Paul Healy’s Week – 20th May

Paul Healy on Lucinda’s journey into the wilderness; ‘Cricket alert’ as English soccer season ends; thoughts on the first ‘Sunday Game’ of 2016…and new politics with Finian, his fags and his glass of water…

So, farewell then, Lucinda. Ms. Creighton announced today that she is stepping down as leader of Renua. That’s the new political party which she founded after prevaricating for what seemed like years. They failed to win any seats in the recent General Election.

Lucinda’s decision to step down was met with the response most feared by politicians – a grand silence. She paid the ultimate price for prevarication and chronic indecision.

She failed to strike when the iron was hot; by the time Lucinda and Eddie Hobbs and company made their ham-fisted move, the iron was so cool you could have played ‘catch’ with it. ‘Renua’ was a terrible choice of name for the party.

During the election campaign, an increasingly desperate Lucinda tried to become relevant, but her ideas lacked credibility. (Remember ‘three strikes and you’re in jail for life’ – i.e. proposing that people convicted of a serious offence for a third time should receive a mandatory life sentence).

The people rejected Lucinda’s revolution; I saw it as a triumph of good over ego! Remember that Lucinda, the former Fine Gael minister who had left the party over a single social issue – abortion – suddenly began launching attack after attack on her former colleagues’ economic policies.

Further evidence, I suggest, of a politician cynically engaging in opportunist politics to help sustain their desire to remain in the limelight! Lucinda – apparently with a straight face – has described the whole episode as a “remarkable journey.”

Yes, a journey into the wilderness.


Three devastating words appeared below the listing in the newspaper for Sunday’s Match of the Day. ‘Last in series.’ Oh well, we knew that, I suppose.

Years ago, our dread at the ending of the English soccer season was matched only by our dread at the onset of the English cricket season. Most of us didn’t understand or appreciate cricket. It felt like a horrendous substitute for the soccer. The soccer ‘close season’ was like a jail sentence for our generation.

Happily, it’s different these days – the close season is shorter, there’s more live sport to watch (including soccer from other parts of the world)…and we’ve grown up!

Last Sunday’s Premiership finale lacked the traditional drama. The title race was already over, the relegation places had been determined. The one significant issue that needed to be resolved related to which of the Manchester clubs would squeeze into a Champions League slot.

Even then we were denied a showdown on the day as Manchester United’s game against Bournemouth was called off due to a bizarre bomb scare.

Leicester were the story of the season, winning the title by an amazing ten points. Spurs imploded, and I was quite happy to see Arsenal sneak into second, as I admire Arsene Wenger’s approach to the game, not to mention his stubborn resilience in the face of his critics.

Newcastle will surely storm back into the Premiership in a year’s time if they can keep Benitez at the club. Meanwhile, in the Championship, the sleeping giant that is Leeds United will surely awaken soon! And so the Match of the Day theme tune ended on Sunday night and another season was lodged into our memory banks.

Still, the European Championships kick off in three weeks. (And in cricket, as my old school friends surely know, England play Sri Lanka in their first Test at Headingley today, 11 am).

Also on Sunday…

The last Match of the Day of the series coincided with the first ‘Sunday Game’ of the series. It was a low-key start for the latter, with lots of scores and pretty passages of play, but with the action mainly involving minnows gamely trying to delay their inevitable extinction from the All-Ireland Football Championship.

The two analysts in studio are Dessie Dolan and Ciaran Whelan. Dolan knows all about these struggles in the shadow of the game’s elite, and he can talk the language of the minnows from personal experience.

Whelan’s presence, on the other hand, almost leaves the majority of us – the viewers – embarrassed. Whelan is a symbol of the might of Dublin. (He was a tough combatant on the GAA battlefields, a very accomplished player who seems to be a gentleman and who has been a very worthy addition to The Sunday Game).

All Ciaran can do, as he observes the honest but doomed efforts of the minnows who are playing on a completely inferior level to his Dubs, is offer the best analysis he can.

He combines praise and encouragement with strong criticism when it’s appropriate, and is usually very fair and compassionate; but he knows, and we know, that the real show isn’t in town at all yet.

Whelan is casting an eye over a doomed cast of auditionees who we all know won’t be offered lead roles. Dolan, at least, knows the anguish of the eternal dreamers.

Whelan represents another world. He has to say nice things, and balance that with some harsh things, about teams who have no chance of living with the best in the land. Watching Whelan watching the rest of us, I am reminded of the really well-to-do uncle who, on one of his occasional visits, has been mistakenly ushered into the back kitchen instead of the ‘good room.’

Every day

Sorry to all concerned if he has a local fan club here in Roscommon…but I was never that keen on Finian McGrath.

He may have made some good points from the backbenches over the years – and he’s clearly a very effective TD ‘on the ground.’ But I could seldom concentrate on what Finian was saying because I was usually put off by the man’s tremendous sense of self-importance and my sense that he would do whatever it took to promote himself and how he comes across to his constituents!

Time moved on, and next thing, the world went a bit crazy: Donald Trump makes it a two-horse race for the White House…Leicester City win The Premiership…and Finian becomes a ‘Super Junior Minister.’ The new Government is 312 hours in office.

In week one, Finian said he won’t be paying water charges (he consistently opposed them when in opposition), then he decided to consult the Attorney General for advice (why?), then he glumly declared that he will pay them.

In week two, Finian, whose brief is health-related, called for smoking to be allowed in designated areas in bars and restaurants. He has since clarified that while this remains his personal view, he is “of course” supportive of Government policy.

Finian really needs to decide if he wants to be in opposition or Government. Just now, he seems to want it both ways. He accepted a ministry with relish and signed up to Government in the knowledge that the law of the land, for now at least, requires that water charges be paid.

But Finian’s wink and nod to his constituents is meant to signal: ‘I’m against charges and I won’t pay.’ He accepted a (health) ministry and signed up to Government in the knowledge that a smoking ban in public places exists, but Finian’s wink and nod to his constituents is meant to signal: ‘I’m all for returning some rights to put-upon smokers.’

When the next election comes around, it appears that Finian will want to claim credit for specific decisions he will have made on disabilities, while reserving the right to distance himself from other Government policies, and indeed continuing to engage in the populist approach that served him so well in opposition. And this approach, I fear, will be replicated elsewhere in our great new Dáil.

Fianna Fáil will aim to take credit for certain Government policies (which they will claim they insisted upon) while criticising and opposing others.

Some Independents in Government may try and ride two horses, in the style of Finian. Labour, until recently joined to Fine Gael’s hip, have already suddenly discovered that they actually have little in common with Enda and company.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein and a variety of other TDs and groupings – all of whom made no serious attempt to get into Government – will merrily slam the new administration for failing to do the things they weren’t prepared to even talk about doing themselves.

New politics is going to be great, isn’t it?