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Paul Healy's Week

Paul Healy's Week

‘I hope Ireland hit form…if only to see Matt Williams smile’



I can’t be the only person who finds the stoppages in rugby tedious, can I? Anyways, I’ve got around this problem quite easily…by recording the Six Nations games and only starting to watch the action ten or fifteen minutes into the match. That way, every time there’s a long stoppage, I can usually fast-forward until the ‘action’ has recommenced.

   I mean, just how long do they have to mess about for during preparation for a scrum? And the line-outs are almost as bad. But I’m not really complaining…I’ve managed to bypass those stoppages and savour the open play.

  It was a sporting weekend that promised much, but under-delivered. Manchester United v Liverpool was a scoreless draw, not exactly matching the pre-game hype. Ireland were very unimpressive in Rome, though in fairness it says a lot about how high our expectations are when we complain about a 10-point away win, complete with bonus point. I hope Ireland hit form soon, if only to see Virgin Media analyst Matt Williams break into a smile.

  Much to my dismay (before the game at least) I couldn’t get to Cavan for the Roscommon match. In the first half, Willie kept saying Roscommon had the wind at their backs…then when Cavan goaled to go in ahead at the break, the writing was on the pitch.

  The best sporting entertainment of the weekend was Wales v Cardiff, but this column’s Oscar for Best Drama (and best acting?) goes to Kepa, the Chelsea goalkeeper. He greatly enlivened Sunday afternoon, with his extraordinary refusal to leave the pitch when the Chelsea manager tried to substitute him. I can’t see them getting on too well at the Christmas Party – mainly because at least one of them will have left the club by then.


Just a thought…


* The RTE promo for Saturday night’s Ray D’Arcy Show was full of promise: It read:

‘Ray D’Arcy presents a brand new range of guests bursting with entertaining yarns and engaging human interest stories’.

  Should I take legal action – or just send a strongly worded email to the Director General?


Why Simon stayed…


I’m full of admiration for the selflessness of Health Minister Simon Harris.

  Apparently, during the Dáil debate on his ‘Being asleep on the job while hundreds of millions of euro were added to the projected costs of the National Children’s Hospital’, the Minister said that he is not the resigning type. It’s not in his DNA.

  So, let’s be clear: Minister Harris is not the resigning type. He doesn’t walk away from trouble. He battles on. He doesn’t give in. He’s just not the resigning type. In fact, it’s not in his DNA, so he couldn’t if he wanted to!

  So that’s all alright then!

  Where do they get their arrogance?

A family that deserves answers…

I know that Church so well.

  Castlerahan is a lovely, peaceful place, near Ballyjamesduff, in Co. Cavan. It holds a special place in our thoughts. My mother is a native of the area, and we spent many happy times there.

  There’s something special about that Church, perched on top of a hill…a serene setting where families gather for Mass and other ceremonies.

  The Church is across from the local school. Alan Hawe was vice-principal there. His sons were pupils there. It’s still shocking to think that such unspeakable tragedy would so savagely crush the tranquillity in Castlerahan. But that’s what happened. Two and a half years ago, Alan Hawe murdered his wife Clodagh and their sons Liam, Niall and Ryan.

  On ‘Claire Byrne Live’on Monday night we saw a remarkable interview with Clodagh Hawe’s mother Mary and sister Jacqueline. ‘Her name is Clodagh’ was powerful, deeply emotional, gripping, heartbreaking.

  The two ladies were incredibly brave and composed as they spoke. They didn’t want to do the interview, but they did it because Clodagh, Liam, Niall and Ryan have no voices.

  Clodagh’s utterly devastated family are unhappy about the unanswered questions that remain. They say they have been denied access to Garda files. They have called for a new enquiry into what happened – and why – and for a number of changes in the law.

  They made their case in a compelling and articulate manner. They need their voices to be heard. The issues they raise are rightly of concern. Above all else, the family of Clodagh Hawe deserve answers to their many questions.

This is not Rooskey (Part 2)…




It might have been helpful if there was a Town Crier at the bridge in Rooskey on Sunday.

  ‘Roll up, roll up, folks! Open-air circus in town! Roll up!’  

  And behind him, a sad-faced clown: ‘Spoiler Alert! It’s not funny….’

  Sunday’s anti-racism rally, for one reason or another, descended into farce. Let me say at the outset that I am not actually trivialising the issues – after all, I have written quite extensively about the current controversy in Rooskey, e.g. the proposed opening of the Shannon Key West Hotel as an asylum reception centre, the two arson attacks on the property, and the tension-filled fall-out from the whole saga. 

  I would also like to make clear that there were many genuine people present beside Rooskey Bridge on Sunday for an event which was billed as a ‘No to Racism: Asylum Seekers Welcome’ Rally. 

  But what unfolded was, for the most part, an unedifying farce, a shambles.

  I’ve had many a happy Sunday afternoon in Rooskey, but the hour and a half I spent on the riverbank last Sunday won’t rank highly in my memory.

  The first anti-racism rally back in January – the local community’s snubbing of it notwithstanding – was orderly, peaceful, pleasant, structured. It was different last Sunday. The organisers were certainly not at fault initially; they would argue that their event was disrupted. But the organisers certainly did not cover themselves in glory once they saw even the slightest hint of an alternative view manifest itself.

  When a local woman angrily interjected at the beginning of the rally – claiming the organisers were blackening the name of the village and that there was no-one from Rooskey present – she was initially engaged in debate, albeit a quite heated one. Then the organisers decided to ‘drown out’ the woman’s protest by playing loud music. When the woman and a friend were subsequently interviewed by the media, they were subjected to verbal taunting from a couple of individuals. It set the tone for what was to follow.

  The remainder of the rally was largely overshadowed by an ongoing stand-off between event organisers and a man identifying himself as a ‘Citizen journalist’. Some of this was unpleasant, some of it downright childish. A small minority of the 40 or so present were involved. Insults, provocation and apparently hypersensitive intimations of ‘assault’ soured proceedings. It all left a bad taste.

  MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, the only politician who was present, made a very brief speech and was then gone in a flash (he said he was suffering from a bad cold).

  I want to again make clear that there were genuine, heartfelt points made by speakers (including a couple of locals). However, the whole atmosphere was unpleasant and quite chaotic. There was no presence of any note from the local community; in essence, the people of Rooskey stayed away, as did all local politicians, bar ‘Ming’.

  As we (mercifully) edged towards the end of proceedings, there was more farce. The local priest (not present) was disrespectfully denounced for his absence. Some members of the media present were given the ‘in your face’ treatment too…organisers of the rally confronting journalists and vehemently taking them to task for supposed unbalanced coverage. When one watching journalist was singled out and invited to come forward and speak, he accepted the invitation, only to be quickly censored.

  Two tourists staying in a camper van cycled past, looking suitably bemused. I stood back and viewed the squabbling few, and the majority who had behaved impeccably…the latter powerless to reverse the underlying atmosphere of extremism, anger, acrimony. In the background, the majestic River Shannon, the bridge, the vacant hotel. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, but it had been made ugly. In front of me, an unfunny circus. Hardly a single local person present. Once again, I thought to myself, ‘This is not Rooskey’.

Letters to the Editor…

We received a number of ‘Letters to the Editor’ over the past number of days…due to space constraints they are not in this week’s issue. However, I would hope to include some or all of them next week. We welcome readers’ views; please post or drop into Roscommon People, Abbey Street, Roscommon, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


‘Percy French and I looked at one another in despair’



In the rugby, England were merciless and marvellous against France at Twickenham on Sunday. Ireland went to Murrayfield and defeated the Scots, which is always a worthy enough achievement. But Ireland are not particularly convincing at the moment…we’re ponderous, whereas England are like some type of rugby version of Mike Tyson…charging at the opposition with frenzied pace and power and confidence.

  Mind you, the French were shockingly bad…some of their team plodding along like hungover middle-aged men going through the motions on a village green.

  To the GAA…and when I was growing up, I was often told of how, back in the days before television, all over Ireland neighbours would gather in whatever house had a ‘transistor radio’ in order to listen to Michael O’Hehir’s match commentary.

  I didn’t get to the Roscommon/Tyrone game last Sunday (due to a family gathering). Over a very nice lunch in the Percy French Hotel in Strokestown, we followed the game on Twitter (which is what reminded me of those ‘all around the transitor’ tales of long ago. Following a game on Twitter is a great option, but pretty frustrating too. Waiting (and wondering) while the score updates pop up on your phone can be torture.

  With a few minutes to go, the waiting became too much for me, so I headed for privacy in the lobby. I sat under a portrait of Percy French and tuned into Willie’s commentary. Last minute, sides level! A free in for Roscommon! But then, drama as the referee cancelled that likely match-winning free and instead, threw the ball up. A draw! Percy French and I looked at one another in despair. The combined powers of the players, Twitter, Willie Hegarty and the spirit of Percy French had fallen just short of inspiring another great win; still, it was another very encouraging performance by Roscommon.


Looking for great comedy? Try these…



Great comedy more often than not looks simple, but is in fact born of subtlety, intelligence, skill, timing.

  Too often in the modern era, what passes for comedy is laziness…a shadow of actual comedy…with those involved often relying on vulgarity, crassness, stupidity, even cruelty. These ‘shock tactics’, called upon partly because it’s now a tried and trusted formula – and often engaged in order to compensate for the performer’s lack of imagination – sadly seem to satisfy 21st century audiences.

  I mean, is Jimmy Carr actually funny?

  And while I appreciate that times obviously change, I think much of today’s shallow comedy is quite simply a reflection of the general lowering of standards in society. When it comes to movies, the race to the bottom (of the barrel) is very often the crude approach favoured by writers and producers. There are of course many exceptions. There are still ‘funny’ movies, and currently there are some excellent and clever (mostly American) sit-coms. Likewise, when it comes to stand-up comedy, there’s a fair bit of quality around, but also a lot of offensive rubbish!

  I was reminded of how, well…great…great comedy can be when we went to see ‘Stan & Ollie’ in C&L Plex, Roscommon recently. My absolute heroes from that era are the Marx Brothers, for whom the word ‘genius’ might have been invented. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were quite brilliant too.

  When I was a kid, their short movies were on television regularly. It was an era before multi-channel television, Youtube, Netflix…in fact for many years we only had two channels. While ‘Laurel & Hardy’ was scheduled quite often, it was also ‘first sub’ when, as seemed to happen quite often, there was a break in scheduled programming. For example, a race meeting or football match might be snowed off, a live event might finish earlier than expected, or a link to such an event might be lost. In which case, Continuity Announcer takes over: ‘A technical problem has arisen. While we try to restore our link…here’s Laurel & Hardy….’

  At such times, children of the nation suddenly felt like it was Christmas Eve. 

  The story of Stan and Ollie, delightfully told in the movie (great performances by the cast), is very touching. On screen, Stan was the idiotic one; in ‘real life’ he was the ‘brains’ behind the duo, which is not for one moment to underestimate the role of Hardy. Stan Laurel conceived many of the golden moments the double act created on screen. Through great career peaks and some lows, Laurel and Hardy remained inseparable.

  ‘Stan & Ollie’ is poignant, touching and heartwarming – a lovely, nostalgic flashback to the careers of probably the most famous comedy partnership of all time. If you are not familiar with the great body of work of Laurel & Hardy, you might like to check them out on Youtube. And while you are at it, check out the amazing Marx Brothers too.

  Meanwhile, if you want smart-assed, smug, belittling, crude and offensive ‘comedy substitute’, then reach for that remote control and you won’t be waiting long…





The billion (or two) euro question(s)…




All week

Honestly, these arrogant politicians (well, some of them)…with their prowess at twisting logic, their habitual brazenness, their almost admirable verbal dexterity.

  Not wishing to pick on the usually very reasonable Deputy Colm Brophy, but the Fine Gael man really pushed my tolerance limits the other night. On the Tonight Show with Matt and Ivan – doing a good job in the footsteps of the great Vincent – Colm truly tested my patience.

