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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy on the right Sean Keane; the enduring appeal of Galway on a Saturday afternoon; Maradona in Leicester; player power way out West, and Enda getting stuck in a lift…
Thursday

It’s quite hard to publish hundreds of thousands of words and hundreds of images each week without making mistakes.

Even the best newspapers in the world make mistakes. Misprints that, when they appear in print, leave editors and journalists covering their eyes in mortification.

Many years ago in the Roscommon Champion, in an advertisement for a Fianna Fail function, instead of printing the words ‘Fianna Fail: The Republican Party’, we published the following: ‘Fianna Fail. The Publican Party.’ (I’m not sure if we received any complaints).

Today, we discover that in our comprehensive coverage of the upcoming Féile Strokestown, we’ve published a photograph of ‘the wrong Sean Keane.’

Apparently we’re not the first Roscommon newspaper to publish a photograph of ‘the wrong Sean Keane’ in recent weeks. There’s a big concert in Strokestown this Saturday night. The stars on stage will include Matt Molloy and the right Sean Keane, a colleague of Matt’s from The Chieftains.

In highlighting the concert, we used a file photograph of the right Matt Molloy – and one of the wrong Sean Keane. So I can confirm this week that the Sean Keane who will be in concert with Matt Molloy (the right Matt Molloy) in Strokestown this Saturday night, is Sean Keane of The Chieftains’ renown, not the well-known Galway singer Sean Keane, brother of Dolores.

And, performing with Matt and Sean will be Arty McGlynn, who we don’t have a photograph of, but who will be the right Arty McGlynn on the night. Now if Sean Keane, brother of Dolores, happens to pop into Strokestown this weekend and performs during one of the many informal sessions there, I give up.

Later on Thursday…

In Naas today, Enda got stuck in a lift with Simon Coveney and Jimmy Deenihan. It could have been worse for Enda, he could have got stuck in a lift with Peter Mathews or Joe Higgins.

I suppose when some of the hangers-on realised they were stuck in a lift with the Taoiseach it may have crossed someone’s mind that this could be seen as a metaphor for what’s been going on in this country.

You know…’stuck in lift with Taoiseach’…’symbolic of a banjaxed country’ ….that type of thing. But, in fairness, Enda has been a lucky General overall, and he could, if challenged with that metaphor argument, emerge from the lift and say ‘Yes, it was broken down, but now it’s fixed and we’re back on the move again.’

Knowing his luck, if Brian Cowen had got stuck in a lift the whole thing would have gone on as long as the Chilean miners’ drama.

Saturday

On the NUI Galway campus, a tall young man stoops down and pulls a sword from his rucksack.

But people either don’t notice, or else they pass no heed, a bit like when fire alarms go off in public places in this country. Anyways, it’s all completely innocent – it may not even have been a real sword – and the young man just chats away to one of the stewards on duty on the day.

After my initial double take, I keep walking, so I really don’t know what was going on. But he wasn’t a terrorist; probably just a student with an interest in the sport of fencing. Satisfied that we’re not about to be held up at sword-point, we continue with our tour of the College.

NUI Galway is hosting an Open Day – and we’re there with our daughter Emma and several hundred more curious, excited teenagers and their nervous parents.

This is new territory for us. We’re impressed. This snapshot of the College is a very positive one. The facilities look really good and the various lecturers ‘sell’ the place well! There’s a really good feel to the place, and the big turnout on a lovely day creates a great buzz.

Later, we pop into the city centre where, as ever, there’s a great atmosphere. There are big crowds, including many tourists, and the pleasant weather means people are sitting outside the bars and cafes.

As ever on Galway’s streets, there’s music everywhere. A man with a very dour face sings ‘I thought love was only true in fairytales.’

After a while he walks off in the Saturday sun and his spot is taken by a young man who belts out ‘Dublin in the rare old times’. There are street performers at every turn.

Galway’s small, quaint shops, with their souvenirs, their Irish Sweaters and their knick-knacks, are buzzing, as are the various food outlets. Two people pass in South African Rugby World Cup jerseys.

A café has a notice on the door which I like: ‘Unattended children will be given an expresso and a small kitten.’ Galway…you have to love it.

Sunday

Imagine you’re a Leicester City football supporter and that you sit in the same seat at your home ground every week.

The extent of your soccer dreams has involved the unfulfilled ambition (shared with millions more) from when you were a child, of becoming a professional player, and now, in adulthood, the hope that Leicester will one day make the big time.

It’s been a bit of a struggle for you, this soccer supporting journey, although Leicester are doing quite well just now.

Still, your soccer journey has been spent at the unfashionable end of things, as opposed to in the glamour and glitz area. Anyways, your team beats Norwich on Saturday and then on Sunday you tune into the Argentina/Tonga Rugby World Cup game because of the novelty of it being played in your stadium, the Leicester City ground.

And there, sitting in your seat – for it had to be someone’s seat – is the utterly compelling figure of Diego Maradona. He was one of the greatest soccer players of all time, the genius who made an entire World Cup tournament his own, and now he’s turned up in Leicester’s stadium, sitting with his friends/minders, and cheering on his countrymen.

Maradona’s enthusiastic reaction every time Argentina score is almost as entertaining as the game itself. That World Cup which he made his own was in 1986, when the magical Maradona waltzed into football folklore as his dazzling skills carried Argentina to glory.

Now, almost thirty years on, his scene-stealing appearance in Leicester was a bright cameo in this illuminating Rugby World Cup. As for the usual occupant of that seat, they’ll return to it next week, perhaps wondering if this odd turn of events, this occupation by Diego, was all a dream.

Later on Sunday, it was nerve-wracking viewing as an unconvincing Ireland narrowly defeated Italy to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.

Just now, the pep is suddenly gone from our step, but expect a massive Irish performance on Sunday and hopefully a confidence-restoring and tournament-defining victory over France. Over to you, Joe!

Monday

Enda, you really have to stop this carry-on. We experience it during Leaders Questions in the Dail, or when the Taoiseach is approached by journalists.

On Monday, it came to a great house near us… This is what happened at Strokestown Park House on Monday: Jim Callery, the driving force behind Strokestown House and Famine Museum, spoke of Roscommon not yet having experienced the economic recovery which is underway.

When approached by Eoghan Young-Murphy of the Roscommon People a little while later, and asked about (lack of) economic recovery in Roscommon, the Taoiseach responded. Did he mention task forces? Did he mention investment? Did he mention incentivising businesses? Did he stop and pause and give serious consideration to the suggestion that places like Roscommon are being left behind?

If he did, this was his considered response: “You plough a field; you harrow it; you sow it; you roll it. You have all of the hard work done. What do you do then? You have to wait with a degree of patience until the crop grows. It is the same with an economy.”

Oh God. Priceless. Clearly Mr. Kenny spent too long at the ploughing in Ratheniska…

Tuesday

I don’t like so-called player power. Staff in the workplace might have a dud as a boss and may be right in thinking they could run the joint better themselves – or right in thinking a new boss is required – but it doesn’t mean a revolt by them is good practice.

Call me old-fashioned, but I thought players were meant to concentrate on playing – and that County Boards/Boards of Directors have responsibility for management appointments.

Sure, when a manager has lost or is losing the dressing room, there may be a case for players making their feelings known and bending certain ears…with a view to change then, or down the road.

But out and out revolt, effectively seeking and getting a head on a plate? It’s hard to justify, and I certainly don’t think it’s right. Just now out West, there’s a certain smell in the air that isn’t pleasant.

In Galway, quite sensationally, the players are revolting against Anthony Cunningham, even though the team reached the All-Ireland final this year.

