturday

In Roscommon Arts Centre, comedian PJ Gallagher explodes on to the stage for what turns out to be a delightfully zany and high-energy gig. His support act was the easy-going Eric Lalor. It took the audience a while to ‘get going’, an initially lacklustre response which Lalor was quick to pick up on (and duly tease everyone about). But audience and warm-up act soon warmed to eachother and the droll quips of the comedian/actor created plenty of laughter as likeable Lalor won us over!

  The headline act was PJ Gallagher of Naked Camera renown. When he arrived on stage, the pace quickened. A certain Intermediate Hurling team from Kilkenny were soon in his firing line. I hadn’t really known what to expect from Gallagher. He doesn’t do ‘conventional jokes’, but then not many of the ‘modern’ stand-up comedians do. But he was very entertaining, basically the messer from school but with the skill, courage and humour to take his messing to the stage!

  Gallagher passed the following test – he had us all talking about his stories and quoting his lines long after the gig.

  Overall, a very enjoyable night in a superb venue.

Tuesday

Another self-serving, wriggling, utterly lacking in credibility attempt at verbal escapology by a cornered Irish politician.

  Interviewed this morning by a pretty forensic (not to mention impatient) Aine Lawlor, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald tries her best to wriggle free of the clouds now hanging over her. She fails.

  It’s all to do with the Maurice McCabe whistleblower scandal and the response of senior Gardai to the seismic implications of the saga. All to do with attempts to assassinate McCabe’s character in the most reprehensible way and the issue of how much the then-Justice Minister Fitzgerald knew, and when she knew it.

  Needless to say, this being Irish politics, it has descended into farce. I am tempted to say that Fitzgerald ‘saw no email, heard no email’.... Fitzgerald’s position is that she “can’t remember” an internal Department of Justice email which raised very interesting/serious issues in relation to a developing row between the legal team for the then-Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan and lawyers for whistleblower Maurice McCabe.

  Ms. Fitzgerald now seeks to dismiss the farce by saying that the email – now published – made it clear that there was no role for her, as then-Justice Minister, with regard to the row. Interestingly, the ‘can’t remember’ bit is quite convenient for Ms. Fitzgerald and Taoiseach Varadkar, a handy retort to any grumpy suggestions that they may have misled people about precisely when the then-Justice Minister knew of attempts by senior Gardai to attack the reputation of McCabe.

  (Declaration of some interest here: as I’ve pointed out before in this column, I’m related to Maurice McCabe).

  That sound you hear in the background is of senior Government figures and Department officials desperately backpeddling and scrambling around in the dark (hoping they don’t get tripped by wandering emails).

  I gather that the latest version of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’ is up and running. Hard to watch at times but, on balance, a bit more palatable than ‘I’m a celebrity Irish politician, get me out of this corner.’

  Anyways, I’ve assessed senior Gardai’s approach to the whistleblower situation and the role of the Enda Kenny-led Government (in which Leo Varadkar and Frances Fitzgerald were prominent members) and I’ve come to a considered evaluation, without any recourse (by me) to tribunals, senior counsel, lie detectors or psychologists.

It stank.

Wednesday

On Morning Ireland today, news that Gardai have seized a haul of jewellery during raids in Kerry. Hopefully not some of those spare All-Ireland medals melted down…

Thursday

It having been a Wednesday night (when the Roscommon People goes to bed) I couldn’t make it to the auction of a famous painting which we hope (well, the purchaser certainly does) was the work of that handy artist, Leonardo da Vinci. Certainly not an auction to attend if you had a head cold and a tendency to sneeze/raise your hand.

  On radio this morning they played a clip, and a mouth-watering one it was. The highest bidder was on 370 million dollars. The auctioneer asked if they was any more bids.

  “400 million”.

  Extraordinary. It’s certainly ‘another world.’ The very next item on the radio referenced the fact that over 3,000 children are homeless in Ireland and that many of them will be without a home at Christmas.

This Friday…

He was a warrior and a stylist too, that Colm O’Rourke, whose exploits as a Meath marksman it was a pleasure to witness. Since hanging up his boots he’s become the voice of reason (what could I possibly be insinuating?!) on The Sunday Game, and a respected Sunday Independent columnist.

  Colm will be guest of honour tomorrow night (Friday) when the Club Rossie Annual Banquet takes place in the Hodson Bay Hotel. The event promises to be a great night out and will feature the presentation of medals to the 2017 Connacht Senior Football Champions.

  As our friends in Club Rossie point out: “Attendees can relive the season gone by while enjoying a five-course meal and live music.”

  There were a small number of tickets remaining as we went to press so there’s still time to book your place at this great GAA celebration. Tickets are €50 each or €400 for a table of ten.  

  Contact the Roscommon GAA Office, Racecourse Road, Roscommon (open from 10 am to 4 pm), David on 086-8399584 or Brian on 087-2420896.