  Yellow card: He tried to fob viewers off by claiming that the initial cost of the National Children’s Hospital was €983m.

  An indignant Matt Cooper reminded Colm that it was actually €650m.

  Effortlessly seeking to sidestep Matt, Deputy Brophy insisted it was the bigger figure, thus implying that the subsequent costs’ overrun is not quite as horrendous as pesky journalists would have us believe.

  Black card: Next, Colm plays the ‘What about the children and their parents?’ card. Straight-faced, Colm says we need this hospital…and asks who will look parents in the eye and say otherwise?

  A red herring, of course.

  Red card (or second yellow): Colm confidently wraps his contribution by saying that we must, yeah, we absolutely must, avoid any such cost overruns in the future.

  I’m thinking: ‘No, actually we should avoid any such cost overruns in the present’.

  All week, government politicians used the same tactics. If you challenge them on the scandalous costs issue, as soon as possible they will move the ‘debate’ on and play their emotional trump card… “The real issue here is that we need to build this hospital. People have waited long enough”.

  No, the real issue here – right here and right now – is that we need to address this costs’ monster.

  It’s pathetic.

Time added on: I wrote above on Tuesday, I have still to digest Health Minister Simon Harris’ doubtlessly deeply revealing, modest and apologetic appearance before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health on Wednesday.



Speaking as a Leeds United fan, I think Liverpool ‘2018/2019 version’ are a breath of fresh air. They play exciting football and have been a revelation this season.

  There is a ‘but’…what was Jurgen Klopp at the other night? I watched Liverpool’s lame draw with West Ham, and was then bemused to see Klopp quite aggressively remonstrate with the referee at the full-time whistle. More than that, Klopp had a bit of a barney with West Ham’s gentlemanly manager, Manuel Pellegrini.

  True, this sort of managerial over-reaction/histrionics is commonplace, but it’s getting a bit nauseating. What makes Monday night’s soap opera particularly odd is the fact that Liverpool’s goal – in a 1-1 draw – was clearly offside. To be fair to Klopp, I imagine his embarrassing conduct on Monday night is down to sheer pressure, as the race for the title intensifies. When Mourinho was at Manchester United, there was no such excuse. Such behaviour from The Special One was just him being a bad loser/unsporting/grumpy/looking for an edge. Ditto when Arsene Wenger reigned at Arsenal.

  Klopp had no business behaving as he did on Monday night, but like I say, maybe the pressure is getting to him! And I guess he too is generally a breath of fresh air.

  What a pleasure it would be to see more managers behave without bias and with dignity and restraint after a game. Managers like Roy Hodgson and Chris Hughton set the example that others should follow!


‘The Hyde on Sunday was wonderful’




The Hyde on Sunday was wonderful. It was one of the best ‘league days’ in years. There was a substantial Monaghan support in the stands, which of course added to the atmosphere.

  Entirely reasonably, given their team’s status and their stunning win over Dublin the previous weekend, the Monaghan fans travelled in expectation. Roscommon fans, encouraged by our  performance in wet and windy Castlebar, expected another resolute showing by Anthony Cunningham’s very focussed team – but few dared to contemplate a home win.

  It was very cold. Prior to throw-in, three Monaghan fans changed into wet gear, adding something like an angler’s wet gear to what they were already wearing. A bit of trouble these lads had too, as they tried to complete their makeover. It was like a scene from Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game.

  The home defence was superb as Roscommon earned an exciting win. All credit to Anthony Cunningham, his backroom team, and those heroic players.

  The atmosphere in the final fifteen minutes was terrific. Black cards, red card, off-the-ball incidents, flare-ups, heart-stopping moments, good football, great passion, phenomenal effort by amateur sportsmen. 

  When the final whistle blew, the Roscommon fans reacted with an outpouring of emotion…happiness, relief and pride merging.

  We completely forgot about the quite bitter cold which had certainly registered with us at the throw-in and irked us during the always tedious half-time break. That was then. Now, a great and somewhat unlikely win achieved, the cold meant nothing, no longer impacted. Warm hearts surpass mere cold elements. Now, we simply relished this precious statement of intent; heroic Roscommon had beaten high-flying Monaghan. A great league day. We stood proud in the Hyde and applauded Roscommon on their slow and savoured departure from the field.




The last post...




The door closed in Glinsk on Monday, as it did somewhere else the previous week, as it will somewhere else next week. Sometimes eras end with noise and fanfare and drama, but sometimes eras can end quietly, with little more than the memories and the silence present as witnesses.

  The story in Glinsk is replicated in other parts of Roscommon and East Galway, indeed in many other areas throughout the country too.

  Life will never be the same again in those small, rural areas where the local post office is closing its doors.

  I was wondering what I might write about in this week’s column when I got the call from Marty Farragher. Efficient and civic-minded as ever, Marty was wondering if the Roscommon People could ‘transfer’ the papers which are delivered to Glinsk Post Office every week on to Dowd’s from now on (we can).

  We got talking. I first met Marty and his wife Margaret over 25 years ago. Such decent, honest-to-goodness community people. Margaret submitted Glinsk notes to the Roscommon Champion for many years. Marty and Margaret were at the heart of the small community in the beautiful East Galway village, as they still are to this day. They were always very welcoming over those years – and those years have gone by quickly.

  Marty confirmed that the curtain had come down. Glinsk Post Office closed on Monday last. Three generations of the Farragher family had run the post office over a 123-year period. Historic stuff. Emotional stuff. ‘End of an era’ is an understatement. Social change going about its business, quietly but firmly. Change imposing itself. Emotional stuff indeed.

  As Marty put it: “Margaret was postmistress here from 1967 until yesterday”.

  “Until yesterday”.

   I asked Marty to fill me in on this story. It begins in 1896, when Marty’s grandfather (Martin Farragher) ran a post office in Glinsk on what was initially a temporary basis. In 1900, the post office officially opened and was run by Martin and his wife, Mary-Ann.

  The first pensions were paid out on the 7th of January 1909, when forty-four pensioners called to Glinsk Post Office and collected eleven pounds – between them.