In Mayo, there’s a real risk of the perennial ‘Chasing Sam’ project collapsing in tears now that the players there have turned on their management. I am sure the disquiet in both dressing rooms is genuine, and I am sure the players in both camps are really hurting as the long wait continues for All-Ireland success.

And of course their concerns about their respective managers may be very legitimate ones. But, at the end of the day, players should play, and managers should be answerable to the people who ratify their appointments.

Now Galway hurlers and Mayo footballers have just placed a huge spotlight on themselves ahead of next season…

Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy on two celebrity Bryans; an emotional eviction; Minister Murphy’s broken-down car; rugby thrills; the appeal of the playground; the Coalition’s spending spree and when Kevin met Fergal…
Saturday

At a book launch in Longford Library, there are at least two very well-known personalities present. The book, written by my sister Audrey, is launched by the actor Bryan Murray.

Bryan is accompanied by his wife, the actress Una Crawford O’Brien. Both of them appear in the very popular RTE ‘soap’ Fair City.

I don’t follow Fair City, but I am aware that it is a huge success, a real RTE winner. Bryan is of course familiar to the public through countless other roles too, including The Irish RM, Bread and Emmerdale.

He’s friendly and chats easily with members of the audience; Longford’s County Librarian Mary Carleton Reynolds, as ever an excellent and friendly host and MC, is in no doubt that Bryan’s presence has added significantly to the turnout.

Meanwhile, a modest presence in the crowd is RTE Six-One News anchor Bryan Dobson, who is very down to earth, affable and sociable. Once the book has been formally launched and before you could say ‘Is that a tear in Bertie’s eye?’, Mr. Dobson is posing for photographs and chatting to locals. ‘Watching Me, Watching You’ is a collection of poems by Audrey Healy, native of Rooskey, resident of Longford and now a veteran of nine books.

Priced at €10, ‘Watching Me, Watching You’ is available in O’Connor’s (formerly Easons) in Longford and Tighe’s Supermarket in Rooskey. (You can order copies by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) .

Saturday/Sunday

In the Rugby World Cup, England v Wales evolved into a thriller in the second half. England looked in control, but paid a price for the concession of too many penalties and for not putting Wales away.

Wales stayed in touch and a late try and penalty edged them ahead. England are being pilloried for not trying for a draw with a late penalty, but had they crossed the line in the closing moments people would have said they had made the right call.

I hope England rescue their tournament against Australia because this party ideally needs the hosts to stay around.

On Sunday Ireland were comfortable winners against Romania, with Tommy Bowe, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls rampant.

The Irish support at Wembley was incredible. Roll on the rest of this enjoyable tournament.

Sunday

In today’s Sunday Independent, and all over social media, there’s coverage of the turn an ordinary Co. Meath family’s life has taken.

Above the story is the evidence that a picture really can be worth a thousand words. At the door of the house, clearly ready to enter it, are bailiffs and the Gardai. Retired civil servant John Lloyd, who is blind, stands powerless a few feet away, outside the family home.

At the front of the house, under a hanging basket, stand John’s wife Fiona and their ten-year-old son. They are cold, distraught, humiliated, fearful. The boy is wearing shorts. His mother is in a dressing gown. She is on her mobile phone, a look of anguish on her face. She cradles her son. It came to this. It’s a pitiful scene.

Even allowing for the assumption that all appropriate procedures were followed in the particular repossession/eviction case in question, it ought to make ruthless bankers pause in plush boardrooms.

The photograph is a stark reminder of life for some in this great little country of ours. I don’t know the ins and outs of the eviction in Kells, but this can’t be right, can it?

Monday

It’s a beautiful morning, a classic September day, almost taunting the anti-climatic summer days just gone.

Even the parking challenges in the vicinity of the schools in Roscommon town lose their tedious side today as we enjoy gentle sunshine.

On most mornings we have up to fifteen minutes to spare between dropping off our older children and getting our five-year-old son into school.

What to do in those 12-15 minutes? The temptation is to pop into the office and check emails, to make calls on the mobile, to form a ‘to do’ list in your head.

Instead, this morning, we pop into the playground in Loughnaneane Park, in the shadow of the castle. Many more parents and children have done the same. It’s ten minutes of magic for the kids, and precious moments – moments in time – for all concerned.

Yes, it’s a good choice made for this ten-minute package of life – time in the playground, chosen over being a prisoner to the hurly-burly of 21st century life.

When I get to the office a few minutes later, the unopened emails are still there, and no one has been in touch to say the world ended because we stole a few minutes in lovely Loughnaneane Park.

All week

Brussels – the world in fact – heaved a huge collective sigh of relief with the news that Dara Murphy had, like John Cleese in Clockwise, burst into the lobby of the fancy hotel in which he was staying and would, after all, be available to attend that meeting.

All over Brussels and Ireland people stopped and paused like in that footage which accompanies ‘The Angelus’ on RTE as we, the people, digested the great news: Dara had made it to Brussels.

Spare a thought for Dara this week and hail his patriotism. Dara is a Junior Minister in our Government.

You all know the story by now. Dara had to get to Dublin Airport, from his home in Cork. His car broke down. There’s lots of talk now, now that the episode has become public knowledge, of Dara trying but failing to get a taxi; ultimately he called on the Gardai for assistance and a Garda drove the minister from Cork to Dublin Airport.

We are assured that it was a “quiet night” for the Gardai in the area. Which begs the question: Do criminals in Cork phone their schedules into Gardai in advance?

As for dashing Dara, his wriggling since this codology was highlighted has only made things worse. He has resorted to that obnoxious form of apology, the one where people say they are sorry if people feel offended. ‘I’m sorry if people think I’ve wasted Garda resources.’

So Dara, you’re not actually sorry for what at best was arrogant behaviour and at worst an abuse of office?

I have absolutely no doubt that Dara Murphy only did what many other ministers have done in the past.

Not all, but many of our otherwise decent Dail members become laughably arrogant, pompous and out of touch on securing a ministerial appointment. They suffer horrendously from ‘VIP-itis.’

Believe me, Dara is only continuing a long tradition. A few years ago it was revealed that then Minister John O’Donoghue (of Fianna Fail) had spent €472 (our money) on a limo to take him from Terminal Three to Terminal One at Heathrow Airport. (The same journey takes three minutes on the airport’s free shuttle service).

Far from such lavishness ‘The Bull’ was reared. Meanwhile, does anyone remember Bertie Ahern spending €441 a week on make-up?

Or the bould Enda, when he was only Leader of the Opposition, no less, staying in a €1,200 per night hotel room in Rome after travelling there for the Pope’s funeral in 2005?

In fairness, they always acknowledge that we, the people they serve, have made great sacrifices!

Anyways, Europe and the world can breathe easy. Dara made it to Brussels. And they’re getting his car fixed. No doubt we’ll be getting the bill!

Tuesday

I missed media coverage today of Enda and Joan announcing details of a €27bn Capital Plan, but I did see the marvellously deadpan Transport Minister Paschal Donoghue insist on Prime Time tonight that the euro-coated wish-list has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming General Election.

Unfortunately presenter David McCullagh forgot to give out dates and venues for Paschal’s upcoming stand-up comedy gigs.

Wednesday

‘Why should it be anywhere else?’ With those wisely chosen words, Kevin McStay will have endeared himself further to the Roscommon GAA fraternity as he pledges loyalty to our cause and, with Fergal O’Donnell, takes on the challenging task of leading our senior football expedition.

McStay is a gentleman and I have no doubt that he also has the toughness required for the type of management role he is taking on this week.

