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Paul Healy's Week


Any day

You collect the clutter, not thinking you’re collecting it – you’re just not throwing it away. How long are you meant to keep bank statements for, or indeed bills?

How long are you meant to keep documents relating to house insurance or the car for? Into folders they go…for when you need them again…when they’ll be easy to find and handy to have. Yeah, right. It never quite works out that way.

Then, when junk is being sorted, perhaps once a year – the big clear-out – the turmoil in your head as you wonder whether or not you should hold on to certain items. ‘We got that on holiday in such and such a place.’ ‘Keep that, it could come in useful.’ ‘There’s another part to that…I think it’s in the attic…we’ll keep it, just in case.’ ‘That would look nice in the hall.’ (No it wouldn’t).

So we keep the stuff, relentlessly building up the clutter, week on week, month on month, year on year. Not letting go, but perhaps demoting them…from the ‘good’ rooms to the lesser rooms to under the stairs and eventually to the shed. Keep the stuff, throw nothing away, in a way we’re saving money, aren’t we?

Then, the day inevitably comes when you ring up and order a skip – again. Hire the skip, pay for the skip, fling everything into the skip, including the paint cans with tiny quantities of paint, the bits of utterly useless timber, the broken toys and discarded lamps and ornaments. You keep filling the skip, you’re going well, and then… ‘Oh, look what I’ve found! Haven’t seen that in ages. Will we keep it…? It might come in useful some day…’


So we were at a very enjoyable family Christening celebration, and then, at the appointed time, we tuned into Willie and Donie from Brewster Park.

The early updates were encouraging enough; then it got better and better, and by half-time Roscommon were in a great position, five points in front. Fermanagh started the second half well, but Roscommon steadied the ship.

Willie was sending greetings to listeners all over the world and Donie was tut-tutting about the referee; but Roscommon were on the cusp of a great championship statement of intent, because any win away to Ulster opposition in the championship is a superb afternoon’s work.

I left for seven or eight minutes to impart the good news of Roscommon’s healthy lead, returning to the radio just as Fermanagh were awarded a penalty. Or ‘not a penalty” as Donie would have it. (And replays that night on ‘The Sunday Game’ seemed to support Donie’s view).

Roscommon were leading 0-14 to 0-8, but Fermanagh converted the penalty and now we got that old familiar heart-in-the-mouth feeling. A run-of-the-mill story was turning into a drama.

Yet Roscommon steadied the ship again and led by five points with seven minutes remaining. Now drama turned to horror.

Listening to the final minutes on radio was like having a horror story read to you, where you know there’s a gruesome new twist waiting to be discovered on each turning page. As we willed time to move faster there was a sense of grim inevitability about events as Fermanagh relentlessly dismantled Roscommon’s lead, point by ruthless point.

We were in Paddy Finn’s in Kilteevan. Our pain was being shared in America, Australia, Asia and Europe. And in Keadue, Tulsk, Ballaghaderrren and Ballyforan. You could almost touch the shared sense of helplessness now linking Rossies all over the world.

Fermanagh just kept scoring, ripping our lead to shreds, undoing over an hour’s good work by Roscommon in a few minutes. Not even the clock would save a sinking Roscommon. When they levelled, we thought Roscommon can’t realistically win in extra-time, as all of the momentum has switched, and Fermanagh players and supporters know they have their prey trapped. But there would be no extra-time.

The suffering was brought to an abrupt end, with Fermanagh’s sixth point in eight minutes. It was an epic win for Fermanagh. We can’t deny that what unfolded is one of the very reasons why we are so attracted to sport. We congratulate Fermanagh on their victory.

For Roscommon, it’s been a rough championship ride in 2015, a season of heartbreak. But we’ve a fine young, developing team and there will be much better days ahead. In the meantime, anyone for cricket?

Monday evening

I popped back into the office for a moment at about 7 pm, checked my emails, and there it was, a statement confirming that Fine Gael Deputy Frank Feighan will not be contesting the next General Election.

Intentionally or otherwise, he made his announcement four years to the day since the fateful closure of Roscommon A&E. Notwithstanding my anger over the A&E closure and his misguided and ill-fated refusal to stand with the people of Roscommon at the time, my first thoughts were to feel some sympathy for Frank Feighan on a human level.

As I’ve often written before, Roscommon Hospital is, at the end of the day, all about the people – but there’s always been this utterly fascinating political dimension to it too, with the short-term ‘health’ of political parties locally and the fate of individual politicians in this county at the mercy of whatever twists and turns the saga takes.

While the Roscommon People campaigned aggressively on the hospital issue when the ‘war’ raged at its peak a few years ago, and while I’ve had my strong differences with Frank Feighan on the issue over that time, I believe it’s only right to express some sympathy for the Boyle man this week on both a human and a political level.

