Seamus Duke Media Roscommon

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Covid 19 – A Diary Part 16 to 20

A Diary – Part 17

Thursday 28th May

When I started doing this diary (about twice a week) if you told me that it would extend to 10 parts I would have been casting doubts on your judgement and sanity, but here we are at part 17,and it looks like the situation we are in could last into 2021 and beyond the way it is going.We will go to part 20 and review it after that!

The general situation is encouraging, and when you hear one of the health experts say on Morning Ireland this week that the disease has been ‘almost eliminated from the community’ it gives great hope. But anyone who thinks that we are out of the woods yet is mistaken. There is clearly a long way to go.

Nevertheless, the pace of the re-opening of our economy seems very slow. Not alone are we learning more and more about this deadly virus every day as a people, but so are the health professionals who have been making decisions on our behalf for the past three months.

Those health professionals have been doing a great job but it is becoming clearer with every passing day that we have to get the country back working and we have to learn to live with this virus. All shops should be open as long as they follow the guidelines for instance.

If Dunnes and Tesco and the other big shops are allowed to be open then smaller shops should be as well. It’s still a long time to wait until August the 10th when the final phase of the re-opening is scheduled. Pubs and restaurants are a different matter I will admit that much.

I read today where summer camps such as the GAA Cul camps will most likely be going ahead and I heartily welcome that, Young kids, who have very little chance of ever catching this virus deserve to be allowed out in the fresh air to enjoy some sort of life after the lock down as long as the camps are well run.

I have said it before but my heart also goes out to young people from the ages of 14 to 30. When we were that age we had school dances and hops, festivals, concerts, matches, dances, nightclubs, ceili’s and every manner of event where one could meet other young people to socialise and inter-act . All that is now gone. Will people ever dance with anyone else other than members of their own family again? It is a truly depressing thought if that turns out to be the case. It’s also a fact that the chances of any of those young people picking up summers jobs this year are almost nil.

I suspect that along with everyone else who has been severely affected by this situation that I have good days and not so good days. Sometimes it is hard to grapple with the enormity of what has happened over the past three months.

Some days it is so easy to get into the depths of despair as you realise that your whole world has been changed and disrupted. When you get used to getting up early in the day and going to work for all of your life it is very difficult to adjust to this new situation. I have had a number of those days but thankfully far more good ones than bad.

Music has always been a huge part of my life and now, save for playing a few tunes on the lap top, it looks like it will be a long time before we hear any kind of music in a pub or restaurant or hotel or anywhere else. Like the GAA championship it’s a huge hole in my life this year.

Our continuing saving grace is the beautiful weather. Today I take a walk for the 75th day in a row since this all started which is a big plus for me. It is also a blessing to be living in a place like Roscommon where there is plenty of space and places to walk and take exercise and breathe in the fresh air.

The Ros FM programme has been a life-saver for me. Although it is a voluntary effort, it has given me a focus and a purpose and gets me out of the house for a few hours every day during the week. Myself and Dan Dooner are thrilled that it has been a success because we have put a lot of work into it.

We still don’t have a Government and we need one badly. The health professionals’ advice is vital and so important but it needs to be balanced by pragmatic and practical advice on re-opening the economy and getting our lives back on track.

I spoke to a local senior medical professional this week (a doctor) who remarked to me that if the health professionals alone are left to formulate how we exit from this situation then the economy will be headed for the biggest recession since the famine. It was a remarkable but very honest statement from a medical professional who also says we will have to learn to live with the virus for the foreseeable future and he agreed that young people from the ages of 15 to 30 are being totally forgotten about.
It seemed like a lot of sense to me.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 18

Wednesday 3rd June

Under normal circumstances the Leaving and Junior Cert exams would be starting today but there are doubts whether we will ever see them again and especially in the format that we were used to. The future of third level students and how they are going to proceed from now on is another consequence of this pandemic. But that’s for another day.

There are still cases and deaths being reported around the country but there is justifiable optimism that the measures that have been taken by the people of the country have paid off. However the evidence over the past couple of weeks of beautiful weather would suggest that there is fairly widespread flouting of the rules on social distancing.

Locally I know that in places like Portrun and Ballyleague at the weekend there were hundreds of young people who were out swimming and enjoying the sunshine. I’m sure it was the same situation all over the country too. I have a lot of sympathy for the younger generation who have been largely ignored since this situation has began but we have got to be careful as a society. The last thing we need is for any restrictions to be re-imposed.

The biggest scandal of all in this country at the moment is the apparent complete lack of urgency by our elected politicians to form a Government. We went to the polls on February the 8th and there is not even the remotest sign of a resolution with the country facing it’s biggest recession in the history of the state and with many huge decisions to be taken on several fronts. It’s a shocking disgrace that four months on there is very little movement.

The Greens need 66% of their membership to agree to go into Government and from what I can gather that has no chance of happening. We could be back to square one by the end of next week. Fianna Fail and Fine Gaels in particular should hang their heads in shame at the situation.They just don’t seem to grasp the enormity of the situation we are in at the moment.

While the politicians continue to do everything except the job that they were elected to do we have a number of Ministers like Regina Doherty, Shane Ross and others who are still in office, getting paid and making decisions despite the fact that they lost their seats in the election.

The medical people and civil servants are now running the country and I am very surprised that there is not far more of a controversy about this among the general public. No one seems to care

Monday is the 8th of June and it will see another phase of the re-opening of the economy, and while Ireland seems to be doing well generally , for people like me who are out of work and who look like there will be no going back anytime soon, the situation is dragging out and it seems like things will never return to normal. I am not a supporter of the ultra cautious approach which we are taking here.

But we have to be patient I suppose. At least sport is returning. There is top quality racing at the weekend in the UK and the Premier League will be back next week which is something. But the absence of the GAA activity is very hard to get used to. It’s only when there are no games to go to that you realise just how much a part of your life that it is.

I hope that the kids are allowed to get back out in the fresh air at GAA clubs throughout the country soon. Even if there are no games it will be good for everyone’s mental well-being.

Two other things have come up in the past week. The covid-19 pandemic has meant that almost all our health services have been geared towards treating that disease, but several other very serious conditions have been ignored as a result.

People are not going to the doctor or to hospital if they have heart problems or are worried about cancer. Screening has taken a back seat and there will be huge problems ahead as very serious conditions will be missed as a result and there will be major, and even possibly fatal implications for the health service down the line
The other very sad thing over the past week has been the situation in the USA. It’s a country that I love. I lived and worked there for a year and have been back to visit at least a dozen times since. It’s no co-incidence that the level of hatred and division in the USA has gone up several levels since President Donald Trump has been elected. He is the most divisive President that we have seen in our lifetime and there is a real possibility that this man could actually get re-elected later this year, despite everything that is going on.

My fear would be that while the situation there now is very dangerous, it is going to get worse as the election campaign really gets going later in the year. I’m not a huge Joe Biden fan either and I wonder is he the man to defeat Trump.

It is truly amazing that Trump retains such a a big core support. Some one remarked on a news programme last week that Trump could shoot someone dead live on TV and not lose much of his core support which is probably true but very, very sad. You only have to look at how he has handled the virus outbreak to see just how unsuited and arrogant he is for high office never mind to be the President of the USA.

This great country is being torn apart and it is set to get worse over the next few months.

In the meantime I wish all the people who are going back to work in the next week the very best of luck. I wish I was among them but I live in hope.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 19

Tuesday 9th June

All the old clichés have been rolled out since the weekend and the most used one has probably been ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. There is no doubt that the last four of five days have been the most positive period that we have had since this pandemic totally changed our lives three and a half months ago.

The Irish people (well, the vast majority of them) have done brilliantly and have followed the guidelines to the point where the authorities have decided to speed up the exit from lock down. As a result there is no doubt that there is pep in the step of everyone in the past few days that that certainly includes yours truly. It means that I might even get back to some sort of work over the next couple of months, which would be brilliant. The fingers are now crossed!

It would be fantastic to see the GAA matches back and even if it was only club action it would be a great relief to us all. However behind all the euphoria that we have seen since the weekend, we will have to recognise that not all players will be happy to return to training or playing for whatever reason and we will all have to respect that choice. But that’s for another day in 6 or 8 weeks time.

It was heartwarming to drive down the town of Roscommon on Monday and see most of the shops open again. These are small shops operated by local people and who have been closed for 12 weeks. I hope that there is big local support for those shops now to help them get back on their feet. That’s so vital if we want the rural economy to survive.

It is also so positive to see the economy in general starting slowly but I hope the readers will not mind if I sound a note of caution. Up to now the medical people and the politicians have made the decisions for us. As the country comes out of lock down, the onus will revert to individuals to observe the rules and people will have to be sensible. The last thing we want is for another lock down to be imposed if there is a fresh surge of cases.

Readers of this diary will know that I have been pleading for the restrictions to be relaxed a bit quicker but I also realise the responsibility for the health of the community lies with every single person to pay attention to the advice we are being given. We cannot afford to go back to a lock down situation for so many reasons.

Live sport is returning as the weeks go on and for a sports fanatic like me that is great news. The Premier League, the Championship, The Spanish League and the American Golf will all be on our screens from this weekend on and that will signal that the world is emerging from the grip of this virus.

When things were normal I would watch only news and sports programmes on TV and very little else. However since this situation has arose I have watched several box sets including Narcos, Narcos Mexico, The Crown (which I enjoyed) .Billions, Leeds United Take Me Home (I’m serious), Sunderland Till I die (a great series) and I am currently watching The Last Dance which is as fine a series as I have ever watched and essential viewing for any sports fan. I have also watched The Bundesliga and UK Horse Racing which I would normally not watch at all. All that plus the fact that I have not missed a day walking since the 14th March! It’s been a fundamental change of lifestyle in common with hundreds of thousands of others.

We have come a long way surely and the signs are good at the moment but it would be wise not to forget that this virus has taken a massive toll on a lot of people in our country and society that we might not be aware of.

Over the last week or so I have met many, mostly from the older generation who are still terrified of getting the virus and who have been cooped up in their homes for the past three and a half months. Make no mistake, this has been very, very tough on many people. In some cases it has broken their spirit. It is one of the things we have got to bear this in mind as we emerge from the biggest public health emergency in 100 years.

We are on the way out of this but we have to be very careful. We certainly do not want to go back to where we were. It would finish a lot of people mentally. I am hoping that the next part of this diary will be my last one. It has been a good week for sure.