Liam McHale –also part of the ‘dream team’ now taking over the Roscommon senior footballers – was very highly regarded when working with McStay at the helm of St. Brigid’s, who the Mayo duo famously led to All-Ireland Club glory.

Fergal O’Donnell, set to take on a joint manager role with McStay, is basically revered in Roscommon.

These men know better than most that there are no guarantees about how a project like this will go, and they know too how fickle the relationship can be between a GAA management team and their public.

But it is fair to say Roscommon’s new management team will enjoy huge support from fans. They are respected and tested GAA figures who have their fingers on the pulse of Roscommon GAA.

They will sign up to sleepless nights for the cause we all believe in. They will leave nothing on the pitch after each training session, each battle.

We wish them well and hope and trust, as Paddy Joe the Barber reminds us, that the best is yet to come.

Paul Healy's Week

Saturday

A few men – for it will mostly have been men – might just have dropped a hint in the last few days about “the two of us having a weekend away” in the New Year.

What a lovely thought! Possible locations would include Kerry (“it’s magical”), Cork (“hard to beat”) and Donegal (“just beautiful, and so peaceful”).

If these venues, er…I mean locations, just happen to be hosting Roscommon matches in the 2016 National Football League, sure that’s a very happy coincidence.

The texts did the rounds very speedily on Saturday evening; the fixtures for the National Football League Division One campaign had been drawn up.

We’re back in the big time; back in Division One for the first time in years. And we’re in truly exalted company; each of our seven matches will be against either a glamour county or a modern-day force in the game (in some cases, both).

Reading the fixtures sent a shiver down the spine. Where are the league points going to come from to ensure Roscommon’s survival in the big league? Suddenly, now that the details of where and when Roscommon will be in action had been revealed, this top tier looked even more imposing than previously. Scrolling up and down and digesting the content of the text, it felt like Roscommon were being invited to a party…where we are on the menu.

But then we puffed out our chests and summoned up all our Rossie pride and began to make a case for a point here and a point there, and maybe even the odd brace of points – somewhere!

We were forced to deem the home games against Monaghan, Down and Mayo as the most realistic targets for points. But even they seem ominously difficult! Never mind, it’s a great line-up of games, and Roscommon will surely relish the challenge and hopefully learn greatly from the experience.

Many fans will pile into cars or travel on ‘club buses’ for the day out, while many individuals and couples will no doubt combine the away games with a night or weekend away.

And sure people who dropped hints at the weekend had the best of motives; an appetising weekend away with their partner in a holiday hotspot, garnished with a wet afternoon in the stand watching Roscommon work the ball from left to right in the rain.

For example, you could have an early Valentine’s weekend down in Kerry for Kerry v Roscommon on February 7th; or, for any poor soul who overlooks Valentine’s, a retrospective Valentine’s weekend away in Cork for Cork v Kerry (on 28th of February).

Roscommon’s third away match of the campaign will be in Donegal, where fans could enjoy a pre-St Patrick’s Day weekend away (match on 13th of March). In between the Club Rossie bus and supporters weaving into Kerry, Cork and Donegal, there are home games against Monaghan (31st of January) and Down (6th of March).

Our Division One thrills and spills will finish with home games in late March and early April. If we haven’t already picked up enough points we’ll just have to do the business in those final two home games. They’re against Mayo (27th of March) and Dublin (3rd of April). How much more straightforward could all of this be?

All weekend

It is some achievement for the organisers of the annual Strokestown Agricultural Show to have reached year 149 (with the event, I hasten to add).

In the region of 3,000 participants and spectators entered the fabulous Strokestown Park House grounds last weekend for the latest version of the nationally renowned show.

While the weather was a real dampener on Sunday, the organisers were grateful, at least, for fine weather on Saturday.

Congratulations to all involved in hosting another successful Strokestown Show – and no doubt the preparations are already underway for next year’s massive milestone event, the 150th annual Strokestown Agricultural Show.

Can I be the first to suggest that Harvey Smith, the legendary British showjumper who gruffly but memorable graced the show back in the 1970s, be invited back in 2016?

Monday

Michael Fitzmaurice has a mighty handshake. He’s holding court in the lobby of the Abbey Hotel, moments after the end of an entertaining People’s Debate, recorded there on Monday night.

I had popped out for five minutes and missed one of Michael’s more passionate contributions, when he apparently denounced something as ‘bullsh*t’ and got a great round of applause.

He has the common touch in spades and an affinity with the ordinary man and woman that is his greatest strength. Also chatting to guests in the lobby was Deputy Denis Naughten, who had, almost effortlessly and certainly impressively, been the stand-out politician on the night.

Maura Hopkins was in the line of fire during the debate but, faced with fierce hostility over the Roscommon Hospital issue, she remained admirably composed and stuck to her position, which is that she was not on the scene when promises were made, that she’s a new, young candidate and that’s it now time to look to the future.

Anne Farrell soon discovered that Vincent Browne was going to treat Renua like an imposter on the political landscape. The host part-playfully, part-seriously, went on the attack against Anne, but she battled back gamely and even won a few rounds of their bout.

It had been great to see the ‘house full’ signs up shortly after 7 pm; with over 400 people turning up, it’s clear there’s a great appetite for political debate and indeed that Vincent Browne, the show’s host, is a people’s magnet!

In the lobby afterwards, we chatted about what had come up during the debate – and what hadn’t. And we chatted about who had turned up – and who hadn’t!

Two things kept getting mentioned as the political junkies reviewed the evening: (1) somewhat bizarrely, water quality or water charges hadn’t been mentioned once and (2) there was a depressing lack of young people in the room. The lack of young people there tells us something a bit worrying about the present – and something a bit more worrying about the future.

So it was largely left to us older folk to huddle into the Abbey Hotel function room and lament – primarily – about the state of our health service.

Health dominated the debate, with some references to education, refugees and farming, and lots of playful questioning by Vincent on the subject of future Coalition formations. (Er…what young person wouldn’t enjoy all that?).

Actually, our two teenage daughters attended, and such was the lack of young people present, they were asked by a number of people if they were Vincent Browne’s daughters! By the way, they enjoyed the debate too!

As for Vincent Browne, he charmed just about everyone present and certainly lived up to his reputation as a true one-off.

When filming ended, and later after he had presented his regular nightly show live from the Abbey Hotel, the host was swamped by people looking for a photograph, a quick handshake or maybe even a growl or a sigh.

I hope the Roscommon/Galway debate was widely viewed on Wednesday night and fair play to TV3 for this great initiative, whereby they are travelling around the constituencies on a marathon series of debates.

Paul Healy's Week

Thursday

There’s a fancy ad on television. ‘Are you ready for the return of the Late Late Show?’ it blares, along with swirling images of Mr. Tubridy and some of his guests from last season.

‘Are you ready for the return of the Late Late Show?’ Unfortunately the ad was so quick I didn’t pick up where you’re supposed to send your reply to.

Saturday & Sunday

Paddy Joe the Barber says the best aspects of a Roscommon game are often the parade and the national anthem.

It’s when the ball is thrown in that the problems can start.

It feels a bit like that here in the West this Sunday evening, as we reflect on the promised land that turned out to be a mirage.

The flags were flying all over Connacht over the past week and there was a real buzz of anticipation. We headed into the weekend gripped by – to borrow a phrase – the terrible beauty of Mayo’s relentless quest to win Sam Maguire back; and by the Galway hurlers, in the past so often the purists without the prize, seeking with notably steely determination this year the embrace of Liam McCarthy for the first time since 1988.

