Paul Healy’s Week

All weekend

 

All weekend there are documentaries, films and tribute programmes on TV commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in America.

Even after all these years, a powerful sense of the shock and fear that people all over the world felt that September day in 2001 somehow returns the moment you look again at footage of the horror.

I watched a few of the anniversary programmes, parts of them at least. Documentaries about 9/11 are a tough but fascinating watch. Sometimes I’m drawn to them, in their stark, compelling detail, with remarkable footage of the attacks accompanied by the heartbreaking, poignant contributions of eyewitnesses and relatives of victims. Sometimes I prefer to switch the channel, because it’s easier than watching.

Meanwhile on Sunday night on Sky, ‘Collapse: Retreat from Afghanistan’ focussed on the chaos at Kabul Airport during the recent botched withdrawal of American troops. As the retreating soldiers of the world’s most powerful nation mingled with desperate Afghans seeking escape, smug Taliban fighters stood on guard a few feet away, their victory America’s humiliation.

20 years on from 9/11, the ‘war on terror’ sounds like little more than a shallow soundbite.

 

Saturday

 

I was very saddened to hear today of the death on Friday of Fr. Frank McGauran. He was a big man and a big personality. A man of great faith, his good deeds extended beyond his religious and spiritual duties. He had tremendous energy, vision and motivation to develop and promote the communities in which he served, most notably in Ballinameen, where he was Parish Priest for many years.

I first met Fr. Frank when he was based in Ballinameen, where he spearheaded many positive projects, so much so that the Roscommon Champion presented him with a Person of the Year award.

He had a gentle way about him, and was deeply proud of Roscommon, his native county. It was always a pleasure to chat with him, not least about the GAA. Fr. Frank McGauran leaves a very positive legacy, both pastorally and in wider community terms too. May he rest in peace.

 

Saturday

 

15 minutes into today’s All-Ireland senior football final, and RTE co-commentator Tomás Ó Se was getting very excited by the contest in front of him. I didn’t think it was quite that riveting, but maybe you had to be there to fully appreciate it. You seldom see the full pitch on TV, and therefore you are literally not getting the full picture. Tomás was happy anyway, while it was left to Ger Canning to describe the action (which is another matter entirely).

As for the match, it petered out in the last 15 minutes, Mayo wayward by then, Tyrone in control. Obviously crucial missed goal chances cost Mayo dearly. Tyrone were deserving winners. It was another tough day for Mayo. The journey starts again.

 

Sunday

 

We need to talk about…Pat. I’ve probably written more about Pat Spillane in the last three weeks than in the previous five years (mainly because of his inspired rant at Sean Cavanagh a fortnight ago) but the harsh truth is that the great man is long past his best as a pundit. That’s not ageism on my part; I just think Spillane has become a caricature of the controversialist he once was. Now, spluttering Pat relies far too much on tediously rhyming off statistics to back up his one-dimensional style of analysis. RTE, a shake-up, please!

 

Monday

 

The scene, a hotel ballroom. We know that bruised Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar asked all party TDs and Senators to put their mobile phones into a pile in the middle of the floor. We saw footage of him making that request. But that’s when the footage ends. They say it was a serious think-in, but who’s to say that once the cameras stopped rolling, they didn’t just converge around the phones and spend the day dancing, a bit like that traditional dance around handbags? We will probably never know.

 

Monday night

 

The Ian Bailey circus continues, still packing the punters in 25 years after it first arrived in town. Bailey is the obnoxious publicity-obsessed writer who is the chief suspect here in the Sophie Toscan du Plantier murder (and found guilty in France). Tonight, Virgin Media broadcast an interview with Bailey. As ever, he insisted he is innocent in relation to Sophie.

What made for uncomfortable viewing was Bailey’s arrogance and ego. Over the course of the hour he made flippant comments about Sophie and her family, claimed Princess Diana had flirted with him, attempted a Cork accent – as if shooting the breeze on a chat show – pedantically checked the interviewer when she described injuries Bailey had inflicted on his former partner, and casually held his poetry books up to the camera. It begs the question yet again: should the media continue to give this man the exposure he clearly craves? In this unseemly circus – the public fascinated by the star performer – the media is ringmaster.

 

Tuesday

 

At the Liveline editorial meeting, the tension was slowly mounting. Even Joe was pacing up and down. Around him, glum-faced researchers scrolled and scowled. Well, all except one, the upstart with the silly grin. Joe shot him a puzzled look.

One of the producers went through the list of possible topics again. ‘Coveney…Zappone…The House of Prayer in Achill…scams…the cost of living…there must be more we can get out of scams!’ he cried out.

But there was silence. The researchers were struggling, like it was silly season all over again. Joe tapped his fingers on his gold-plated desk, beside the life-sized statue of Gaybo. He knew not to panic. There’s always something, he thought.

Exhausted, the researchers began to drop their gaze to the floor. Someone muttered about the good old days when Normal People was driving callers crazy. ‘Even an elephant promoting a circus would come in handy’, one researcher whispered. Suddenly, the researcher with the smug grin broke into a smile. ‘What is it? What is it?’ they asked.

Unable to keep his secret any longer, he burst out laughing, instantly easing the tension. The researcher even embarked on a little dance, almost knocking Joe over.

‘Garth Brooks…he’s coming back…Croke Park…at least three concerts!’ the researcher screamed, as his relieved colleagues began a series of high-fives.

Although he liked to appear outwardly cool, Joe’s face slowly broke into a smile. Garth! Again! It’s a miracle! The metaphorical thunder was no longer rolling! There might even be a full week out of this! Everyone raced back to the phones. Suddenly, all was well with the world. As he strode towards the studio, and that magnetic red light, Joe winked at the statue of Gaybo. The Liveline was open!