Braving the ballot

Our columnist Frank on enjoying the weekend’s sunny spell with grandchildren, the dangers faced by politicians on the campaign trail, favourite country music artists at home and abroad, and more!

A couple of weeks ago in this column I wondered why anyone would let their name go forward for election with a view to getting involved in politics. I highlighted the level of abuse, both verbal and physical, that candidates sometimes have to endure as they go around the place canvassing for votes.

Since then, a Green Party councillor named Janet Horner has spoken about how she was hit by an angry man who threw her posters across the road, threatened to kill her, and lunged at her when she tried to stop him from interfering with her posters. On the same day, Independent councillor Tania Doyle thought she and her husband would be killed when she was punched about the head, and her husband was beaten, all because of her views on immigration. A Fianna Fáil candidate named Suzzie O’Deniyi, who hopes to be the first woman of colour to be elected to Limerick City and County Council, has also been subjected to a vile verbal attack, during which her attacker uttered racist insults and expletives.

Now I know these attacks and assaults took place in two of our main cities, and I do not expect that anyone calling door-to-door around our area will be met with such hostility, but sadly we never know – just as none of the election candidates can really know what kind of reception they will get as they approach any door.

Anyway, as June 7th gets closer and closer, as I wrote previously, please show respect for anyone brave enough to put their names forward for election. Even if you disagree entirely with their views, remember our greatest asset is our freedom of speech, so don’t intimidate them with either verbal or physical threats.

Fun in the sun

It’s Friday morning as I write, and for a change we are experiencing some lovely weather. Our daughter Lisa has arrived with her two daughters, three-year-old Riley and six-month-old Hayley, with the intention of staying for the night before heading back to their new home in Castlebar.

Some years ago, Brendan Shine had a big hit with a song called ‘Grandad’, which basically told of the massive enjoyment and huge sense of love he experienced as a grandfather, and while I may not have fully understood the sentiments then, I most certainly do now.

Three years ago Riley came into our world, with a host of medical problems including hip dysplasia, which left us afraid that she might never walk at all. But after a weekend of running around the garden after her (Lisa changed her mind and stayed in Crosswell, where we live, until Sunday afternoon), and while I know she may still need corrective surgery in the future, I can tell you she is as active and full of energy as any three-year-old out there!

On top of that, our son Mark and his wife Aoife arrived with their son Daithi, and two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Poppy. I must have clocked up a half-marathon at least while running around with the two girls!

For years now (about 19 or so), we have spent a week or two in Spain around this time of year, where the weather is usually just gorgeous, with temperatures in the early 20s – perfectly suitable for the Irish temperament. But we have always said that when we do get warm weather here, there really is no place like home – and for the last few days that has certainly been proven!

We all, especially the two toddlers and I, have literally had the best fun of all times out in the fresh air, and between planting flowers, playing football, running never-ending relays around the willow tree in the middle of the garden, and generally having great fun, I have to admit that as I write this on Sunday evening, I am thoroughly exhausted! However, the exhaustion I feel is far outweighed by the great enjoyment we had since Friday.

If we are to get a nice summer weather-wise, I can only imagine how tired I’ll be by the end of it if our grandchildren continue to call!

I was thinking of giving the bog a miss this year, but maybe I will cut a bit of turf after all – I could go there for a rest!

Tuning into country

I make no secret of the fact that I am a fan of country music, but as much as I like Lisa McHugh, Claudia Buckley, and Cliodna Hagan, I have to disappoint them all by confessing that Carrie Underwood is my favourite female country music artist. She is an exceptional talent; her version of ‘How Great Thou Art’ is something that would make the hair stand on the back of your neck!

There is a tendency to think that American Country is the ‘bee’s knees’ when it comes to quality and all that kind of stuff – and maybe it is in some respects – but for someone like me, who doesn’t know a lot about rhythm or beat, I simply like what I like, regardless of who the artist is or where they come from.

In recent weeks, I have seen concerts on TV by two Irish artists, Mike Denver and Derek Ryan, and both of them absolutely wowed their respective audiences – Denver performing a few years ago in Castlebar (I think), and Ryan more recently in Inverness in Scotland.

Both of them played to capacity crowds, mixing lots of different types of music, from old Irish to modern country. In both instances, it was easy to see the crowd was thoroughly enjoying themselves.

I was in Aughrim, outside Ballinasloe, a couple of years ago, at a concert featuring Nathan Carter, Foster & Allen, Chloe Agnew, and Matt Leavy, and even though we’re not avid concert-goers, Carol and myself had a great night. We also attended a big night in the McWilliam Park Hotel in Claremorris, when Annette Griffin and John Staunton hosted a major Irish concert with Gerry Guthrie, Brendan Shine, and comedian Frank Forde.

In the meantime, Covid arrived and impacted greatly on a lot of the Irish entertainment industry, but three years or so later, things are getting back to normal. Performers like Michael English, the Three Amigos, and many others are back appearing in concert in different locations all around the country. Inspired by what Derek and Mike produced in their shows, I sincerely hope to get to some concerts over the summer – watch this space!


And finally…


As bad as it can be for our election candidates here at home, spare a thought for Doug Skaff, a candidate in the election for Secretary of State in West Virginia.

As he was taking down his election posters (all our candidates take note) following the contest, Doug was bitten in both the left leg and the right foot by a copperhead snake and had to be hospitalised for a number of days.

It’s not clear if the snake bit Skaff because he disagreed with him on any political issues, but when asked whether losing the election (he was second in the poll) or getting bitten was worse, Skaff had no hesitation in saying the bite was the worst.

“Elections come and go”, he said, adding that he wouldn’t wish snake bites on anyone.

For all of our local candidates, the advice is that in hot weather, snakes like to rest in bushy areas with access to the sun! So to all budding councillors and European hopefuls out there – keep your eyes open and watch out for any snakes in the grass! There might be a lot more of them lurking out there than you think!