In Roscommon, old rivalries with our esteemed neighbours were cast aside and replaced by the hope that the West would be best.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for Mayo and Galway seniors this time. But we’ll keep the faith in the West. We’ll be back!

Sunday morning

Dreams. They can be crazy, can’t they?

Over the weekend I think I dreamt that I was flicking through the television channels, only to see Mr. Tubridy introduce a section on his newly-returned Late Late Show. In the footage that followed, Marty Morrissey is seen dancing at some country wedding. Bizarre.

Something similar happened again last night: I think I dreamt that Daniel O’Donnell broke into the plush BBC studios and invaded the set of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, taking his place with the usual cast of sports people, broadcasters, cooks and soap stars.

It almost looked like he’s going to be a contestant! If these images are from ‘real life,’ it means that Marty Morrissey having the craic at a country wedding was central to the first Late Late Show of the season and that Daniel O’Donnell is going to take part in the massive BBC hit Strictly Come Dancing.

Like I say, I must have been dreaming.

Monday

A great win for the Republic of Ireland tonight against Georgia, followed by a great first programme in a new series from the Apres Match guys. It was funny, nostalgic and poignant (Apres Match that is).

Apres Match of the Day will be well worth watching on the evidence of this very entertaining first edition.

Meanwhile, Ireland’s Euro hopes are still very much alive and kicking.

Tuesday

The pages of history are turning in front of our eyes.

But we need to stop on the pages of history and pause and digest what is happening – and act. If we’re honest with one another, most of us watched with more than a touch of apathy and perhaps even ignorance, as this tragedy of historic proportions unfolded in grim instalments, over several months.

While we complained about the rainy summer, over two thousand migrants and asylum seekers were drowning during desperate, often doomed attempts to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

We knew it was happening; the mass deaths left us uncomfortable as they took up regular residency in the daily news bulletins of the first half of 2015.

But, perhaps because it was ‘there’ and not ‘here,’ perhaps for a variety of reasons – some, undoubtedly, to do with attitudes to immigration – we generally looked away.

We’re not looking away any more, thankfully. The popular wisdom is that it took the image of the body of a three-year-old boy washed up on a Turkish beach to finally make the world sit up and take notice of what was happening in the Mediterranean.

We need to remember that many more babies and small children had lost their lives in this catastrophic humanitarian disaster; but it was the shocking, sad simplicity of the image of Aylan Kurdi that made the world stop looking away.

Although ‘ordinary people’ would be well justified in feeling uncomfortable – at the very least – with how long it has taken us to wake up to this crisis, we shouldn’t allow guilt to overcome us.

We should not let European and world leaders off the hook either. We elect them to lead, after all. In fact, even to this day, the ‘ordinary people’ seem to be ahead of their political leaders.

I really don’t wish to Government-bash when what really matters now is the need for an urgent, humane response to an unfolding tragedy, but I will say that our political leaders have been badly wrong-footed over recent weeks.

From the increasingly tetchy Simon Coveney to the ‘Two-eyes-on-the-election’ Joan to the ‘I’ll see which way the wind is blowing’ Enda, they’ve been decidedly uninspiring.

Little more than a week or so ago there was much proud talk amongst our leaders of Ireland taking in 500 migrants.

Then, when the direction and firmness of public opinion became known, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald quickly scrambled to increase that figure up to around 1,800.

Next Joan Burton gets in on the act, anxious to increase the figure (without much apparent consultation with Fine Gael); she rows in with 5,000.

Enda has remained vague. We see it far too often; politicians out of touch, then forced to play an unseemly ‘catch up’ when they have been left under no illusions about the mood of the public.

In fairness, the Irish public would seem to be making their views known now; and our traditional generosity is to the fore. We need to act now. In our own communities, our parishes, our towns and villages, we need to be open and welcoming.

There are too many dead children and adults in the sea. There are hundreds of thousand more people, perhaps millions, whose futures are in the hands of the world leaders and the ordinary people.

There has to be long-term, logistical solutions, of course, but there also has to be an emergency response to a monumental crisis. No more looking away. It’s time to pause on this page in history.

Paul Healy's Week

Friday

Achill is more than sound; it’s special. With no trip to France this year, we’ve been living off hastily-organised mini mini-breaks; the last of which happened just before the school bell rang.

We brought tents, but there were a lot of us in it so we’d rented a house, just in case; after all, you don’t have to assemble the house yourself and naturally, we didn’t trust the weather.

Our destination was Achill; the whole weekend would be lived under a Mayo spell. I don’t know much about Achill.

When I was a kid, our location of choice was usually Enniscrone. In later years I discovered the exotic lure of Salthill, which to us seemed amazing in the early 1980s, only to look a bit the worst for wear when we began to check in on it again years later.

Achill too is ‘showing its age’ in certain respects, but that’s also part of its charm; it reminds you of summer holidays in the 1970s and ‘80’s. In any case, its raw beauty is timeless.

Between adults and children, there were twenty-four of us in all. No wonder someone suggested that we buy a lotto ticket – it’s the sort of thing groups of people do on weekends away, I suppose.

We briefly discussed how we would spend our winnings. Then, the inevitable idle chat about how we’d share the winnings and speculation on how much of it we’d give away. Falling over one another with our phantom generosity…!

Arriving on the island, we set up a couple of tents in the garden while also settling into the house. In the hotel on the hill, the members of a stag party were gathering. In a room off the bar, the ‘stags’ had a pig roasting. No one batted an eyelid at that, least of all the poor pig.

A slow pint when you’re on a weekend break is a lovely experience. Three of us settled in for just an hour.

We watched the stags and took in our surroundings. Two men walked in with two guitars. One large, the other not so large (the men, not the guitars). They ‘played’ Jim McCann and Luke Kelly and other classics.

The ‘stags’ were quiet until one made a loud quip and that was enough to raise the decibel levels and set them off. When we left the bar that evening the merry ‘stags’ were taking photographs of the unfortunate pig on the spit.

Saturday

On Saturday, the island revealed its spectacular beauty to us as we drove around, stopping here and there to savour the magical scenery.

It is sensational; on a par with anywhere in the world, I imagine. Much of Achill is made up of hilly and rough land which is laden with small houses, many of them at unusual angles, the landscape dotted with small flocks of quizzical sheep.

The sheep ‘park’ on the road as often as in a field; oblivious to the stresses of the world. It is quaint and charming, and it replaces the hurly-burly of life with a welcome calmness.

We have a fine dinner in a restaurant/bar which is overlooking the sea. On the short drive there, and everywhere between Roscommon and Achill, Mayo flags fly proudly ahead of the big game with Dublin.

It is now Saturday night, and for a short while a few of us pop back into the hotel on the hill. Alas, there are no men with guitars. The ‘stags’ had left that morning to tour around; now some of them have returned, and they are showing signs of wear and tear.

The proprietor tell us he’s had a good summer, good news which surprises us; he explains that because the weather was so bad, many visitors from the holiday homes, camper vans, mobile homes and tents, spent lots of time in the hotel, as opposed to on the beautiful but rain-battered beaches.

The hotel had certainly been buzzing on Saturday night. We were about to order a final drink at closing time when the bar shut quite abruptly. I think the proprietor was a bit nervous because a few of the stags were getting boisterous.

It was then that we got the text, all the way from Down The Hatch in Roscommon town. We had indeed won the lotto! Fiona’s name had been drawn in the St. Joseph’s 50-50 Draw.

We – well, Fiona – were €402 to the good. We had won the lotto, but the bar in the hotel on the hill was still closed, and, unlike the pig on the spit, this barman was not for turning.

