Paul Healy’s Week


Can Rishi stop Keir?

Watching Question Time (BBC One), I’m wondering if the Conservative Party – in power since 2010 – has an election death wish or, more likely, is just going for broke by pitching their upcoming battle against Labour on a largely right-wing, anti-immigration platform.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made pledges on the economy and health, but it is Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s controversial hard-line approach to stopping people entering the UK on small boats from claiming asylum that points to the ‘all or nothing’ mindset of the Conservatives.

Faced with the onerous task of trying to clear the wreckage after the scandal-hit Boris Johnson premiership and the chaotic Liz Truss cameo, Sunak is in ‘uphill struggle’ territory. Labour leader Keir Starmer may lack charisma, but he is odds-on to be next Prime Minister.

Sunak is trying to marshal disjointed, dispirited and disgraced troops, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the Tories are steadfastly pursuing radical anti-immigration policies. It’s last throw of the dice territory. After all, concern over immigration was a major driver behind the 2017 Brexit vote.

Braverman – consistently accused of stoking divisions with far-right rhetoric and hard-line policies – has caused more uproar today, this after she accused the police of bias, saying they’ve largely ignored “pro-Palestine mobs”.

But Sunak is currently resisting calls to sack her. It seems that in the upcoming contest with Labour, Suella Braverman – no international political pun intended – may still be considered the Tories’ ‘trump card’.


Bye to Biddy!

I keep newspapers, often for weeks, sometimes even months. Then I do a browsing blitz, perusing articles I think will interest me: reading some, while leaving others unread (and forever a mystery) due to the old maxim that there (apparently) aren’t ‘enough hours in the day’.

Thus, only today have I discovered that on the 22nd of October last the somewhat quirky Brighid McLaughlin informed readers of her popular Irish Independent column that she was calling it a day.

Brighid (‘Biddy’) arrived into the Roscommon Champion office one day in the early 1990s – and explained that she was researching a notorious murder in South Roscommon from decades’ earlier. Being fellow newspaper folk, but also mindful of local sensitivities, we gave her one or two half-leads; Brighid duly set off to track down the few locals we had mentioned as possible ‘sources’.

When the ebullient journalist returned to Roscommon that night, a number of Champion staff (Fiona and I included) enjoyed a good night out with her in the Lyons Den.

Her feature article on how a murder and the scandal it exposed had impacted on a small community  subsequently appeared in the Sunday Independent; I suspect it didn’t go down well with all readers in these parts.

Fast-forward to three years ago, and ‘Brighid’s Diary’ debuts. I quickly discovered it was often hilarious; at times, I wondered if the escapades she described could really have happened as outlined (but I’m sure they did). Often, I wondered if Brighid was being a touch indiscreet.

Overall, I considered her column to generally be very amusing. It will certainly be missed by many readers. Signing off, she wrote: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to untangle the comic narrative of this small village (Dalkey). Sure it mightn’t be too long until I’m back, enriched and full of even more mischief”. I wish Brighid (‘Biddy’) well.


Super soccer!

I must join in all the positivity surrounding today’s FAI Cup final, which attracted a record-breaking crowd (just under 44,000) to the Aviva Stadium. The atmosphere was fantastic, and there was much to admire about the football too. St Patrick’s Athletic defeated Bohemians 3-1.

Later, Manchester City and Chelsea produced a  classic 4-4 draw in pouring rain at Stamford Bridge. This was wonderful entertainment.


Storm Debi

Storm Debi – the latest big ‘weather event’ in a grimly fascinating and long-running series – certainly hasn’t left forecasters red-faced.

Storm Debi delivered. Indeed, after three or four ferocious hours, it might reasonably have been renamed Storm Debris. Shortly after 2 am, I awoke to hear it raging. For once, Roscommon really was in the eye of the storm. It was ferocious.

On the drive into town this morning, bits of broken branches were scattered all over the road. In Abbey Street, overturned bins and fluttering leaves reflected the night’s mayhem.

Thousands of homes and businesses are without power, some roads are closed, but thankfully there have been no reports of injuries to people.


Thanks, Rishi…

It annoys me when the sitting UK Prime Minister disrupts my column (see ‘Thursday/Friday’). Boris Johnson was always making hasty decisions and U-turns which threatened to render my column out of date. I was going to raise my displeasure  with Dominic Cummings, but didn’t fancy receiving a WhatsApp reply or email brimming with expletives.

Well, I’m not allowing Rishi Sunak to disrupt my ramblings, so the views I held on the Suella Braverman controversy last week remain in this column, reflecting as they do my thoughts at the time (and Ms. Braverman’s status at the time).

Of course, just like Johnson before him, Sunak has now threatened to make some of my column appear out of date, perhaps not realising that its diary-style format, er, saves me.

All of which is my way of saying that the PM has just bowed to pressure and sacked his Home Secretary, Ms. Braverman.

It appears that Storm Suella has been quelled – for now at least.


Irish jungle line-up?

Now that controversial British politician Nigel Farage has signed up to take part in the latest series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! (ITV & Virgin Media One), I’m prepared to offer my consultancy services on launching an Irish version (Spike Island, anyone?).

Here’s my line-up for a truly dynamic dozen (it’s subject to change, depending on my whims, that and their appearance fee demands): Vincent Browne; Joan Burton; Michael Fitzmaurice; Kellie Harrington; Danny Healy-Rae; Katie McCabe; Mary Lou McDonald; Conor McGregor; Brendan O’Carroll; Daniel O’Donnell; Vera Pauw; Ryan Tubridy.

Now I’m off to negotiate my fee via Noel Kelly…