  And if Colm O’Rourke mentions Meath’s heartbreaking (for us) defeat of Roscommon in the 1991 All-Ireland Senior Football Semi-Final, just pause for breath and mention our demolition of Sean Boylan’s great team on a very wet day in Kiltoom (in the NFL, in 1990).

 

As Eriksen destroyed our dreams, all that was missing was that music from the end of Eastenders…

 

Saturday

Many of the people watching the football in the pub tonight weren’t even born when the party started. The party started in 1988, when Ray Houghton put the ball in the England net; it peaked two years later when Italia ’90 mesmerised the Irish nation. (Spoiler alert: Hard to believe that the next World Cup will take place without both Ireland and Italy).

  1988 was great, 1990 was world class (in terms of being memorable). We qualified from our group with three draws, and then faced Romania on a Monday afternoon. Roscommon town and county – the whole country – fell silent, streets deserted as the expectant masses were drawn to living rooms, pubs and hotels.

  At the Roscommon Champion, we abandoned ship and took Romania on in the Lions Den, or the Lyons Den (a popular pub at the time). The place was packed, a manic Monday. A tense draw, extra-time and penalties. Packie’s immortal save, then gasps as David O’Leary – he had never taken a penalty before as a professional player – walked towards the spot. A nation held its breath, as George Hamilton memorably noted. I knew O’Leary would miss. So I thought. Remarkably, he scored, and then disappeared  under the collective ecstatic embrace of colleagues (unfortunately reappearing as manager of Leeds United some years later, but I digress). Still, we’ll never forget Dave for that strike. The Republic of Ireland into the World Cup quarter-finals! A question for the nation: Could we go even further? A question for the Lyons Den: Could we really go back to work?

  Twenty-seven years on, and skipping the madness of Saipan in 2002, we’re back on the edge of the world. Undoubtedly the bond between the public and our soccer team is nothing now like it was then; we’re no longer really in love with the boys in green. Well, maybe that’s a bit harsh. We genuinely do respect them. We know they give us everything and more. But the magic has been replaced by something more mundane. For many of us, watching the Republic of Ireland these days isn’t the essential viewing it was during the glory days…in the same way that we don’t watch Wimbledon with the enthusiasm we had when Borg, Connors and McEnroe were in their pomp, or the snooker when Hendry and Davis ruled (and Alex transfixed us).

  But now, on this potentially fertile Saturday night, there’s renewed hope, and the prospect of a remarkable achievement, as Martin, Roy and ‘the boys’, via a great courageous win in Wales, have made it into the play-offs. And Denmark felt like a great draw from the hat, just about the best we could have hoped for. We may yet be partying like it’s 1990 all over again.

 

Match-time

In the pub tonight, it’s almost like old times. A big crowd, a large screen, a good atmosphere, yours truly, a few peers, and lots of intrigued millennials. The game in Copenhagen gets off to a poor start, and then it gets worse. Quality Police would make immediate arrests, with no questions asked. Still, we defend with great heart and application, and secure a 0-0 draw. We’re conditioned to consider an away draw to be a good result. Yeah, but what about that away goals rule? If the Danes score just one in Dublin, we need two. How is this utterly honest but limited team going to achieve that goal(s)?

  At full-time, a cover descends on the giant screen in the pub, erasing everything, creating a 72 hour vacuum. Nervousness is the uncomfortable mood music accompanying the applause of the audience. 0-0 in Copenhagan. We’re part-happy, part-concerned. Happy daze, you could say. The millennials and the 1990 veterans have witnessed the birth of a new terrible beauty!

 

Tuesday

More hopeful than optimistic, I’m home just in time for kick-off, glad to have missed the RTE preview, which I’ve no doubt was another tedious episode of ‘All Quiet on the Wes Front.’ All weekend, the experts have been predicting a tight game, maybe a 0-0 followed by penalties. Big stage, big stakes. But there’s a surprise start, Ireland scoring on six minutes, the stadium now alive with the possibilities. Russia beckons! Only eighty-four heart-stopping minutes to go!

  We miss two half-chances to double our lead, to devastate the Danes. Our opponents take advantage of glaring gaps in the Irish defence. Two quick Danish goals darken our dreams. If this was Eastenders, it would be time for that stark theme tune that signals the final twist at the end. At half-time we’re 2-1 behind and in big trouble.

  The second half is a disaster. Ireland are outclassed, Eriksen is the flash kid in the schoolyard. We’re error-prone, wide open, pretty much clueless; the stage belongs to the slick Danes. We can have no complaints. Denmark played all the creative football on the night and our limitations have been exposed. Our World Cup dreams fizzle out, humiliation replacing hope. Slightly oddly, philosophical fans find some solace in a spirited rendition of The Fields of Athenry.

  Thank God we didn’t go out on away goals or in a penalty shoot-out; at least it was decisive, at least there are no credible ‘what ifs.’ That didn’t stop Tony O’Donoghue turning the screw with Ireland manager Martin O’Neill in the latest box office post-match exchange involving the duo. I’m no big fan of O’Neill’s, but O’Donoghue’s line of questioning is generally tiresome, in my opinion invariably shaped by what the RTE panel have been saying earlier. It’s almost like our very, very eager Tony is out to impress Dunphy & Co. I really don’t have a big time for O’Neill, but in all fairness he and Roy Keane have done a very decent job with the players available to them.

