Paul Healy’s Week


Michael McDonnell is a mine of information as he guides us from Hodson Bay through Lough Ree and into Athlone aboard his Viking Ship.

Having planned a ‘pre-return to school’ evening out, a group of us board the ‘Viking Ship’ on a fresh but dry day (well, it was dry and pleasant at Hodson Bay; we heard later that the rain was bucketing down in Roscommon town).

The ship is 21 metres long and is a wooden replica of a Viking vessel. Apparently it is the longest serving timber passenger ship on the inland waterways in either Ireland or the UK.

In a typical example of a local not knowing what’s on their own doorstep, I have to admit that I wasn’t fully aware of the deep connection between the Viking era in Ireland and this locality.

However our host, Michael, provides a great overview of the history of the area and its intriguing Viking past during the 90-minute cruise.

There are daily sailings from Hodson Bay into Athlone and Michael also does a separate trip to the famous Monastic Settlement in Clonmacnoise. There are refreshments (as well as Viking souvenirs for the kids) on board and Michael’s running commentary, the beautiful landscape and the tranquillity of the waters are a winning combination.

Afterwards, we had great bar food in the Hodson Bay Hotel, which, I’m glad to report, was brimming with holiday-makers, including a lot of Irish people who were clearly on midweek breaks there.

With Hodson Bay Sports on site, and with the hotel offering such great family facilities in such a central location in the country, the Hodson Bay Hotel is certainly a great success story.

* You can check out Viking Ship Cruises on; tel: 086-2621136.

Later on Thursday…

There was a great turnout at the launch of the 149th (yes, 149th!) annual Strokestown Agricultural Show.

John O’Beirne did the formalities in his usual very efficient manner and there was a good buzz in the function room of the Percy French Hotel as committee members, farm leaders, sponsors and friends of the show warmed up for the two-day extravaganza (Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th of September).

I was pleased to meet Fr. Eamonn O’Connor, who is settling into his new surroundings in Strokestown, having recently moved there from not-so-far-away Tarmonbarry. We wish him well in his new appointment.

It was unfortunate that former councillor, show stalwart and all-round man of renown Sean Beirne could not be present; he is currently unwell. He was very much in people’s thoughts at the launch and we look forward to seeing Sean out and about again soon.

Not one, not two, but three mart managers were present, while a contingent from Roscommon Show were basking in the glow of the success of their recent event while present to lend their support to the famous Strokestown Show.

As ever the Strokestown committee have a great weekend lined up and we’ll have full details of the launch in our next edition as we look ahead to one of the country’s most famous agricultural shows.

And of course we wish every success to all associated with the 38th annual Elphin Agricultural Show, which takes place this Saturday.

A final word on this launch: any of the locals I spoke to reported that the Percy French Hotel, now under the stewardship of the Murray family, is consistently busy. The hotel is being very well supported by the local community, and that, of course, will be key to its future.

Some months ago the management did a great revamp of the bar area and the ‘new look’ really is eye-catching and welcoming.

We have all observed with regret and indeed alarm the closure of hotels in Ballaghaderreen, Rooskey, Castlerea and Ballinlough. The Percy French was certainly buzzing on Thursday night, underlining again just how critically important a good hotel is to a rural town or village.


Oh dear! All I wrote in my humble column here – a couple of weeks ago – was that Russia-based Conor Lenihan was back in town, wanted to ‘get back on the bus’ and has his eye on a return to national politics in Ireland.

The last thing I expected was to start a ‘Get Conor into Roscommon’ campaign! Honestly, I had no idea that my comments might have sparked something in someone.

Anyways, I jest, obviously, but we are where we are and it turns out that one of the constituencies under consideration for a Conor comeback is Roscommon/Galway.

Now Conor has been busy claiming (spinning?) over recent days that he certainly didn’t make any approaches to ‘Roscommon’ but that ‘senior’ FF people here are holding out the begging bowl to him.

He’s “flattered” and “honoured” to have been approached – and so on. Just who are these senior party members who are so anxious to get Conor back on the bus? My sources have been unable to shed light on just who did the prospective matchmaking.

What we do know is that Conor Lenihan met with a number of Fianna Fail councillors in County Roscommon last weekend, while also failing to secure meetings with other Fianna Fail councillors.

Whoever threw the admiring glances first, this is clearly part of a process whereby the former minister is – quite legitimately – trying to find a constituency in which to secure a nomination with a view to reviving his political career.

Now Conor Lenihan is a capable and personable man, but I am not sure at all that he is the right ‘fit’ for Roscommon. While his family’s connections with South Roscommon are well-known, Conor has never been resident in Roscommon (Russia, yes, but not Roscommon!) and his entry into the election race here would not go down well with a lot of people.

As an aside, I can’t imagine what declared Fianna Fail hopefuls Paschal Fitzmaurice and Eugene Murphy make of all of this. Several weeks ago they made it quite clear that they will be turning up to the dance all spruced up (as ever) and with their best dance moves and most charming chat-up lines all well rehearsed.

Yet they find that Fianna Fail have firstly asked Dr. Martin Daly for a date; then swooned over Dr. Keith Swanick, and now the party has apparently flirted with Conor Lenihan. Just who will have the first dance?

Last Sunday/next Sunday

Last Sunday Kerry prevailed in the All-Ireland Senior Football semi-final after a good old joust with Tyrone. Kerry did enough to win; a gallant Tyrone will rue their missed goal chances.

This Sunday, we don’t know who will win, which is why they have to play one another. It’s Dublin versus Mayo.

Anything could happen, but what hopefully will happen is this: Dublin will underline their quality by producing some great phases of play, terrorising all watching Mayo-ites with their frightening pace.

There will be times in the game when it’s looking gloomy for Mayo, as though the Dubs are just unstoppable. Then Mayo, who will not panic at any stage, will show all the residual quality they have built up over the last five years.

They will relentlessly pound away, never once shirk, never panic, and in fact will create panic in the Dubs’ corner – the Dubs are prone to wilting under pressure (if you can stay in touch of them).

If Mayo can stay in touch, they can win. Mayo are mentally in perfect shape to cross the line provided they are in the right place with ten minutes to go.

In fact Mayo can go ALL the way this year. That, at least, is what I hope will happen…