Thursday, January 30, 2020

Update 30th January

The Election …Naturally
I remember a plasterer who had one person employed discouraging conversation on a Friday pay night for his employee with; ‘Don’t bother me now my head is full of figures’. Well after listening/viewing some of the ‘Debates’ my head is full of bumph whatever that is. The Monday night ‘Claire Byrne Live Leaders Debate’ was screened from U.C.G. and was two hours long with a further analysis in ‘The Spin Room’ for 50 minutes. Now that was five courses of spinage or whatever for insomniacs. I stayed with the Debate most of the time because I had seen a former student and footballer Kevin Tiernan in the front row of the audience. Although Kevin seemed primed to participate with a question he did not get the call. The spin analysis gave Mary Lou as the winner with Boy Barrett the clapometer winner. 
Last night, Tuesday, Miriam O’Call. hosted the ‘Prime Time’ debate from The Arts Centre in Castlerea. There was no candidate from the Roscommon /East Galway constituency which I thought ‘What’s the rationale behind that?’ or in more colloquial language ‘What was that about?’ There were some soundbites though, such as;
1.       a member of the audience stating that after paying €35 for a meal in a Dublin restaurant he told the proprietor that, ‘I paid €35 for 10 0unces of meat which is what I get for 10 Kilos when I sell my animal’. 
2.       The Green Party rep. being at odds with her party on Carbon Taxes and seemed iffy on others. You’ll have to get more economical with the truth Saoirse!
3.       A mister Kelly struck a logical note about decommissioning major structures in Dublin when he bemoaned the missed opportunity that not having considered ‘The National Children’s Hospital’ in, say, Athlone the centre of the country for instance. Apart from accessibility such a development would have huge positives for a whole region. But that would have been thinking outside the Pale of course.
Overall it was a harmless programme which even had Elphin mart doing a stand-in turn for Castlerea mart with manager Gerry Connellan giving his usual determined showing. 
A Brief Assessment of the Roscommon/ Donegal/ Leitrim/ Sligo/ Shepherd’s Bush constituency.
It will take me another election or more to get used to the idea of voting outside Roscommon. That is saying something. It looks like the ticket will run something like this;
Marian Harkin and Marc McSharry as certainties. Then there are three real contenders for two seats those being Martin Kenny Sinn Féin, Frankie Feighan Fine Gael and Eamon Scanlon Fianna Fáil. For Frankie Feighan to get over the line it obliges the county Roscommon section and Boyle loyalty to their native son to be considerate. I feel Frankie will have done a deal of work in Leitrim where he did well before but the first vote is very important as is local support for the ‘local’ man. It is common practise!
Martin Kenny will garner votes from all corners so that leaves Eamon Scanlon a nice man who I have met in Boyle a few times. The Green candidate is Blaithin Gallagher. While I think in kind of history terms there should be a Green tide I am not optimistic. It depends on whether the over 18s vote or have registered to vote. A radio piece interviewing 3rd level students in Limerick and Kilkenny did not suggest a huge interest or connection to the game. Perhaps there should be a movement towards giving the over 16s’ the vote. There was a suggestion after the Brexit vote in England that the voting age should be reduced at both ends of the spectrum!
In the Roscommon/East Galway constituency Dennis Naughten and Ml. Fitzmaurice are the certs there. With a real battle between the emerging talent of Orla Leyden against the resilient Eugene Murphy. Fine Gael looks unlikely to get a seat here and will not look too kindly on Maura Hopkins for her late call to withdraw from the race leaving no time to realign its strategy here. (P.S. I seem to have heard Dennis Naughten say something along the lines of; ‘If lime is spread it will help address ….carbon emissions?’ What’s that about? In the 1950s’ there was a huge campaign of lime spreading on land with Boyle being a hub of distribution.)  
Overall it is going to be another hung Dáil with the Coalition makers already with the drawing boards. While Fianna Fail might resist the idea that they do not have the obvious talent to form a Government there is truth in it. Sinn Féin ironically have some top liners in Doherty et al and their standing seems to have gained momentum. There seems also to be a climate for ‘change’ and Fine Gael need to be careful as Simon Coveney’s personal remarks regarding Michéal Martin, who has supported the Government and–against F.F. natural instinct- has done the country some service and the voters might know it.  
Brexit Friday, Jan. 31st.
And so it has come to pass. The U.K. has crossed the Rubicon. It is very sad and a regression and it certainly didn’t deserve the loutish valedictory comments of Nigel Farage in the chamber of the EU Parliament with the waving of the childish U.K. flags. This was after getting generous commentary from the hierarchy of the parliament. It was interesting that chairing the session was Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness who bade them goodbye (without the good riddance) with “and take your flags with you”. There would be a question of which bin to discard them in.
The reality is that a Churchillian classic WW2 spake, after the British and Australian victory in the North African desert in Nov. 1942 at El Alemaine is appropriate at this juncture;
  “This is not the end, this is not even the beginning of the end, this is just perhaps the end of the beginning.”   