  Wes Hoolahan is a very nice player, but the hype about him has been, if not ridiculous, certainly excessive. Tonight, he played the whole second half; we were still outclassed! Yes, I know the ship was already sinking by the time he came on board, but I still think the Wes-hysteria is too simplistic.

  Truth is, we’re a very average team, journeymen of terrific heart. You had to feel sorry for the players. Their dreams of playing in the World Cup had been crushed. I’d have loved to have seen them qualify. They have put in a fine campaign; and it was heartwarming to see fans who were interviewed as they exited the stadium after the game being understanding and appreciative of the Irish effort.

  Bad night, decent campaign, good guys. Even Dunphy, in studio, was gracious and measured. Sometimes it’s best to acknowledge what’s in front of you, instead of chasing riddles, conundrums. Denmark, with more than one young Wes in their team, were and are better than us.

  When it was all over, I avoided social media, because I didn’t fancy having anything more to do with the carnage. All Eriksen-ed out, I was and am philosophical about us not getting to Russia. It wasn’t meant to be. At least it wasn’t a last-minute goal, or a cruel penalty shoot-out. It was decisive.

  Unfortunately, we’ll be spectators next year, frustrated with our absence but fascinated by those who will be there, and at least still able to cherish the magic memories of 1990 and all those Olé, Olé, Olés.

 

 

Revealed: Diaries of the fearless trio…

 

According to impeccable Roscommon People sources, Kim Jong Un is said to be “devastated” at speculation that he may not get to meet Deputies Shane Ross, John Halligan and Finian McGrath.

  The trio have been planning to travel to North Korea to meet the great leader – essentially to try and save the world from nuclear war – but Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and an appallingly ungrateful Irish public have been pouring scorn on the would-be peace mission.

  “Not happy” Kim Jong Un reportedly told advisors before playfully shooting a few of them. “I really want to meet Mr. Halligan. He seems nice. And Mr. McGrath is a hero of mine. And Mr. Ross intrigues me, he may be the only guy in the world with an ego as big as mine.”

  Meanwhile, we’ve obtained an exclusive extract from the joint diaries of the fearless trio.

November 2017: Prevent nuclear war (on hold).

December 2017: Meet Santa Claus at North Pole for face to face talks about whether or not he is overworking his reindeers.

January-March 2018: Resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict/get on Late Late Show.

April-May 2018: Referenced in the diary as “our biggest challenge, bar September” – take overall responsibility for Ireland’s Eurovision entry with a view to us winning again.

Summer 2018: Sort out HSE chaos and  homelessness and reverse Climate Change.

September 2018: Take over running of Mayo team with a view to ending ‘Sam Maguire’ famine.

  And, in a final comment on the unfolding crisis, a more reflective Kim Jong Un said: “Okay, I accept that the three lads might not get to make this trip – especially with the controversy it has stirred up – but is there any chance I could get to meet ‘Boxer’ Moran?”

 

The charge of the Lights Brigade ...

And so, once again, the charge of the Lights Brigade has begun.

While most of us were sleeping, the members of the Christmas Lights Committee in Roscommon town set about their work last Sunday morning, assembling at 8 am.

 I’ve been speaking to some of the hard-working volunteers and they’ve asked if the People can send out an appeal for more help over the coming weeks.  As our thousands of readers will know, the Christmas Lights in Roscommon town are a spectacular sight every year. There is a huge amount of work involved in maintaining, repairing and especially erecting these lights. It’s a massive voluntary effort but I have it on good authority that it’s great craic too, with lots of fun and some well-deserved socialising (just about) squeezed in.

The volunteers will be going out every Sunday morning from 8 am. Your help would be very much appreciated. If you can lend a hand or two, contact David Kearney on 086-8592121.

 

Bryan, Miriam and the outdoor cinema...

 

Every day

In case you’re wondering why that big story (you must remember it) – ‘Slightly mad leaders in nuclear war stand-off’ – has taken a back seat lately, it’s all down to the massive new story which has rightfully relegated Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump.

  Yes, sensationally and dramatically, the RTE Six-One News is getting new presenters! Two of them! And both of them women! And yes, that of course means that King Bryan and Queen Sharon have gone! So many angles to cover!

  For more on this story, see every national newspaper, all television and radio channels, our social media platforms, The Ellen Show, Kremlim Today, Old Moore’s Almanac, vagabonds in the park, the dogs in the street…etc., etc., etc.

 

Saturday

Miriam O’Callaghan may have lost a few Presidential election votes in Roscommon this morning! Chatting to a guest about rural Ireland, the golden girl blurted out: “I passed through Roscommon last week…some of those villages are dead!”

  In a weak moment, I may give her a number three or four.

