If the children met in a schoolyard…



Many of the children had received their tickets for the concert as Christmas presents, the reporter from Newstalk said.

  It was Tuesday morning – and Manchester, the UK, and every decent person in the world was feeling sick, devastated and heartbroken after evil and innocence collided.

  Over 21,000 fans, mostly teenagers, attended the Ariana Grande concert. Excited kids, enjoying life. Concert tickets tightly gripped. Christmas presents. Proud parents not far away. Special times.

  Tragically, an evil man was plotting and many young lives would cruelly be shattered. What happened in Manchester is incomprehensible to ordinary, decent people all over the world. The suicide bomber murdered 22 people, maimed many more, devastated families, smashed dreams and left scars that will last for generations. These terrorists that are waging war on the world, mostly in the name of Isis, are evil, brutal, despicable killers with no regard for democracy or humanity itself.

  (The outrage (and media coverage) has of course raised an issue. I know that many people are being killed in wars all over the world and I also know that we had more than our share of bloodshed on this island in the past. At times like this we are also reminded that Governments have been responsible for the deaths of civilians, including small children, often with little of the public outcry that follows attacks such as the despicable one in Manchester. And yes, there should be no hierarchy of victims. The killing by governments of innocent people, invariably attracting less publicity – and often crudely described as ‘collateral damage’ – does, after all, cause similar heartbreak as that caused by the barbaric Isis). 

  After the deeply worrying reports on Monday night, we awoke on Tuesday to the horrible disruption of normal life that terrorism causes, and to that grim tally of dead and injured. Normal life upended by evil. A British General Election campaign paused by terror, Manchester in shock, families anguished, hearts broken for the innocent young fans of Ariana Grande.

  And yet, as ever, life must go on. We grieve for the great people of Manchester. The civilised world must redouble its efforts to defeat the terrorists. We owe that, and our ongoing commitment to freedom and common decency, to the memory of the kids who went into the Manchester Arena with their concert tickets, their youthful innocence, their hopes and their dreams.

  And, back to the victims the world over. What’s so sad in this divided and troubled world is that ordinary, decent people know that if the eight-year-old victims of Manchester this week, of Northern Ireland in the past, or of Syria today, were to meet in a schoolyard, they would play together without prejudice, seamlessly merging into a group of new friends.


There was a capacity crowd in the fabulous Roscommon Arts Centre tonight for a charity concert in aid of the Patient Comfort Fund (for cancer services) at University College Hospital, Galway.

  Master of Ceremonies (and also performing) was Vincent Pierse, Ballymurray’s famous Seanchaí.

  There was some great singing and music courtesy of local artists and excellent Irish dancing by four talented young members of the Brian Geraghty School of Dancing. 

  Vincent himself entertained the ‘full house’ with two great, meandering stories from bygone times and the audience lapped it all up.

  Central to the variety show was a stirring series of songs from the excellent Vinegar Bill. On the subject of the local group, we were delighted to hear that Vinegar Bill won an online vote to be selected to support Nathan Carter in Kiltoom on Friday, June 2nd.

  Congratulations to event organiser Vincent Pierse and all involved. It was a very enjoyable evening and all for an extremely good cause.


Being honest, I don’t approve of Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran graduating to Minister of State status this week.

  It’s nothing personal against Athlone’s man of the moment – I just don’t approve (unless in exceptional cases) of first-time TDs being catapulted so quickly into ministerial office.

  Ministers should be appointed on merit… not because of geography, gender, it being ‘their turn’, who they are friends with, etc.

  Is Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran actually the most suitably qualified person to become Minister of State at the OPW this week? I doubt it, though I don’t doubt he will give it his all!

  My point is a general one. I just think making first-time TDs ministers before they are the proverbial wet week in the Dáil isn’t good practice.

  When was the last time a ‘first-time teacher’ became Principal or Deputy Principal moments after they first sat behind their desk?

  Mind you, I do think ‘Boxer’ fully deserved to be elected to the Dáil last year after he had shown tremendous leadership in flood-hit Athlone. And he hasn’t put a foot wrong since he got there; and, now that he has the ministerial jersey, I wish him good luck in it.

  And, trust me, this is a positive piece about Boxer (as I say, my ‘TD to Minister in less than 60 seconds’ gripe is a general one, nothing to do with him personally) because I thought Deputy/Minister Moran was a revelation on the Late Late Show tonight. The story he told presenter Ryan Tubridy was all about humanity and put the world of politics firmly into the background.

  Boxer spoke with great openness about his struggles with depression and the challenges he has faced due to dyslexia.

  This was compelling stuff and it reflected magnificently on Boxer the man. Well done to him for going public on these issues. I am glad things have worked out so well for him and I am particularly glad that he has spoken out, because what he has publicly stated can only help other people.


On Sunday, two worlds collided; Match of the Day made its exit for this season, The Sunday Game made its 2017 debut.  

  Match of the Day is always special and there were goals galore on Sunday, but there was a sense of anti-climax. Chelsea had won the title the previous week, the relegation trap door had claimed its victims, and most of the European places had been determined. On Sunday, Liverpool took the final Champions League spot with a nerveless, joyous win over Middlesbrough, while Arsenal turned up at the altar only to find they had, for once, been jilted.

  Despite his tendency towards smugness, I quite like the MOTD host, Gary Lineker. Regular panellist Alan Shearer has improved greatly over the years, but he does lack charisma; if he was a door to door salesman he’d hardly get beyond ‘Good morning.’ Ian Wright, his partner on Sunday, is, I suspect, a lovely bloke, but he is a desperately limited analyst.

  There was no such lack of passion or enthusiasm in the RTE Studio earlier in the day when Cyril Farrell, Ger Loughnane and Henry Shefflin took their ringside seats for a hurling classic.

  The epic battle between All-Ireland champions Tipperary and underdogs Cork was surely one of the greatest games of hurling of all time.