A Speedy Decision
I possibly missed the lead-in but in the last week or so I’ve become aware from radio etc. of major extra taxes on second–hand cars being imported from Northern Ireland and the U.K. Obviously the car trade here would have been critical of this practice and probably ‘lobbied’ on it. It was/is, to a large degree, practiced by young men getting on the ‘car-owning ladder’. What puzzles me is the apparent speed with which it was introduced almost as if it was some health virus or such. This contrasts very much with many initiatives which might be more suitable to speedy initiatives.

Patsy Hanley Godfather of Roscommon Traditional Musicians
On Sunday night last TG4 transmitted a lovely programme on a Roscommon legend of traditional music, Patsy Hanley. Patsy comes from the townland of Killroosky near Ballyleague and was employed as a surveyor with Roscommon Co. Council for most of his working life. He was an All-Ireland champion flute player. Some years ago he was a regular visitor to North Roscommon, Boyle, Ballyfarnon and Keadue, He was known by traditional musicians all over the country and beyond. In the documentary he referenced Dominick Cosgrove’s pub in St. Patrick’s Street as an early venue. I will return to Patsy next time as I want to do it better than I feel I am going to do here at this hour. The notion of, ‘My imperfect self…’ comes into play.  
Patsy is a very humorous man an I’ll leave you with the following and I quote. “I was on the session etiquette committee and we decided the rules for a music session. These emphasised that there would be one guitar, one accordion, one bodhran and one spoon”.       

Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanayhu
It is rarely that I now refer to the U.S. President Donald Trump. I have my reasons for that! One being that I am a poor typist….very slow. Anyway, the Trump Government has come up with a plan that they suggest will solve that most intractable of issues the Palestinian v Israel dilemma. The solution is vested in the U.S. putting in place a very major financial package to assuage the Palestinian people. I suppose in a sense buy them off. However, it discounts several fundamental elements of Palestinian rights and requirements and is basically a non-runner. The deal was negotiated by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner not an intellectual like Sammy Wilson.
At the announcement of this, beside President Trump, was a smiling Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanahu. He was very happy with the proposition which was a sure sign that the Palestinians were being dealt a bad hand. A President of the U.S. who is being impeached dealing with the first Israeli Premier to be ‘up on charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust’. A likely couple.
If one were to do a survey of world leaders, I wonder what the balance would be between ‘the good the bad and the ugly’. 
With regard to the Pres. Trump impeachment … it is doomed of course as the Senate Republican majority will vote it down. The question really is; is it doing Trump’s re-election good or ill. I would say it is a plus for him with his constituency. Another four years, now that will be some penance for many of us. Still, how can it be that the Democrats cannot get a top candidate to challenge him and learn from the 2016 election with Hillary Clinton? While I have not studied or followed the Democratic possee much there is a definition of a junior team being made up of ‘the has-beens, the might-have -beens and they thought they should–have-beens’.  

Eco Eye in Boyle……
Duncan Stewart and his important television programme ‘Eco Eye’ was transmitted last Tuesday and ‘treated of Boyle for a time. There were contributions from locals including hairstylist Denise Sheridan, Barry and Finbar Feely, Sean and Catriona Purcell, Brian Nerney and County C.E.O. Eugene Cummins. All the speakers spoke optimistically of Boyle going forward and we all endorse that. Still, while not unique to Boyle, the derelict and empty houses and business premises were stark with the Royal Hotel frontage being a flag-bearer in that respect. The CEO spoke of the financial monies now available for regeneration and the hoped-for return of residents to the heart of the town. I often hear former residents talk of the numerous young people who resided along all the streets back the decades. I had some experience of that when I resided in my penthouse in Main Street where elements of Coronation Street were in the ether, in a communal way with Breda Dodd keeping an eye on things. Then new families were almost encouraged by the planners to seek the suburbs as we did. This created what is sometimes referred to as the ‘doughnut effect’ in medium to large scale towns. This is where commercial activity establishes itself on the outskirts and the centre declines certainly in terms of residential population.
Hopefully the initiatives that are spoken of now come to fruition and that the streets of Boyle resonate to the living of families again.
The Cycle Way from Lough Key to Boyle. 
Here is an impressive piece of infrastructure that has been talked of for some time but is now near complete. I have walked most of it and it should be a major asset to the town in terms of linkage to Lough Key. In summer the footfall on the streets of Boyle resonates especially around the Arts Festival period. This cycle way should encourage more people from Lough Key Park to the town. There are two impressive stretches of the Cycle Way. One is from the base of the dual carriageway in Lough Key entry through the forest (using old trails and service routes) to the Second Arch. There may be some tricky areas but the stretch along the canal bank is clear and inviting for cycle users, runners and walkers. I have mentioned a number of times the quality and diversity of the walkways around Boyle town. We are blessed with all that. So we look forward to the opening of the Greenway Cycle Route and will be observing with optimism its uptake. 