 

Monday

Huge plaudits to the members of the Roscommon Town Team for both their vision and their voluntary work ethic, the combination of which led to Monday night’s novel event in the shadow of the new Civic HQ in Roscommon. The Halloween ‘Spooktacular’, staged outdoors in the carpark at Áras an Chontae, was a great success, despite quite persistent rain.

  So, what was it? It was innovative outdoor cinema, Halloween-themed, free too, family-friendly, and an insight into the potential of this ‘venue.’

  Roscommon Town Team were our hosts on Monday night. Against the ‘gable’ of the old courthouse in Roscommon town was a large screen. In front of it, hundreds of chairs, a refreshments point, and the great Roscommon public. Master of ceremonies was the suitably enthusiastic and good-humoured performance artist Xnthony Keigher, of the rising profile.

  Beetlejuice, the film shown on the large screen, may be a touch dated by now, but it has its charm, and, after a slow start, it delivers some terrific entertainment, the special effects basic by today’s standards, but still very charming. And the film was worth watching for the performance of Michael Keaton (as Beetlejuice) alone.

   By 9 pm, I was very cold and wet, a part of me tempted to wonder why I was still standing in these elements, but, the weather aside, it was a very nice community event. Indeed, as our photograph on page 21 will illustrate, it was quite a sight: Gathered together were hundreds of members of the local community…outdoors in Roscommon town…in front of the historic courthouse, a giant screen relaying a movie, all underneath the November sky.

  There was something special about this event, something that incessant rain couldn’t dampen. Families merged together. A picnic atmosphere, with wet cups and warm drinks and ‘sambos’ and sweets. Young and old shared the same space in orderly enjoyment, Michael Keaton and the novelty of it all ensuring their full attention. Much better than everyone being at home watching Eastenders/obsessing with mobile phones/arguing over who should be doing the dishes, thinking/saying ‘nothing to do in Roscommon.’

  Impressive. Simple, and impressive. More power to the Town Team, and hopefully it’s the first of many such outdoor events at this location.

 

Last weekend

Pat Kelly bowed out this week after a great era as the genial publican in P. Kelly’s, Castle Street, Roscommon. Pat is stepping out and JJ Cattigan is stepping in. We wish JJ every success. As for Pat, what can we say? An absolute gentleman. We wish Pat every good wish in the future and no doubt he’ll be turning his business flair to some new venture soon.

  Congratulations also to Gerry McNulty who recently celebrated thirty years in business in Roscommon. Incredibly, Gerry started out as a 17-year-old entrepreneur! McNulty’s Furniture is now a thriving, continuously expanding business and a major employer. Gerry has earned his success; his genial nature and hard work ethic have combined to create a remarkable success story. We recently attended the celebration dinner and party in Hannon’s Hotel, hosted by Gerry, his wife Aine and their great staff. Indeed, during his very amusing speech, Gerry was quick to acknowledge the huge input of his staff over the years. It was a great night, a highlight of which was Sean Browne’s video overview of the McNulty Furniture story. It’s a story which shows what can be achieved by entrepreneurs in our midst. We wish Gerry, Aine and all at McNulty’s Furniture continued success.

 

Tuesday

More scrolling newsflashes, on-the-spot reports, twitter updates, witnesses interviewed, another grim-faced Mayor, various news specials. Now, it’s some despicable idiot in New York who has caused carnage. I don’t believe that the world is more dangerous now than in the past, because horrible atrocities feature throughout history. But the random nature of 21st century terrorism is a real crisis for the authorities and the public at large.

  How do you police this new, random mayhem? We are all singing from the same hymnsheet, all repeating the same mantra. ‘You can police all the landmark attractions in New York, but how do you stop a terrorist driving on to a sidewalk in his van and killing eight innocent people?’

  Just before 3 pm on Tuesday, decent, innocent people were walking at the scene in Lower Manhatten. Just after 3 pm, eight of them were dead, many more injured. Families devastated, dreams destroyed. What cause justifies this madness? None. These vicious killers need to be stopped. Our hearts go out to the innocent victims of Manhattan.

Ophelia, Axel and fickle football...

 

 

Sunday/Monday

From Sunday morning on, the warnings were stark and frequent. Nobody, bar perhaps an old bachelor happily living without Internet or television or phone in a tiny cottage on a windswept cliff, could possibly have been unaware of the imminent hurricane. And, in truth, an old bachelor happily living without Internet or television or phone in a tiny cottage on a windswept cliff would probably be well able to read nature’s small print by now, not needing The Met Office or a National Emergency Coordination Group to tell him that some serious weather was indeed brewing. 

   The handling by the authorities of everything to do with this exceptional ‘weather event’ was very impressive. Complimenting the wise counsel of the various experts was a superb media response, particularly, but by no means exclusively, starring RTE. Of course, there was some hype, arguably too an over-reaction in some quarters; but much better to be safe than sorry. If Ophelia wasn’t quite as ferocious as had been speculated, the extraordinarily detailed approach to the hurricane almost certainly saved lives. It was heartbreaking that three people lost their lives and our thoughts and prayers are with their families.