Stay Safe People

A Diary – Part 20

Monday 15th June

The last diary entry highlighted the positivity of the news coming from a lot of sectors and that news has continued to roll thankfully. Today the shopping centres will re-open and for many Irish people the news that club GAA action will return at the end of July is fantastic news.

But despite our joy there are still a lot of hurdles to overcome by everyone concerned. The GAA is an amateur organisation and every single club AND every team within that club will have to appoint someone as a covid officer responsible for the application of the rules and regulations. That position will be a very onerous one carrying huge responsibilities. It will be easy enough to find such people to volunteer for the adult teams but there are big problems ahead getting people to fulfil those roles for every single team especially underage teams. The GAA will also have to pay attention to the safety of players and team officials, gate collectors, referees and umpires never mind the spectators. It will be a massive undertaking job for the association.

But it is fantastic to see live sport back on our TV screens again. There was a brilliant story in Racing at the weekend when trainer Ger Lyons and jockey Colin Keane won the Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh on Saturday. A victory for the small man which is always great to see.

The Golf returned at the weekend too and there was plenty of drama iin Texas as Daniel Berger emerged victorious after a number of twists and turns. This week the Premier League returns and the Championship is back at the weekend.
It was also fantastic to see the scenes from New Zealand at the weekend where they had a dramatic return to their Rugby season with a full-contact Super 14 match played in front of a packed stadium. It shows that normal life can resume.

It also looks as if we are going to have a Government after four months of stalling and throwing shapes. What i that government will be like for the people of rural Ireland in particular remains to be seen. But the politicians have been very slow to get their act together in the face of the biggest crisis that the country has faced since the foundation of the state. They will have many huge decisions to take to steer us out of this crisis. It’s time they got off their arses and went to work on behalf of the people who elected them.

Personally, there is still not much sign of a return to work although the fact that the GAA season is about to get underway in August gives one a glimmer of hope in that regard.

But the chances of the pub scene coming back anywhere near where it was are remote to say the least. I’m aware of people who were back in a pub situation in Canada over the weekend (they opened the pubs there last week) and the regulations were so strict that they were sorry that they didn’t stay at home because they didn’t enjoy it at all. That doesn’t bode well for what is likely to happen here.

The numbers of cases here are falling all the time and the people of the country have made huge sacrifices to get us to where we are. But we are certainly not out of the wood by a long way. The increased activity and the re-opening of the economy, welcome as it is, means that the chances of infection grow every day. The fear of a second wave remains ever-present but the country must re-open.

This day two weeks the hairdressers and barbers will be back in business (thank God!) and the hotels will re-open as well. People will be able to go to mass soon too which is also a big boost to It’s all very positive and the good weather has meant that personally I have taken more exercise since this started than I have done in the past twenty years.

But there are still a lot of people in our community who are living in fear and terrified of being infected by this deadly virus.
It has disrupted our lives in ways that we never thought possible but hopefully we can begin the long road to a return to normal life as the year continues.

I don’t know if this will be the last diary entry as the country is opening again, and even the programme that myself and Dan Dooner have been doing on Ros FM is also coming to an end on Friday week. It’s a sign that things are returning to normal.

Put it this way. If this diary does return it will be a sign that we are back in trouble again. So hopefully this is the end of it!

Thanks for reading it over the past four months.

Stay Safe People

Covid 19- A Diary Part 13 to 16

A Diary Part 13

Thursday 7th May

It’s eight weeks now and we all have to acknowledge that marvellous weather we have had. Indeed if this cursed virus had not arrived the papers and media would be full of reports on probably the best spring weather that we have had in decades. It is certainly true that the good weather has helped us all to get through this situation so far. You could imagine what the mood of the people would be like if the skies were grey and it was raining every day. For small mercies we are very grateful.

It has meant that those of us without work have had a chance to get out and exercise and that has been a God send. The voluntary work that I’m doing on Ros FM is also a chance to get out of the house for a few hours in the day and it provides me with a semblance of normality for a couple of hours each day. So it’s not all bad.

But looking ahead the signs are not good. While the Government have come with their plan to re-open the economy, it will take a long,long time before there is any return to normality. I am part of the one million people out of work at the moment and the prospects are not looking great for the rest of the year.

The chances of there being and significant sporting action this year with regard to team sport is very remote indeed. The GAA have announced that they are suspending activity until October and they should be congratulated for that. It’s a responsible attitude to take, but in the absence of a vaccine there simply cannot be any action this year at any level. The risks are simply too great. If there was any serious incident anywhere in the country wherby a player brought the virus home and it caused the death or serious illness of any of his or her family then there would be uproar.

The simple facts are that you can take all the precautions you like with regard to social distancing, but when a game starts all those rules go straight out the window. You cannot have any GAA match, football ,hurling, camogie, or ladies football without physical contact. These are amateur players. We cannot take any chances at all.

What they do with the Premier League or with Rugby is completely different. There are full time players involved in those sports and they can take measures that would not be possible in the GAA.

By the way I have skin in this game. The quicker that team sport comes back the better it would suit me. It would mean that I would have a chance of a return to work. But there is a bigger picture.

With regard to the re-opening of the pubs, it is also something that I would welcome but it has to be done when the risk is low. This week some of the publicans were agitating to re-open ahead of the plan. I have been speaking to a number of local publicans since that came to light and they have all told me that under the plan put forward it would not be viable for any of them to open their premises regardless of the risks. This is an attempt by some people who own very big pubs in Dublin and elsewhere and who serve food, to re-open. It won’t be happening in places like Roscommon before time, and rightly so too. I would love to be able to go for a couple of pints but It will be July or August before the pubs in rural areas are open again in my humble opinion.

But I see no reason why smaller shops like clothes shops, and other retail outlets are not allowed to re-open. If the supermarkets are allowed to be open then other smaller businesses should be allowed to open too as long as they can observe the rules on social distancing. We just have to get the economy going again, in safety.

Looking ahead to the rest of the years it is not looking great. We are all going to have to adjust to a new normality and a lot of it is depressing. but we have to get on with it I suppose.

Our way of life in this country has changed, and for a lot of people it will change forever which is very sad. Maybe a vaccine will change everything but that maybe a long way into the future-if it ever arrives.

Here are a list of things that many people in this country will certainly not be doing this year- and some will never be doing again:
• Go to an inter-county GAA game
• Go to race meeting
• Go to a Soccer match
• Attend a club GAA match
• Attend the All-Ireland finals
• Go to the Rose of Tralee
• Go to the Electric Picnic
• Go to a removal
• Attend a funeral
• Shake hands with anyone
• Hug or embrace anyone outside of your family
• Dance in a pub or night-club
• Collect the GAA club lotto
• Attend a public meeting
• Go on a foreign holiday
• Take a flight
• Go to a dinner dance
• Go to a party
• Attend a concert
• Attend a play or theatre
• Attend a festival
• Go to stag or hen party
• Attend a wedding
• Participate in a sing-song in a pub
• Attend a school reunion
• Have a few drinks after a round of Golf
There are hundreds more things that I cannot think of at the moment.

“Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor.” (Marianne Williamson)

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 14

Tuesday 12th May

When I started this diary I was hoping to be winding it up at this stage. This virus was serious, but we all thought that after a couple of months that it would all be over. The reality now is that it could go on for at least another six months, and even that might be an optimistic target.

I know that we all have to stay positive and we have to remember the people who have lost loved ones because of this disease but as the days roll into weeks and as the weeks roll into months I hate what this dirty, dangerous, vicious and lethal virus has done to our country and our society.

Last Saturday morning I was out for my daily walk in Roscommon Town in the warm sunshine. I was proceeding along Circular Road opposite Ward’s Hardware shop. A woman was approaching me on the footpath. I would say she was in her late 60’s early 70’s. As I got closer she lunged into a doorway, turned away and put her two hands over her face in a corner facing the door.. I thought that she may be having some sort of attack, so I slowed down. But as I passed her, she took down her hands and continued on her way.

Are we now living in a society where there are people terrified to even see another human being, let alone say hello or bid the time of day? If the answer to that question is yes then we are all in serious trouble as a result of this bloody pandemiic. I have to say I was shocked and saddened by that incident.

The situation that we are in at the moment means that Tony Holohan, Catherine Motherway, Sam McConkey, Paul Reid, Paul Moynagh and several others who we had never heard of before are the people making the decisions on how we live our lives and whether we will be allowed to work or to travel or to socialise or how we interact with each other.

I am not losing sight of the fact that we are living in a public health emergency but at some stage life must return to some sort of normal. It will be very difficult, but we will have to try to learn to live with this virus and be able to earn a living for our families and for our sanity as well.

I have said consistently that there will be no Gaelic Games action this year and the weekend speech by the GAA President John Horan all but confirmed that. Then on Monday the Club Players Association said that 22% of their members will definitely not return to action in the absence of a vaccine while another 22% are unsure. Take the bottom figure of 22% out of any small club team and they simply won’t be able to field.

No one has asked the referees how they feel about the situation either. Are they happy to officiate at games in any return to action? I think someone should consult them as well.

The absence of a GAA championship or any GAA action will mean a massive hole in my life and in the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Ireland this year.

Our society is going to pay a huge price as a result of this pandemic not only in economic terms but in terms of well-being and mental health,, employment and many other very important ways that we have yet to even realise.

The fact that people who are ill with other ailments that have nothing to do with covid-19 and who are scared to go to see their doctor or go to a hospital is a major issue and there will be a huge spike in deaths from non-virus conditions in the coming months.

While I’m at it, there are a few groups who have been totally ignoring the social distancing regulations over the past 9 weeks and it would appear that absolutely nothing is being done to call these people to order. So called ethnic groups and some non nationals can be seen in every town and village flouting the regulations yet the rest of us have to play our part and abide by the rules. It’s infuriating to be honest.

On Monday next a lot of people, including the construction sector will be returning to work and I wish them all the very best of luck. I cannot see why clothes shops and other retail outlets cannot open next week too as long as they can operate the guidelines. The more people that we can get back to work the better. We cannot lie under this virus forever.

The fact that there will be no pubs, no GAA and very little local sport means that my sabbatical from work is set to continue indefinitely, but the Rossie Way radio programme has been a very welcome distraction in the past six weeks and it has been a great success. It shows what can be achieved with a bit of publicity and hard work. Well done to Roscommon Lions Club for their initiative.

The Bundesliga returns this weekend. It’s not a league that I have ever watched before. But I’ll be watching this weekend. Those who play Golf can go out from Monday onwards too which is welcome. If the good weather continues it will be a great release for people to get back out in the fresh air.