  The second generation stewardship began when Marty’s parents, Michael and Mary (nee Cuddy), took up the reins following their marriage in 1938. Marty’s aunts and uncles also worked there over the years.

  After his father’s death in 1963, Marty was appointed postmaster. Marty and Margaret (nee Curley) got married in 1967 and Margaret took over as postmistress (succeeding Marty’s mother). Third generation…the story continuing. 

  On Tuesday of this week, Marty and Margaret briefly reflected on the changes which the passing years brought. What they’ve seen, and what was passed on to them. They say a ‘Call Office’ was in place from 1952, whereby local people called in to make and take important calls. That was an all-night service, often involving emergency calls. In 1974, a kiosk (“the first telephone in the area”) was placed outside the post office.

  Well-known postmen are recalled with fondness. They are concerned about “leaving people out” (to be fair, Marty only rang in to discuss deliveries of the Roscommon People!) and wants to acknowledge everyone who has played a role in this story.

  Marty says the “McLoughlins of Castlerea” had the ‘mail’ contract for many years. The post came by train from Dublin to Castlerea, where it was sorted before being delivered into outlying areas. For many years, those deliveries were by horse and cart.

  Joe Dunne was a postman who came to Ballymoe in 1952 (that’s where the post for Glinsk was sorted). In 1960, he was appointed “full-time postman” in Glinsk, complete with mail van. Before that, from the 1930s or so, Paddy Griffin was a well-known postman. In later years, he was succeeded by his sons. There were many others… Brendan Mannion from Ballymoe served for a good number of years, as did Mike Conneely from Newtown in Glinsk. Tom Galvin is fondly recalled too.

  Over these decades, Glinsk Post Office became a great social hub. Same story in Knockvicar. Same story in Cornafulla. Same story in other areas locally.

  In Glinsk, great friendships were built up. “Yes, it was very much a social hub I suppose,” Marty Farragher said this week. “Often on a Friday, you could have five or six women here and they’d have a great chat for a half an hour or so! Up to the very end (last week) it was going well, to be honest. It was busy. Of course the nature of how people do their business is changing”.

  I had been wondering what to write about in my column this week… but what could be more important to write about, to record, than this… change. That’s at the heart of this story of course. Change. Time moving, things evolving, change happening…

  On Monday, they closed the door in Glinsk PO ‘for the last time’. Poignant stuff. Social change, slow or otherwise, can be hard to take. The locals will now have to go to Creggs to collect their pensions, to do whatever other business they have to do. In the meantime, a chapter has closed. Three generations. 123 years. Happy days, sad days, all lived within the beating heart of Glinsk community. Great memories will live on.

  We asked the ever-obliging photographer Mick McCormack to call out and take a few photos on Wednesday.

  How do people feel about it all, I asked Marty.

  “Ah, people in the area are disappointed I suppose” he replied. “And we will miss those people very much”.

Four days in Rome…


Rome wasn’t built in a day – and cannot possibly be fully appreciated in all its magnificence in four days.  

  But, on our first ever visit to Rome (or Italy), we gave it our best shot – and pledged we’ll return.

  Spectacular, breathtaking Rome is essentially all about beautiful architecture and art, and a history that spans over 2,000 years and which encompasses the Roman Empire, Medieval Rome, Renaissance Rome and more besides. Not to mention its role as the centre of Christianity.

  So, four days then!

  The weekend highlights were the few hours we spent at The Vatican and later, a tour of the Colosseum. We also visited the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Piazza del Popola, Piazza Navona, Piazzo Venezia, Circus Maximus the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain. Some of these attractions I hadn’t heard of until last weekend; all are well worth seeing.

  Meanwhile, we also enjoyed the buzz of the city. Apparently the Italian economy is on its knees, but my anecdotal report is that Rome was impressively buoyant and brimming with tourists…not bad for January? Of course that’s the least informed ‘economic report’ you’ve ever read (though at least mercifully short). And presumably tourists milling around Rome is a 12-month phenomenon.

  As in so many holiday destinations, you can barely pass a restaurant without being lobbied by an enthusiastic waiter or waitress. In Rome,  fuelled by Latin charm and good humour, the waiters whizz in and out between tables, while keeping an eye on any slow-moving pedestrians/potential new customers!


The Vatican (Saturday)

It would be dishonest to suggest that our arrival at The Vatican was a grand one; Fiona and I disembarked from a ‘Hop on, Hop off’ bus. Large crowds of tourists milled around, a selfies’ extravaganza. There, in the distance, was the famous, familiar dome. The walk deep into the heart of Vatican City took about ten minutes. It’s a curious approach, with homeless people lying or standing in doorways, as in any other European city. One such man had a coat draped over his dog. He had a fabulous looking iphone. Movingly, or maybe opportunistically, one ‘rough sleeper’ prostrated himself on the footpath outside the entrance to The Vatican, his hands clasped in prayer, head bowed, his face invisible to the passing crowds. A small box beside him contained few coins.

  A McDonald’s sign ahead of us is a reminder of a different place of worship and of how commercialism knows no boundaries. Why should I be surprised? Needless to say, the walk to The Vatican reveals numerous souvenir shops too. As we queue to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, the rain comes. Hawkers emerge from the shadows offering raincoats and umbrellas. A burly, hollering security man chases one of them and the hawker breaks away in haste before returning the moment the coast is clear.

  Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica is a remarkable and moving experience. This is where St. Peter was martyred and where the Apostles were buried. Inside the Basilica lie the remains of a number of Popes. Given his charisma, his famous Irish visit in 1979 and his stature throughout our youth, it is quite an experience to spend some time at the tomb of Pope Paul 11.

  What is so compelling is the magnificence of the building. It’s the world’s largest Church, and the architecture is amazing. Works by Michaelangelo and other great artists are on display. Every turn you take in this vast, spectacular building amazes you further.

  The packed souvenir shop is staffed by five nuns.


