Paul Healy’s Week

Friday 

 

He’s back, with that familiar combination of bonhomie and bluster. Ryan Tubridy’s first guest tonight was Enda Kenny. It was like an episode of Reeling in the Years, without the catchy music. 

  The former Taoiseach was in studio – looking decidedly nervous at first – to promote ‘Iarnród Enda’, his TV series on railways.  

  While the first programme (shown on Monday evening) was generally very well received, this interview was turgid stuff, with Kenny playing more defensively than Jose Mourinho. 

  I watched the interview twice (for essential work purposes). Enda engaged trusted old tactics of his – if asked a potentially awkward question, just don’t answer it – instead, go off on a tangent. Secondly, protect your version of your legacy at all costs – to the point of never admitting to any weakness. 

  To be fair to Enda, he is probably no different to many other retired politicians. Bertie, for one, uses the very same techniques. 

  The upshot of it all was that most viewers ended up rolling their eyes, and Ryan Tubridy (who struggled to hide his frustration) looked like a man who had ordered a fancy gadget online and now wasn’t sure if it was working properly. 

  Asked if he had any political regrets/had made errors, Enda had the cheek to go on a name-dropping ramble about his meetings with Joe Biden. Golf-gate, meanwhile, was dismissed as something that’s in the past. Instead, a ‘Have I mentioned that I was in Joe Biden’s house?’ vibe dominated!

 

All weekend

 

It was a predictably quiet and strange Easter. The weather, for the most part, was very pleasant, with lots of people out and about walking and enjoying the fresh air. As ever, supermarkets and so-called superstores seemed to be very busy, with consumers conditioned to shop with urgency on Easter Thursday, even though some outlets were open on Good Friday. These are difficult times, with the pandemic continuing to ensure that normal life is very much on hold. While many people took some comfort from TV, radio and online broadcasts of Easter ceremonies, the fact that places of worship are largely closed – with no public gatherings therein – is adding considerably to the sense of isolation and sadness that many people are feeling. Hopefully, all of this will change for the better in the coming weeks and months.  

 

Sunday 

 

Many, many years ago, prominent UK Labour politician Dennis Healey memorably said that being criticised by Geoffrey Howe (Conservative) was like being savaged by a dead sheep. 

  Whatever about being savaged by a dead sheep, the current occupants of the political hot seats here must surely allow themselves a wry smile on being savaged by a politically dead Shane. 

  Mr. Ross, turfed out by the electorate after his single trip on the ministerial merry-go-round, is shamelessly holding court again in the Sunday Independent. In fairness, Shane has a nice writing style, in contrast to his ministerial bungling. Today, the sermon from his high moral ground includes a confident assertion that Micheál Martin is “a beaten docket” and that Leo Varadkar is “wounded” and “in mortal danger”. Meanwhile, poor Eamon Ryan (Green Party leader) will, according to Ross, soon be ousted by Catherine Martin. 

  Ross writes in an entertaining way and probably has some good sources. And while he’s perfectly entitled to have done so, there’s something just a touch distasteful about the speed with which a man who so recently sat at Cabinet has resumed as a political columnist. I cannot image that Micheál, Leo or Eamon will be quivering at the slightly melodramic musings of the politician turned pundit.  

 

Later on Sunday 

 

I was delighted to see Jordan Spieth complete his return tonight from the golfing wilderness. There was a point, about five years ago, when the young American looked set to dominate world golf. A genius with a putter, he looked a likely heir to Tiger Woods. An unexpected loss of form followed, and soon became a full-scale crisis. His slump lasted four years. In the past few months, there was a quite sudden and exciting return to form, with Spieth making a number of top ten finishes. Tonight, his return was confirmed when a red-hot Spieth won the Valero Texas Open. Today, the 2021 Masters will begin at Augusta. Expect the resurgent Spieth to be in contention. I am also looking forward to seeing the one and only Bryson DeChambeau, probably golf’s biggest draw just now. Good luck, meanwhile, to the golfers in action who…hail from this island! Four great nights of viewing await us. 

 

Monday 

 

Jimmy White, last spotted at the very top of his sport in the 1980s and ‘90s, has soldiered on, mostly in the backwaters of professional snooker, all the way into late middle age. No longer really relevant, still (and always) much loved, he plays the circuit and dreams crazy dreams, like an old gunslinger who can’t let go of the past, still casting a wrinkled eye on the rapid-firing new kids in town. Occasionally, such is the natural gift within him – that and his sheer doggedness – Jimmy will take an opponent down and excite the ageing audience who are still drawn to his lonely time-travelling trek. Mostly, Jimmy bows out early in tournaments, his pride intact, the lethal young guns chuffed to have shared the baize with a man who has a chapter to himself in the history of snooker. At least Jimmy hasn’t had to worry about his old nemesis Stephen Hendry, who retired nine years ago. Then came news that Hendry – who beat White in four World Championship finals in the 1990s – was making a shock comeback. The two legends were drawn to meet in today’s World Championship qualifying round. The passage of time demanded to be respected – and the quality of snooker was accordingly quite mediocre. Hendry prevailed (6-3), White haunted again by the great Scot. It may be time for the oldest gunslinger in town to put the holster away, reach for a cigar and brandy, and think of good days and great nights.  

 

Tuesday 

 

The small café had opened maybe two years ago, to an instinctive goodwill and grateful smiles. The early reviews were very positive, the local community and passers-by happy to have this new social space, with its aroma of coffee and nice goodies. When the pandemic callously breezed into town, the doors closed, but the spirits remained high. Serving the public outdoors was permitted, and it took on a life of its own, with steady business as people relaxed (last summer) in the seating area provided. Another small business owner keeping the bright side out, rallying in the face of the fiercest of storms. The coffee flowed. Then came Christmas and the promise of a better New Year. And now, the strain has proven too great. It’s getting harder and harder for our heroic small business owners to escape from this trap. Today, not only is the door shut…the counter has been removed, there are bags filled with bits and pieces, the appliances that make a café hum are gone. There is silence now, and a modest dream dashed. The virus claims many victims in many ways.