Sunday, December 4, 2016

Update 4th December

The passing of Fidel Castro / What now for Cuba?

The death of the Cuban leader Fidel Castro aged 90 has really divided opinion with the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, praising Castro’s contribution to his country in suggesting that he was “a giant among global leaders whose view was not only one of freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet”. These sentiments provoked a huge reaction much of it negative and in total disagreement with Michael D’s sentiments. Castro was the leader of a Cuban Revolution in 1959 which deposed a military leader called Batista. Castro established a socialist state which was anathema to its close neighbour the United States. The foreign policy of the United States at that time and possibly still was governed by what was called the ‘Monroe Doctrine’ and the region was unequivocally seen as ‘within the sphere of influence’ of the U.S. In the Cuban Revolution Castro was supported by an iconic figure called Che Guevara who was actually born in Argentina and is said to have Irish ancestry i.e. Ennis in Clare! The famous portrait of Guevara was produced by the Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick in 1968 based on a photograph by a famous photographer Korda.
The philosophy of Castro lead to huge concern in the United States and an invasion of Cuba by proxy took place at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961. By proxy I mean that it was carried out mainly by Cuban post -revolution exiles from Cuba in the U.S. and supported by the C.I.A. It was a mess of a failure from their point of view.
The opposition to the new regime by the U.S. led to Cuba becoming an ally of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union and the U.S. were then engaged in what was called the ‘Cold War’. Russia thought that Cuba presented and ideal location for placing missiles that would threaten the nearby U.S. mainland and thus give the Soviet Union a key bargaining tool. This very nearly led to a nuclear holocaust in October ’62 when the U.S demanded the dismantling by the Russians of their existing missiles on Cuba. For a number of days the world watched as the prospect of nuclear war grew by the day. It was the ultimate in brinkmanship. Eventually the Russians acceded to the demands of the U.S. and the catastrophe was avoided. This was during the presidency of John F. Kennedy with Nikita Khrushchev being the Soviet leader of the time. The United States placed an embargo on Cuba and it was only last spring that relations between the two countries improved significantly with the visit of President Obama to Cuba.
Fidel Castro had stepped down as the country’s leader a number of years ago and was succeeded by his brother Raul.

Cuba as Observed by a Boyle Visitor.

Cuba is a country I would like to visit but then there are many countries I would like to visit. I asked a friend who had visited Cuba in 2012 for his observations and the following are a few of those .

“It is very friendly place for the visitor and one of the safest countries I’ve ever been, by a distance. It’s a country of kinda crazy contradictions. You get doctors or engineers driving taxis as there is more money to made that way! We stayed in a series of Casa Particulars’ the equivalent of B.& B.s’ here I suppose. The food in restaurants was poor but in the Casas it was brilliant in volume and quality. There are no chains as in McDonald’s, Starbucks and so on. It is ironic that one of the country’s top sports is baseball. There are some anti-U.S. wall murals especially in the base area of the Revolution in Santa Clara. Internet is available only in hotels not in private houses. As with the traditional view old U.S. cars abound. Petrol is a commodity to be harvested as when our drivers regularly turned off engines going downhills. The streets of Havana have changed little since ’59. The great icons of achievement in the country are the health service and education both of which are free and accessible. A lot of the older people still were very pro Fidel Castro while the younger generation are not so. Raul Castro is not as popular as Fidel was. The more obvious hero is Che Guevara a cult figure especially around Santiago de Cuba.  
It is a spectacular country, the largest island in the Caribbean, with stunning beaches and a unique feel. Tourists pay in their currency whereas locals have their own. Of course the U.S. dollar and Euro are prized.            
The visitors you meet are Canadians, Italian some Irish and some from the U.S. Some of the Americans are just surveying the country on the expectation that the country will ‘open up’ soon after the death of Fidel Castro. Though Raul and his group may delay it but it seems only a matter of time before the dam will burst. Then there will be a flood of American investment and buying in Cuba which will radically change the country. So if one wanted to visit Cuba and get a flavour of it as a society frozen in time then they had better do so soon because the Americans are coming. There is an inaccessible zone where there is a U.S. base at Guantanamo where ‘terrorist’ prisoners are held not being the U.S. per se. This is a kind of present day Gulag  which is far from being an exemplary legacy to the area”.  