The Colosseum (Sunday)

It was impossible to stand inside the Colosseum and not let your mind wander back to the period numerous centuries ago when it was the scene of regular ‘sporting events’ in which gladiators and wild animals fought to the death for the entertainment of 75,000 spectators.

  We had a wonderful tour guide, a charismatic big Italian man with a tremendous knowledge of Roman history. One of the many fascinating facts we heard on our tour is that it took just eight years to build the arena (beginning in 72 AD). It helped that 60,000 slaves were on the job.

  You get to wander around the vast amphitheatre, and imagine what it must have been like. To your left is the seat on which the Emperor of the day sat. Across from him, were seated the elite of Roman society. Above them (further from the brutal ‘action’) thousands of much less important Romans. Above them still (it’s a four-storey building) were convicts, the poor. Women were forced to take the top tier, where they stood (everyone else had access to seating). 

  In the Colosseum, the ‘sport’ lasted all day. Wild animals fought to the death on a stage in the centre. In what was effectively ‘half-time entertainment’, deserters from the army were fed to the lions…eaten alive in front of the baying mob.

  The highlight was always an epic showdown involving gladiators and wild animals. These were elaborate stage-managed ‘productions’. As a team of gladiators fought against a rival team, packs of wild animals were introduced to the fray at 20-minute intervals, to add to the tension. Gladiators and animals, blood and death, audience clamouring for more. By the time it was all over, the spectators were going crazy. Many of them would soon join up as soldiers. They had no choice: a night in the Colosseum had whetted their appetite for some invading of foreign lands; it had heightened their loyalty to the Emperor, to Rome. Besides, if you deserted, there was the prospect of being fed to the lions in front of 75,000 people some night soon…

  On Sunday, the Colosseum was thronged with tourists. There were a few Irish voices, but I was probably the only one wondering how the FBD Final was going.


Sunday evening/Monday morning

We visited a couple of superb museums, before (well, it was our last night) moving the cultural dial just a little by visiting an Irish pub (at least it’s called ‘Scholars’). The place was packed with students and holiday-makers, an exciting American football showdown on large screens creating a great atmosphere.

  I had of course checked the FBD result on my phone, and on the flight home, the Irish Independent had all the details on the clash of the gladiators in Tuam. And the Roscommon gladiators had triumphed.

  In the shuttle bus, I knew I was home when I heard a man on his mobile: “100%, 100%, leave that with me man and I’ll have it sorted before you know it”.

  Rome was magnificent, as we expected it would be. Now to read up on some of that extraordinary Roman history…





Why rally was a bridge too far…




Breaking news: Rooskey, as a community, doesn’t do racism. The village was cosmopolitan and multicultural several decades ago, at a time when most of the rest of the country hadn’t even heard of those words!

  Different nationalities in Rooskey is nothing new – and I’m not just referring to holiday-makers on cruisers on the Shannon and to anglers doing their thing on the riverbank.

  Since as far back as the 1960s, people from England, Germany, The Netherlands, etc. have been setting up home in the area.

  Yes, I am well aware that the potential arrival of 80 refugees is a different eh… ‘kettle of fish’ – but you can be opposed to an asylum centre being located in your village (as I am) for all sorts of reasons. In actual fact, should this project go ahead, I expect even opponents of what is a very dubious proposal to still very much welcome the asylum seekers, who, after all, are not to blame for what is a chronically flawed policy. 

  The fact that the Rooskey community doesn’t do racism was probably one of the reasons why locals completely (well, a tiny handful of people aside) ignored Sunday’s anti-racism rally.

  When I arrived at the village on Sunday morning, I immediately saw that large crowds of locals had gathered…for Mass.

  There was lots of activity outside the local Church. But the locals weren’t then travelling down the village, to where the anti-racism rally was being held (in response to the alleged arson attack on the Shannon Key West Hotel, which has been earmarked as an accommodation centre for asylum seekers).

  There was no traffic jam or congestion at the bridge. It was quickly apparent that Sunday’s rally was being snubbed by locals. The people of Rooskey felt no affinity with this event. 

  The reason the people of Rooskey didn’t attend the rally is not because they aren’t against racism…it’s because they’re against the notion that there is a racism issue in their community.  

  Locals clearly felt that, by attending the rally, they would be legitimising the ‘racist narrative’ in this saga. The Rooskey community’s unspoken message seemed to be: There is no racism to express opposition to.

  So, to a man and woman, they stayed away.

  That said, the rally was (not unreasonably) deemed a success by organisers. By 12.30, there were 50 or so people gathered on the water’s edge, opposite the two landmark pubs, Reynolds’ and The Weir Lodge. There was a further dozen or so media personnel there. A woman in a Leitrim jersey was playing the guitar, and campaigners from various groups were chanting ‘One race, the human race’. The atmosphere was good-humoured. There was a discreet Garda presence – four squad cars by my estimation. A handful of curious onlookers stood on the bridge, but did not join in. One of the few cars that passed hooted its horn. In the background, the hotel and its uncertain future loomed large.

  As Leah Doherty introduced speaker after speaker, the message remained consistent: the organisers were not associating the people of Rooskey with racism, but were accusing ‘Alt-right’ elements, fascists and online ‘haters’ of stirring up feelings. There were calls for asylum seekers to be welcomed to Ireland and for direct provision to be ended by the Government.

  The crowd grew to perhaps 80 or so. Many of those present cheerfully held placards. ‘End homelessness’. ‘Direct Provision makes us monsters’. ‘Direct Provision is a prison’. A few Roscommon and Leitrim flags fluttered side by side. One man held an umbrella from ‘The World Meeting of Families’. There was no need; the sun had come out. Two Gardai stood under a Guinness sign outside The Weir Lodge. Just up the road, the hotel remains cordoned off.

  Rooskey’s past shadowed its tense present. The speeches were delivered below an old Bus Éireann sign, under which a notice still advertises the now defunct bus routes. Across the road, a Foster & Allen concert is advertised.

  The absence of locals from the village was impossible to ignore. The attendance was almost entirely made up of activists from various groups, though organisers were anxious to point out that most of these people live in the general Roscommon/Leitrim area. The organisers were complimentary about villagers, emphasising that they consider Rooskey to be a welcoming area. Their ire was directed anywhere but Rooskey.

