Paul Healy’s Week


Shane MacGowan

A caller on Liveline today spoke with great emotion of how much Shane MacGowan meant to the Irish in Britain in the 1980s, when The Pogues shook Irish folk music to its core, while connecting emigrants with their culture.

The death of the gifted singer-songwriter – widely hailed as a genius – was announced today. While everyone knew that Shane had been very ill of late, the news still came as something of a shock. The nation is in mourning for the loss of a third uniquely talented artist in just over six months, with Shane MacGowan, Sinead O’Connor and Christy Dignam all sadly departing the stage since June.

Driving home from Athlone this evening, I tuned in to John Creedon’s show on RTE Radio 1. As on the occasion of Sinead O’Connor’s sad passing, John guided his audience – at home, and worldwide – through a powerful and deeply emotional musical wake.

The man on Liveline who hailed MacGowan’s influence on the Irish in Britain had insisted that while we are in mourning, it is also a day for celebrating Shane’s life and legacy. And John Creedon’s show certainly did that, reminding us of the wonderful songs that came from Shane’s pen (and of his distinctive voice).

It was Shane MacGowan Day, marked by loving tributes. Just before going to bed, and nostalgic for what we have lost, I watched some vintage Pogues’ footage on YouTube. When the battery died on my laptop at 11.55, I switched to RTE Radio 1 on my phone… where they were heading for the midnight news bulletin by playing Fairytale of New York. Rest in peace, Shane.


Isabelle declares

“Were the others in the studio, or on the phone?” my late mother used to ask me any time I guested on the Joe Finnegan Show for his popular review of the week’s main news stories. My mother had an incredible appetite for current affairs/radio, and Shannonside Radio was a big part of her daily routine (she particularly liked ‘The Wind That Blows’ with ‘The Cavan Man’).

Today, I was the only one in studio, with Fianna Fáil Senator Robbie Gallagher (Monaghan) and Isabelle Flanagan (Castlerea) both on the phone line. We chatted on COP28, Israel’s onslaught in Gaza, and the fallout from the Dublin riots.

Interestingly, Isabelle Flanagan – formerly a member of the Social Democrats, but no longer thus aligned – confirmed she intends to run in next year’s local elections in Roscommon Municipal District. (People readers got a heads-up on this in Emmett Corcoran’s Election Eye column last week). Isabelle’s father is the high profile Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, currently a Midlands-North-West MEP.

Of course my mother would have told me that.


Dining in Dromod

Dinner in Cox’s Steakhouse in Dromod tonight, where the restaurant and bar were both very busy, the Christmas atmosphere building. As ever, Cox’s delivered: great food and excellent service in a familiar and friendly environment. The award-winning County Leitrim village (which has three public houses/restaurants), continues to thrive, and long may it do so.


Brilliant Brigid’s

What a brilliant win for St Brigid’s in today’s Connacht Senior Football Club final in Dr Hyde Park, where they deservedly conquered the mighty Corofin. St Brigid’s were magnificent from start to finish, producing a performance of great quality and composure to claim a huge scalp and return the Kiltoom club to the summit of football in the province. And why stop now?


The Serpent (Netflix)

We’ve finished watching ‘The Serpent’ on Netflix, which I would give an ‘8.5 out of 10’ recommendation. This eight-part series tells the dark but fascinating story of serial killer Charles Sobhraj.

The killer, fraudster and thief, who revelled in evading the authorities, was a charming and audacious criminal who is suspected to have murdered over 20 people. Preying on hippie-type tourists in Asia in the 1970s, he posed as a gem salesman, using his charm to befriend unsuspecting strangers.

Once they were relaxed in his company, he initially poisoned his victims (often the murders were more gruesome) before then stealing their cash, and in many cases their identity. Along the way, ‘The Serpent’ brainwashes and controls Marie-Andrée Leclerc, who effectively becomes the killer’s accomplice.

This series – a co-production by the BBC and Netflix – is quite slow, but very atmospheric, dark and compelling. There is tremendous suspense throughout. This amazing true story is brought to our screens with style, with Tahar Rahim excellent in the lead role.


When he’s 64…

Today is Paul McGrath’s birthday (after my tribute to Billy Connolly last week, maybe I should start a ‘Birthday of the Week’ section). What a player McGrath was. A centre-back all his career, he was played out of position (in midfield) by Big Jack in the 1990 World Cup. The international media went on to select him (in midfield) on their Team of the Tournament. That says something of Paul’s versatility and class. Happy 64th birthday, big fella – and thanks for the memories.


Walford woes

On EastEnders, it’s business as usual – a murder attempt gone wrong, a hoax kidnapping, infidelity, blackmail, secrets and lies – all of this drama materialising within one Square (Albert), with the action centred on just the one (rowdy) pub – well, there and in confrontations conducted in public on the street.

Beware the starey, psychopathic small shop owner (Nish), not to mention the brooding mechanic who slowly reaches for a metal bar when feeling the need to intimidate someone (that would be Phil). I’m beside myself with worry as to what Christmas will bring to Walford; probably abandoned Christmas Dinners, a murder, family strife, a huge row in the Queen Vic, and the mandatory taxi purring into the square as darkness falls…


Man wants job

I could hardly believe what Claire Byrne was saying on her RTE Radio 1 programme this morning. Had I heard correctly?

Something about Minister for Finance Michael McGrath saying a particular man would be a “good and credible candidate” if he goes for it…

The last thing I expected was to hear a high profile government minister endorsing Conor McGregor for President…

*Update: I can clarify that Mr McGrath was (sadly) actually speaking about Minister Paschal Donohoe’s alleged interest in becoming the next head of the International Monetary Fund.