The passing of three very different people   

Joan Burke former Roscommon T.D. 
In Roscommon a former very popular T.D. Joan Burke of Tulsk passed away on Sunday last. She was born in February 1928 and became a T.D. in the summer of 1964 following the death of her husband James (Jimmy) Burke. Joan won the subsequent rugged by-election defeating Dr.Hugh Gibbons of Keadue and Fianna Fail. She repeated her win in the subsequent elections until she retired in the run up to the 1981 election. While she rarely contributed to debate in the Dail Chamber she was a very diligent, patient and effective advocate to the needs of her electorate, hence her consistent support at the ballot over her seventeen years.

Joe Lennon Down Football Star
The emergence of Down to win  two All-Irelands in ’60 and ’61 was a breakthrough in that it was the first time for the Sam McGuire Cup to brought in victory over the six county border. Joe Lennon was one the stars of an all-star team which included the McCartins, Doherty, Murphy, Mussen (Capt. in ’60), O’Neill and so on. They were like the Roscommon team of the forties. Growing up as a boy then I could name nearly all that Down team the. Joe Lennon was a teacher at Gormanstown College, County Meath and was a publisher of coaching books on Gaelic football. There are a number of former students of his around Boyle including I am nearly sure Lorcan and Tadgh Egan. He also visited our club here in Boyle on one occasion and is pictured with a young team in ‘the top field’ of St. Mary’s College with Sean Young and his acolytes. Joe went on to captain Down to a third victory in ’68. As Liam Devine noted in the Roscommon Herald this week he was a serious man and a serious footballer.

Andrew Sachs
Few people will instantly know who Andrew Sachs was but when you mention that he was the actor who played Manuel in Fawlty Towers then it will all be clear. Fawlty Towers is one of the great comedy shows in television history and Manuel was a very important element of that success. Manuel was the supposed Spanish waiter from Barcelona. When the series aired in Spain a city from a different country had to be dubbed in. His misadventures in Fawlty Towers and his bullying by the proprietor Basil Fawlty provided some of the magic television episodes. ‘I know nothing’ when covering for Basil who had gambled to his wife’s chagrin. Manuel’s fall-back position was always ‘I know nothing. I am from Barcelona’.  If you have not watched Fawlty Towers then you have missed a classic comedy series in which Andrew Sachs as Manuel was an integral part.  

Book Launches

Thomas J. Devine
I attended two book launches in the last week. The first one was on Sunday last in the lovely setting of St. George’s Heritage Centre in Carrick-on-Shannon. That was a book dealing with the 1917 Election in the Snows in North Roscommon which elected County Plunkett. The book focuses on the participation of Thomas J. Devine of St. Patrick’s Street, Boyle in that election. He has been the forgotten man of that historic event but that is now rectified by this book, by Rev. Tomás Flynn, which I am in the process of reading. Hopefully I will get back to it again soon. It’s been a busy week!

Christy Regan Photographs
Last Friday I attended the launch by the Regan family, of the second book of photographs by Christy Regan the wellknown and respected Boyle and Roscommon Herald photographer. A photograph is said to be better than a thousand words. The book includes pictures of many social events down the years, the Church fire of ’77, the Maureen O’Sullivan visit in ’88, Pleasure Grounds Soccer, Darts, retirements and visits by celebrities. It is a potpourri of the life of a rural area recorded in pictures through the years. The book was launched by a former student of mine and St. Mary’s, Harry Keaney now of Ocean FM in Sligo. Harry was/is a gentleman and a scholar who worked in the Roscommon Herald for a number of years from 1981 and thus got to know Christy very well. He thus gave us a clear and eloquent insight into working with Christy during that time. A descriptive line he used with regard to photography was; ‘When you photograph in colour you picture clothes but when you photograph in black and white you photograph the soul’.
A number of the pictures have name gaps in them as it would be a very big challenge to source them all before publication. Now that they are out there I am sure there are people who will be able to fill the gaps. I am a real advocate of having pictures named for future reference as some people will know. So if anyone wishes to forward me missing names I’d forward same to Mary.

