Frank Brandon’s Column

Hospital restrictions still causing anguish

Our man Frank on Covid-19’s impact on hospital visits, a damp squib at the Hyde, the new focus on a high-profile murder case, and matchmaking on the Costa Blanca…

It’s Monday morning and on the face of it, everything seems to be coming back to normal. Crowds are returning to sporting fixtures, the sporting fixtures themselves are actually being played, and most importantly, from today on, the vaccination programme is rolled out to the younger members of our society.

Yet, this horrible Covid pandemic is just now having its biggest and most profound effect on us as a family – once again, the awful restrictions on hospital visits are causing us large amounts of anguish and pain.

I told you a few months ago that Carol and I have become grandparents to our first grandchild Riley, but things haven’t gone smoothly for her, or her mother Lisa, in the meantime. Both of them have spent quite some time in hospitals, obviously without visitations from any family members except Lisa’s husband, Brian.

Last Thursday, Riley underwent pretty major surgery in Temple Street Children’s Hospital, and Covid regulations mean that not only can family members not visit her, but remarkably, her two parents cannot be in the room with her at the same time.

Now, I am aware that regulations and protocols have to be followed, but as both of them are fully vaccinated, I find it hard to understand why one has to go out of the room when the other comes in. The funny thing is that the three of them, Riley included, could go to Tesco or Aldi or any other supermarket together last week, but as soon as Riley went in for her operation, that all changed and only one was allowed to be with her.

Anyway, hopefully things are beginning to get sorted. Please God, Riley will soon be let home soon and we can go and see her.

However, of all the damage the Covid-19 pandemic has done to us as a society, I believe the impact it has had on families who couldn’t visit loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes was the worst – particularly in cases where people passed away. It has to have been hugely traumatic and I feel some people may never get over its effects.

Some weeks ago, I told you of having met a woman who’d not been able to see her husband for a month while he was in hospital, and having now experienced it ourselves, I feel I truthfully underestimated the devastating effect it must’ve had on her – but I certainly know now.


Tribesmen triumphant but it’s not the same!

On Sunday, we had another meeting of Galway and Roscommon in the Connacht Senior Football Championship. While the ‘maroon and white’ prevailed, I have to admit that I didn’t have the usual euphoric feeling of putting one over the Rossies.

Admittedly, the weather conditions were atrocious, and I’ve no doubt that Seamus Duke will have a detailed report and analysis of the game elsewhere in the paper, but I honestly thought it was a very poor game – neither team played to their potential, and were very defensive in their approach.

Some years ago, Pat Spillane was hugely unpopular in the North (maybe he still is) for labelling the defensive tactics of most Northern teams as “Puke football”, but most genuine football supporters thought he was right. Thankfully, in the last few years things changed quite a bit, and teams have started to attack at pace again. We began to see higher scores being recorded in many county games.

Sadly, on Sunday we saw both teams revert to defensive mode, and while the knockout element and the weather may have played a part in that, the end result was a game that very few people will want to remember.

For Roscommon, it was a sad end to a dismal enough year. At least Galway have a Connacht final to look forward to, and while Mayo (if they overcome Leitrim) will be overwhelming favourites I wouldn’t write the Galway men off.

Once upon a time the craic in our border village would be ninety on the evening of a local derby, and, win or lose, the slagging and banter would be brilliant. For supporters of the losing team, it could be a tough night – however pride alone would mean that if you lost, it was vital to turn up, face the music, and not be accused later of hiding away.

Somehow, while both sides were well represented in the village on Sunday night, it wasn’t the same, and there was no real triumphalism displayed by the Galway side. While the craic was good, nobody rubbed it in.

The good news for Roscommon followers is that Gerry Keegan, our own Creggs clubman and Assistant Secretary of the County Board, promised me last night that things will be different next year, and in his words, Roscommon fans can look forward to some swashbuckling football – if that doesn’t happen, you can blame Gerry!


Sophie’s murder is back in focus

One of the strangest and most talked about murder cases in this country was the brutal killing of Frenchwoman Sophie Toscan Du Plantier, which occurred twenty-five years ago in the beautiful rural setting of Toormore outside Schull in County Cork.

For the last while, I have been glued to Jim Sheridan’s five-part documentary, ‘Murder at the Cottage’, which digs deep into the entire terrible saga. Another documentary on the killing – ‘A Murder in West Cork’ – has also just featured on Netflix, and so, after quarter of a century, the still unsolved murder is once again back in the public eye. Of course, the big question still remains: who killed Sophie?

I have yet to see the Netflix offering, which I’ve been told points the finger squarely at former local journalist and An Garda Síochána’s prime suspect Ian Bailey, but the Jim Sheridan programme does not go down the same route. The documentary is riveting viewing, and throws up lots of interesting questions. It also shows that while having never been charged with the murder, and with seemingly little evidence against him, Ian Bailey has served a sentence albeit not one confined to a prison cell, that has been every bit as hard as if he had been convicted in a court of law. Rightly or wrongly, he has had his life totally ruined by the events of Christmas 1996.

Sheridan admits that after extensive research into the case, which took several years, he still does not know who did it, but maybe, with all the new interest in the case, some new evidence may be found to finally convict or exonerate Ian Bailey.

For everyone’s sake, but especially the still grieving family of Sophie, it would be a blessing, and bring some closure to this enthralling story.


Finally for this week…


One of my sources (not a very reliable one) tells me he has a major international scoop especially for the Roscommon People – apparently the famous Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking festival may not take place this year. If so, then the little Spanish resort of Cabo Roig is preparing to step in and hold it, and they expect to have the uncrowned King of Lisdoonvarna, Willy Daly, in attendance to give it his blessing.

We have been to Cabo Roig a few times over the years; it is a very popular spot for Irish folk, and we have met several well-known Rossies there on different occasions. But now is the chance for lovelorn readers of the People to hit for the Costa Blanca and find love in the sun.

Get flights to either Alicante or Murcia, bring your Covid Cert, pension book, suntan lotion, bikini, sunglasses, and most importantly your dancing shoes, and then sit back and wait for romance to strike.

If it does, remember you saw it first in the Roscommon People, and if you see me on the lively Cabo Roig strip, you can buy me a nice pint of Guinness – you can take the man out of the bog, but you can’t take the bog out of the man!

‘Till next week, Bye for now!