  When it ended, just after 1.30 pm, there was a quick photo outside the hotel. Then those present were invited to Dromod for refreshments, presumably because you can’t get refreshments in Rooskey just now.  

  Me? I took a walk back to the scene of the rally at around 3 o’clock. The two pubs were still closed, the hotel was still cordoned off, the waters were calm and the sign that no longer stops any bus was still standing, an unintentionally provocative reminder of better times.

Being an effective Healy-Rae and the magic of the cup


Revealed! The 10 rules for being an effective Healy-Rae



1: When making a speech in the Dáil, always adopt an indignant, serious tone. While it’s not always possible, try to avoid being included in camera shot with Michael Lowry and/or Mattie McGrath as they er…lack credibility.

2: Whatever you’re speaking about – whether it’s the decline of post offices or the rise of Putin – make sure to namecheck Kerry towns, villages, townlands, actual voters, pets…at every opportunity.

3: Never forget the Golden Rule: It’s all the fault of ‘them up there in Dublin’ and/or Dublin 4. Sneer with an extravagant flourish as rehearsed.

4: Before condemning all initiatives to do with rural transport/drink-driving/motoring offences, make it absolutely clear that you are not condoning drink-driving, “nor would you ever”. Look stunned/angry/perplexed if so accused. Remember what we rehearsed: ‘Ivan/Matt/Pat/Claire, if you think I’m going to sit here and take that from you…’

5: In any discussion on drink-driving, always remember to cite the example of the poor ould fellas who are being prevented from going to the pub and enjoying “one or two glasses” of stout. Yes, er…glasses, not pints (stick with that line at all costs, keep straight face).

6: Until further notice (e.g. Government formation talks) Simon Harris is a young pup, Shane Ross has never been past ‘the Red Cow’, Leo Varadkar would want to get out of his ivory tower.

7: Always stick to the Healy-Rae Gospel: “They won’t be happy ‘til they have rural Ireland closed down”.

8: Whatever they say ‘in Dublin’, or in ‘da meeja’, never forget the plain people of Kerry. After all, they are the second most important group in society (after the Healy-Raes, that is).

9: Michael: Always, we mean ALWAYS, wear that cap. Danny: Always, we mean ALWAYS, wear an open-necked shirt (no tie). As long as ye have the cap and no tie, the locals are receiving the signals, loud and clear.

10: If all else fails, adopt that expression which we discussed at length. As you know, we code-named it ‘The Poll-topper’. You know the one, you must remember…yes, that’s it: Adopt that facial expression which suggests that a group of people from Dublin 4 have stolen everything in Co. Kerry overnight…and you have just heard the news. That’s the one!


George the TV repair man…and when the Cup was magic…


George Latimer was the man who fixed televisions – in between enjoying life with great relish.

  He had a broad smile, a big hearty laugh and a mischevious glint in his eye. ‘Mr & Mrs Latimer’ enjoyed themselves socially, and we often saw them in our parents’ pub in Rooskey, where their arrival was much welcomed.

  Now I needed George to deliver in his day job – because he had our telly, and I wanted it back!

  It was 1979, and for a (very) young lad, amongst the scariest sentences in the English language was: “Sure drop the telly into us and we’ll get it back to you in a few days”.

  Bringing your broken telly into a TV repair shop was like loaning a favourite book to a friend – you could never be sure when you’d see it again.

  In the TV repair shop, once-healthy televisions tended to gather dust as they took their place on the musty shelves – the likely length of their captivity was anyone’s guess.

  Which is not to say that we didn’t appreciate the TV repair man – because we did. Because once the telly went on the blink, the TV repair man was our last hope. If he called to your house, the most dreaded words you could hear after his inspection were: “I’m afraid the valve is gone”. Cue anxious look in direction of parents…

  Anyways, George was our friendly TV repair man, his headquarters in Mohill. And in May 1979, he had our telly in his TV repair shop. At home in Rooskey, we survived the first few days without the telly. But then, as the big day got closer, we became more nervous. Life without a functioning telly on a normal day was bad enough; life without telly on FA Cup Final weekend was unthinkable.

  Fast-forward for a moment to last weekend (we will return to George)… and my mind returned to that frantic fear of possibly not having a telly for the 1979 FA Cup Final forty years ago. Last weekend, the BBC bombarded viewers with FA Cup third round action. There were several hours’ of live football and highlights shows, and while it all was entertaining enough, the quantity – even the quality – simply can’t rekindle what we once had. 

  And what we once had was great. In its heyday, the FA Cup was a huge part of our lives…arguably up there with the heavyweight boxing from Madison Square Garden, the snooker from The Crucible and the tennis from Wimbledon. In one and two channel Ireland in the late 1970s, at a time when live TV soccer was restricted to a handful of games a year, FA Cup Final day – with a five-hour celebrity-inspired build-up – was magical.

  Oh yes, that word…‘magic’. Now I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that a memo went out to all BBC commentators last weekend, but every time a great goal was scored (there were many) and every time a great giant-killing act unfolded (there were many) the man or woman with the mike excitedly referenced the ‘magic’ or ‘romance’ of the cup. And yes, for teams from the lower divisions who turn over high profile opponents, there is, I guess, still some magic and romance in the cup. The reality of course is that almost all of the Premier League clubs are fielding ‘second strings’, reflecting the extent to which the FA Cup is no longer a priority or a glamour competition for the ‘big boys’. 

  For three days before that 1979 final, we implored our parents to keep the pressure on George, the avuncular, larger than life TV repair man from Mohill. Telephone calls, personal visits, homing pigeon, whatever it took. It went down to the wire. Our telly had been in with George for perhaps a fortnight. Kick-off in the 1979 FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Manchester United was at 3 o’clock on the Saturday (naturally).

  Our father arrived home from Mohill with the TV at 3.05. We had missed Little and Large during the extensive ITV build-up, but so be it. Telly plugged in. Intake of breath. Pictures. And Sound. All good. Working. Massive relief.