But despite the awful situation we are in we must persevere and hope that in time this situation will pass. Some day we will shake hands again. Some day we will embrace our friends and comfort the bereaved and go to the church to pray, and celebrate weddings and birthdays and anniversaries. Some day we will be able to go for a pint with a friend for a chat. Some day we will go to matches again and cheer and shout and some day we will dance and enjoy each others’ company. We have to have that hope.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope”

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 15

Monday 18th May

I waited until today to do the next part of the diary as it marks the first phase of the re-opening of the country and to be honest it had to happen. Life may never return to normal again the way we knew it but people have got to get out there and try to get things back on an even keel. We will simply have to get used to living with this awful disease.It’s part of our lives now.

Despite the fact that my own work will probably be the last to return ( if ever) I am glad to see that construction workers and many others are back today and I wish them well. The more people back working the better.

If the employers take a responsible attitude there is no reason why we cannot get the economy going again. Similarly the people working in garden centres and hardware shops will be thrilled to be going back to work today and I wish them all the best of luck.

But there are other sectors of our economy still closed that makes no sense to me. If the likes of Tesco’s and Dunnes and Supervalue are allowed to be open, why can’t small clothes and other small shops be allowed to open as long as they obey the rules? They could have a bell on the door and only allow a few people in the shop at any one time.It’s better than them being closed. The longer they are closed the less likely that they will re-open when this is over.

I also cannot understand why our churches remain off limits. I am no religious fanatic but it makes no sense to me. In some European countries churches did not close at all and the majority of countries across Europe are opening their places of worship this week. Daily mass in Roscommon Town and in other churches around the country was sparsely attended before all this started and it would be very easy to operate social distancing in that instance. The bigger crowds that go on a Sunday might be more of a problem but surely the bishops could come up with a plan that works in that instance.

The cohort of people that I feel most sorry for at the moment are our young people. We have heard non-stop about the over 70’s and all the other groups affected by this terrible virus (and rightly so too) but there hasn’t been a word about the huge negative effect that this is all having on the younger set, particularly those from 16 to 30.

From the time we were 14 or 15 until we got married we had so many opportunities to meet members of the opposite sex with school discos, dances, night clubs, pubs, social clubs, concerts, festivals, matches and countless other events. Now that’s all gone and it is unlikely to be back any time soon. Young people need their friends, it’s as simple as that.

From today people can gather in groups of four outside to meet their friends and I hope that is the start of something positive for our young people. They have to live too.

I just hope that people do not abuse the easing of restrictions and that a phased return to some sort of normality can begin. To be quite honest the past 10 weeks have been a nightmare but we have to get on with it.

Last week a good friend of mine, Gerry Corcoran passed away after a brave battle against illness. Once again we had to make do with standing on the side of the road to pay our respects. It is a very hard time on families who lose loved ones. It must be incredibly lonely to have to say good bye with only a few people there to share in the grief and the memories. It’s probably the cruellest of all consequences of this pandemic. My heart goes out to all the families involved,

This week should be one of the most exciting of the whole year. If Roscommon had beaten London in the Connacht championship on the first Saturday in May it would be Roscommon v Mayo at Dr Hyde Park this Saturday evening in the Connacht semi-final.

Not only would this be one of the biggest games in Connacht for many years but there would be huge interest in it nationally as well with a big TV audience ready to tune in . Having beaten Mayo in such dramatic circumstances in 2019 the build up would be incredible as Roscommon would be putting their Connacht title on the line. I will so miss that this week.

Not alone would Hyde Park be packed but so would the town of Roscommon. It’s one of those magical days that we savour so much as GAA people and especially for us who work in the local media.

Now the only thing in Dr Hyde Park on Saturday evening will be the daisies and a summer breeze. The big question is. Will we ever see those days again? This is such a loss on so many levels

I hate this bloody virus.

“For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’……”
John Greenleaf Whittier

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 16

Saturday 23rd May

Ten weeks on and our world has been turned upside down. I’m delighted that some people are back to work and some businesses are open again but there are still large numbers of who are still out of work and for whom the future is decidedly unclear.

One major aspect of this whole situation is the mental strain that a lot of people are under as a result of what has happened. I was talking to a friend this week who is a prominent businessman and he is struggling with the enormity of what has happened to him and his family over the past 10 weeks.

I would wager that there are tens of thousands of people like him out there but we don’t’ hear anything about them. The vast majority of people I know would never commit their thoughts to Facebook or Twitter nor would they confide in anyone if they were having a problem with their mental health. It’s going to be a massive issue in our society if this crisis does come to an end at some stage.

On Friday there were suggestions that people entering Ireland should be sent to ‘holding areas’ where they would be isolated for 14 days. The only things that weren’t mentioned were barbed wire fences and guard dogs. It’s another sign that our health experts and doctors are now running the country and that the politicians have no say at all. That regulation finishes the tourism industry with one swipe of the pen.

I am not for one minute trying to diminish the brilliant work carried out by Tony Holohan and all the other people who are running the health service and we should be grateful as a country that they were there to take the decisions that they did at the start of this crisis. But the country has got to start re-opening under the restrictions established. The situation where the Government are paying out billions of Euro every month to people out of work is simply not sustainable. That money will have to be paid back and I think most people know who usually pays back these debts. It’s the ordinary Joe and Josephine soap.

With regard to the GAA the situation is very unclear. You read the likes of Colm O’Rourke in the Sunday Independent and he makes so much sense about allowing action to return But then you see a survey in Cavan of all club players which reveals that 30% would not be comfortable to return to action this year. If that’s an accurate figure then there could be no club championships this year, never mind inter-county action. Things might be different in a couple of months but for the moment a return to GAA action is off the agenda.

At least there was some sort of a return to live sport last weekend with the Bundesliga and the Golf and while neither event will go down as the sporting highlights of the year it was good to see players back in action. I know I sat down and watched the return of llve sport and I enjoyed it too.

I hope what we saw on Claire Byrne Live is not what we can expect to see when the pubs re-open. If it is, then the Irish pub will be finished. For the majority of pubs the social distancing rules will mean that very few will be viable, and even at that it is hard to know how the situation could be controlled as the night goes on. I know that I go into the pub for a chat with my friends. I don’t want to be sitting two meters away from them shouting at them to be heard. It’s a non-runner.

The situation with regard to music is even more bleak. It looks like dancing is a thing of the past which is incredibly sad. People who know me know that I absolutely love popular music. Anything from the 60’s to the current charts. Even after all the years I still get a great thrill out of playing a few tunes now and again. The prospect of that happening in the medium to long term future is very unlikely.

It’s been 10 weeks and being involved on a voluntary basis with Ros FM on the Rossie Way programme has been a life-saver for me. It means I get out of the house for a few hours every day Monday to Friday. The programme has been a great success but I suspect that it will be coming to an end soon and I cannot wait to get back to work. Any kind of work.

This evening (Saturday) if Roscommon had beaten London and Mayo had beaten Leitrim it would have been Roscommon v Mayo in Hyde Park in the Connacht semi-final, What excitement there would have been between the build up and the game itself. Will we ever see the likes of it again?

Hopefully the number of cases and deaths will continue to fall because if there is a spike at any stage and the lockdown is re-introduced it would be the last straw for a lot of people. Obey the restrictions and keep washing your hands.

It’s our only hope.

Stay Safe People

Covid 19- A Diary Part 9 To Part 12

A Diary Part 9
Saturday 18th April

It’s now five weeks on, and the indications are that the sacrifices being made by the Irish people in terms of the restrictions are beginning to pay off in terms of positive cases and lives lost which is fantastic. But if anyone thinks that we will be returning to any kind of normal in the foreseeable future, they are going to be very disappointed. This will take a long, long time to resolve.

It may be that after May 5th that the ban on over 70’s going out might be lifted and that some hardware and shops and garden centres will be allowed to open. It may also happen that some construction work will be allowed to re-start, but that will be it.

I am not a health expert of any description, but it is hard to see the schools opening again before September. The pubs will be the last businesses to be allowed to open. In fact anywhere that there is the possibility for crowds to gather in close proximity will be out for most, if not all of this year.

Chatting to several people this week I am now convinced that there cannot be any team sports this year, and that includes the GAA.

Let’s ignore the crowds for a minute. If any kind of GAA (or any amateur team sports) were to resume we would be asking 50 (2 teams) of young men and women to gather in dressing rooms togging out. They would then be expected to run hard, tackle, sweat and cough as players do in every game, and then they would have to tog in again.

But the biggest danger is that every one of those young people would have families that they have to go home to, elderly parents and grandparents, partners, girl-friends and boyfriends, brother and sisters. I would be amazed if that was allowed to happen. Rugby is in the same position and so is amateur Soccer.

The Premier League and the elite players in that sport are in a different position. They are still vulnerable but they are contracted to play when they are told to do so even if they have reservations. With so much money involved I can see the Premier League and the Champions League being completed behind closed doors and on TV in July and August.

But without a vaccine I cannot see much team sport happening this year. There is no way around it.
I can see how Golf would be allowed to resume without any spectators, maybe Tennis and Horse Racing too without any people attending. The next few months will tell.

But that’s just sport ,and we will get by without it if we have to. The situation in our nursing homes is heart breaking and very sad. The huge loss of life in our care homes is one real down side of this crisis. So many old and vulnerable people are losing their lives.

It is heart breaking that these elderly people who have worked all their lives and in most cases have raised families, are faced with ending their days alone with no family there to comfort them.

The HSE, the Government and HIQA and making frantic attempts to improve the situation in nursing homes which is welcome but I hope that it is not too late.

With so many health care workers testing positive for covid-19 it is a further reminder to us that these people are putting their health at risk every time they go into work. We will be forever in their debt.

On a personal level, the exercise is continuing thankfully and the weather is fine but it is hard to see an end to the grinding boredom of this lockdown. Our only consolation is that it’s for the greater good.

Here’s to better days ahead.

Stay Safe People.

A Diary Part 10

Wednesday 22nd April

It was tomorrow six weeks ago that Leo Varadkar made his speech from Washington and since then our lives have been turned upside down. I have tried to be as honest as possible writing this diary and have tried to accentuate the positives where they exist. There is much that is positive going on for sure, but I have to say my mood has darkened considerably this week.

On a personal note the fact that it is unlikely that there will be any local or inter-county sport this year and also the fact that the pubs will probably be the last businesses to re-open means that it is very unlikely that I will have any work to go to for the rest of this year.