  The media coverage was simply superb, a tour de force on radio, television and online. The Oscar for ‘Best report in a storm’ goes to RTE. The constant warnings meant people were well prepared. Just about every wheelie bin in County Roscommon was placed under shed/garage arrest; loose tiles were checked, farm machinery secured, and, above all, trampolines – which seem to see storms as an invitation to visit the neighbours – were secured.

Midday, Monday

It’s shortly after midday on Monday, and those businesses that had opened this morning begin to close their doors. Roscommon town moves into slightly eerie mode. In the shops, people smile while panic buying. We’re like a doomed people about to be cut off from civilisation for at least 20 hours. People queue for bread, milk and excessive sweet stuff, their expressions alternating between bemused and deeply nervous. Slightly embarrassed looks are exchanged as bashful locals line up to pay for perceived essentials. It’s like the night before Good Friday and the night before Christmas Day rolled into one, with the promise of a hurricane thrown in for good measure. “It mightn’t be as bad as they’re saying” we all agree. With that we’re all off home to watch Come Dine With Me, Four in a Bed and Bryan Dobson.

Monday afternoon/evening

Certainly in Roscommon, Ophelia wasn’t nearly as bad as they were saying. It was stormy, but not hurricane-like. We survived fairly unscathed. Other parts of the country weren’t so fortunate. Personally, I caught up on lots of reading, peering up every now and again to glance at the impressive endeavours of Ophelia-rattled but undaunted Ciaran Mullooly in Mulranney, not to mention Paschal Sheehy, Teresa Mannion and others elsewhere…reporters perched on hills, in deserted town squares, on flooded promenades. Well done to all involved, including the snug-in-studio Bryan.

Also on Monday

The comedian and actor Sean Hughes, who died today at the age of just 51, was very talented and versatile. He may not quite have been in the comedians’ Premier League, but he was ‘box office’ for a while, bursting into public consciousness in 1990 with his Perrier Comedy Award, developing a hit sit-com (Sean’s Show) on Channel 4, and enjoying a long stint as a team captain on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. Along the way, there were writing, acting and stand-up successes. Perhaps most appealing of all about Hughes was his likeability as a person; he seemed to be the very same off-stage as on. He was laidback, deadpan and – quite unusually in the showbiz world – distinctly lacking in ego. A gentle and great talent, he will be missed. 

And Monday night…

I happened to see the tribute to ‘Axel’ Foley, broadcast on RTE tonight, one year after the rugby great’s untimely passing. It was a fine programme which gave a clear insight into just why his sudden death caused such an outpouring of grief and loss.

  The programme makers impressively conveyed how popular and inspirational a figure Foley was in the rugby world. Rugby was in his blood, no doubt about that, his father Brendan having also been a lion-hearted and greatly accomplished player. Anthony himself was a gifted player and a born leader.

  Beyond rugby, it is evident that he was a devoted family man. The most moving part of this documentary featured footage of ‘Axel’ with his young family. To the credit of the programme makers, they didn’t shy away from the unpleasant period when Foley was being abused and criticised (by commentators/the public) in his role as Munster coach. Foley’s sisters didn’t flinch from expressing their anger at how he had been treated. It was an evocative documentary which, after all the nostalgic flashbacks to great Munster feats and all the heartfelt tributes of still-shocked former colleagues, left a real sadness in its wake, sadness at the untimely fall of a warrior.

Tuesday night

Checking the football scores online, I see where Leicester City bosses have been wielding the axe again. Idiots! A few months after he led them to their astonishing Premier League triumph, they crassly sent Claudio Ranieri packing. Now his successor, Craig Shakespeare, has been sacked after just four months as ‘permanent boss.’ On a personal level, it’s a Shakespearean tragedy for Craig, who kept Leicester in the Premier League last season and led them to the last 16 of the Champions League.

  I wonder did these Leicester jesters – the club’s Board members, that is – say, even two seasons ago, in their wildest dreams ever imagine they might win the Premier League and also strut across the European stage? 

  A pretty ruthless old world, although these vulnerable managers are of course very well paid. One wonders what conversation Claudio and Craig would have if they met in a quiet bar…“Eh…just where did it all go wrong?”

  Staying with soccer this week, I may have inadvertently given readers the impression a few weeks ago that Leeds United are on the point of possibly making their long-awaited return to the Premier League. While it could well still happen this season, I wish to now confirm that where once they were winning, now they are losing. Normal service has resumed – as soon as possible.

 

 

 

Happy? We were Wes-static…

 

Monday

 

A friend, commenting on the remarkable feat by the Republic of Ireland in Cardiff tonight, said: “A great win…but they’re hard to watch.”

  Normally I’d agree — but I thought this was an absorbing spectacle. Not pretty, but pretty impressive.

  I had low expectations before the game. Got home from work in time to hear the usual tiresome ‘Wes, Wes, Wes’ themed analysis on the telly.