St. Mary’s College/ Boyle Vocational School Staff Re-Union
As can be seen from the photograph on the home page of realboyle we had a very enjoyable get-together in King House on Thursday night last. It has contributed to my ‘late’ blog this week. King House is a fine venue for such a ‘party’ and Kieran Roddy formerly of Grange, now based in Sligo, provided an excellent food menu at a reasonable rate. Also as I’ve said before the staff at King House and especially the ‘Govenor’ there Tommy Egan were hugely supportive and could not have done more for us. I think this is my third such event there with that of Mrs. Cooney and May Morris. The added attraction was the opportunity of those who had not visited recently to view the splendid Mary McAleese collection. Well done to all involved.                        

Corofin Blitz St. Brigid’s
 What was expected to be an absorbing Connacht Club Final between St. Brigid’s and Corofin of Galway turned out to be a non-event in Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday. Accepting that Corofin look an exceptional side and probable winners this year the collapse of St. Brigid’s was a puzzle. The pattern of the game was set from the beginning with Corofin creating a number of goal chances and then getting a cracking goal which suggested that this was not going to be St. Brigid’s day. Corofin played fine expansive, exhibition football and were given the freedom of the park to do so. They had a substantial lead at half time and when the expected early second half resurgence from Brigid’s did not materialise it was a stroll to the finish for the Galway champions. 
It is fair to say the St. Brigid’s are a team in transition and having swept up many of the under-age titles this summer they will in theory have the material to re-calibrate the side. However once a serious dip comes it is difficult to do that.
Recognising that Castlebar Mitchell’s ran Corofin close in the semi-final says that the gap at senior club level between the Roscommon title winners and that of Galway and Mayo has widened ominously from an overall county quality perspective. It is unlikely that the sparkling spring we (over) enjoyed this year will repeat itself in 2017. Still the darkest hours are said to be before the dawn. We haven’t long to wait now to see how that develops. The final score on Sunday Corofin 2.13 St. Brigid’s 0.05. Corofin now play the Gooch’s Dr. Croke's of Kerry in the semi-final in February.

Late Late Show Story
While I rarely watch the Late Late Show I was watching it last week-Nov. 25th- when a Norwegian lady married to an Irishman, told of her life with her totally disabled ‘child’ now aged 32. She told of her struggle to get the necessary supports from the health providers to avoid making her life a never ending struggle. This scenario is repeated in many and varied permutations throughout the country. The lady told her story with a disarming style of humour and stoicism. She talked of the constant repetitive and ‘boring’ nature of her life as a 24/7 carer for her ‘child’. An advocate for carers rights made the point of the state’s debt to the thousands of family carers throughout the country. The theme of supporting people with illness, disability or age in their own home was repeated. The ultimate way to do this is to support family carers of their own people. It is recognised that this is the preferred option, where practicable, of the vast majority of people. But they need to be supported in doing so. However as one  sees the expansion of the private homes model in recent decades in this country it is a contracting ideal.

Looking through  Saturday’s Irish Independent newspaper  

“103-year-old woman left waiting on trolley in hospital (Midland Regional Hospital Hospital, Tullamore) for 15 hours”. Certainly not the Cuban model (page 12)

Sarah Olney of the Liberal Democratic party in G.B. turned over a former huge 23,000 Conservative majority to win a by-election in London. The Lib-Dems finally have a raison deter as they said they would fight the next general election on the basis of ‘returning the U.K. to the EU!  ( p. 30)

I see Donald Trump has appointed as Defence Secretary, General James ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis who once suggested that war was ‘a hoot’. All very re-assuring… the N.R.A. (p. 28)

Boyle GAA Senior AGM
Sunday at 5 a cauldron of debate and intrigue. The Minor AGM takes place on Tuesday night. A Junior version of same. The County AGM takes place this year in Ballinameen. Santa Claus is coming, Santa Claus is coming Santa Cl……   

Well Done To
Miss Anna McGrath from Boyle who gave an assured performance with her Lego architecture on the Late Late Show last night.

Greetings To
Eliabeth Hemi Taute (Sweeney) and son Cian in N.Z.
Christine Marnell daughter of Marie Paul also in New Zealand.


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