Paul Healy’s Week



I very much enjoyed the Percy French Festival in Castlecoote (Wednesday-Friday) where a number of leading intellectuals from different walks of life – artists too – entertained, challenged and informed around 100 attendees each day. It all happened in the beautiful grounds of Castlecoote House. You can read my views on the event on page 18.




There’s been an outbreak of common sense, or more likely pragmatism – call it what you will – at AIB HQ. They’re not going cashless, not yet at least.

Predictably, there had been a very negative reaction to the bank’s arrogant announcement that 70 branches – including in Castlerea – would be going cashless within a matter of weeks.

The politicians might claim some credit for the U-turn, but it had more to do with the cross-community resistance, with farm organisations, the GAA, etc. all voicing their anger over the plans.

Of course the intervention of the Taoiseach was crucial too. Once he quite properly tut-tutted over the cashless plan, the writing was on the hole in the wall.




Of course AIB couldn’t have made its cashless move without adding in a bit of the humour which our banks excel at. You know the comedy routine by now, with its familiar punchline: ‘We’re going cashless/closing a branch/letting staff go because footfall is down’.

As jokes go, it’s not bad, if a little tired at this stage. They omit to say that one of the reasons footfall is down is because banks are becoming increasingly impersonalised. Yes, staff in our local branches are very friendly and efficient, but they are also almost an endangered species now that the big institutions are relentlessly driving customers online. Now I know that the digitalisation of banking is an irreversible trend, but it would be nice if banks were a bit more socially conscious!

Banks are all about business and finance, but they have also had a role as a kind of social hub. They ought to have a social conscience. Many customers, particularly elderly ones, would still like to engage in face to face contact with a cashier, not to mention meeting up with neighbours and friends. This human interaction is still possible, but less so than in the past. Local staff, people who known the local community, have always been integral to good banking ‘on the ground’ – but the powers-that-be seem indifferent to all that is being lost.

As I wrote here last year at the time of the Bank of Ireland branch closures, banks really ought to be places where commerce and community merge.

Of course people are embracing online banking, but one of the reasons this famous footfall – always used to justify cutbacks – has decreased, is because banks have led us to that point.




Today’s All-Ireland Football final was so engrossing, one is tempted to forgive the GAA for foisting it on us in July. What in Sam’s name are we to do in August, not to mention September itself? I digress.

It was a very enjoyable game, devoid of cynicism and negativity. To paraphrase Pat Spillane: pure football. Mostly. It wasn’t perfect, but it was damn good. Refreshing and relentless, the odd lateral diversion aside. Shane Walsh really was the kid at the gable of the house, brimming with daydreams and joy, every enticing rebound an opportunity for another epic score of the imagination.

I first saw David Clifford in the 2017 All-Ireland minor final, when he scored 4-4, sufficient for me to form the view – there and then – that this, quite probably, was the greatest player of all time announcing his arrival. Destiny and genius merging, I watched…spellbound.

Last Sunday, nowadays a young veteran, he claimed a bit more of the legend and greatness that is indisputably his. With a misfiring Kerry scanning the draft of a broken dream, Clifford hauled his teammates from the darkness and led them to the light. His second mark was celebrated with the conviction of a prize fighter who, having withstood an early pounding, had now restored the natural order.

Kerry were the better team – on balance – but Galway put in a mighty effort. You can read Frank Brandon’s view on page 12, while Seamus Duke reports on the game – and selects his 2022 All Stars – on page 40.




For many years, back in the bad old days, it wasn’t easy to like David Trimble, but it became very easy to respect and admire him…and, eventually, to like him too. News of his death this evening (after a short illness) at just 77 years of age comes as a shock. A giant of Northern Irish politics, he played a major role in the transformation from conflict to peace. One of the principal architects of the Good Friday Agreement, he made an outstanding, mature and courageous contribution to the process of building a future of peace and reconciliation on this island. May he rest in peace.




On a repeat of The Weakest Link, presenter Anne Robinson asks: “What does the W in ‘LW’ in radio broadcasting stand for? Long…?”

Contestant: “Weekend?”




The Women’s European Championships have been great. Tonight, England beat Sweden 4-0, to reach the final. The entire tournament has been extremely enjoyable, with quality football throughout. And who knows, football may actually be coming home.




Watching repeats of live performances by British comedian Lee Evans recently, I’m reminded again that the highly energetic quick-fire star was a truly unique talent. I say ‘was’ because, on googling Evans, I’ve discovered that he actually retired eight years ago, at the age of 50. He really was an amazing performer, as his shows – consistently repeated these days – testify. Absolutely brilliant.