  For God’s sake, and for Martin’s, will that RTE panel ever stop going on about Wes Hoolahan? Yes, he’s a really talented player – I love watching him — but he’s neither Messi not Messiah. The big clubs never came calling. He’s merely a Norwich stalwart, not a superstar. He does make us tick, but he’s probably not able for two games in quick succession and, let’s face it, the Irish management can claim to have been proven right in their policy on Wes.

  With kick-off looming, Liam Brady was particularly morbid, having been decidedly uninspired by the Irish team selection. When the game began, it looked like his fears might prove to be justified. Wales controlled possession and Ireland offered nothing creatively. After half an hour or so, we began to settle, the Welsh storm weathered. We grew in confidence and finished the half strongly. Back in the studio at half-time, a surprisingly uncritical Eamonn Dunphy said he sensed a major shock was on the cards. I wasn’t as optimistic.

  Into the second half and my admiration for the marvellous Randolph in the Irish goal reaches new levels. He’s turning into a national treasure. Twelve minutes in, a great Irish sporting moment is born before our eyes. Breathtaking determination from Hendrick on the wing, the ball teetering dangerously close to crossing the sideline. The challenge of the Welsh defender, in truth, reminds one of the half-hearted resistance of a drunk being ushered towards the pub exit by a kindly bouncer. So be it. Hendrick crosses, Harry Arter dummies, the ball zips towards lion-hearted and slightly crazy winger James McLean. He drills it into the net, the sweetest of finishes. Hell of a contact; McLean as a whistle. The Irish fans, and nation, go a bit crazy. Suddenly, it’s 1990 all over again. Or it might be. There’s 34 (no doubt tortuous) minutes to go. In the stand, the injured superstar Gareth Bale has the worried expression of a man who has entrusted his new car to an over-enthusiastic novice driver.

  For most of the remainder of the game, I was quite relaxed. The Irish defence, with Duffy just brilliant, held firm. Wales ran out of ideas before our eyes. The biggest worry was the usual worrying confidence of the great George Hamilton. I met him once, in the press box at Croke Park. Actually in the canteen, at half-time. I’m not claiming any credit for his great career. I simply passed him the milk (for his coffee) and exchanged a few words. Anyways, to use the modern venacular, he’s a legend, but am I the only one who worries about the sometimes prematurely optimistic way he commentates when Ireland are hanging on in a game?

    The 34 minutes after McLean’s goal were fine – it was the six minutes of time added on that were very, very nerve-wracking. We held on, heroically. What a win. Sure, we’re still only into the play-offs – not actually in the World Cup (yet) – but this was, to quote Dunphy, a famous victory built on great courage.

  I recorded the RTE analysis and switched to Newstalk. I’m glad I did. The lads were absolutely er…over the moon. It was great craic. Infectious.

  Fifteen minutes later, I checked in with the RTE panel reaction. Thought they were a bit muted. Yes, they were basically happy, but it’s as if they didn’t want to get too excited because they wanted to justify their pre-match negativity. You know, the Wes stuff. To be fair, they gave O’Neill credit, albeit with teeth maybe gritted. Dunphy, definitely a national treasure, held up a piece of paper and joked with presenter Darragh Maloney that he would be binning the obituary he had brought “for O’Neill.”  

  With that wisecrack, the credits rolled on a great night. Great night? I was Wes-static.

 

Don't Shatter Alan's fragile ego!

 

Monday

Following Claire Byrne’s moving interview with the humble Alan Shatter on Monday night, we would like to clear up any misconceptions that may have arisen in the past…

  Alan Shatter did not put the curse on Mayo; Alan Shatter did not slay the Celtic Tiger; Alan Shatter isn’t the reason we no longer do well in the Eurovision Song Contest; Alan Shatter isn’t responsible for the bad weather or indeed for climate change; Alan Shatter isn’t to blame for poverty or homelessness; Alan Shatter didn’t encourage Jedward to audition for The X Factor.    

  Actually, being serious for a moment, Mr. Shatter’s “I must be the most vindicated politician in the history of the State” performance was a bit hard to take. The former Minister was being interviewed after publishing his autobiography, ‘Life is a Funny Business.’

  It is absolutely the case that Mr. Shatter’s reputation has been largely restored following a series of investigations which took account of his period as Minister for Justice. It’s complicated stuff but it does appear fairly clear that Shatter was badly treated, essentially dumped, by former Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

  Shatter is a man of considerable intellect and ability but his interview with Byrne was another reminder of the enormous egos that most politicians possess. If you feel you’ve been vindicated, Alan, get on with it and spare us the part self-pitying, part boasting.

  And by the way Alan, you aren’t the most wronged person in history, or the most angelic. In 2013, during a television debate with Deputy Mick Wallace, Mr. Shatter – then the Minister for Justice –sought to denigrate his political opponent by revealing to the nation that the Independent TD had been cautioned by Gardai for using his mobile phone while driving. That pathetic and shocking abuse by Shatter of his ministerial position (by using confidential information clearly received, no doubt with relish, from Gardai) unmasked an arrogant man who seemed to think he was untouchable. 