Sunday

It usually happens when the Irish rugby team are trailing in an important match and next thing they’re within sight of the opposition’s line and attacking in waves, and you find yourself out of your chair, shouting at the television, as if your actions could possibly influence what’s happening.

It’s not suited to golf or snooker – this jumping out of your chair and shouting at the telly thing – but it’s perfect for rugby, would suit horseracing and can be utilised too when a boxer has his opponent on the ropes.

Probably the most memorable ‘usage’ of it that I can recall came in 1983 when Eamonn Coghlan passed out his Soviet opponent on the final bend and coasted to the World 5000 Metres Gold.

That was a never to be forgotten out-of-your-chair-and-roar-at-the-telly moment. We were at it again on Sunday when Mayo dragged a sensational draw from seeming certain defeat with a great comeback against Dublin.

We were out of our seats, waving Mayo on, shouting at the telly, screaming at the ref, watching the clock with a mixture of dread, elation and sheer fear. The tension was almost unbearable.

When Mayo came from seven behind to draw level, and with the Dubs dizzy, the Connacht champions had a glorious chance to win it. We roared them on and willed the ball over the bar.

But the chance went and the game swung back down the other end and now, as the Dubs awoke from their slumber, we visualised another epic Mayo heartbreak (‘Do you remember the year we were seven down, drew level in the last nine minutes, missed a chance and then lost it?’) but Cluxton’s sat-nav was banjaxed and common sense prevailed and the war ended in a draw.

I had placed my faith in Mayo. Perhaps the biggest danger now is that there is a growing assumption that they are best placed to win the replay. It is still going to take some performance to beat Dublin.

But I think Mayo will win on Saturday, and I think they will then beat Kerry in the final. And if that happens, even the sheep in Achill will surely look up, show some emotion and join in one of the great parties of all time.

Monday

Imagine being born into the world since January 1st 2010. Imagine being that young! Not only have you missed Italia ’90 – by twenty years – you’ve missed the invasion of Iraq, the emergence of Barack Obama, the rise of Tyrone and Armagh footballers, Fergie time (remember Alex?), Bertie Ahern, Diego Maradona in his prime, the world according to Michael Jackson, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, Elvis and the Beatles, life before the Internet, the jailing and freeing of Nelson Mandela, the OJ Simpson trial, 9/11, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and, of course, the birth of the phenomenon known as Dáithí Ó Sé.

Still, there is so much to look forward to… The kids born after 2010 are so much more advanced than Alexander Graham Bell’s envious friends; our four and five year olds all but tweeted from the womb: I’m on my way #Let the fun begin!

Anyways, they started ‘big school’ this week, and from what I could see it was all quite seamless, which is a credit to the great groundwork done in playschools and to the warmth and kindness shown to our children this week (by teachers) when they stepped into their new environment.

Our own five-year-old, Matthew, was amongst those starting out. It’s a great milestone for these children and it’s quite an experience to watch them take these first, tentative, brave steps into the big wide world with all its mystery and challenges. The very best of luck to all in this week’s ‘first day at school’ club.

Tuesday

To save you rushing out and reading the full 300-odd page Fennelly Report (I know, I know, I’m probably too late) I can provide you with a quick summary.

Enda’s vindicated. You want more details? Well, it turns out that the idea of gently ushering former Garda Commissioner Callinane towards the exit door never even crossed Enda’s mind. When the then-Secretary of the Department of Justice Brian Purcell made an early-morning call to the Commissioner, it was in the faint hope of getting a cuppa and some biscuits.

As it happens, Callinane jumped ship after Purcell’s call; but it had nothing to do with Enda. So what happens next?

This is what happens next. Fianna Fail are putting down a motion of no confidence in Enda. When the Dail eventually resumes, TDs will huff and puff and exchange some mock outrage and a lot of very average insults.

As the er…tension mounts, David Davin-Power will stand outside Leinster House, call up his most serious expression and reveal the sensational result: Enda survives.

Following a ‘nightcap’ in the Dail bar/Buswell’s, accompanied by various knowing glances and lame quips, everyone will go to bed. There are some estimates that the bill for the Fennelly Report will be around €2m.

No pensions of top civil servants/politicians were hurt during the making of this drama/comedy.

Paul Healy's Week

Thursday

Michael McDonnell is a mine of information as he guides us from Hodson Bay through Lough Ree and into Athlone aboard his Viking Ship.

Having planned a ‘pre-return to school’ evening out, a group of us board the ‘Viking Ship’ on a fresh but dry day (well, it was dry and pleasant at Hodson Bay; we heard later that the rain was bucketing down in Roscommon town).

The ship is 21 metres long and is a wooden replica of a Viking vessel. Apparently it is the longest serving timber passenger ship on the inland waterways in either Ireland or the UK.

In a typical example of a local not knowing what’s on their own doorstep, I have to admit that I wasn’t fully aware of the deep connection between the Viking era in Ireland and this locality.

However our host, Michael, provides a great overview of the history of the area and its intriguing Viking past during the 90-minute cruise.

There are daily sailings from Hodson Bay into Athlone and Michael also does a separate trip to the famous Monastic Settlement in Clonmacnoise. There are refreshments (as well as Viking souvenirs for the kids) on board and Michael’s running commentary, the beautiful landscape and the tranquillity of the waters are a winning combination.

Afterwards, we had great bar food in the Hodson Bay Hotel, which, I’m glad to report, was brimming with holiday-makers, including a lot of Irish people who were clearly on midweek breaks there.

With Hodson Bay Sports on site, and with the hotel offering such great family facilities in such a central location in the country, the Hodson Bay Hotel is certainly a great success story.

* You can check out Viking Ship Cruises on www.vikingtoursireland.ie; tel: 086-2621136.

Later on Thursday…

There was a great turnout at the launch of the 149th (yes, 149th!) annual Strokestown Agricultural Show.

John O’Beirne did the formalities in his usual very efficient manner and there was a good buzz in the function room of the Percy French Hotel as committee members, farm leaders, sponsors and friends of the show warmed up for the two-day extravaganza (Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th of September).

I was pleased to meet Fr. Eamonn O’Connor, who is settling into his new surroundings in Strokestown, having recently moved there from not-so-far-away Tarmonbarry. We wish him well in his new appointment.

It was unfortunate that former councillor, show stalwart and all-round man of renown Sean Beirne could not be present; he is currently unwell. He was very much in people’s thoughts at the launch and we look forward to seeing Sean out and about again soon.

Not one, not two, but three mart managers were present, while a contingent from Roscommon Show were basking in the glow of the success of their recent event while present to lend their support to the famous Strokestown Show.

As ever the Strokestown committee have a great weekend lined up and we’ll have full details of the launch in our next edition as we look ahead to one of the country’s most famous agricultural shows.

And of course we wish every success to all associated with the 38th annual Elphin Agricultural Show, which takes place this Saturday.

A final word on this launch: any of the locals I spoke to reported that the Percy French Hotel, now under the stewardship of the Murray family, is consistently busy. The hotel is being very well supported by the local community, and that, of course, will be key to its future.

Some months ago the management did a great revamp of the bar area and the ‘new look’ really is eye-catching and welcoming.

We have all observed with regret and indeed alarm the closure of hotels in Ballaghaderreen, Rooskey, Castlerea and Ballinlough. The Percy French was certainly buzzing on Thursday night, underlining again just how critically important a good hotel is to a rural town or village.

Monday/Tuesday

Oh dear! All I wrote in my humble column here – a couple of weeks ago – was that Russia-based Conor Lenihan was back in town, wanted to ‘get back on the bus’ and has his eye on a return to national politics in Ireland.

