Paul Healy’s Week – 19th February

Paul Healy on being drowned out by Ming and TR Dallas; if Carlsberg did Premiership title races; the unkindest (power) cut of all…and Joan & Enda hold a family meeting…

Today I get to talk ‘all things Roscommon’ for half an hour with Sean Moncrieff on Newstalk, but first there’s a seat for me on the Joe Finnegan panel on Shannonside. Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan is over from Brussels. The other guest is Cavan/Monaghan TD Joe O’Reilly. Joe’s wife, Mary (nee Tully), is a native of Fourmilehouse/Kilbride area of Co. Roscommon. I digress.

Back in the Shannonside studio, Ming ‘goes from 0 to 60’ once we go on air. The mild-mannered Joe gets into his stride and begins to rebuke Ming. It’s lively and I’m enjoying it, but one listener gets in touch to say we’re as bad as the party leaders who were involved in a ‘shout-fest’ during the previous night’s TV3 Debate. Ouch!

No such concerns later that day when I am a guest – all on my own – of Sean Moncrieff on Newstalk. I get to the Golden Island Shopping Centre in Athlone – as directed – and board the Newstalk Election Battle Bus. It’s 1.10 and I’m due to go on air at 1.30 pm. I find a quiet seat so I can mull over what I am going to say.

Then TR Dallas bursts in and starts singing ‘It’s Hard To Be Humble.’ I haven’t imagined it; it actually is him. He has another musician with him. With the Moncrieff crew also on board, it’s getting crowded. Next I meet a very nice Donegal man (he owns the bus) and we get chatting about holidaying in France (not together).

Two more people from ‘Team Newstalk’ suddenly hop on the bus. Very crowded now. I am introduced to TR Dallas, who has stopped singing. Before you could say ‘Who Shot JR Ewing?’ TR gets off the bus and says he’ll be back at 2.30. TR was very nice, ironically very humble.

My interview seems to go well. We talk about the ‘Save Roscommon’ campaign, the election issues in Roscommon and the previous night’s Leaders’ Debate. When it’s all over, we pop into the Golden Island Shopping Centre, which, as ever, is busy.

Soon it’s time to head back to Roscommon. I turn on the radio. It just happens to be 2.30. ‘Oh Lord It’s Hard To Be Humble’, the great man is singing, live from a crowded Election Battle Bus.

Saturday & Sunday

Even allowing for the spoilt and humourless players, the offensive fans, the disingenuous managers, the eccentric club owners, the manipulative agents, the hype-obsessed media – and I am sure there are a few horrible groundstaff/tea ladies out there too – the ould Premiership is good craic this year.

Of course all of the players/fans/managers/agents/media do not fit the above sweeping categorisation – my apologies to the exceptions. And I suppose it may not be politically correct (I haven’t a clue what is) to use the term ‘tea ladies’ these days. Maybe it should be tea persons.

Then again, maybe it should be tea/coffee persons or ‘beverage individuals of any gender.’ As for the title race, it’s all the better this year for the audacious presence of Leicester and Spurs. I still have a very soft spot for Arsenal: the Manchester clubs and Chelsea may have won the bulk of the titles in recent years, but Arsenal, in full flow, have arguably produced the most sumptuous football.

Of course they haven’t deserved to win the league in any recent season; they’ve been flawed purists. This year, they’ve managed to control their self-destruct tendencies so far. In any other season, many non-Arsenal supporters would be willing Arsene Wenger’s team to a first Premiership title in over a decade.

But it’s not a normal season, and poor Arsenal have competition when it comes to winning over the neutrals. It’s great to see Spurs launching a title charge. But even they can’t lay claim to be the season’s sweethearts. After all, the story of the year has been penned in Leicester. Leicester?

Last season they spent most of the campaign at the bottom of the league. The club is traditionally as unfashionable as they come. The team was assembled for the price of a packet of fags (well, I exaggerate a bit).

They have been sensational. If they win the Premiership, it will be an epic sporting achievement, one to merit a re-writing of the history books. It will be nerve-wracking finale.

Arsenal might just prevail. Leicester may have to settle for the merely stupendous achievement of qualifying for the Champions League. Ah, if Carlsberg did Premiership title races…


11 o’clock: You know those scenes in the movies, when the people all emerge on to the street together, perhaps drawn to something mysterious in the sky, or maybe to the arrival of a supreme being type…(Enda on the canvass trail?).

It was a bit like that in Roscommon town this morning: first there was a bang from outside, and then the lights went out. Everything crashed; phones, lights, computers…basically a power cut.

So we went to investigate, and one by one, the householders and business people on the street began to emerge into the morning sun, all of us curious and questioning. ‘Who…what…how?’

Rendered powerless by our powerlessness, we were staring into the abyss. What to do without electricity? Bereft of emails, google, landlines – more importantly, coffee – our lives were on hold! 

Just when we thought we might actually have to start relaxing and talking to our fellow human beings on the street, the power was restored and we were able to go back inside and …er…reconnect with the world.

Joan & Enda call ‘Family Meeting’
Monday night

The more I watched the seven of them, with their dour, unhappy faces, the more it all resembled some big family meeting. Chaired by a neighbour, the excellent, unflappable Claire Byrne. Enda and Joan, who stood in the centre, were the parents.

They looked serious, mature, slightly old, world-weary but kind of wise. Micheál was in the eldest son role. The guy who has a senior role in the family, who has traditionally been involved in the decision-making, or at least party to the big decisions.

Micheál lives at home and is expecting to get the farm. Stephen (Donnelly) is the bright, brainy son who is away in some fancy college; he’s been abroad, now he’s home with lots of clever ideas. He’s seen the world. He knows it all.

Richard (Boyd Barrett) is the smart alec/ rebellious son who has too much to say. He drives Daddy Enda and Mammy Joan mad, but they grudgingly accept that his rants are sometimes spot-on. He’s jealous of Stephen, that’s why they’re standing so far apart at this family meeting.

Lucinda is the prim and proper daughter, the best in the world really, but a right nightmare at times. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. She had a spat with Daddy Enda a while back and she has no fear. She’ll say what she thinks, like it or not.

Gerry is the wild one, home from abroad and thinking he knows it all. He got in with a quare crowd when he was away, but, in his favour, he’s learnt a fair bit on his travels. Since he came home, nothing will do him only to overshadow ‘altar boy’ Micheál, and eventually take over the running of the house.

But Enda and Joan are still in charge. For now anyway. So they stand there, in the middle, barely able to disguise their disapproval of the outspoken outbursts from the young ones. Everyone is sullen, there’s only the occasional half-smile. Their bonds run deep, but when it comes to the family meeting, they’ll all get their speak in.

It isn’t clear what direction the family is going to go in. There are factions within the family, little groups that could ‘work with one another’, but for now, when everyone is present, they’re too proud and too stubborn to admit that.

They won’t admit how close they really are. They prefer the energy they get from bickering, they prefer the denial. On and on the family meeting goes.

Just as someone is about to say ‘How about if we sell the cattle?’, the family meeting breaks up – for now. Sighing at their offspring, Joan and Enda go to bed (separate rooms).