Cycling to School
For my five years attending Roscommon CBS in the sixties I cycled the six miles or so to secondary school. On that journey I joined lads from Creggs and places in between up to four and more miles. We were joined like a river from the tributary roads to Roscommon town. There are a number of stories of legendary distances travelled by students on their trusty Humber bikes to secondary schools the country over. Cycling has come back from the death of nearly twenty years ago or so. A few days ago I travelled through the town up Marian Road and past Abbey Community College. It was almost gridlocked with cars and buses between the hall and the college. There was no bicycle to be seen. Are there no students cycling to school anymore? Has the revival of cycle usage not spread to this basic and healthy way of doing business? Are there any initiatives within the schools-system encouraging this means of transport? Why is that? Apart from being a very good exercise it would be a training for college and city life later. It would also relieve some congestion in the large towns and cities.  
The Death of Seamus Mallon
It is odd really that a number of my heroes of recent decades happen to be from Northern Ireland. Maybe it is because I’ve been engrossed by the happenings there for nearly 50 years since I attended the funerals on Creggan Hill, Derry, after Bloody Sunday. A number of nationalist politicians emerged through those troubled times such as Bernadette Devlin, Austin Currie, Gerry Fitt and Ivan Cooper. The two giants of Nationalist history in Northern Ireland were John Hume and the understated personality that was Seamus Mallon.  
   Seamus Mallon was born in the largely Protestant village of Markethill, Armagh and was educated in Newry and Armagh schools. Like his father he became a teacher and became headmaster of the Primary School in Markethill.   Markethill being a largely a Protestant village made his and his family’s life all the more challenging during the Troubles. His father had been an active republican during the War of Independence.  While he inherited that he resisted violence totally despite the gross injustices which were the lot of Catholic Nationalists under the successive Unionist governments. He became a founder and prominent member of the SDLP and a Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement and also an M.P.
There has been much written about Seamus in recent days so I do not desire to be repetitious. Some years ago there was a fine documentary about Seamus which I had taped and saved but it got scrubbed subsequently. I hope it turns up again. For the story of the life of Seamus his biography of 2019 ‘A shared Home Place’ is where you will find out about that life of Gaelic sport, politics and the huge courage that was shared with his wife and family.
On Saturday evening last in Croke Park the crowd there for the Dublin v Kerry game stood for a minute’s silence ending in applause as a mark of respect for Seamus the peacemaker and one of their own as a former Armagh footballer. This echoed the same tribute by the same teams on Sept. 1st 2013 to the Derry poet Seamus Heaney on the weekend of his death at the end of August. Roscommon minors were also playing Tyrone on that day.
Ironically not long ago I was talking to Brendan McGee a member of the Boyle Arts Committee and suggested that Seamus would be an appropriate person to bring to Boyle to tell his remarkable and courageous story. 
Congratulations Cian
Congratulations to Boyle and Roscommon GAA player Cian McKeon who was a member of the DCU which won the Sigerson Cup on Wednesday evening over Carlow. Most people outside of the participants and their personal connections have no understanding of the significance of the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon (hurling) Cups. They form a lifetime bond for those involved especially on winning teams. 
Congrats also to the young Irish girl Billie Eilish who did so well at the Grammy awards and also Saoirse Ronan who has been nominated for a 5th time for an Oscar. This is some achievement for someone so young.
A sad note; as the Grammy awards proceeded on Sunday night the mood was darkened by the death in an accident earlier that day of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, who spent much of his NBA career playing at the arena where the show was held. Most of us would not be aware of this sportsman but in the U.S. he was special.

‘And so to bed’ from S.P.


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