A neighbour and good friend of mine and of our family over many years passed away suddenly last night and it is extremely frustrating not being able to go into the house and sympathise with his heartbroken wife and family. This is one of the worst things about this situation brought about by this cursed disease.

I read today that it will shortly become mandatory for people to wear a mask in public because talking may spread this virus. So as bad as things were up to now, we are now being told that not alone are we to avoid any contact with other people, we are told that we probably should not be talking to them either.

Before people come with the arguments about saving lives and being responsible I understand all that fully and I have complied to the letter of the law with the restrictions.

I have family members on the front line of the health service too and I understand the challenges they face every day. But there is a big difference between existing and living and what most people have been doing over the past six weeks has been existing, hoping that the day passes as quickly as possible. There are only so many times you can cut the lawn and go for a walk and watch the news.

There are no arguments to the social distancing rules, but the facts are that they are having a devastating effect on the mental health of some people who are afraid to speak out. I would ask the question, is this a price that we as a society are willing to pay or what will be the fall-out?

If, for instance, there is not any significant changes in the restrictions for the rest of the summer what type of society are we going to return to in the long term? One where people avoid each other at all costs? It’s something that we will all have to think about over the next month or two. We have all done our duty for the past six weeks but if you told people that this situation will probably last until 2021 would the reaction be any different?

It is clear that the restrictions being endured by people are having a positive effect in the general population although the ongoing situation in our nursing homes is very worrying.
The nurses, doctors and the front line workers are doing a great job under enormous pressure and they will be forever in our debt as a nation and that needs to be said as many times as possible
But the question I ask today is how long are people willing to exist before they have a chance to live their lives again?

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 11

Monday 27th April

First the positive stuff, and there is much that is positive. The weather has been simply glorious, and for those of us who were not great in terms of taking exercise, this situation has been a God send. Thankfully I have not missed a day in over 6 weeks. It has meant a small bit of weight loss and I am definitely in better shape now than I was 15 years ago. It also means that I can sleep at night too!

It would also appear that sport will be easing back into our lives as the weeks go on. Golf and maybe even Horse Racing could be back behind closed doors within the next month as they operate in big open outdoor areas and social distancing will be possible.

Other sports such as GAA, Rugby and Soccer will be far more tricky to organise and return. Today I read where the GAA could well agree to a programme to testing for players, backroom staff , media and anyone else who might attend a championship game behind closed doors although I think we are a long way off that scenario at the moment.

But I just want to mention the members of the Roscommon senior football team who organised the fund-raiser for the Mayo/Roscommon Hospice. They set a target of 30,000 Euro and now it look like they will get closer to 50,000 Euro. That’s a charity that is close to my heart and I have been involved for the past few years with the group. The pandemic has meant that their fund-raising has collapsed and this is a wonderful gesture from the Roscommon players led by Colm Lavin.

There are a lot of great initiatives in terms of fund-raising going on all over the country and it is hugely positive to see that even in the face of such a calamity people are prepared to think of others.

But the enormity of the implications of this horrible virus are beginning to dawn of people. Only last week on one day I learned of a threat or the cancellation of The Galway Races (150,000 people), The Ploughing Championships (250,000), The Electric Picnic (60,000), and the Rose of Tralee (100,000 ).
Those are just four big events out of the thousands of smaller ones that go on every summer in this country. Quite how the economy is going to recover from all this is hard to comprehend.

Every day I look at the death notices in the papers and on every single notice for the past 6 weeks it says ‘a mass in celebration of his/her life will be held at a later date’. At this stage by my reckoning there are well over 1,000 such situations. The uncomfortable fact is that the vast majority of those masses will never be said. The priests are not there to say them number one, and unless families agree to have fifteen or twenty names included in the same mass it won’t be happening, which is sad. The longer the restrictions go on the less likely it will be that those masses will ever be said.

The PC brigade are out in force on social media too and there are a number of people who would be delighted if the pubs in this country never opened again. There is no doubt that pubs will be one of the last sectors to re-open but for the mental health of a lot of people that day will be welcomed by the majority. In this country people in the minority frequently have the loudest voices.

It’s also very amusing to look at some of the social media coverage here on Facebook and especially on Twitter. It is amazing how many health and other experts that we have in this country. Thankfully it is not these people who are running the country.

It’s hard to believe that it is over 80 days since we all voted in a general election and still there is no Government in place in the midst of the biggest crisis of our lifetime. The politicians should be ashamed of themselves that they have not been able to elect a Government.

We are going to have to deal with the massive problems as a result of this pandemic for many years to come. I would say to them all ‘Get up off your arses and make it happen. Do the job you were elected to do and stop posturing’

While most people are doing what they have been told in terms of the restrictions the pictures of a packed Salthill prom at the weekend and increased traffic on the roads shows that some people just don’t get it and what is trying to be achieved. Stay at Home FFS!!!

In that context I am not expecting any major easing of restrictions in the next week. Hopefully the construction industry will come back and some people will get back working again. Maybe the over 70’s will be allowed out to exercise but that will be about it.

For the rest of us there won’t be much change.
We are in this for the long haul unfortunately.

Stay Safe People

A Diary Part 12

Saturday the 2nd May

Another week of lockdown has passed but at least on this Saturday morning we have a plan. Whether it is realistic or not will become clear as the weeks go on, but at we have something to aim for. People want direction, and now we have some. I know that there are three third level students cooped up in our house for the past seven and a half weeks and their mood is definitely the most positive since this lock down started since yesterday evening’s speech.

There is still a lot of uncertainty and one thing is for certain. This virus will be with us for many months ahead and maybe even a year. But it is good to imagine that life might well return to normal and we need positivity.

A lot of people will be looking forward to July the 20th when hairdressers and barbers will be re-opening. Never will a nation lose so much hair as it will over the days and weeks following that deadline!

Like the rest of the nation I listened intently to what Leo Varadkar had to say on the Late Late Show on Friday night and his opinion that “An All Ireland could take place this year” is a bit previous to say the least.

As a sports fanatic I desperately want sport to re-start, and the GAA activities in particular, but if there is even the slightest threat to the safety of the players or their families then it is certainly not worth it. Club and county players will have to be consulted in conjunction with the medical advice and only when everyone is one hundred per cent happy should action resume and we have a long way to go in that regard. I would still be pessimistic about the inter-county scene returning this year.

I know the Taoiseach was trying to be positive but when it comes to sport I cannot think of two public figures who know or understand less about sport and how it works than Ryan Tubridy and Leo Varadkar.

There have been soundings that the Premier League in Soccer will be completed starting in June behind closed doors, and at neutral venues however in the past week players have begun to voice their severe reservations. It’s not a done deal yet.

But there should be good news for club golfers. It is easy to observe the social distancing rules on a golf course and it would be great to see clubs re-opening. The club houses could remain closed for another while. At least it would be something.

Other sports like Horse Racing ,Darts, Tennis and other individual pursuits can resume again I presume and that is all very positive.

But we haven’t gone from one extreme to the other in the space of a week. The number of people who have passed away in our nursing homes in particular is a frightening and very sad legacy of this horrible disease.

The hammer blow to the economy might take ten years to recover from. Many tens of thousands of people who have lost their jobs will never get them back.

Small shops, pubs, restaurants, car dealers, cafés hotels and others will find it very hard to survive and re-open at all when this situation eases. Even if the pubs were to re-open in the morning would people be wary of congregating in big crowds. ? I would say that the answer to that question is yes.

Many people have suffered a sudden and very severe blow to the system. I have been out of work for the last seven and a half weeks and it is the first time since I was 18 that I have been without a job to go to and it is very difficult to get used to it. I’m not on my own, and like many others there is no guarantee that that work will ever return.

Of course public health is by far the most important aspect of all this but there is an economic reality too. The Government have been spending huge amounts of money since this pandemic started and rightly so too. If we had 64 billion to bail out the banks in 2011 surely we can help out our people in times of crisis.

But the reality of it all is that this money will have to paid back at some stage. In the past it was the ordinary people who footed the bill and we have to be careful that doesn’t happen again.

In the meantime while all this is happening the politicians are still dithering and delaying and the formation of a new Government is as far away as ever. We have had a situation over the past seven weeks where a cabinet which includes several people who lost their seats at the election, are making some of the biggest decisions in the history of the state while those who were elected are engaging in petty squabbling and ego massaging. They should all be ashamed of themselves. We need a Government and we need one now.

In the meantime we must all deal with this virus.

It is truly amazing that in the space of a couple of months it has brought the world to its knees. It doesn’t matter how many cars you have outside the door or how much you have saved in the bank or how many letters you have after your name, this virus has stopped everyone in their tracks.
It goes to show that no one is indispensable.

Sometimes when you’re feeling important
Sometimes when you ego is in bloom
Sometimes when you take it for granted
You’re the best qualified in the room

Sometimes when you feel that you’re going
Would leave an unfillable hole
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul

Take a bucket and fill it with water
Put your hand in it up to the wrist
Pull it out, and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed

You can splash all you wish when you enter
You may stir up the water galore
But stop and you’ll find that in no time
It looks quite the same as before

The moral of this quaint example
Is do just the best that you can
Be proud of yourself – but remember
There is no indispensible man

Stay Safe People

Covid 19 – A Diary Part 5 to Part 8

A Diary Part 5

Thursday April 2nd

It was three weeks ago today that Leo made his speech from Washington and how our world had changed since then. I know that we all have to get used to staying away from people but I find it disturbing that I am taking a wide berth from others when out for a walk and that I am suspicious of everyone I meet when out for a bit of daily exercise. I hate that feeling. It runs against everything we were ever thought growing up.

There are small signs here and there that the approach made by the authorities here in Ireland are working and I hope that is the truth, but there is no one I know who expects that there will be any respite by Easter Sunday. The severe restrictions will last a lot longer than that.

Sport is a thing of the past and for those of us who love it, it’s difficult to live in a world where it simply doesn’t exist. Like many people, I hope and pray for the day when we have plenty to talk about to take our minds of the hum-drum of ordinary life.
But as always it is very important to accentuate the positives. I was extremely proud of our county on Wednesday when hundreds of people stood on the roads between Creggs and Athlone to pay tribute to Conor Connelly as the family made their way to his funeral in County Offaly. I found it a very emotional experience to be honest but it proves that it will take more than this horrible virus to break the community spirit that exists in our midst.

The amount of people in GAA clubs and community organisations who are helping out in their own communities is a credit to them. Elderly people and those who are vulnerable in our society are being looked after which is fantastic.

