Paul Healy’s Week


CNN’s ‘Cuomo Prime Time’ I can take or leave (usually leave). It’s on very late (Irish time) and host Chris can sometimes be insufferable. But tonight, on a final scan of the channels, I see that one of his guests is the truly remarkable William Shatner. What a man!

Now aged 90, the actor/musician/producer is just back from Space, having travelled there on a Blue Origin spacecraft/rocket. Shatner speaks emotionally and powerfully of his experience. Looking great for his age, he really is a remarkable man…articulate, passionate about climate change (and other issues), and with a great zest for life.

It’s hard to believe that it’s over half a century since Shatner first starred in the great television series Star Trek, playing Captain James Kirk. As a kid, I loved that programme, with its captivating cast/crew, including James Doohan as Scotty and Leonard Nimoy as the iconic Spock.

Life on the Starship Enterprise was never dull, much to the delight of young viewers all over the world. In fact, one could say it was ‘Life Jim, but not as we know it’ (one of many great catchphrases from this classic science fiction show). How fitting that Shatner/Kirk should actually go to Space! It’s great to see William Shatner continuing to live long and prosper.



There are three types of people in the world. There are the drivers who acknowledge it when you ‘give way’ for them at a junction/roundabout, etc. Then there are the drivers who rather rudely don’t. Then there are non-drivers, who are exempt from this critique.



After a drop-off at Athlone railway station, I decide, as a post-lockdown novelty, to pop into the Athlone Towncentre shopping centre, which many of us still refer to as the ‘new’ centre.

As I walked in, Tommy Hilfiger to my right, and the enticing aroma of coffee to my left, I thought of how surreal it is that this entire shopping centre was closed (like all retail) for much of the past 20 months or so.

There is less of a Covid ‘vibe’ now, with not as much emphasis on social distancing, although masks were still very much in evidence. The various stores were busy, but not excessively so.

In the aforementioned Tommy Hilfiger store, where there was no sign of Tommy himself, a young lady appeared a little embarrassed about the lack of stock. “We’re just beginning to get stuff in” she said, proudly adding that the changing rooms are back open over the last fortnight or so.

Suddenly, shopping – even browsing – feels like a treat. Meanwhile, the major revamp of our own Main Street (in Roscommon Town) is progressing nicely. And, unlike Athlone, we still have that special advantage over most towns: free parking. Long may that status remain.



If you wanted a definition of a national treasure, you could happily settle on two words: ‘Brendan Kennelly’.

The gifted Kerry man was an academic whose teaching brilliance is cherished by generations of students of Trinity College, where he was Professor of Modern Literature. A man of boundless charm and charisma, he was the People’s Poet. Brendan had the common touch, no doubt about that.

For all his academic prowess and high standing in literary circles, it was probably his appearances on programmes like the Late Late Show that brought Kennelly wider acclaim, and that national treasure status.

We felt as if we knew him. He was charming, intelligent, funny, poetic, a smiling wordsmith with a voice from the Heavens. His death today has evoked sadness, as well as happy memories of the joy and comfort and hope that he brought.



On tonight’s Living with Lucy (Virgin Media), soccer great Paul Gascoigne talked a good game, but in reality he cut a lonely and somewhat pitiful figure.

I say that with regret, because (in as much as we can judge celebrity figures from a distance) Gascoigne comes across as a likeable and funny man, and he was certainly a sensational footballer. Unfortunately, his ‘personal demons’ appear to have taken an awful toll.

His renowned sense of humour is now exhibited with a discernible melancholy. His stories of past escapades are funny, and told well, but there’s a sadness behind his weary eyes.

It’s striking throughout the programme how much ‘Gazza’ misses football. Playing was his escape from real-life pressures, perhaps even from himself. In his prime he was a world class player, and it’s clear – and very touching too – just how much the British public still love him.

Presenter Lucy Kennedy spent a few days with the retired football superstar at his seaside home in the South of England. Everywhere they went, Gascoigne was approached by members of the public, people wanting to thank him for the joy he brought.

His humour and humility shone through, but Gascoigne is a battered, fragile figure now, shadowed by self-destruction. He is also utterly likeable. Currently sober (mostly), it would be great if he could continue on that path, but this programme wasn’t particularly reassuring in that regard. Hopefully brighter days lie ahead for Paul Gascoigne/Gazza. In his brilliant heyday, this working class hero gave pleasure to many millions of people.



Confusion and frustration (yet again) for some within the hospitality industry, as the Government announces a slightly more restricted reopening of society than had been expected a week or two ago.

Nightclubs and bars can fully reopen, but there are some conditions, and the lack of clarity is causing a certain level of frustration and stress.

The big blow for small rural pubs is confirmation that table service will remain mandatory for now, meaning no access to the counter. What is an Irish pub without barstools, and a buzz at the counter? This industry has been hit so hard by the pandemic. Hopefully the overall picture will improve over the coming weeks.



On RTE Radio 1, the ‘pip’ sounds signalling the start of ‘Morning Ireland’ at 7 am are coming a bit stutteringly, like the pip machine is on its last legs. There are a few pips, then a pause. No sound. The pause grows. I’m wondering if even the pips are being restricted now, if things are actually that bad.

It’s not as if I hear the start of Morning Ireland very often, but on this dark morning I’ve just dropped one of our daughters into town to get the bus to Galway. Of course there’s roadworks beside the bus stop now too, meaning cars are parked at unusual angles and the bus driver has to weave into place with some caution. (On the way in, I note there are a few joggers out and about by 6.45 am. Morning, Roscommon).

Mercifully, after that worrying pause, a new pip sounds, followed by another, followed (at 7 am) by the reassuring voice of Rachael English. The world is still okay.