Rural champions can come from all walks of life…


Forget Will Grigg (soccer fans will be familiar with the ‘Will Grigg’s on fire’ tribute song to the Wigan player)…Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice, revelling in opposition after cannily turning down a role in Government, is on fire!

  Deputy Eugene Murphy is a passionate Roscommon man who always flies the county’s flag – and indeed he has been very vocal on rural issues since (and prior to) being elected to Dáil Éireann.

  Denis Naughten ticks the same boxes and his wide-ranging ministerial brief is massively relevant to rural Ireland. Naughten has what it takes to impact positively on Roscommon and Ireland in the years ahead.

  However, we have to give a special nod, for now at least, to relentless rural champion Michael ‘Straight Talking’ Fitzmaurice, who is rampaging through the national (and local) media landscape with admirable energy and single-mindedness as he defends rural Ireland from further downgrading at the hands of ‘that crowd’ in Dublin, not to mention the Brussels elite…

  (Direct ‘Fitz’ quote from RTE Radio One on Tuesday night: The prospective vultures preparing to get into bed with Permanent TSB and feast on Irish mortgage-holders are “whippersnappers” and “scumbags”).

Some rural champions have global reach…

Desperate times call for desperate measures and we’re happy at the People to accept every positive mention of Roscommon on a world-renowned television chat show and to consider each one as another campaign boost in the great rural fightback!

  Not having been prompted to do so by Ryan Tubridy during Friday night’s Late Late love-in, actor Gabriel Byrne didn’t deliver, with no mention of the fact that his mother was born in Elphin; thankfully, Ruth Scott has seldom passed on an opportunity to mention ‘the old county’ in her various radio and television contributions; but our ‘Celeb keeping Roscommon in the limelight’ award goes to Boyle-born actor/writer Chris O’Dowd, who has managed to name-check his native county during chat-show appearances with both Stephen Colbert and Graham Norton (not to mention ‘Ad infinitum’ on Twitter).

Some are media magnets…

If the rural revival could be achieved by positivity alone – and it sure can help – then Paddy Joe has done the cause no harm over the years.

  Barber Paddy Joe Burke, Roscommon’s most famous GAA fan, always speaks with positivity when he features in ‘da media’.

  Paddy Joe is credited with inventing the term ‘Rossie’ and is also on record describing Roscommon as “the most famous city in the world”.

  When it comes to Roscommon football, and hopefully the same applies to rural Ireland, we know that Paddy Joe’s sincere, heartfelt mantra remains:

  ‘The best is yet to come’.

Some are in the media…

As RTE’s Midlands Correspondent, it’s Ciaran Mullooly’s job to cover ‘this patch’, but there’s no denying the extra passion (beyond his professional mandate) he brings to coverage of issues concerning rural Ireland… with many communities, groups and individuals across a number of counties benefitting from his varied reports, including Nationwide features and a celebrated documentary on the restoration of St. Mel’s Cathedral in Longford.

  Mullooly has also ‘put his money where his mouth is’, so to speak, by involving himself in a number of voluntary community projects, in both Ballyleague/Lanesboro and Roscommon town.

  Could a political career yet beckon for the popular Mr. Mullooly?

  Joe Finnegan will play ‘devil’s advocate’ when the need arises, but loyalty to and concern for rural Ireland is never far from the surface when the current affairs voice of Shannonside/Northern Sound is in full flow. Agree or disagree with him, there’s no denying that, for many thousands of listeners, Finnegan sets the morning agenda in these parts. Finnegan’s a rural champion, no doubt about it.

  Honourable mention: Patsy McGarry, with his great turn of phrase and that gentle writing style, waves the Ballaghaderreen/Roscommon flag at every opportunity.

  He’s not a Rossie, but he lives close to the Roscommon border, so I’m including the great Michael Harding as a rural champion. A talented writer, a great guest on radio or television, a thoughtful, funny and intelligent man who makes us laugh – and think.