  We saw the first goal, and the four that followed. It was one of the all-time great FA Cup finals. It was Liam Brady’s final. We were bursting with pride as the Irishman made Wembley his playground. Arsenal 3 Manchester United 2. Thanks to our father, thanks to George the TV repair man…thanks to Liam Brady…we had witnessed more of the magic of the FA Cup.

  Little and Large? We caught up with them again…



A (sort of) Christmas Diary…



So say all of us…

A few days before Christmas, and our youngest is (finally) writing his letter to Santa. Half-done, he asks one of his sisters: “Could I ask for better Wifi?”

Getting a haircut for Christmas

I accept the arguments against getting a pet for Christmas – but it seems that every man on the planet has to get a haircut before the festivities begin.

  Solving world poverty or climate change isn’t easy – but try getting a ‘haircut for Christmas’! It’s almost impossible…

  It’s our own fault. We all know, say three weeks before the Christmas rush, that we are probably due a haircut, and that we’d really better think about getting one…what with Christmas coming up and all that.

  Every morning, we remind ourselves. ‘Must get a haircut’.

  It’s all part of the mad pre-Christmas panic, the obsession with trying to have everything perfect for the one day that, like any other, will indeed come and pass.

  Two weeks before Christmas, it began to weigh on my mind. ‘Need a haircut, really need to get that haircut’.

  But it was so busy at work…and the hours and days race on.

  When you eventually get to the barber’s a couple of days before Christmas, your heart sinks. Because there’s usually a very long queue already in place, as the frantic ‘Must get a haircut before Christmas’ obsession takes full effect.

  Next year it will be different, and I’ll hopefully be seeing a friendly barber at the end of November…

Not for us, thanks…

Another er…great Christmas tradition in recent years is that old reliable…‘Spotting the mad young ones doing the 12 pubs’.

  I don’t go out of my way to witness this dubious phenomenon, but on a couple of occasions in recent years I have come across ‘edited highlights’…seldom, if ever, from inside a pub, because most people over the age of 30 try to avoid the ‘12 pubs brigade’.

  This year, I knew it was ‘12 pubs evening’ when I saw two young lads coming down the street as ‘wheelbarrows,’ i.e. the two lads with their hands on the pavements as their friends held their legs and steered them towards the next pub. Personally, I’d have walked.

  I gather that on the morning after the night before, there was a hangover for publicans and other businesses, with a trail of broken glasses on pavements. To be fair to all ’12 pubs’ participants, there were absolutely no reports of ‘trouble’ – but some glasses didn’t survive the partying. Happily, Christmas cheer overcame the over-exuberant Christmas ‘Cheers!’ of the previous night as locals invoked the ‘meitheal’ spirit of old and quickly returned the town to its familiar glory.

A joyous atmosphere

Church ceremonies were extremely well attended over the Christmas period. There was a great, joyous vibe throughout the festive season. In Roscommon town, the airing of Christmas carols/songs – a Chamber of Commerce initiative – creates a lovely seasonal atmosphere. All parts of Co. Roscommon benefitted from the return of ‘Rossies’ from abroad and from other parts of the country.

All the bread’s gone…again

4.30 pm, New Year’s Day: In the first shop I went into, there was no bread. No need to panic, surely? But there was no bread in the second shop either. Wow! Suddenly, a sense of déjà vu came over me. Storm clouds gathering in my mind, although no storm had been forecast, not like last March, when trepidation in advance of the imminent arrival of ‘The Beast from the East’ led to the Great Bread Disappearance.

  Back to last Tuesday: I tried a third shop, this time a ‘superstore’…where, incredibly, massive rows of bread shelves were utterly devoid of bread. Not a single loaf, not a crumb. What calamity had befallen? Had the shoppers of Roscommon town gone bread-crazy again, this time on New Year’s Eve presumably? I ventured into a fourth shop. Approaching the rows of shelves, I saw what appeared to be two isolated brown sliced pans. A man stood by. On the shelf above, there was a solitary white batch loaf. I hadn’t time to get my hopes up. Having given the two brown loaves some thought, the man placed his hands on the ‘white batch’ and made off with the prize. So there you go. It’s happened again.

   There was – of course – an outcry. Well, one woman commented.

  “Not a single loaf of (white) bread to be found in town” the lady beside me lamented (in that fourth shop). “And I could have thrown bread out last week”.

  Normal service has now resumed – until the next crisis.

The question we all wanted the answer to…

I didn’t get to the Hodson Bay Hotel on Sunday evening to collect my new house, but as evening became night I remained quietly confident that the good folk in Roscommon GAA would ring any moment with the good news.

  I didn’t even get to watch what I gather was a highly professional event (live on Facebook), as we had visitors that evening. Obviously I struggled to focus on what our visitors were saying/doing as I continued to visualise turning the key in our new house in the New Year.

  With the hours passing and no sign of the phone to ring, I did begin to wonder if something had gone wrong. And, if we’d won, surely Willie Hegarty would have called in with a broad smile when passing our house on the way home?

  Eventually, the social media monster revealed all (basically our visitors left) and the waiting was over. It turned out that a staggering 14,000 plus tickets had been sold. Like everyone else, I was curious to see who’d won. Was it a well-known local? Was it even a local? It wasn’t. It was Kumar Gangah from Dublin, and congratulations to him.

  The draw was a tremendous success, suffice to say – you can read all about it on pages 18 & 19.

   In the meantime, it’s back to the Lotto…

Great Christmas & New Year clichés

Did you hear them…and/or say them?


Before Christmas…

“Ah sure it’s an awful lot of fuss for just one day”

“It’ll all be over before we know it”

“People filling trolleys (in shops) like there’s no tomorrow”

“Sure it’s mainly for the kids anyway”


After Christmas…

“Still, you’d be sick of turkey sandwiches”

“That’s it now for another year”

“You won’t find ‘til the evenings are getting longer”

“There was absolutely nothing on the telly” 


‘Where did your father get the name?’




“Will you tell me one thing…where did your father get the name…Rutledge?”

