Paul Healy’s Column


Recently, I wrote here about the challenge of trying to exit Lidl without having bought anything. Now, I note that another very important issue of our times has been raised on Twitter. 

  Sophie Colombeau tweeted: ‘Am thrilled to announce that today I kept pace with the Lidl checkout lady. There was no lag, none at all, between her swiping and my packing’. 

  This, I can identify with. It’s certainly not exclusive to Lidl; that was just Sophie’s experience. 

  It can happen in any supermarket. You arrive at the checkout and engage in perfectly nice small talk. Your first challenge is to get your items to the checkout person quickly enough to accommodate their swiping. 

  Then, as you tiptoe towards the packing-into-bags phase, the pressure mounts. Now your challenge is to put the stuff away in tandem with the checkout person’s swiping. This is usually impossible to achieve (is it just me, or do they sometimes seem to pick up speed?). Inevitably, they’ve totalled your bill, they’re talking all that confusing ‘club card points’ language, you’re scrambling to pay, and several of the items you’re buying are still in a no man’s land between the counter and your bags. It’s a race the consumer cannot possibly win. Inevitably, it all ends with you apologising, and the nice checkout person – serene swiping effortlessly completed and latest win secured – saying “no hurry at all”. 




I accept that there are worse predicaments, but I really, really wouldn’t want to be trapped in an elevator with leading members of People Before Profit. I actually think it would be more terrifying than being locked overnight in the new-look Prime Time studio.   

  For starters, the (very) earnest folks in People Before Profit have taken dourness to new levels. In their public outings, most of the party’s high profile spokespersons come across as po-faced, humourless and negative. Maybe they’re a laugh-a-minute in private. 

  Of course they would argue that they’re not in the entertainment business, and that’s fair enough. At some level, they’re engaged in serious stuff…raising important issues of inequality, discrimination, poverty, injustice. Probably much of what they say and do is very sincere; but I am convinced that some of what we see from them is disingenuous, game-playing…opportunist, tiresome populism. 

  Being humourless is one thing, being unpleasant and nasty is another. Shortly after the death of Prince Philip was announced today, PBP dispatched a crass tweet. The post – which, tellingly, has since been deleted – made it very clear that the party wouldn’t be expressing condolences on the death of Prince Philip due to its opposition to the monarchy.

  PBP (and others) may well have legitimate issues with the monarchy – with the late Prince Philip too – but tweeting as they did on the day of his death was ill-judged, and revealing. By contrast, whether through gritted teeth or not, Sinn Féin public pronouncements since the death of Prince Philip have been notably dignified, respectful and gracious. And mature. 

  A simple message to PBP: Show a bit of class. Show some respect for the very recently departed – and their loved ones. 


Also on Friday 


Shay Healy, who died today, was a colourful and immensely likeable presence on the Irish showbiz scene for decades. An accomplished songwriter who had the Midas touch when Eurovision Song Contest season came around, he went on to present the very innovative ‘Nighthawks’ programme. Check out YouTube for Shay chatting with Eamon Dunphy and John Giles in a priceless clip which is a great reminder of the atmosphere and vibe of that show. 

  Closer to home, many of us recall the night in 1992 when ‘Nighthawks’ was broadcast from the Hell’s Kitchen pub in Castlerea. The late Sean Doherty lit a fuse that night, when he implicated then-Taoiseach Charles Haughey in the phone tappings of 1982. Haughey’s resignation soon followed. (See Dan Dooner’s story in this issue). 

  Shay Healy was a man of endless creativity, infectious positivity and humour. He will be greatly missed. 




On our way to a function in Dublin on a Saturday afternoon in 1997, the prospect of missing that day’s Grand National was a troubling one. 

  Of course there was a solution – take a break on the journey and find a pub, hotel bar or bookies’ in which to see the race. 

  In those days, most bars were packed for the Grand National. After much deliberation, and having done a u-turn in one or two crowded places, we finally got lucky and found a small bar in a village close to the city. 

  We’ve always loved the Grand National, with its sense of history and tradition, the guarantee of excitement and drama. 

  In truth, I’m less engaged with it this year. The bookies are closed, we’re still in the grip of a pandemic, there are no crowds at Aintree…even the fact that it’s no longer covered by the BBC seems to have diluted the occasion a touch! 

  In fairness, ITV are doing a good job in their build-up. A host of Irish horse racing greats are involved in the coverage. A segment by Katy Walsh on the record of female jockeys in the great race is very interesting. Katy’s third-place run on Seabass in 2012 remains, as of Saturday, the highest placing ever achieved by a female jockey. I begin to wonder if her report could be a positive omen for Rachael Blackmore later today…

  As I have to pop into town, I record the race, avoid radio and social media, and breathe a sign of relief that I can sit down later, unaware of the outcome. Had there been a bookies’ open, I’d have placed a few bob on Rachael’s mount, Minella Times (11-1). (I don’t do online gambling). 

  What a great experience it was to watch a historic sporting milestone unfold. Rachael, Champion jockey at Cheltenham last month, continued her phenomenal form by romping to victory. Magnificent. Emotional. Becoming the first woman to win the Grand National, this gifted sportstar and outstanding person then produced a classic off the cuff comment: “I don’t feel male or female right now. I don’t even feel human”. 

  The Tipperary woman is on top of the world, at the summit of her sport, and odds-on to wipe the boards in awards’ ceremonies later this year. Perhaps her stunning achievements will mean female jockeys are simply referred to as ‘jockeys’ from now on.   

  Back in that intimate village pub in 1997, we were pleasantly surprised to secure seats as we joined the locals for the Grand National. 

  Then came an IRA bomb scare, Aintree was evacuated, and the Grand National of 1997 was abruptly called off. Still, the coffee was lovely. 


All weekend


I continue to keep a close eye on the Premier League. It’s all very odd. Jesse Lingard has turned into Messi, David Moyes has turned into Pep Guardiola, and Paul Pogba is all dancing feet, strutting around like one of the professionals on Strictly. 

  Super-slick Manchester City have been beating all-comers in recent months, and it’s really advisable – before losing to them – to keep eleven men on the field. That way, you might lose by less. On Saturday, Leeds – away to the champions-elect – forfeited a man on the stroke of half-time (Liam Cooper sent off). It was like taking a glove off in mid-combat with Muhammad Ali. Then, befitting this peculiar season, daring Leeds claimed a remarkable 2-1 win. Stuart Dallas scored both goals. Soon we might be googling ‘Dallas’ and it won’t be all about JR and Sue Ellen… 




There was a time when I was a regular contributor to The Phoenix Magazine (‘Funnies’ section only). In those days, they kindly sent me complimentary copies. In more recent years, I purchase every edition. Today, when I picked one up in a local shop, I got a surprise: the cover price – which is €3.65 – had been crossed out with a pen, and replaced with a scribbled €4! I’ve heard of the phoenix rising, but this is a bit rich…