But spare a thought for all the families who are bereaved at the moment and who cannot have a proper funeral for their loved ones. That is the one of the saddest thing about this crisis. I see that on almost all the death notices over the past few weeks that “a funeral mass will be held at a more appropriate time” . There are so many masses piling up at the moment it is doubtful whether any of them will ever go ahead and that is the brutal reality. The priests are not there to say the masses and a lot of them are over 70 anyway. It is a terribly tough time for families who have lost loved ones.

My heart also goes out to couples who have had to postpone their weddings. I know a good few who have done that already and they deserve their big day out. Hopefully they can have that in the coming months and years.

On the downside I am not usually in the habit of watching Donald Trump on TV but I tuned in to his press conference on Tuesday night and it was simply unbelievable to think that this man is running the United States of America, especially at this time.

Having denied that there was any problem at all with the virus for several weeks, he now he is claiming that he “will save up to two million lives” because of his actions. He says that if there are “only” 200,000 deaths in the USA he will have done “a great job”
“There is no problem with protective equipment for our medical staff. In fact we have piles of respirators” was another thing he said. In the next news clip nurses and doctors were outside a New York hospital banging dustbin lids and drawing attention to the complete lack of protective equipment.”We have been abandoned by our Government “ said one doctor. It’s truly horrendous that Trump is supposed to be leading the fight against this virus in the USA. He cares for nothing except his own ego and getting re-elected.

Back in the real world the exercise is continuing. In fact it is a welcome break from the routine every day and hopefully there will be long-term benefits for us all.

It seems to me that one day rolls into the next and many times every day I find myself wondering what day of the week it is.

Next week is Easter week. In ordinary times we would be looking forward to the long weekend and the celebrations with family and friends.

Now we will be staying away keeping our heads down and trying to survive.

Stay Safe People.

A Diary – Part 6

Monday 6th April

I had to check with the calendar to find out the day and date before I started and when I did it was the day when myself and my wife were due to go on a short holiday for five days.’ I know that there are more important things going on but I doubt if we will get to take that holiday for a couple of years. One casualty of this global upheaval will definitely be foreign travel. But we will get over that.

I know it’s early days yet, but the responsible attitude being shown by most Irish people seems to be paying off. The expectations were that we would have up to 15,000 cases before the end of March but thankfully it is a good bit behind that figure.

But it is a very difficult time for everyone and there is no denying that. This is Easter Week, the high point of the religious year but the churches will be closed. Many people like to attend services on Easter Week but they will have to make do with what’s available online. I know it’s better than nothing but it’s just not the same. I feel sorry for elderly people, many of whom are very religious and who will not be able to partake in the Easter ceremonies this year.

I wish the politicians would hurry up and form a Government and have done with it. To be honest I couldn’t care less who is in charge but if it is Fianna Fail and Fine Gael and others then let them stop posturing and delaying and get on with it. We are facing the biggest crisis in the history of the state and we need a stable Government. The caretaker Government have done well since this pandemic came along but their time has run out and we need leadership now and not in a months’ time.

The good weather has meant that many of us who were not great at taking exercise are out every day now and hopefully when this is over we can continue with that and not fall back into our old ways. The lack of alcohol also means that if we can avoid this virus we should have a much fitter nation when this is all over. But the huge question is when will that be?

Talking to friends and colleagues over the weekend no one really has the answer to that question but one thing that most are agreed on is that the chances of an All-Ireland senior football or hurling championship this summer are remote. Even if we are ready to play matches in July (which is doubtful) will big crowds attend big matches in Thurles, Hyde Park, Clones, Croke Park or any other venue? Without a vaccine there will still be fears about the virus and people over 60 and over 70 in particular will be told to stay away. Others would be very cautious about big crowds.

Would it be possible to televise all games? Very doubtful, especially with the current broadcasting arrangements in place. It would be my opinion that the GAA will be able to go ahead with the club championships around the country later in the year but the major championships will be very difficult to run.

Other sports will be in the same position however the GAA championships are the biggest sporting event we have here every summer . The GAA are in a very difficult position with regard to this. In 2019 they took in 36.9 million Euro in gate receipts. If there were no championships this year it would represent a massive loss for the association. I would love to hear what readers think about that.

With regard to pubs and restaurants, a lot of people I have spoken to say that it will be the 1st June before there is any movement on relaxing restrictions in that regard. Again, that’s only an opinion but in the current climate it is very hard to see any change in that regard for at least another month.

It was only two weeks ago that Boris Johnson told us at a press conference with a smirk on his face that he ‘had shaken hands with many patients who had the corona virus’. Now he has been admitted to hospital having been unable to shake off the virus at home, and over the weekend his pregnant partner has revealed that she too has the virus. The Health Minister the Chief Medical Officer and Prince Charles have also had the virus. It’s a sign to us all that this virus is no respecter of race, creed or status.

I also have great sympathy for our young people many of whom are at home all day now as third level colleges are shut. For most of them their friends are very important to them and for the past three weeks they have had to comply with the regulations and stay away even though they know that their chances of becoming ill even if they get the disease is low.

I have been trying to keep my ‘coronavirus news intake’ to an hour a day. It’s enough. It’s far too depressing to listen to any more than that. I am listening to music and playing a few tunes on Facebook. We all have ways of trying to cope with this horrible situation.

I can’t wait for the day when I can go into the local pub and chat about the club match that we were at over a couple of pints with friends. I will never take that for granted again.

Stay Safe People.

A Diary Part 7

Friday 10th April

The weather has been so good over the past few weeks that sometimes one can forget the mayhem that’s going on in the world around us. We should be grateful for this good weather as I dread to think what it would be like if it was raining and miserable outside. It makes what’s going on a little more bearable.

Another positive that we can take out of this week is that it appears that the efforts being made by the public in terms of observing the regulations, are beginning to work. I presume that later today another two weeks of the partial lockdown will be announced but hopefully after that they can start to look at a relaxation of some kind.

The community spirit that exists here in rural Ireland is also to the fore and can be seen every day of the week in every area. On Tuesday morning I was in Ballyleague as the St Faithleach’s and Cashel GAA clubs paid tribute to the late Henry Kenny. His funeral cortege drove around the St Faithleach’s complex and pitches, and hundreds of people were there to pay their respects. It was a lovely thing to see and be a part of.

But it’s not all sweetness and light as we all know. I know that there are almost half a million people like me, but it is very frustrating and unsettling not to have work to go to every day. That has not happened to me since I was 18 years old and despite trying to fill the day with exercise, jobs at home and other stuff it is very hard to get used to not working and having a job to go to every day.

This is Easter weekend and a lot of people particularly the elderly will miss the religious events but those who have access to the internet will be able to watch the various ceremonies today tomorrow and Sunday. At least that’s something.

The apalling death toll in the UK and USA is very hard to look at every evening on TV and the people of those countries are paying dearly for the failure of their leaders to act in time. We have much to give out about here in this country when it comes to politicians and leadership over the years but since this crisis has started the caretaker Government has done very well. But as I said here on Monday, it’s time we had a real Government to take the reins now.

This coming Monday between 3pm and 4pm I am back on the radio as The Roscommon Lions Club are producing a programme which seeks to highlight a lot of the positive stories in the community. I will be on every second day and along with Dan Dooner it will be a chance to chat to some interesting local people and have a bit of fun in these very challenging times. It’s on Ros FM Community radio which is on 94.6 FM. Sure won’t it use up a few hours in terms of preparation etc and the Lions club have to be complimented on their initiative.

But for those of us who love to go for a pint and a chat and for those of us who love sport, those pursuits look a long long way off as we sit here on this Good Friday like no other.

But we have to keep in our thoughts and prayers the people in our health service who are on the frontline dealing with this disease every day of the week and also all the people in shops and in the supply chain who are making sure there is food on the shelves for us all. We will be forever in their debt.

A Happy Easter to all. Chat soon.

Stay Safe People.

A Diary Part 8

Tuesday 14th April

Little did I know when I started this diary that I would get to part 8 and it looks like it could well get as far as part 16 the way things are going. The new ‘normal’ is still extremely difficult to accept. I am one who just cannot sleep in the mornings so I am up early and it makes the day very long indeed. However I have to say I love the mornings and the weather has been very good over the past few weeks.

There have been a few upsides to this whole disaster. Like many people I have continued the walking, (something that I wasn’t doing) and have managed about 2 miles a day over the past month. My alcohol consumption has plummeted to almost zero too although there is probably a balance to be tsruck there in terms of one’s mental health! It would be lovely to have a chance of a few pints and a chat but that it a long way off as far as I can see.

Not having any work to go to is still the biggest change as far as I am concerned although to be involved with a new radio programme on the local community station Ros FM has certainly taken my mind off things for a few hours in the day. Roscommon Lions Club should be warmly congratulated for their initiative. I think them for asking me to get involved.

Everyone is watching loads of TV now. It’s all a matter of taste, but over the past week I watched an excellent documentary on the BBC about former heart-throb pop star David Cassidy, Match of the Day Gold on Saturday during the day (World Cup) and on Saturday night (Premier League matches) , All Ireland Gold on TG4 and I even watched ‘Michael Collins’ again on Monday night. Up to four weeks ago I was someone who watched only news and sports programmes and documentaries on TV. How times change.

The heroes of our lives now are not Lionel Messi, or Jurgen Klopp or Cristiano Ronando or the Kardashians they are the doctors and nurses and all the health workers who are on the front line fighting this horrible disease. Everyone knows someone or has a family members or members involved in the health service and my own sister is involved in that battle in the Beaumont Hospital.We should pray for them every day.

But there are also heroes in the Gardai, Fire services in the prisons in our shops and vital services who are keeping us all fed and looked after as this situation unfolds. I hope that all this is remembered when this awful situation is over. We have had to re-calibrate what and who are important in our lives since this thing started and maybe that is not a bad thing.

I read with incredulity today an article suggesting that there may well have to be a knockout GAA championship this year. A big meeting is being held on Friday but I simply cannot see the GAA being able to stage any kind of a championship this summer. Without a vaccine for covid-19 how are crowds expected to gather for games? People will be very reluctant and with good reason too.

Remember too that we would be expecting 50 young people to gather in dressing rooms, they would be running, sweating and in very close physical contact. If even one of those lads or girls in hurling or football or camogie got sick ad died it would be a disaster.

By the time August comes it may be possible to have club championships under restricted conditions but it will be very difficult for the GAA or indeed any sport to hold any public events where there would be big crowds expected.