Feighan has talked a lot about standing by the Government and the country, yet he has now, to all intents and purposes, had to sacrifice his political career. He may end up in the Seanad in the future, but the cold truth is that a Dail career that might have continued for the next fifteen or even twenty years has come crashing down because of the Roscommon Hospital fall-out.

Frank Feighan has, in the end, paid a big political price. Consultant Liam McMullin told Health Minister Leo Varadkar that the people of Roscommon had been thrown to the wolves; in some respects, Feighan, who can take a fair share of the blame himself, has been thrown on the political scrapheap, ending up there because of the calamitous handling by his party of the A&E issue.

Leaving aside the premature ending of his Dail career, I also feel some sympathy for Frank Feighan this week on a personal, human level; the hospital war bruised him, isolated him and changed him. He must surely feel a weight off his shoulders this week. I hope he does.

All of this said, I haven’t changed my view that Frank Feighan could have done things differently; he made fateful decisions, he defended what I consider to be indefensible, and while one could acknowledge (admire is too strong a word) his loyalty to his party and to his own lonely position on the hospital, on every step of his journey since 2011 he was moving closer to his own political demise.

This journey-end was pretty much inevitable despite the fact that Feighan can undoubtedly point to having delivered on a series of projects to the benefit of County Roscommon and the wider constituency.

From the development of the marina at Lough Key, to the Ballaghaderreen Bypass, to funding for water and any number of other smaller projects, Feighan certainly got through a body of work. There was big investment for the hospital too. But his relentless claims that the hospital was safer – and busier – than ever before were met with scepticism by most people.

In the end, Feighan, for all his endeavour, could not shake off the shadows of 2011. Without question Frank Feighan part-authored his own downfall, but he was assisted by ghost-writers – two that spring to mind are Enda Kenny and James Reilly.

Had Feighan gone before the people, he probably would have lost his seat. He just could not shake the hospital ghost away. In reality, the decision not to contest the election was probably taken several months ago. That’s why, in 2014, FG HQ unearthed, groomed and continues to promote Cllr. Maura Hopkins as the Boyle man’s anointed successor.

I have no doubt that, contrary to the public pronouncements, this was not Frank Feighan’s decision alone. The ghost-writers who, in grim instalments these past four years, helped pen his downfall, also helped write his resignation letter.

Before the hospital war, Frank Feighan was a dream candidate for Fine Gael; personable, sociable, well-known, a vote-puller who, such was his popularity in North Roscommon particularly, could even attract support from Fianna Fail households.

When Hospital-gate happened, the political fortunes of Fine Gael’s dream team – Denis Naughten and Frank Feighan – dramatically changed.

Naughten is now an ex-Fine Gael TD and Feighan will be an ex-Fine TD within a matter of months. Fine Gael’s folly on the hospital destroyed the dream team just when it looked set to dominate Roscommon politics for a generation.

Something of an irony in this entire saga is the fact that Feighan hadn’t paid much attention to the hospital issue in the build-up to the 2011 General Election. Naughten was the top man on that issue and dealt with the HAC and with the Fine Gael health spokesperson, James Reilly. What subsequently unfolded when Reilly and Enda Kenny got into power is now history.

Naughten made the decision to resign; he could hardly have stayed, having made the running on the hospital issue and effectively drafted the letter which James Reilly so irresponsibly sent to the people of Roscommon.

Feighan made his own fateful call. Some will say there is merit in Feighan’s argument that he was better of “in government” working for the constituency than leaving Fine Gael over the hospital debacle. But ultimately Feighan could not escape from the hospital shadow.

The betrayal (by Fine Gael and Labour) over Roscommon Hospital had been too big. The hospital ghost stalked Feighan since 2011. The party could not contemplate Feighan going before the people (private FG polls indicated their best chance of winning a seat was with another candidate). Feighan had to be sacrificed.

Ultimately, the political dimension is interesting, even dramatic, a soap opera, a sport, real life too. But the hospital is about the people. The people were let down. The A&E closure should not have happened. It was a fiasco and a tragedy. Frank Feighan has paid his price.

I think, looking back, he was naïve and he was used. Also bruised by the war, and with an election imminent, the people of Roscommon wait to see if anyone will address the deficit on emergency services here. Who will stand up, in a meaningful way (not idle promises) for the people of Roscommon? We were thrown to the wolves, Liam McMullin said.

What political party or parties or individuals will save us from the wolves? And a word to ghost-writers everywhere; the people of Roscommon have long memories.

Last modified onSunday, 19 July 2015 12:03
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