The last thing I expected was to start a ‘Get Conor into Roscommon’ campaign! Honestly, I had no idea that my comments might have sparked something in someone.

Anyways, I jest, obviously, but we are where we are and it turns out that one of the constituencies under consideration for a Conor comeback is Roscommon/Galway.

Now Conor has been busy claiming (spinning?) over recent days that he certainly didn’t make any approaches to ‘Roscommon’ but that ‘senior’ FF people here are holding out the begging bowl to him.

He’s “flattered” and “honoured” to have been approached – and so on. Just who are these senior party members who are so anxious to get Conor back on the bus? My sources have been unable to shed light on just who did the prospective matchmaking.

What we do know is that Conor Lenihan met with a number of Fianna Fail councillors in County Roscommon last weekend, while also failing to secure meetings with other Fianna Fail councillors.

Whoever threw the admiring glances first, this is clearly part of a process whereby the former minister is – quite legitimately – trying to find a constituency in which to secure a nomination with a view to reviving his political career.

Now Conor Lenihan is a capable and personable man, but I am not sure at all that he is the right ‘fit’ for Roscommon. While his family’s connections with South Roscommon are well-known, Conor has never been resident in Roscommon (Russia, yes, but not Roscommon!) and his entry into the election race here would not go down well with a lot of people.

As an aside, I can’t imagine what declared Fianna Fail hopefuls Paschal Fitzmaurice and Eugene Murphy make of all of this. Several weeks ago they made it quite clear that they will be turning up to the dance all spruced up (as ever) and with their best dance moves and most charming chat-up lines all well rehearsed.

Yet they find that Fianna Fail have firstly asked Dr. Martin Daly for a date; then swooned over Dr. Keith Swanick, and now the party has apparently flirted with Conor Lenihan. Just who will have the first dance?

Last Sunday/next Sunday

Last Sunday Kerry prevailed in the All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final after a good old joust with Tyrone. Kerry did enough to win; a gallant Tyrone will rue their missed goal chances.

This Sunday, we don’t know who will win, which is why they have to play one another. It’s Dublin versus Mayo.

Anything could happen, but what hopefully will happen is this: Dublin will underline their quality by producing some great phases of play, terrorising all watching Mayo-ites with their frightening pace.

There will be times in the game when it’s looking gloomy for Mayo, as though the Dubs are just unstoppable. Then Mayo, who will not panic at any stage, will show all the residual quality they have built up over the last five years.

They will relentlessly pound away, never once shirk, never panic, and in fact will create panic in the Dubs’ corner – the Dubs are prone to wilting under pressure (if you can stay in touch of them).

If Mayo can stay in touch, they can win. Mayo are mentally in perfect shape to cross the line provided they are in the right place with ten minutes to go.

In fact Mayo can go ALL the way this year. That, at least, is what I hope will happen…

The tradition continues – in style.

Saturday

Roscommon Agricultural & Industrial Show attracted a large crowd to Hannon’s Grounds on the Athlone Road.

Thursday had been a beautiful day, when, incidentally, all 32 contestants in the Rose of Tralee descended on Loughnaneane Park/Roscommon Castle, amidst great excitement.

After the lift caused by Thursday’s outbreak of real summer weather – with Roses blooming and lawnmowers finally purring – Friday was poor enough weather-wise, so it was a relief to see pleasant weather usher in another annual show.

It was a very successful event.

There was lots to see and do, with the Dog classes proving particularly popular. There was a ‘full house’ too for the various demonstrations by chef Frank Moynihan, while there was a keen interest amongst participants and spectators alike in classes featuring cattle, horses and various other animals, not to mention the always competitive categories involving farm and garden produce, bakery, arts and suchlike.

Children meanwhile enthusiastically availed of free amusements. All in all it was an excellent show and another great example of a community celebrating all that’s best about rural life.

Spending a few hours there on Saturday afternoon, I was struck by two things: the marvellous work of so many volunteers (who make this happen each year) and the importance of maintaining this tradition and indeed handing on the baton to new generations.

Well done to Christy Tully (chairperson), his committee colleagues and all the volunteers who staged another successful Roscommon Show.

The tradition lives on, and the presence of quite a few young people on Saturday – volunteers, participants and spectators – gives us confidence that this particular form of ‘showbiz’ will thankfully continue long into the future.

Sunday

What an absolutely sensational hurling match that was. From the first puck, it was terrific entertainment. I couldn’t take my eyes off it.

Often even the great matches – like some movies or some shows – will start slowly, before building momentum and growing into the greatness that is their destiny.

This one declared its intent from the very start, strutting its stuff and confidently staking claim to its place in the classics’ listings.

I thought Marty Morrissey was in the form of his life as commentator. Take a bow, Marty.

Also in the form of his life was Tipperary’s Seamus Callanan, who fired home his first goal after just forty seconds.

Forlornly trying to stop him, Padraig Mannion threw his hurley into the air; he might as well have thrown in a towel as well because Callanan was about to grace Croke Park with a magical individual performance.

What a game: the hits were ferocious; the skills on show magnificent; the effort of both teams almost beyond belief.

Tipperary edged the early stages but as the first half wore on Galway started to find space and the sliothar began to zoom towards the Tipp uprights. It never relented, this marvellous game.

The marauding Callanan scored three goals, but each time he struck, Galway remained nerveless and responded with calming points.

There was an emotional ovation for Noel McGrath when he came on as a sub for Tipperary with a few minutes to go; the youngster has recovered from a serious illness earlier this year.

When he split the posts to put his team ahead with normal time almost up, we wondered if a fairytale ending might complete this classic story.

It was Galway who edged it in the end however, and no one could begrudge them.

Remarkably, Seamus Callanan scored 3-9 but was on the losing team; indeed the game had several marvellous sub-plots, with gripping duels all over the pitch.

Watching Anthony Cunningham, well-known in these parts (he managed St. Brigid’s footballers up to a few seasons ago) would have been worth the admission price alone; this great Gael remonstrated with the referee in animated fashion throughout; fist-pumped with enthusiasm as his heroic side left the field at half-time; and finally, was typically dignified and sporting at the end, searching out for McGrath and offering him words of encouragement and praise and a heartfelt handshake.

Humanity merging with heroism.

The world has begun to discover hurling, but for anyone who hasn’t, they really should sit down in a quiet room and watch a recording of this from start to finish.

It was hurling from the Heavens, a classic shaped by giants.

Later on Sunday

Although I know now that he passed away on August 9th, I only found out about the death of the great English comedy writer David Nobbs in today’s Sunday Independent. While he had a long and distinguished career as a writer for various television productions, Nobbs is most associated with being the creator of the ‘Reginald Perrin’ character.

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin was a classic British sitcom from the 1970s which is widely and rightly considered to be one of the best and most original comedy programmes of all time. Well, I think so anyway.

I read David Nobbs’ autobiography – ‘I didn’t get where I am today’ – a number of years ago and it was a highly amusing and entertaining read.

He was a gifted creative writer who had many strings to his bow but he will indeed be most remembered – with great fondness – for giving us the wonderful Perrin, played to perfection by the late Leonard Rossiter.

Monday

Another Monday, another avalanche of headlines about the antics of Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.

We are only two games into the new Premiership season. The newspapers – tabloid and broadsheet – as well as radio, television and social media, are brimming with Mourinho mayhem.

What’s all the ‘controversy’ about? From what I can gather, he (a) criticised his own club doctors, (b) said Manchester City’s 3-0 win over Chelsea was a ‘fake’ and (c) sparked a bit of a media frenzy by (for the first time ever) substituting John Terry.