I hope I am wrong because as a sports fanatic I cannot wait for sport to return but there is a bigger picture to be looked at and I will be amazed if there is any meaningful inter-county GAA action before 2021.

In the meantime we have to try to stay sane. We have to keep in our minds that this will pass at some stage and that if we do as we are told we may get out the other end without too much damage done. But it’s too early to be optimistic yet.

Stay Safe People

Covid 19 – A Diary- Parts 1-4

Coronavirus. A Diary Part 1

Saturday 21st March 2020

It was Sunday the 7th March when I first realised that this situation could be really serious. I had listened to the stories about the coronavirus coming out of China and Italy and while it was horrific it was far away. It was backround noise.

I was getting on with my life. I went to Dr Hyde Park to a Ladies National League game between Roscommon and Kildare. On the way to the match and on RTE Radio 1 some of the panellists referred to a story that was on the Sunday Business Post which claimed that 1.9 million Irish people would get the virus. I said out loud “whoever wrote that story should be locked up for scaring people” however a senior doctor in the HSE said shortly afterwards that “he couldn’t dispute those figures” I sat in the car at the back of the stand in Hyde Park in shock. Was I sure that I had heard that right?

Only Ian Cooney of the Roscommon Herald was in the Press Box and I told him what I had heard. We both couldn’t believe it. This was going to be serious stuff. Little did I know how serious.

As the following week progressed so did the gravity of the situation. Going into work every day at Midlands103 I quickly realised that as a self-employed sports reporter I was on borrowed time. At a time like this sport is not important.

When Leo Varadkar made his speech from Washington at 11am on Thursday 12th March I watched in the Newsroom at Midlands103. There were a number of people there. As he spoke I knew my job was gone, at least temporarily. Schools and colleges were to close and all non-essential activity was to come to a halt. That meant sport. No sport – no job.

Three of my four daughters were on their way home. All are in college, one in Germany, one in Leeds, and one in Galway. I was thrilled that they would be at home. My fourth daughter (and eldest) lives in Vancouver.
On Friday the 13th (yeah I know), when I had finished my shift, I got the news that I was expecting. I went to chat to Will Faulkner (station manager) and the News Editor Sinead Hubble. My job had gone until the emergency was over.
I was two and a half years working at the station. I really loved my job and the people there were friendly and easy to work with. I shall miss it surely but hopefully I will be back some day. I have a feeling that it might be later rather than sooner.

When I came home I watched the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It was like being in a parallel universe. I was watching 70,000 people whoop it up in the Cotswolds while I had just lost my job. To have allowed Cheltenham go ahead was sheer madness. The UK are going to pay a big price for the lax attitude towards this crisis.

People would also know that I play a bit of music in local pubs from time to time. The new ‘social distancing’ rules would mean there would be no one in the pubs. No people, no pubs, no music. It was another blow.
I have worked in the Roscommon People newspaper for over 13 years. I have been very proud of what we had achieved in terms of quality on a small free newspaper. Surely a business that depended solely on the support of it’s advertisers would be under pressure. It was another worry.

Then on Monday 15th March it was announced that the pubs would be closing. With every passing day the situation was getting more serious. The death tolls in Italy and Spain were spiralling, and action had to be taken here.
We brought out the Roscommon People as usual and I did a number of articles detailing the effect that the virus would have on sport. I also picked my best ever Roscommon team in an effort to generate some debate. I was hopeful that the paper would be able to keep going at least for a few weeks but those hopes were dashed by the end of the week.

On St Patrick’s Night, I watched Leo Varakdar’s address on TV. It was a superb speech and showed fantastic leadership. He sugar-coated nothing and yet he gave people hope in a dire situation. It was just what the country wanted. I would have been a major critic of Leo over the years and of Simon Harris too. But since this emergency has come about both men and Simon Coveney have been excellent and have done the country proud.

The following day Joe Brolly lambasted Leo for his speech. I like a lot of the stuff that Joe writes about the GAA, but he can be a fierce asshole. His total bias towards Sinn Fein came bursting through in his criticism. We don’t need that sort of stuff at this time. Leave it for normal times would be my view.

There is one upside to the situation. I have been out walking every day since this emergency started. I have plenty of time on my hands. I have a weight loss target. It would be fantastic to reach it. There is no pub and no pints either which helps.

As the week progressed the daily news briefings from the HSE and the Government revealed the rising number of cases here. Over 24,000 answered the call to come and help out the HSE in their efforts to combat and treat the virus. I registered but am not a health professional. I would help out in whatever way I could. I have heard nothing since.
On Friday evening 20th March I got the call I was dreading from Paul Healy. Advertising had collapsed, there was no news except about coronavirus, no sport, no social events. There was only one choice he had and that was to lay off temporarily the staff he had in the office.

I have to admit that I was very upset when I finished that call. Now, for the first time since I was 18 years of age I had no work. I admit I shed tears. It was hard to take in the enormity of what was happening.
Of course by far the most important thing to me is the health of my wife Teresa and my family but in the space of a week this virus has swept away all my income.

Paul and Fiona Healy are as fine a people as one could meet. They are good employers, very nice people and I know that they did not make this decision lightly. Many small businesses will be another casualty of this bloody virus!
I realise that we just have to get on with it and do what we are being told to do, but the fear of the unknown is the most unsettling thing. We really don’t know how bad it is going to get. or when it might be over.

On Friday night I watched a Sky News report from Italy where the situation in the North of the country is so bad that their health service just cannot cope with the number of people needing hospital treatment and the numbers who are dying. It sent a shiver down my spine.

The Late Late Show featured Dr Tony Holohan of the HSE who was calm measured and very straight talking. We are in such a serious situation. Pascal Donohue did his best but he is like the rest of us. He hasn’t a clue what’s going to happen.

Here in Ireland we have to do what we are being told to do. The stories of loved ones passing away on their own with no one around them is heart breaking. I hope and pray that does not happen to anyone reading this.

I know I’m not on my own with regard to work but it is an added worry to what is an already disastrous situation. We can only focus on trying to stay well and hopefully we will all have a tale to tell when this passes.

The next couple of months will see an unprecedented situation here in this country and all over the world. We just have to try and keep calm and try to ride out the storm.

Stay Safe People.

Part 2

Tuesday 24th March 2020

By this stage you would think that most people would be used to the new ‘normal’ but as each day passes this crisis throws up new challenges, new stories and new realities.

I know that it’s not really important, but on Sunday at about half past two I was saying “We should be in Breffni Park now watching Roscommon and Cavan” But none of us can do what used to do and that situation will apply for another few weeks at least.

Sport is my life and it’s what I have done for over 30 years. Now that has come to a shuddering halt. The fields are empty, the stands are quiet and the commentators have put down their microphones the reporters’ lap tops have been put away.

Some radio stations like Newstalk have attempted to keep it going but you get the feeling that it’s ‘talking about sport for the sake of it’ They are filling time and as this crisis goes on it will get more difficult. The fact that sport really doesn’t matter in the bigger scheme of things means that there is even less interest in it than usual.

There are programmes speculating as to what might happen later in the year in all sports and frankly these are a total waste of time because no one has a clue as to when things might return to normal.

But there is an upside. A daily walk is not something that I have been doing. In the past year I was trying to do more exercise but sometimes it was hard to get the time to do it. Now I can pick my time and head off. It is certainly helping me to sleep better! I would recommend it.

There are also jobs that needed to be done at home in terms of clearing out presses and desks that have been tackled. It’s amazing the amount of rubbish that one can accumulate over the years.

In terms of the TV and the radio I am trying to restrict my ‘coronavirus -intake’ to an hour a day. It’s important to know what’s going on but to watch too much about it is certainly not good for one’s mental health.
But make no mistake, these are grim times. The uncertainty of what the future holds is the biggest fear. No one knows how bad this will get and when it might ease off or end.

I have started watching the series ‘Narcos’ and am confining myself to one episode per day which I am enjoying. I am also writing every day although it might never see the light of day!

Picking out great teams and games from the past is also a good way of passing the time and it is great for generating arguments and opinion. Hopefully we can have those arguments in person when this is all over.

It would appear that the level of testing here in Ireland is increasing and that’s a good thing. We have to know the extent of the problem that we have. My heart goes out to all the health professionals who are dealing with this virus every day and putting themselves in harms’ way.

The most difficult this for me is getting used to not having any work to go to. I still get up early and try to maintain some kind of discipline. Most of the family are here at home so at least that’s a good thing.

We are lucky to be living in rural Ireland and the authorities are doing a very good job in trying to deal with this virus. When you look at how this has been handles by Donald Trump and Boris Johnson you realise how lucky we are.

I have found one solace over the past few days and that is to chat to friends as much as you can. Call them up and talk. We all have time on our hands. People are feeling lonely and anxious and it is amazing what a few minutes on the phone can do . We have to stay talking to each other.

They say that the real peak here in this country will happen in the next two weeks or so. We all hope and pray that it will not be too severe and that the health service can cope.

Stay Safe People

Part 3

Friday 27th March 2020

It’s been two weeks since Leo made his speech from Washington and what a difference there has been in those two weeks. The number of cases here continues to rise and hopefully within the next two weeks we will know how bad it will be here in Ireland. Maybe we will have reached the peak by then.

It is a very tough time for many people and we are all worried. But if we do the right thing hopefully things will go ok in the long run.

Let’s accentuate the positives first of all. It would appear that the vast majority of people in Ireland are observing the rules and if that’s the case a lot of lives will be saved and a lot of people will not get this virus.

The weather has been good too which is a blessing. It means that we can go out for a walk and do a bit of exercise. I am not a gardener but many people are now able to tidy up and appreciate growing vegetables and tending to lawns and hedges and flower beds.

The biggest positive that I can see is that cars and clothes and holidays and money and the various status symbols that were seemingly so important in our world are not really important at all. This virus is no respecter of age or status or wealth. It has struck with equal force all over the World.

The real heroes are not the Kardashians or ‘Social Influencers’ or pop stars. The people we look up to are not sports stars or actors or business tycoons. The people who matter are our family, and doctors and nurses and all health professionals, shop workers and lorry drivers who are keeping the supply lines open and the thousands of volunteers around the country who are helping out in these times of huge uncertainty.

Having said the above I have to say that what I miss most is being able to go for a pint and chat to people. We were not meant to be alone in this world and while it is brilliant to have the family at home during this emergency, interaction with friends is something I miss. Chatting on the phone is great but it’s not the same. But it’s a small price to pay for a few months.

