Paul Healy’s Week

Thursday

At long last, that tiresome Golfgate saga is over.

  I’m not making excuses for the colourful cast who played a round of golf, and then dined and partied, while unaware that they were entering some kind of notoriety.

  I remember the public anger, how upsetting it all was for people who had lost loved ones due to Covid, for those who couldn’t visit elderly/ill relatives, for all of us who were observing the guidelines – while politicians, members of the judiciary, media figures and other mildly eminent individuals gathered in what, at the very least, was an ill-judged, arrogant affront to the rest of us.

  People who aired their views in the court of public opinion (Liveline) were beyond furious. They wanted heads to roll, but was the response disproportionate? I think it was.

  Whatever the rights and wrongs, whatever the emotions at the time, I was staggered to see the matter come before the courts many months later. I never believed for one moment that the management of the Station House Hotel would have knowingly facilitated any breach of guidelines. Seventeen months on from the sorry episode, did we really need to go to the expense and silliness of a trial? (Two hoteliers and two of the event organisers have just had all charges against them dismissed).

  The event left a sour taste, no question about that. Those who attended exercised poor judgement, because, even if they didn’t breach guidelines, the very fact that ‘the elite’ were golfing and partying was provocative and insensitive to the wider public at what was a very stressful time.    

  But bringing four individuals to court on charges that were subsequently dismissed was a waste of time – and resources. Sometimes it really is best to just move on, preferably with lessons learnt.

Friday

I love it when slightly reclusive/slightly mysterious Irish tycoons re-emerge after a period in the wilderness (in the media wilderness at least).

  For some time I’ve been wondering where Dermot Desmond (estimated wealth: €2.04 billion) is these days. You’ll never see Dermot on Prime Time, or shooting the breeze with Tommy Tiernan either.

  When he’s in the papers, it’s usually because our Dermot is being featured in one of those ‘Ireland’s Richest’ lists the papers presume readers find fascinating.

  Most nights just before going to bed I wonder what became of Dashing Dermot, famous for his very fetching moustache, that media-shyness, and of course his money-making flair.

  Then, just when I was considering pitching a reality show to the TV people – ‘I’m a Tycoon, Can You Guess Where I Am?’ – Dashing Dermot re-emerged.

  There he was on the fairways and greens in California, playing golf with Seamus Power in the high profile Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Oh, well, I guess I can tear up my Tycoon hunt reality show pitch.

  Anyone for a celebrity version of ‘Come Drink With Me’ (based in the Department of Foreign Affairs)?

Saturday

Ireland began their Six Nations campaign with a very convincing win over Wales, a 29-7 bonus point triumph which maintained the encouraging momentum built up by Andy Farrell’s team during the Autumn Nations Series. Ireland’s win sets up a mouth-watering potentially title-deciding clash with France in Paris this Saturday.

Later on Saturday

If Ireland’s win over Wales was a tasty highlight of the early part of Saturday, the main sporting kudos of the day must go to Cavan golfer Leona Maguire, who made history by becoming the first ever Irish winner on the LPGA Tour.

  While she has been making exciting career progression for some time, the Ballyconnell woman has now moved to a new level, and is rapidly becoming a golf superstar.

  This really is only the beginning for Maguire. She has all the qualities required – including accuracy, a lethal putting touch, and composure under pressure – to win majors and climb closer to the summit of world golf.

  A mention also for the remarkable Seamus Power. Rather like someone who usually stays in the background at parties suddenly becoming the centre of attention, the Waterford golfer has emerged from the shadows of Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry. Building on his brilliant form of recent months, Power shot into a five-stroke lead in this weekend’s Pebble Beach Pro-Am, before slipping back to joint 9th.

Sunday

I’m not sure if they’re aware of the ‘Handbags defence’ in the soccer world, but I’m pretty sure it occasionally gets used in rugby, and it is of course a fixed part of the GAA parlance, a kind of modern-day version of ‘schemozzle’.

  Unless the lads are doing something really, really nasty during an outbreak of violence – er, ‘letting off steam’ – in a GAA match, brawls and fights are quickly dismissed as ‘only handbags’.

  “There wasn’t really a lot in it, it was only handbags”.

  The phrase seems to refer to some unidentified period in our history when fiery women, complete with scarf around their head and possibly even a shawl, might clash in public and start belting one another with their handbags.

  Of course it’s by the way that dismissing a GAA brawl as ‘handbags’ might be highly insulting to some women, the inference being that their rows lacked a certain merit.

  Then, just when the politically correct time came for women to consider taking exception to being stereotyped/drawn into commentary on outbreaks of GAA fighting, along came (some) men with their own version of handbags, or ‘manbags’. So at least now it’s men and women who are being needlessly implicated when the GAA fraternity dismiss a row on the pitch as ‘mere handbags’.

  All of which came to mind today when the Tyrone lads and the Armagh lads tussled and rolled about and wrestled for a few minutes in the closing stages of their National Football League encounter. Referee David Gough sent off five (four of them from Tyrone). Some people agreed with his no-nonsense approach, others said there wasn’t a proper punch thrown (i.e. handbags).

  Meanwhile, Roscommon had a great win in Navan, where there was also another GAA special, our old friend ‘the melee’. I wasn’t there, but the People was represented by Seamus Duke and Mick McCormack (neither of whom are understood to have had manbags with them).

Monday

Former Conservative Party MP and minister Edwina Currie is on with Pat Kenny (Newstalk), for another of their regular jousts on the political scene across the water. After initial niceties, their exchanges usually descend into tedious and quite smug differences of opinion. I usually run a mile from them.

  Today, I’m tuned in. Edwina defends Boris Johnson to the hilt, not unreasonably pointing out that he’s highly intelligent (contrary to the caricature), an electoral asset, and is currently spearheading massive investment in historically underfunded parts of the UK.

  Pat then strikes. How does it feel having a liar as your PM? The exchange gets a touch testy. Edwina plays the Charlie Haughey (‘Hockey’) card, as in ‘You guys had your own tainted/dodgy leader’). She assures Kenny that she would prefer an effective leader who doesn’t behave as people might like, to “a saint like Theresa May” who was “useless”. (May was predecessor to Johnson as UK Prime Minister).

  Just as I’m scolding myself for sticking with another of these Kenny/Currie stand-offs, the interviewee boasts that the UK approved the very first Covid-19 vaccine.

  “Yes, but there was an Irish woman at the head of the company” Pat responded. It was ever so slightly mortifying, like when Ryan Tubridy (and Kenny before him) asks a Late Late Show guest from abroad about their Irish links.

  “There are 30,000 people working for that company, you can’t just pick out one Irish person” Ms. Currie replied (Pat: “I can”). I could almost see her rolling her eyes across the airwaves.

  Next time, I’ll implement a radio version of Groucho Marx’s advice: “I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book”.