It must be very upsetting for modest and shy Jose to be the centre of attention. Wouldn’t it be great if every single newspaper (and all other media types) ignored him completely after the next match?

Presumably Jose would welcome it if the spotlight was taken off him. Presumably he would emit a great sigh of absolutely enormous relief.

After all, his outbursts are, I assume, unfortunate heat-of-the-moment responses which merely reflect his passion…rather than contrived, egotistical, self-serving utterances aimed at building a siege mentality while also publicly caressing his own ego? Now I wonder which is it? Still, I suppose he’s entertaining…

Tuesday

I went along to Kilteevan Community Centre this morning where pride of place was in spectacular evidence.

Kilteevan Community Development Association have been nominated for a Pride of Place award and the judges were in town.

The judges have also visited Ballyleague, Cavetown and Roscommon town over the past few days. Ballyleague Village Renewal, The Quad Youth Centre and Cavetown Residents Development Company have all been nominated in the all-island competition.

Beautiful sunshine greeted the judges and Kilteevan was looking just fabulous. There was a marvellous turnout of locals.

Inspiring speeches by Eileen Fahey and Michael Spellman left the distinguished guests in no doubt, I imagine, of the scale of the work that has been done in Kilteevan over the years.

The wonderful community spirit which exists in this small – but very proud – place was much in evidence as the people of Kilteevan showcased all that has been achieved over the past thirteen years (since the formation of the Development Association).

“Uplifting” commented one of the judges, both of whom seemed genuinely bowled over by the presentation on the day.

I am quite sure it’s a similar story in Ballyleague and Cavetown and I have some knowledge (through my involvement with Roscommon Lions Club) of the fantastic monument to hard work and vision that the Quad (Youth) Centre is.

Indeed the Quad Centre is without doubt one of the most inspiring community-led projects to have been undertaken anywhere in County Roscommon in the past half-century and its value to the community will be apparent for many decades to come.

Here’s wishing the very best of luck to all four local nominees in the Pride of Place. We’re proud of you!

Every day (virtually)

Rain. Incessant, relentless, dirty, ugly – wet – rain.

It’s Wednesday, and it’s pouring down. We’ve had so much rain, it can only inspire the expectation that next year, we’re going to have one of the most wonderful summers ever.

Start lining up that sun cream now…!

Not this week, last week ....

Like a few Premiership teams, we didn’t qualify for Europe this year – so, we took a few days off and exchanged camping in France for camping in Fermanagh.

Why Fermanagh? Well, why not? Actually we heard that there’s a nice park/campsite “near Neven Maguire’s restaurant” up Blacklion/Belcoo way.

So we said we’d try it out, this being a great summer and all. We headed off with four children, two tents and one dog. It was our first time camping with tents (usually it’s a mobile home). We got the tents up with a surprising lack of drama.

We pitched by a lake on a beautiful site at Belcoo, on the border of Blacklion. It’s a fine site with friendly hosts and excellent facilities for children too.

The first night was lovely.A couple from a ‘neighbouring tent’ joined us for wine, a sing-song and a chat. This never happens in the fields at home; this is part of the appeal of camping. Next morning we cooked and enjoyed breakfast in the great outdoors. Some swans glided closer to show an interest. We had survived the first night in the tent.

A group of Dutch campers arrived, in clogs, extending greetings and smiles. On the Sunday, we spent a while in Enniskillen.

I escaped from the shopping mall and popped into a pub to see the second half of Dublin v Fermanagh. A few men’s men types had ownership of the corner of the bar counter, where they were lowering pints. Sitting back were several younger people, many in Fermanagh jerseys. When Fermanagh got their first goal, everyone in the bar went crazy. The barmaid rang a bell behind the counter.

Then Fermanagh began to play with renewed swagger, rattling the Dubs just a little, with the wonderful Sean Quigley to the fore. When they scored a second goal, the hard men at the bar could barely contain their emotions. They hugged and beamed, delighted they had scored 2-15 against the mighty Dubs, and only lost by eight. It was impossible not to share their joy.

The next morning, the weather changed. The rain and wind battered our tents. “Stick with it or you’ll never do it again” said a cheerful newcomer in another tent, as she observed the ominous swaying of our temporary home. We stuck with it for a few hours, then we gave in. It was an enjoyable few days.

Driving around Fermanagh confirmed again that there’s no end to the treasures to be discovered on this island. At Marble Arch Caves, the staff could barely cope with the crowds of tourists. “You’ll have to wait an hour and fifteen minutes before we can include you on a tour” the woman behind the counter told us. Fermanagh was good, the camping was good, and we will do it again….when the weather’s less chaotic. We’re glad we dipped our toes into this world, but we need warmer, calmer weather.

C’est la vie.

Saturday

This is a very, very focused Mayo team. Today, they dispatched the always formidable Donegal in very impressive fashion.

I didn’t see the Monaghan/Tyrone game, but gather from reports that it featured some superb acting of Oscar-winning stature. I saw a bit of the circus that was the closing minutes on ‘The Sunday Game’ – guys with wide-eyed, manic/grinning expressions taunting opponents – fellas diving melodramatically – with one player collapsing to the ground after an opponent had merely patted him on the head.

I am glad that, since the final whistle, there has been a media onslaught against Tyrone’s tactics; they ought to sort themselves out or they will lead gaelic football into an ugly future.

Back to Mayo, and I believe they must be viewed as serious All-Ireland contenders this year. Sure, they may have to beat both Dublin and Kerry to finally end the long wait for Sam. So be it. It’s not something to be intimidated about. It’s something to be excited about. I am sure Mayo are in just the right frame of mind. They are two games away. Mayo are well capable of doing it, and I sincerely hope they do.

Monday

Buses.

There are bus stories that can be recalled from all of our memory banks. Back when we were kids my parents bought a giant camper van on a whim. Resembling a bus in appearance, it was an impressive sight, the likes of which we had never seen.

There was an old woman, one of those inquisitive types, who lived in a small house near ours. She had a habit of peering out the window of her porch, through her net curtains, to keep an eye on what the neighbours were up to.

A harmless practice it was, and in fairness, looking back, there wasn’t a lot to do in the evening time all those years ago. One day a few of my friends and I did what small boys shouldn’t do, but ‘do do’; we knocked at the old lady’s front door and then ran off. Impressed by our bravery but then struck by fear, we hopped into the camper van/bus and hid out, marvelling at our audacity.

The next morning my father told us he’d got a complaint from the old woman. We initially denied everything, then we coughed up. It got worse. It was put to us that not only had we knocked at the old woman’s door and run off, but that we had also spent time messing around in the new camper van/bus.

Anyways, we all have memories of buses. On the school bus, the craic was always down at the back.That’s where the extroverts seemed to go. Closer to the front, we sat on dreary mornings with friends (real, human ones that you could see, not from facebook). In our lunchbox a club milk was sunken into a ham sandwich.

The nuns in Newtownforbes awaited. We had no smartphones with us. We travelled with little more than our daydreams – and a few football cards to exchange. ‘I’ll give you Ian Callaghan if you give me Peter Lorimer.’

The bus (which had to go on to Longford) would get us to school 45 minutes before first class. If we were unlucky, Sr. Immaculata (a formidable, great woman, who only passed away two years ago) would get us to pluck some weeds in the front yard. If we were lucky, we got to play football before school, acting out our daydreams and becoming the heroes of our precious football cards. Buses.