I also have to admit that I really miss sport. Not having that Football or Hurling match to look forward to or argue about, not having Match of the Day to watch or the Six Nations Rugby. The American Golf at the weekends, Horse Racing etc etc. I could go on and on.

But maybe there might be a silver lining at the end of all of this. The TV companies who run most professional sport will lose a fortune as the advertising market falls off the end of a cliff. Maybe the whole of professional sport will be re-calibrated. Maybe we will have seen the end of Soccer players getting half a million Euro per week. Maybe we will have seen the end of Golfers ‘earning’ 3 million dollars for one tournament. …….Maybe…. we can all dream

The GAA will be ok. The club scene will return and even if there is no inter-county championship this summer at all, we can all return to our roots in August and enjoy the club championship.

I’m passing the time by doing a bit of writing, a bit of exercise and a tidy up at home. It’s amazing how much rubbish that one can collect up over the years!

There are times when this whole situation is overwhelming. The key is to try and not dwell on it too much. I’m no different to anyone else and what will await us all when this is over is anyone’s guess. Look ahead two or three months to when our lives can return to normal. It’s the best we can do. We will take it from there.

I would be very worried about what’s going to happen in the UK and the USA. I know that we have to look after ourselves here in Ireland but both those countries are so closely linked with this country.

The people in both countries will pay dearly for the incredibly lax attitude of their leaders when it comes to dealing with this pandemic. I hope and pray that there are not mass casualties and deaths in both countries. It’s not looking good at this stage.

I am convinced if we do what we are told here in this country then the pain and misery brought about by this terrible disease will be minimised for everyone.

Stay safe people and keep the chin up!

Part 4

Monday 30th March 2020

When all this started we were looking ahead to the end of this month as a time when we would know where this virus was heading for. Now we know that if things are clearer by the end of April we will be lucky. It might be the end of May or even June.

The much stricter restrictions on personal freedoms here in this country came in on Friday last, and as far as I can see those new rules are being complied with by the vast majority. However I wouldn’t really know as I am going for a walk every day and that’s it.

But I am getting a sense that what the authorities are doing here may be working, Leo told us a few weeks ago that there could be 15,000 cases here by the end of the month. The last day of the month is tomorrow and so far there have been 2,635 cases. That has to be positive. I know it’s no consolation to anyone who has lost loved ones or whose relations are in intensive care but the figures are encouraging.

My heart goes out to young people as this crisis goes on. It’s absolutely no reflection on Mums and Dads, but the younger set need their friends. They are so important to them. Now they are only communicating on their phones and lap tops. These things may not seem that important in the overall bigger picture but it is important to them so we must cut them a little slack at this time and make allowances. They know that it is people who are much older that are in trouble with this virus. Most are very understanding. Let’s keep them onside.

Writing stuff like this and other bits and pieces keeps my mind off what’s going on for a while at least and I would advise restricting people’s intake of ‘coronavirus news’ to an hour a day at most. It’s far too grim to watch or listen to any more than that.

At least the weather has been good and you can go for a walk and take a bit of exercise in comfort.

But on the down side I found Saturday a very difficult day. Three people that I had known well passed away on Saturday. One of them was former Rocommon footballer Conor Connelly. My phone rang non-stop all day long. People didn’t know what to do.

One thing we do well in this country (or at least we did up to now) is funerals. People rally around those closest to the deceased and from first-hand experience it helps enormously to have family and friends there to share the grief. People calling to the house, the removal, funeral mass, and burial give huge solace to the family at a very difficult time. But now all that has been taken away which is incredibly sad. I spoke to many people last Saturday who were distraught and very upset. These were ordinary people who were friends and colleagues of the deceased in all cases.. I can only try to imagine what the families are going through. Please remember them in your prayers.

The sudden death of Conor Connelly puts everything in perspective for me. He was a great footballer but a lovely guy off the field. Only three weeks ago at Tom Lyons’ party in Roscommon Golf Club I chatted to Conor and he was in great form. He was just 44 year old. It’s a devastating blow to his family. To Claire and children and to Nora and Jimmy all I can do is offer my deepest sympathy. He brought us much joy when he played for Roscommon.

There are other families who are being affected by the death of loved ones at this terrible time. My heart goes out to them.

I have been to the shop to buy the paper this morning. The Irish Independent today is the smallest paper that I have seen in years. The papers are struggling along with all other businesses.

Sporting events seem so far away now. I found a huge box of match programmes at home. Some are mine, some belonged to my brothers Frank and Declan and the rest were collected by my late father. I decided to go through them and put some of the more interesting teams online over the past week or so. The feedback I have received has taken me aback to be honest. The interest in it has been huge. I will keep at it until I have exhausted the collection. Thanks for all the positive comments.

We have to keep doing what they are telling us to do. We may not be out of the wood on Easter Sunday, or for a long time after that but hopefully there is a brighter future ahead. We have got to believe that. If you can, please stay positive, and keep in touch with each other. We might have to settle for the phone right now. but keep talking!

Stay Safe People!

Best SF XV Since 1975 – Nationally and Connacht

Last week I chose my best Roscommon starting XV since 1975 and it has generated a lot of debate.

Prompted by Joe Kelly and others I am now going to attempt to pick my best National XV in that time.

Here goes:

1. Stephen Cluxton (Dublin)
2. Harry Keegan (Roscommon)
3. John O Keeffe (Kerry)
4. Tony Scullion (Derry)
5. Tomas O Se (Kerry)
6. Kieran McGeeney (Armagh)
7. Jack McCaffrey (Dublin)
8. Brian Fenton (Dublin)
9. Jack O’Shea (Kerry)
10. Peter Canavan (Tyrone)
11. Matt Connor (Offaly)
12. Pat Spillane (Kerry)
13. Colm Cooper (Kerry)
14. Padraig Joyce (Galway)
15. Mikey Sheehy (Kerry)

Best Connacht XV Since 1975:

1. David Clarke (Mayo)
2. Harry Keegan (Roscommon)
3. Gary Fahy (Galway)
4. Kenneth Mortimer (Mayo)
5. Lee Keegan (Mayo)
6. Declan Darcy (Leitrim)
7. Sean Og De Paor (Galway)
8. Dermot Earley (Roscommon)
9. Kevin Walsh (Galway)
10. Michael Donnellan (Galway)
11. Mickey Kearins (Sligo)
12. Ciaran McDonald (Mayo)
13. Andy Moran (Mayo)
14. Padraig Joyce (Galway)
15. Tony McManus (Roscommon)

Arguments/alternatives to:

Roscomons Best SF XV Since 1975

The Best Roscommon XV since 1975

I am this week going to publish the best Roscommon SF team that I have seen since I
started going to and reporting on matches.
I am not including any of the players who were on the great team of the
40’s or the team that got to the All-Ireland final in the early 60’s.
However it includes the four-in-a row- Connacht team from the late 70’s
So here goes:
1. Gay Sheeran – Gay had a long and distinguished career between
the posts and his passion and dedication to the cause was
legendary. He beats Paul Staunton to the number one position
with Darren O’Malley also a consideration.
2. Harry Keegan – The easiest choice of the whole lot. He got three
All-Stars playing for a county that didn’t win an All-Ireland which
was some achievement. The great Castlerea man was the best
corner-back I have seen- on any team.
3. Pat Lindsay- The St Faithleach’s man was a brilliant full-back and
a great leader. He trained harder than anyone else and was an
inspirational captain when Roscommon won the league in 1979.
As tough as they come, he beats Pat Doorey to the position.
4. Enon Gavin – This was a tough choice between the Clann na
nGael man and Gerry Connellan both of whom were All Stars.
Gavin burst on to the scene as a 19 year old in 1991 and remained
a part of the Roscommon team for many years after that.
5. Seanie McDermott – I know that Seanie played most of his football
in the full-back line but he played many times out in the half-back
line too. He was a magnificent servant to Roscommon and richly
deserves his place on the team. Niall Daly’s consistent displays
meant he was also in contention.
6. Francie Grehan – The St Aidan’s man was so fiercely determined
and passionate that he deserves his place. His performances in
the early noughties were sensational. Tom Donnellan from the
team of the late 70’s and early 80’s was also an outstanding
7. Danny Murray- One of the classiest players that I have ever seen.
He won two All-Stars and should have won more. Was always in
great shape and loved to bomb forward with the ball.
8. John Newton- For me this was a straight choice between the big
Garda and Elphin’s Seamus Killoran. A lot of Roscommon fans
would say that Killoran did the hard work while Newton did the
fancy stuff but that would be unfair to the Shannon Gaels man who
was a superb player
9. Dermot Earley- Another easy choice. A legend on and off the field.
An inspiration for so many Roscommon footballers, Roscommon
football fans and for everyone who knew him. What a Roscommon
man he was.
10. Mickey Freyne- The Castlerea man won his All-Star in the
full forward position but he played in almost every attacking
position for club and county. He was a very classy player and was
a mighty man to get a vital goal, Edges out the brilliant John
‘Jigger’ O’Connor.
11. Fergal O’Donnell- Another hugely influential player and
one that always led by example. For club and county Fergal was
an outstanding leader and his qualities extended to masterminding
that unforgettable All-Ireland minor triumph is 2006. One of the
great Roscommon GAA figures of the modern era.
12. Nigel Dineen- There are a number of live contenders for
this position but after a long career Nigel got a lot of vital scores for
Roscommon and edges out the likes of Eamon Junior McManus,
Tommy Grehan and Vinny Glennon.
13. Frankie Dolan – His inter-county career was not as long as
it might have been but he turned in some sensational displays in
the Primrose and Blue jersey and was a prolific scorer. His
contribution to St Brigid’s All-Ireland club win will go down in
folklore. Cathal Cregg would also be in contention here.
14. Paul Earley- there were a number of contenders here
including Ciaran Murtagh but Earley was a magnificent player
when he was on his game. He was a great target man and could
15. Tony McManus- The greatest Roscommon forward that I
have seen in my time. His career spanned two different successful
Roscommon teams and he was a fierce competitor who hated to
lose. Even more impressive was that he stuck with the
Roscommon team through lean times from 1981 to 1990. A
Roscommon football legend for sure.

16. Paul Staunton
17. John ‘Jigger’ O’Connor
18. Niall Daly
19. Seamus Hayden
20. Tommy Grehan
21. Gerry Connellan
22. Pat Doorey
23. Eamon McManus Senior
24. Seamus Killoran
25. Ciaran Murtagh
26. Enda Smith

So that’s my choice. I know that there will be fans out there with a much
different idea and of course it’s arguments like these that keeps us all

(Roscommon People)

Election Diary 2020

Election Diary 2020

Storm Ciara rolled in on Saturday with heavy rain and strong winds. And it continued into Sunday. But it was mild in the political storm that swept the country starting at 9am on Sunday morning when the ballot papers came tumbling out of the boxes.