  Guess what? This smug demeaning of Wallace was the one thing that Mr. Shatter felt he was legally constrained from speaking about during his Monday night homage to himself!

Next Sunday

We didn’t really have hurleys in Rooskey; more so fishing rods (and footballs). 

  It was only when I moved to Roscommon town in 1988 that I discovered the county’s modest but proud hurling heritage. 

  Pockets of prowess existed. Soon, the words ‘Four Roads’ and ‘Oran’ infiltrated my vocabulary. They were great, honest hurlers, those warriors of more than a quarter of a century ago, on whom I reported. I loved reporting on their exploits from the quaint press box in Athleague. Some sections of the county were barely aware of the epic rivalries fought out between four or five clubs; in hurling heartland they spoke of little else.   

  From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, I frequently occupied that modest press box in Athleague; later, when I sort of left the ‘sports beat’, I lost touch with Athleague and the sliothar. 

  This Sunday, it’s Pearses versus Four Roads in the County Final. Four Roads are the traditional royalty; Pearses are hungry for glory. A new chapter to be cherished.

  It’s not small stuff; it’s the GAA, the parish, the detailed writing of history before our eyes, in real time. A fascinating sporting story will be told on Sunday. Athleague’s field of dream awaits new heroes, new feats.

The PR man’s spinning (not Madeline)

“I don’t think Madeline Carthy spun the wheel” I said to the PR man in the National Lottery, after rudely interrupting his lunch break. 

  “Oh she did, she spun the wheel” he replied in response to this odd phone call from ‘The West.’

  Now I don’t usually watch ‘Winning Streak’ – but I watched it last Saturday night and was sure that Madeline (from Strokestown) hadn’t spun the wheel!

  Aware that there was a Rossie on the show, I had tuned in. I couldn’t watch it in real time: I paused the programme for about ten minutes in order to avoid the usually cringeworthy chats with the contestants.

  I like Marty, but he probably should tone his act down a little!

  And the shots of family members waving placards in the audience are almost too much for the viewer; not to mention a flashback to those horrendous days when people attending the Late Late Show used to wave at the camera, hold up signs/recite poems to loved ones at home.

  Anyways, when I ‘unpaused’ the television and watched/endured the show, I was delighted to see Madeline from Strokestown get off to a fantastic start, with thousands of euro rolling in. And, actually, it was a nice show with very nice contestants.

  When it came to the bit where one of those contestants gets to spin the wheel (for a possible half a million euro) I was pretty sure that it was one of the young men who made it through. Not Madeline.

  And that’s why I was beginning to doubt my sanity when the press release from the National Lottery arrived at the Roscommon People this week. It stated that Madeline from Strokestown had spun the wheel. It even said, with a flourish,  “Madeline had the chance of a lifetime to spin the Grand Prize wheel.” The press release even carried the following headline: ‘…Madeline spins wheel on Winning Streak…’ (It was reported thus elsewhere).

  But…but, I saw with my own eyes…she didn’t spin it…

  Confused, I rang the National Lottery PR man on Tuesday.

  “Your press release says Madeline Carthy from Strokestown spun the wheel on Saturday night…but I don’t think she did” I ventured. 

  “Oh she did, she spun the wheel, she won €25,000 on it, add that to her earlier winnings” he replied, confidently.

  I began to doubt myself.

  “Are you sure?”

 “Yes, that’s why she’s in the photo we sent you.”

  “But I honestly don’t think she spun the wheel…I think it was one of the young men…” I tried again.    

  “No, she spun it alright.”

  “Ok, if you’re sure…but…”  

  The PR man paused, then admitted...

  “Well, to be honest, I wasn’t watching Winning Streak on Saturday night. I’ll check it out and come back to you.”

  He didn’t come back to me, but he was a nice guy and anyone can make a mistake.

  Madeline won €61,000, I’m delighted to say. But she didn’t spin the wheel. (But she did great; see page 9).

  I won’t be watching next week – but the PR man probably will.

 

 

Broadband? What Broadband?

 

Tuesday

‘Most astonishing claim of the week’ award could well go to Minister Denis Naughten, who – with respect – has rather bizarrely suggested that investors may be looking to move into Roscommon because of the “high quality of our broadband.” 

  Sitting in a hotel in Ballina on Saturday evening, I turned on my laptop and got the shock of my life. Instant access to the Internet! Incredible (normal?) broadband speed! Startled by this instant access, I had a look at one of Donald Trump’s press conferences on YouTube, and the big guy was uploading in front of me quicker than I’ve ever encountered before! (Watched Trump without the slightest delay/interruption/freeze, and realised he’s even more bombastic than I thought).

  That was Ballina last Saturday (admittedly not a very scientifically-based example of fast broadband)…

  Back in Co. Roscommon, which Minister Naughten says is attracting the interest of would-be investors due to our “high quality” broadband, the experience tends to be much more frustrating.