The most famous bus in Roscommon now is the Club Rossie bus. It is the butt of jokes from time to time. That’s the risk with a venture like that.

Arrive in a town on the Club Rossie bus and win impressively and you leave looking slick and ‘professional.’ Arrive at an away venue and lose and you leave to some derision from the home fans.

On balance I favour the ambitious Club Rossie bus project. It seems to make financial sense and it sends out a positive message to gaels of all ages and codes. It represents a level of professionalism that is forward-thinking. I am strongly in favour of the slick Club Rossie project which will withstand this season’s disappointing (senior) championship setbacks.

I thought of buses when I saw Conor Lenihan on TV3’s ‘Late Debate’ on Monday night. I met him back in 1990, when the most famous bus in Roscommon was not the Club Rossie one. For a few weeks at least, the most famous bus in the county then was the Presidential campaign bus of the late Brian Lenihan Senior.

The charismatic Deputy Lenihan and family members, advisers and media folk criss-crossed County Roscommon on Fianna Fail’s great, big campaign bus during Presidential Election 1990. Reporting for the Roscommon Champion, I joined the entourage on the bus for a few hours. Conor Lenihan, the candidate’s son, was a journalist at the time. I spared him the story of his father’s visit, with Charlie Haughey, to the Kon Tiki bar and lounge in Rooskey in the early 1970s.

I am not sparing readers of this column… My parents had built and opened the unique Kon Tiki premises. One night, Haughey and Brian Lenihan (Senior) arrived after a meeting with Peter Hanley in Rooskey village. Over a few drinks, Haughey admired antique bar taps that we had on display, promptly bought them and installed them in his bar in Kinsealy, where they reigned for many years. It is our only connection with Haughey and scandal. I presume he paid us in cash.

I spared Conor Lenihan that story on his dad’s presidential campaign bus. I forget what we talked of. His father looked set to become President of Ireland, but fate would intervene. There was stuff in Brian and Charlie’s past, stuff about ringing President Hillery, that would come back to haunt them; and Mary Robinson was ready to take her place in history. Meanwhile, on Monday night, Conor Lenihan told Ger Colleran (standing in for Vincent Browne) that he is writing a book on Haughey and is open to, shall we say, getting back on the bus – with a return to politics.

As for that episode in Rooskey about four decades ago, a mystery remained to be resolved. How did the word get out that we had knocked on the old woman’s door and spent a while messing around in the camper van/bus? Had my parents just happened to witness the night’s mischief – or had the old woman conveyed the information to the world through the net (curtains)?

Wednesday

The Leaving Cert results escaped from captivity today. One sure thing those of us who sat that infamous exam a long time ago know now is that the Leaving Cert is not ‘everything’. It’s something of a milestone in your young life certainly, but most, perhaps all of us, seldom think of it now, many years on.

The Leaving Cert will catapult a lot of students into good places – which is good. But it is also fair to say that other things, other qualities, some of them quite indefinable, will merge together to help shape your future.

Some of the most brilliant achievers in our society either failed, never sat or failed to impress in their Leaving Cert. So to those who did brilliantly or quite well or average, sincere congratulations.

To those who didn’t do as well as they had hoped, don’t worry excessively about it. The Leaving Cert comes and goes. There will be other opportunities – educational and otherwise – around the corner.

Other things, combinations of things, including your own spirit, skills and strengths, will shape your future. To help you succeed. Not to mention that other important thing in life: to help you to be happy!

Paul Healy's Week

Every day

People say ‘any news?’ and you kind of instinctively say ‘no, nothing new’ or ‘not a thing.’ But there is news if you think about it.

For a start, there’s lime in our water, and I haven’t ordered lime (okay, it’s a different lime) since I used to combine it with Harp back in the late 1980s.

So, my starting position is that I don’t want lime (or silt) in anything. But here we are, in 21st Century Roscommon, with the unpleasant reality of lime in our water at a time when countless millions of euro are being approved for water services in the county and ‘boil water’ notices are being lifted – amidst scenes of joy and jubilation (in Irish Water and the offices of Government backbenchers and spin doctors).

Actually, according to the always-reliable Roscommon People, ‘water problems’ are back with a bit of a vengeance.

We’ve noticed lime in our water, but so too have many other householders, in Roscommon, Castlerea and adjoining areas. And some complaints have emerged from South Roscommon too, where a ‘boil water’ notice was recently lifted.

Given that commitments (and funds) have been provided by Minister Alan Kelly/Irish Water, I suppose we should remain patient on this saga for a little longer.

But not for much longer, because the very least we should expect at a time when we are seeing the introduction of water charges is that we have a water supply of the highest standard.

As for ‘other news,’ well, what is the story with the broadband service? It too is very poor of late; frustratingly slow and basically inadequate.

As for the mobile phone signal in Kilteevan (where we live), it’s moodier than Basil Fawlty in his heyday.

What to do about it all? Well, I could ring in to complain about the mobile phone service. This will involve me wandering around the garden (no reliable signal in the house) in the summer rain as I am put on hold and told that my call is very important – much to look forward to there.

As for the water, we’ll wait and see.

Actually a nice man did call to our house two weeks ago in his role as a sub-contractor for a sub-contractor of Irish Water.

He was quick to point out that he wouldn’t be doing any installing of meters; he was a freelancer whose job it is to detect our water point.

Turns out he could talk for Ireland. He was happy to stay a long time (we made him a cup of coffee with our less-than-perfect water).

So we sat back for a long chat, water source detection man and I. We didn’t resolve Roscommon’s water woes but we made a fair bit of progress in discussing this year’s All-Ireland Football Championship.

He couldn’t understand what went wrong with Roscommon/is unsure about Donegal/wouldn’t write off Kerry or Mayo but thinks the Dubs are the team to beat.

As for the home computer or whatever they’re called these days, I know grindingly slow broadband isn’t really his area of expertise, but the next time that Indian chap phones us to urgently advise that there’s something wrong with our computer, I might fill him in on the broadband, the mobile phone signal and the water.

And maybe find out who his tip is to win the All-Ireland.

Virtually every day

We need to have a debate about the weather. We never seem to talk about it in this country!

Maybe we should have a weather inquiry, because the banking inquiry will yield nothing. I suggest a weather inquiry, where we call various key ‘witnesses,’ including the prone-to-being-smug Evelyn Cusack and the prone-to-being-incredibly-irritating Martin King.

We could also summon in the amateur forecasters from Donegal, Australia, etc. plus a few folk from Met Eireann and the odd farmer or two. And call Enda and Micheal and Joan and Gerry in too, just to annoy them.

It must be the wettest July in living memory. We’ve a Spanish student staying with us (a very nice young girl who it was a pleasure to host) and almost everything she’s seen of the Emerald Isle has been through a wall of water.

We’ve almost taken to wallpapering the rooms with images of sunshine. It’s embarrassing, this dreadful wet July, but we are assured that ‘Spanish students’ and visitors to Ireland in general don’t expect good weather and aren’t concerned about the rain.

As for the rest of us, who aren’t visitors or Spanish students, we’re sick and tired of this wretched summer. We feel cheated, with no barbeques on long sun-drenched evenings, no scorching days at the races and hardly a chance to cut the grass.

I felt sorry for the organisers of local festivals (and the Family Open Day in Donamon) as I watched the rain fall relentlessly on Sunday.

Still, if the Rooskey Heritage Festival (see coverage on pages 28-29) is anything to go by, people defied the elements and came out in large numbers to support their local communities.

We brought our Spanish student to the festival and boat rally in Rooskey on Sunday so that she could see a bit more water before she goes back.

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…’

Sunday

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.

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