The first indication of what was about to happen came with the exit poll on Saturday night which suggested three-way tie between Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein. But it turned out that even that poll underestimated the massive vote that was hooveredup by Sinn Fein in almost every constituency in the country including Roscommon/Galway.

The first quote that resonated with me came on Sunday morning as I watched ‘Morning Ireland’ on RTE News Now TV shortly after 8am when it was remarked by one of the panellists (not a party member) that “Fianna Fail and Fine Gael are now the parties of old people and pensioners, and unless they change they are in terminal decline. The young people have voted for change and that’s the reality”It was something that stuck in my head for the rest of the day.

I went to the count in the Hyde Centre at about 9.30am. After chatting with my colleagues Dan and Paul and everyone else squashed together in the press area on the stage, I went to the tally room for the latest news. Noel Carr was directing operations and it was great to see him in such great form. Well known Fianna Fail activist P Burke was there helping out as was well-known Roscommon GAA official Brian Carroll. Senator Terry Leyden and Larry Brenan were also there both with a big Fianna Fail interest in proceedings.

It was becoming very clear very early that Sinn Fein’s Claire Kerrane would have a major say in the election. As sheet after sheet came out of the printer it was evident that Michael Fitzmaurice was running away with it at the top of the poll. Dennis Naughten was well down on first preferences but was still polling well, and the Sinn Fein candidate Kerrane was also polling very strongly and was well ahead of the two Fianna Fail candidates Eugene Murphy and Orla Leyden, and Fine Gael’s Aisling Dolan.

At 11am I returned to the press area and chatted with Paddy O’Gorman who was there to cover for RTE Radio. He asked me to make a prediction I called the third seat for Claire Kerrane because with each tally update she was puling further and further ahead of the Fianna Fail pair in particular.

That reality was beginning to dawn on the Fianna Fail people at the count and they looked ashen – faced at the figures as the Sinn Fein surge that was witnessed nationally was becoming a reality in Roscommon-Galway. Could it really be that there would be no TD elected in the constituency representingFianna Fail and Fine Gael? Even at that early stage it was long odds-on.A truly astounding development by any strength of the imagination.

The final tally figures confirmed what we suspected might be the case. Fitzmaurice would top the poll and would be elected on the first count. Dennis Naughten was well down in his vote but was comfortable, and that Claire Kerrane would see off all challengers to take a seat for Sinn Fein.

At about 1pm I went home to prepare to go to the Roscommon v Clare National League game which was also taking place in Dr Hyde Park at 2pm just a couple of hundred yards from where the counting was going on. While having a cup of tea I watched as Dessie Ellis and his supporters waved tri-colours and sang “Come out ye Black and Tans” at a count centre in Dublin. RTE were reporting a massive first-preference vote for Mary Lou McDonald’s party in almost every constituency and the celebrations around the country were only beginning.

Having braved the bitter cold at the match (and a good win) I was back in the count centre about 4.30pm and now the Sinn Fein surge was beginning to dawn on people with stories of colossal votes and huge surpluses for their candidates all over the country. Fine Gael were struggling and Fianna Fail were not doing much better.

In our local constituency,Fianna Fail were bitterly disappointed at their showing. Instead of feiling one strong candidate they spilt the vote and OrlaLeyden performed at a level way below what was expected. Aisling Dolan polled very well for someone who had joined the race so late but she was never really in the frame. If Fianna Fail are in trouble in the constituency it is nothing compared to the Fine Gael woes, but that’s for another day.

Back in the Press area Carol Coleman from Carrick on Shannon was the RTE TV correspondent while Eoghan Young Murphy, formerly of this parish was doing his bit for his new employers Newstalk. But there was a sense of inevitability about it all.

It was a matter of when the first count would come and the coronation of Michael Fitzmaurice, and it happened shortly before 7pm. The big man from Williamstown arrived into the hall to much fanfare about five minutes beforehand with his wife Maria and family and a huge band of supporters.

The ever-efficient and very personable returning officer Mary Raftery made the announcement and while she first read out Fizmaurice’s vote as “eleven thousand” she quickly corrected that to 13,077 votes.A remarkable performance. Cue much roaring and shouting and the customary ‘up on the shoulders’ moment for the new poll-topper.

A candidate for the comment of the day came as Fitzmaurice celebrated his great performance. It came from a friend of mine who said “He got in because he stayed out” That about summed it up.
About an hour later Claire Kerrane arrived into the centre. There was less of a hullabaloo about her entrance than there had been about Fitzmaurice. Maybe it was that she just wasn’t known! I had never net her. I approached her and introduced myself and congratulated her. “I’m not there yet” she said. “It’s a certainty they can’t catch you” I told her, and so it transpired.

I was up early on Monday morning so I left the count centre about 9pm on Sunday night. I know that later Denis Naughten arrived for his election and the lights went out! He had dropped 12% of his first preference vote and still got in. As the late Noel Whelan used to say, Dennis is from the Fine Gael ‘gene pool’ which certainly explains why that party continue to struggle in this constituency. He was elected comfortably in the end.

Because of the power cut, Claire Kerrane had to wait until Monday to be officially elected, but once again Roscommon has thrown up a political surprise. I watched her election on RTE News now as the tri-colour waved at The Hyde Centre by her ecstatic supporters.

So another election is over and our three TD’s have been elected. With the national picture so fragmented and unpredictable who says that we will not be back in The Hyde Centre again in a few months’ time for more fun and games?

But we have more political history in our constituency. The first Sinn Fein TD to represent the constituency since Count Plunkett in 1917 and no Fianna Fail or Fianna Gael TD either.


(Roscommon People)

Election Blog 11- No One Wants To Dance With Me

Election Blog 11- No one wants to dance with me.

It’s five days on after one of the most momentus elections that we have ever seen and now the dance has began to try to form a Government. However while Mary Lou McDonald might be most glamorous woman in the hall it would appear that there are very few who want to dance with her.

First she might have hoped that Brendan Howlin might take the floor. After all Labour are ‘left-leaning’ and their six votes would have been useful. However not alone did Howlin not agree to dance, he ruled out any dance and promptly left the hall altogether.

Leo Varadkar and his friends were never going to dance. Fine Gael have stayed sitting down and they certainly won’t be taking the floor with Mary. Now Micheal Martin has turned up his nose at the chance of taking the floor. Too much was said during the election campaign. He can’t go back on that now.

So where are we now? The dance floor remains empty. Micheal Martin may yet take the floor along with the Greens and hope for the support of Fine Gael in a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement. It’s not going to happen.

There are two options left. Maybe Fianna Fail and Fine Gael could join with The Greens to form a Grand Coalition. It would be a stable Government and there is little between the two main parties in terms of policies but can they set the old civil war rivalries aside? Very unlikely.

So that leaves the final option which is another election. Would Sinn Fein run more candidates and win 50 to 60 seats? The wind is certainly behind their backs but the big question is now, was their vote genuine support for Sinn Fein or a protest vote that could go in any direction in a new poll?

My view? Well, I didn’t see the spectacular rise of Sinn Fein last weekend. It could be a trend. I can’t see anything other than another election within three months. Whether that sorts anything out is anyone’s guess. After another poll we might be in the exact same position.

The music is playing but there are very few dancing

Election Blog 10 – The Old Order Is Gone – And Gone Forever

Election Blog 9 – Sunday 9th February (9am)

It is almost three days since I had time to write the last blog and what a three days it has been. To get the Roscommon/Galway election out of the way first, I have a few observations. The story of the Sinn Fein surge is now well known and Claire Kerrane has taken a seat in the constituency against the odds. I had reckoned that she would at least double her vote from 2016 (over 3,000) but I didn’t think she would get in. Fair play to her too.

It was a spectacular performance from Michael Fitzmaurice who put in a solid four years, was high profile locally and nationally on the media, and benefitted by his decision not to go into Government with the Independent Alliance in 2016. The addition of a nice big chunk of East Galway into the constituency was also a help to him. It remains to be seen what role he will have in the formation of any possible Government.

Dennis Naughten dropped a massive five and a half thousand first preference votes and was still elected comfortably but with the national trend away from the established figures, he will have to look out if there is any election again shortly.

In truth this election was done and dusted as soon as the tally figures were known on Sunday morning. The big shock was the poor performance of Fianna Fail who decided to run two candidates and neither came near being elected. Orla Leyden polled very poorly while Eugene Murphy was simply squeezed out by a combination of the swing against the Government parties and very poor vote management. The party are in real trouble in Roscommon if they do not make a massive change.

Aisling Dolan actually did quite well for someone that joined the race so late in the campaign. However she will always suffer as long as Dennis Naughten is in the field as he attracts a lot of ‘Fine Gael’ votes. We now have a constituency where there is no FG or FF TD. Extraordinary.

On the National scene it will be very interesting indeed to see if Mary Lou McDonald can put a government together ‘on the left’. I think that is very unlikely as by my calculations she won’t get beyond the mid-sixties in terms of seat numbers.

The next option is for Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein to go into coalition along with The Greens. But from talking to FF people on the ground there is a major groundswell of serious reservations among senior TD’s about going back on what was said during the campaign. It has been a very poor election for FF and they may not have the stomach for five years in Government with a party that they despise
There is no chance whatsoever of Fine Gael going into Government with Sinn Fein and that requires no more comment. A Grand Coalition between FG and FF is extremely unlikely even though there is very little between the two parties in terms of ideology or policy. There old ‘civil war’ politics is still a factor. However it is the only option that makes sense.

So where does that leave us? I am of the opinion that we will be back at the polls within three months. What that will solve is anyone’s guess and we might end up in the same situation again.

Sinn Fein have got a massive vote in this election and in some ways I would like to see them in Government. Complaining about what’s going on in Government is easy. Getting in there and making decisions is another thing entirely.

One thing is for certain. The old order has changed and changed forever. Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have had it too easy for over 100 years and they have lost their way. It is doubtful if they will ever re-discover old glories.

On Morning Ireland last Sunday morning one of the guests remarked “Fianna Fail and Fine Gaels are now the parties of old people and pensioners” I have been thinking about that statement a lot since, and you know. It’s true.

The country will never be the same again for good or for bad.

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