Paul Healy’s Week


End of an era

We always knew it as Eight ‘Til Late…

When Michael and Rita Oates opened ETL/Eight ‘Til Late in 1984, it was quickly embraced by the public. The location is a landmark one. We were drawn to that majestic building linking Main Street with the Square, its red-brick façade so distinctive and inviting.

There was another reason why the people of Roscommon embraced Eight ‘Til Late. Michael and Rita were, and are, very popular proprietors… always very friendly and engaging. The new store immediately became a part of the fabric of our close-knit community.

Michael, Rita and family – along with the many great staff who worked with them through the decades – always made calling to Eight ‘Til Late a pleasure. It was a modern store into which you popped for a newspaper, a packet of cigarettes, and other essentials of the day, but it also became a social hub, giving it a unique place in the everyday life of the county town.

People don’t seem to stop for chats in shops these days in the way that we did then. When you called into Eight ‘Til Late for the paper, you might still be there 15 minutes later, you and a few more locals having banter about football with Michael, or just chatting about the latest national and local news. And we were all the better for it.

Today, Michael and Rita Oates announced that after 40 years in business, they will be closing on the 2nd of March. They will do so with “heavy hearts” as they call time on a “very long and happy chapter” in their lives.

This is the end of an era. Eight ‘Til Late has been at the centre of the commercial and community life of our great county town for 40 years. The store flourished in the heart of Roscommon, and its legacy is that it is also in the hearts of generations of local families.

On behalf of our readers, I wish Michael and Rita a long and happy retirement. Very happy memories will live on.


A welcome tip-off

An email pings in from our friends in the RTE PR Department, advising the Roscommon People newsroom that tonight’s Late Late Show will feature ‘six hopefuls’ battling it out to be chosen to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

I am of course deeply grateful for this very thoughtful heads-up/warning, and will make sure to take all necessary steps to avoid the show…


Goth it?

The RTE website is reporting that ‘Bambie Thug’ was tonight selected to represent Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest. RTE adds that Bambie’s music can best be described as “electro-rap, confrontational performance art and effervescent, late-night goth pop”.

When it comes to a singsong, who doesn’t love a bit of electro-rap, confrontational performance art and effervescent, late-night goth pop?


The late John Connor

I was very saddened to hear of the untimely passing today of former Fine Gael politician John Connor, which followed a traffic accident in his native Frenchpark.

He was a giant of Roscommon politics, one of four men who dominated the landscape here during a turbulent, enthralling era (1980s-early 1990s). The others were Sean Doherty, Liam Naughten and Terry Leyden.

Connor was an excellent politician who really should have served at some ministerial level (but the cards didn’t fall for him on that front).

He had no interest in opportunism, and certainly didn’t court the media. Instead, he put his head down and worked hard for his constituents, backed by a formidable ‘machine’ locally.

A man of great intellect, he was an excellent orator, his speeches often delivered with a slightly dramatic flourish. In full flow, he commanded an audience like a conductor who had orchestra and audience in the palm of his hands.

Whether one encountered John Connor in the heat of political battle or in more sedate circumstances, he was always courteous, dignified and thoughtful.

He experienced many political highs and lows, remaining philosophical about the latter, being well aware of the volatility of his profession. As older readers will recall, for a number of years he had a memorable rivalry with party colleague, the late Liam Naughten (it was mainly a consequence of simple mathematics: during a period of multiple elections, the Fine Gael vote locally was sufficient to win just one Dáil seat, and that prize was very fiercely pursued by the two Fine Gael heavyweights).

A proud Roscommon man, John Connor served the county well over many years. My abiding memory of him is of a man of notable intellect and great courtesy. John Connor will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.


Tamed by Tyrone

One game in, and Roscommon are already under a bit of pressure in the National Football League. Today, we started well against Tyrone, but Davy Burke’s team ultimately lost their way. Despite having an extra man for most of the second half, Roscommon were outplayed, our lads lacking penetration in attack.

We may have been denied a legitimate goal near the end, but in truth Roscommon didn’t do enough to secure one, much less two points. All eyes are now on this Sunday’s derby with Galway in Hyde Park.


Post Office shock

Local politicians had a ‘behind closed doors’ meeting tonight, in the hope of ensuring that the doors of the landmark Roscommon Post Office building don’t close. Time will tell.

As matters stand, the beautiful post office building at The Square will close soon, with the building then being sold (An Post plans to switch to a ‘contractor-run’ model, i.e. a new postmaster in a new location).

People are angry. Will An Post, reminded of the custom of generations of Roscommon families over the decades, now take heed of the outcry and show loyalty to the community it serves?


 And they’re off!

Well, that was an exhausting online read…

According to reporter Mary Regan (RTE), 38 Government representatives – yep, 38 – will be on St Patrick’s Day duty abroad on behalf of Ireland next month. Between them, they will visit 86 cities in 48 countries.

About 30 ministers will be plane-hopping (the others are various dignitaries, such as the Ceann Comhairle and the AG). It remains to be seen who will be left in charge… we’ll keep readers posted.