  While I have no doubt that there are pockets of Roscommon which have Ballina-esque broadband, generally speaking we are a broadband blackspot – and that’s despite the best efforts of all stakeholders/interested parties.

  At our own house in Newtown, just outside Roscommon town, we have long accepted our fate; slow Internet access, chronic delays the norm, an uncertain service at best.

  Fast-forward to Tuesday of this week and Minister Denis Naughten announces that a number of companies have been visiting County Roscommon with a view to possibly investing here. That’s good news on the face of it, though we might well ask Minister Naughten – and all other politicians who hailed the announcement at the time – if there is any sign of the 50 ‘Moss Vision’ jobs announced for Roscommon Town in 2015?

  In any event, Minister Naughten says of the recent visits by potential investors: “While many of these projects are at an early stage, the fact that they are considering locating in our county is significant. In one instance, namely a technology start-up, we are in the running with cities like London, purely because of the high quality of our broadband.”

  High quality broadband in Roscommon? Hardly!

  This may all work out. Some of these investors may set up in Roscommon, in which case, great. And yes, we are aware of the recent positive moves with regard to investment in fibre broadband in Roscommon Town, Ballinasloe and other areas. But just now, and over years, poor broadband service in some parts of County Roscommon has been a huge issue for small businesses and householders generally.

  We welcome news of the visits by would-be investors, but with no sign of the much-heralded Moss Vision jobs – two years on – we’re not popping any champagne corks just yet.

Monday

Thoughts, briefly, on a great comedy double act (not Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, definitely not Bridget & Eamon)…

  Throughout its remarkable 57 years (and counting) as a much-loved presence in the lives of millions of people, Coronation Street has had many great characters; Jack & Vera were probably the duo who most represented the heart and soul of the legendary series.

  For decades, Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn played husband and wife Jack and Vera Duckworth, and what gentle joy they gave to generations of fans.

  Liz joined in 1974, Bill joined in 1979, and I ‘joined’ for a few years from around the late 1990s. I haven’t watched it in years, but when it comes to soaps like Coronation Street, I’m no snob!

  Anyone who tells you they don’t watch that stuff is of course usually being ‘economical with the truth’– some people don’t think it’s fashionable to admit being a viewer, but, in truth, just about everyone has some level of familiarity with programmes like Coronation Street and Eastenders. The latter, with its relentless misery, I have some misgivings about; Coronation Street’s greatest charm has always been its humour.

  Jack and Vera had their moments of drama and sadness, but humour was at the heart of what they brought to the screen. Liz Dawn passed away this week (aged 77) and will be fondly remembered as a queen of Coronation Street. 

  And…pass no heed on those self-styled soap snobs: they always have at least one eye on the telly!

Tuesday

On TV3, and in Cyprus, Harry Kane scored a hat-trick in its purest form: left foot, right foot, header.

  I only saw the highlights of other games, shown long after the panel’s postmortem on that evening’s featured live Champions League match. Back in studio after the Spurs highlights, it looked like it had been a long evening. Graeme Souness, Kevin Kilbane and Brian Kerr resembled the weather outside; fairly miserable.

  Nice guys, but they don’t quite have the chemistry of the ‘other side.’ Those expressions! They were like old school pals summoned to a reunion in the knowledge that they aren’t likely to have much to talk about; worse still, the bar has just closed early.

  Kilbane is everywhere these days, and he’s a pleasant media presence. Kerr is a character, who sort of gives the impression of being a dodgy used car salesman (he isn’t). Souness, who might even make Roy Keane quake a bit, looks like he’s wandered in off the set of a gangster movie. The presenter is earnest, but he’s not Bill. And while the coverage is entirely acceptable, this reality is inescapable; it’s not Bill, it’s not the lads, it’s not the ‘other side.’

  TV3’s soccer coverage is the party you’d call into for a while on your way to the proper party, the slightly mad one out in RTE-land…

Every week

How much more of this incessant talk radio and talk telly can we take?

  Anyways, VB is gone (but not forgotten), and so what are we to make of Matt and Ivan?

  Well, there have been a few lively moments on TV3’s ‘new’ three-times-a-week show, but overall it’s been less than thrilling. Still, we’ll certainly dip in from time to time.

  Just now, in these early days, the guys are struggling a little to find their feet. It’s too forced; Ivan turning to Matt and saying ‘I want to ask you a question’ as if it’s spontaneous, when it’s obviously rehearsed.

  The ‘standing and staring at camera’ pieces are awkward. They look like two boys who have been marched into the Principal’s office after some goodies went missing from the school canteen.

  Ivan, wearing a terrible jacket on  Tuesday night, is too fidgety, not at ease yet. Matt can’t shake off the proverbial ‘choir boy’ look, and maybe he doesn’t want to. If there’s to be a VB in disguise, the role will fall to Ivan.

  We’ll certainly give the boys every chance to impress us/replace the legend, but it all seems a little forced just now. The guests? The usual suspects dipping into the familiar current affairs menu.

  Still, the signature tune is catchy enough…

 

 

Subscribe to this RSS feed

Roscommon