  His Christian name wasn’t the only thing that was unique about my father.

  Looking back, it was fitting that he had a very distinctive, individualistic first name. It suited. Because he was an unconventional man in some ways…different, even a touch eccentric. Then again, everyone’s father is unique...to them.

  In latter years, certainly the last two or three, he was one of the main reasons why I hardly ever missed a column deadline. Up to recently, I probably managed 99 columns in 100 weeks, that sort of consistency! Part of the reason for the new-found discipline was because my father always looked out for it. He loved his newspapers.

  If I didn’t get around to writing a column, it was always noted.

  “You had no page in the paper today” he’d say, triggering just enough guilt in me to ensure I tried harder the following week.

  But there has been no column these past five, six, weeks. The man with the unusual name, Rutledge, would have been the first to miss it.

  He – and his generation – loved newspapers. The regional papers were read every week, my father keeping an eye on events in Leitrim, Roscommon and Longford. Above all, he needed to see the Irish Independent. Every day. The death notices. The actual news, or what was deemed to be news. The commentary. The gossip. The photographs. The court reports. The quirky story tucked away in the corner of an otherwise ordinary page. The property pages.

  “Do you know where that house that’s up for auction is?” “Those two politicians that are fighting, I suppose they’re as thick as thieves behind it all?” “There’s a man dead in Castlerea, would he be anything to…?”

  The newspaper was a window on the world for him all his life, every morning…curiosity satisfied, imagination sparked.

  Death comes. It came to our family a few weeks ago. My father had a great long life. I am in a privileged position, I guess, in that I write this newspaper column. It purports (often tongue in cheek) to be some sort of (usually light-hearted) chronicle of ‘my week’. It would be odd if I didn’t refer to our recent loss. It is also an opportunity for me to dedicate a column to him, to mark his passing, to give him a send-off in the pages he enjoyed browsing.

  He was born in Knockvicar, Boyle, Co. Roscommon, in 1930. In our youth, he intrigued us with stories of his upbringing there. He was one of six children.

  “We were very poor. We were so poor, when we were small kids, the six of us slept in the one bed. We were like spoons. In the middle of the night, when one turned, everyone had to turn”.

  He walked to school in his bare feet, himself and his siblings bringing turf from home, in for the school fire. Later, as a teenager, he worked on the Rockingham Estate, with other local lads from the Boyle area. At Rockingham, they tended to the gentry on the pheasant shoot. Sir Cecil Stafford King Harman and guests went out hunting, Rutledge and his friends carried the cartridges. When “the gentry” dined in the ‘Big House’, the young lads were each given a bottle of stout and a beef sandwich. Which was fair enough. The day’s wages was four shillings. In later years, Rockingham House was destroyed by fire (in 1957). My father recalled that night: “Sir Cecil was away that night…the blaze broke out at night and the neighbours over a wide area could see the flames lighting up the sky”.

  Like so many of his peers, he was distributing social history all his life, without really realising it. He had an endless supply of stories, yarns, jokes. Most of them were true, but not all. Maybe not even most of them. His stories of growing up in North Roscommon were rich with humour, featuring a marvellous array of characters and escapades, of old customs too. Social history.

  After a few years in England (lots of different jobs and more escapades) he returned to Ireland. In Dublin, he met May Monahan from Cavan, the woman who would become his lifetime partner. Fifty-nine years of marriage would follow. They were always together and had great times together.

  He was an entrepreneur, a self-made man with a gambler’s instinct. Our association with Rooskey began in 1969, when our parents brought their ‘Kon Tiki’ dream to life. Inspired by a themed bar they’d seen on holiday in America, they went looking for a suitable site ‘down the country’. A farmhouse a mile or two outside Rooskey was identified. On this site, my father built a unique ‘singing pub’, complete with a pool of water in the centre of it. The band (there was live music every night) played on a raft in the middle of the water. Later, live fish were added. Special effects created tropical storms. It was a tribute to Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl, who had crossed the shark-infested Pacific Ocean on a balsa raft (the ‘Kon Tiki’).

  The Kon Tiki was a bit of a sensation, attracting the top performers of the day, and visitors from near and far. When the Kon Tiki first opened, three local characters took a break from saving the hay and called in for a look. They ordered three pints. My father closed the blinds and activated the ‘tropical storms’ with his gadgetry behind the counter. The three lads looked at one another. ‘Sure we might as well stay where we are, the weather is after taking a bad turn. Give us three more pints’.

  Later, there were more business ventures – in Rooskey village, Strokestown, Dublin, Longford. A host of amusing stories, many of which have been retold in recent weeks. Some of these I have recounted in ‘God Save All Here’ and ‘Nothing About Sheep Stealing’. His business dealings had little to do with number-crunching and everything to do with instinct. He was fearless…buying and selling, wheeling and dealing, enjoying the thrill of it all even as he advanced into his mid-80s (and beyond). He never retired, never really acknowledged old age. While it took its toll on him, he remained positive and young at heart.

  I am conscious, particularly now, of how democratic death is, of how democratic loss and grief are. For families who have experienced loss, there are tough moments all year, often to a greater degree at Christmas. The empty chair is more visible than ever this week…in thousands of homes across the country.

  My father passed away last month. We were fortunate that he lived a long and fulfilled life, into his 89th year…alert, curious and quick-witted to the end, browsing the newspaper pages, chatting away, in the care of his family.

  It’s timely also to think of all the families who will be thinking this Christmas of loved ones who went to their reward this year, or indeed in the past. Their memories will live on.

  That name...‘Rutledge’? Long story, kind of. His grandmother’s surname was ‘Rutledge’, she passed it to her son as a (very rare) first name. Her son then dispensed with it when he became a Christian Brother, taking the name ‘Fintan’. With the name ‘Rutledge’ then at risk of ‘disappearing’, my father’s mother granted it as a first name to her son when he was born.

  Hence, Rutledge Healy. Straightforward!

  So…I suppose I’m back writing my column, and I’m proud to dedicate it to my Dad this week. He was a one-off. He will always be with us.







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