If they’re still talking ‘up there’ in Dublin (should it be over there?) about the good times being back, our position remains the same: We haven’t seen much new boom-time in rural Ireland yet.
If any tunnel-visioned economist or politician or commentator tries to tell us that the country is flying again, we’ll ‘refer them to our previous answers’ on this subject…which is that things are still pretty tough in these parts.
SMEs are up against it, farmers are under pressure, services (unforgivably) are being withdrawn or cut, there is no job creation worth talking about…and don’t start us on that wretched broadband.
When I say services are being cut, I mean it. I was passing through a West Roscommon village on Monday and had to double back to check if my eyes were deceiving me or not. Was that (familiar) small landmark family shop really closed? I did a u-turn, and sure enough the shelves were empty and bare. Then I noticed the almost apologetic An Post sign over the door. Family shop and Post Office. That probably explains it. The post office presumably went, and then the shop went with it. Another era ends, another social hub battered into submission, reduced to memories.
And yet…I have positivity to report. It was a noteworthy weekend in Roscommon Town. Whatever the fate of some towns and villages, Roscommon Town is going well. That won’t be everyone’s experience (I’m sure it’s hard going for many people), but in a general sense, Roscommon town is going well.
What happened over recent days reminds us of the type of positive developments that are underpinning the success story that is Roscommon Town…
A private, family business showcases its expansion: You have to admire the family-run SMEs – indeed SMEs, family-run or otherwise – that are the heartbeat of the county town. We are blessed with the quality of our shops, restaurants, hotels, etc.
On Thursday, it was a pleasure to pop into Timothy’s Londis for the official opening of the beautifully expanded and enhanced store. This is a landmark premises in Roscommon, going back to when the Kiernan family owned in.
In latter years the Timothy family (and staff) have made it into a busy and popular store through sheer hard work. The recent ‘facelift’ has been widely and deservedly praised. Last weekend, after all the hard work, it was time to celebrate. Customers, long-standing and new, called in to admire the new look and join in the celebrations. Monsignor Charles Travers was present on Thursday to bless the building. It’s great to see this investment in Timothy’s Londis. Well done to Annie, Vincent, family and staff, and continued success in what is a challenging and competitive environment.
Public money this time, which is absolutely fine, in fact, great! There was a large crowd at Roscommon Arts Centre for its official re-opening. The facility, at Circular Road, Roscommon, has received a pretty spectacular facelift. The purse strings were opened by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Roscommon County Council.
There were lots of politicians present, most of them still taking in the previous weekend’s results. Senator Terry Leyden appeared to be mischeviously happy about the record-breaking speed with which Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael had hatched a Coalition deal on Roscommon Council. He couldn’t stop smiling. Senator Frank Feighan was beaming too, cock-a-hoop after Maria Walsh’s stunning Euro elections’ success. Frank was her Director of Elections. They were all there ... Denis Naughten, Michael Fitzmaurice, Eugene Murphy, Maura Hopkins and enough councillors to field a football team. If any snubbed Independents were smarting (because FF and FG marched up the aisle after some speed-dating) they weren’t showing it.
Ivan Connaughton made an assured speech in what he said was his last outing as Cathaoirleach. Council CE Eugene Cummins emphasised that a big focus will be placed on reaching out to schools and young people generally to ensure that this great facility is used to its full potential. Averyl Dooher, Dympna Naughton and colleagues were beaming, and so they should. It was a lovely occasion. Minister Josepha Madigan performed the official opening. She then headed off, and we headed upstairs for tasty nibbles/canapes and slightly less tasty political gossip.
Another opening in Roscommon town, underlining my central point this week…that we have a truly great county town.
Do we fully appreciate what a massive asset the racecourse is? I hope we do. Remarkably, the dedicated board there keeps overseeing course enhancements, year after year after year. We have a special report in our sports section this week.
I went along on Saturday to see the latest facilities. The board had organised an open day in response to enquiries from people who wanted to see the latest developments at the course. The facilities are magnificent. A beautiful new building has been built. Not only is it extremely practical, it’s visually stunning. It contains a weigh room, medical rooms, media quarters, a new manager’s office, sauna, etc. By all accounts (from the horse’s mouth?), the various stakeholders in the horseracing industry who availed of or viewed the new facilities at the May meeting in Roscommon were all extremely impressed.
It is a credit to everyone involved and will ensure that the reputation and popularity of Roscommon Races continues to soar in the years ahead. Roscommon Racecourse, first and foremostly in its own guise as a sporting theatre, but also with its great spin-off benefits for the entire town, is an absolute jewel in Roscommon.
It’s the kids who get the parents involved, I guess. I haven’t put my shoulder to the wheel with Roscommon Gaels yet, but early days…
Our son Matthew is enjoying the football and hurling, as are hundreds more local kids. We went along to the Roscommon Gaels’ Family Fun Day on Sunday (held as part of the club’s 60th anniversary celebrations).
It was a lovely day of drills, goals, points, smiles, hot dogs and ice creams.
There was a formal element, although it was actually pretty informal. Teresa Hession (club chairperson and MC on this occasion) was in inspirational ‘form’, defying a downpour of rain to oversee proceedings with good humour and passion. Passion for GAA. Passion for the Gaels. Passion for the future.
Barry Molloy officially opened the club’s new dressing rooms. As ever, this great gentleman spoke with modesty and generosity. Good wishes too from Council CE Eugene Cummins and from Seamus Sweeney (County Board chairperson). Great gaels – great Gaels – stood around, with gaels’ new and eager, the past, present and future intertwining.
I liked Teresa’s central message…which was about belonging. Everybody wants to belong. And the Gaels’ chairperson emphasised the value of the GAA, of this club, in helping people to belong. And she is right. It is the great contribution of the GAA, arguably much more important than spectacular feats on the field of play.
Teresa also thanked the people of Roscommon for their support of the Gaels, and had a great line on the role of volunteers. “Volunteers aren’t paid…not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless”.
Asking Fr. John Cullen to bless the dressing rooms, Teresa quipped about needing a very special prayer.
Fr. John: “I’ve been praying for Arsenal for years, and look how that’s turned out!”
Another quip from Fr. John then as he revealed that he had been ‘promoted’ by little Cian Mulry, who had endearingly addressed him as ‘Fr. God’!
Suddenly, the rain stopped, and the sun came out. As we had a commitment in Dublin and it was now 3.15, we had to leave, hurley and helmet in hand. As we approached the exit, four or five kids were having a kickaround beside a goal-net, not a care in the world, the joy of the GAA and the promise of the future in their young hearts.
That – I think – is a great weekend in a great town.