View of beach near Gormanston Co.Meath from train window Photo: © Michael Fisher

View of beach near Gormanston Co.Meath from train window Photo: © Michael Fisher

It was a beautiful morning for a journey and no better way to travel than by train. A great opportunity to see the sunrise over the sea as the train passed along the coast just after Gormanston in County Meath. My thirteen hour odyssey began at Newry station in County Armagh (it’s closer to Bessbrook!) with the departure of the 06:45 Iarnród Eireann commuter train to Dublin Connolly, a train that goes as far as Bray. Try planning a journey to Dundalk on the Translink website and you won’t find this particular service. It picks up at various stops as far as Donabate, by which time it’s a case of standing room only, then runs non-stop to Connolly. On arrival the place was buzzing with the sound of music, including the RTÉ Concert Orchestra.

Miriam O'Callaghan prepares to go on air with The John Murray Show at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

Miriam O’Callaghan prepares to go on air with The John Murray Show at Connolly Station Photo: © Michael Fisher

A great start to the Big Music Week at Connolly Station with an hour long John Murray Show presented by Miriam O’Callaghan. Among the crowd (some of whom had joined the music train at Bray) was RTÉ’s Director General Noel Curran. Although he comes from a county (Monaghan) where the railway lines were dismantled over fifty years ago, he still has a love of trains having made the journey many times between Dublin and Dundalk, where I was writing this as I headed back to Newry on the Enterprise.

RTÉ Director General Noel Curran at Connolly Station

RTÉ Director General Noel Curran at Connolly Station Photo: Michael Fisher

The hour-long show at Connolly finished with the Artane Boys Band. The BIG MUSIC WEEK entourage then boarded the special three-carriage Iarnród Éireann train to Newbridge for the next stage of the proceedings.

Entertained on the Music Train by the Bugle Babes Photo: RTÉ ten

Entertained on the Music Train by the Bugle Babes Photo: RTÉ ten

On board we were entertained by the Chattanooga Choo Choo from the Bugle Babes. Other stars  travelling included the Northern duo of Paul Brady from Strabane and Bronagh Gallagher from Derry, who made a special mention of Eamonn McCann when she sang Midnight Train to Georgia for Miriam, a broadcast that went out simultaneously on 2FM and Lyric FM.

Bronagh Gallagher on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © Michael Fisher

Bronagh Gallagher on board the RTÉ Music Train Photo: © Michael Fisher

Christy Moore joined the fun at the Patrician Seconday School at Newbridge in County Kildare. After a three hour stop that included a parade along the mmain street of the town led by the Army No.1 Band, it was time to head for the next stop in Carlow. More performances on the train and then in the station car park where Tullow native Selina O’ Leary was among the entertainers. After that the Music Train headed to Waterford for a concert at the Theatre Royal, a benefit gig in aid of Barnardos for whom collections were made along the way. The broadcast schedule for tomorrow, Tuesday 1st October, and other information can be found on the RTÉ Big Music Week (in association with Iarnród Eireann) website here.

9:30, 12:35 & 16:10 RTÉjr The Beo Show This Big Music Week join stage manager Donie and wardrobe lady Gerty Gúna  as they prepare the Beo Theatre for children from across the country Various
10:00 & 14:35 RTÉjr Hubble Hubble is going musical so watch and listen as Emma and Ogié discover a musical world full of fun and interesting sounds. Various
16:00 RTÉ Two elev8 Follow Diana Bunici’s progress as she picks up the guitar for the first time with the promise of a performance by the end of the week. Various
17:30 RTÉ Two Two Tube Throughout RTÉ Big Music Week Two Tube will be  on a quest to find the next big music act, as well as bringing great interviews from well-known Irish talent. Various
20:00 RTÉ Radio 1 The John Creedon Show For day two of RTÉ Big Music Week, John Creedon presents a live performance from Killarney’s INEC, featuring John Spillane, Ger Wolfe, Lumiere, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, I Draw Slow & others. John Spillane, Lumiere, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, I Draw Slow & others.


mckennacuppowerni images

Power NI Dr McKenna Cup competition

Driving back to Belfast tonight along the M1 I saw a strong white light emanating from the direction of the Castleblayney Road near Dundalk. It was the floodlights from  Pairc Grattan at Inniskeen, County Monaghan, a ground which has been developed in recent years to accommodate county team matches. Monaghan were playing neighbours Fermanagh in their third Dr McKenna Cup match in Section A. Victory by 1-12 to 0-07 meant that the home side has qualified for the knock-out stages. Their next opponents will be Down, at the Athletic Grounds Armagh at 2pm on Sunday. I passed Newry as they were seeing off the challenge from their neighbours Armagh by 2-11 to 1-10 in Section B. In other matches, a weakened Donegal side narrowly beat St Mary’s 1-14 to 2-10 and in Section C, Tyrone easily beat UUJ 1-18 to 0-09 and Derry drew 1-13 apiece with Antrim. So the other semi-final on Sunday will see Tyrone meet Fermanagh, the best runner-up.


Ulster Council GAA

This year there has been controversy over the decision by some county managers to include QUB students in their squads. It has led to the withdrawal of Queen’s University from the competition, as they believed they were being put at a disadvantage. The competition has a very interesting history. The cup is called after a fomer Bishop of Clogher Dr Patrick McKenna from Truagh parish in County Monaghan, who presented it to the Ulster Council of the GAA in 1925. The first competition was in 1927. Monaghan are the most successful side in the tournament with thirteen wins, the last being 2003. Maybe they can make it fourteen this year! For two years, 2001 and 2002, the competition was not held but it was resurrected in 2003. Since 2007 it has been sponsored and the latest company to do so is Power NI, formerly NI Electricity, appropriate now that (as I observed at the start) many of the matches like tonight’s are played under floodlights!


Monaghan GAA Crest


Security alert beside Derrybeg estate

Security alert beside Derrybeg estate

Part of the Camlough Road from the Egyptian arch roundabout to Monaghan Street in Newry was sealed off on Thursday afternoon following a bomb alert. British Army bomb experts were called to examine a suspect device in what is believed to be the old graveyard area close to Daisy Hill hospital. Traffic was diverted but access to the hospital was not affected. A PSNI helicopter also examined the scene. A controlled explosion was carried out on the package and it was declared to be a hoax. One policeman was slightly injured when petrol bombs and bricks were thrown at the PSNI. Sinn Féin and the SDLP condemned the incidents. SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley said the hoax alert which had disrupted the community yet again was deplorable.He said it was compounded by the disgusting acts of those who attacked police with bricks, stones and petrol bombs, endangering lives and adding to the pressure they were under as they attempted to protect the community. He said it was particularly galling that all this took place close to Daisy Hill Hospital and on a route which would affect the city centre, disrupting commuters and, most worryingly, those trying to get to a place of treatment. Events like these do nothing to further any cause and are to the detriment of everyone, he added. The Mayor of Newry Sinn Féin’s Charlie Casey, told BBC Radio Ulster he believed the violence against the police was “opportunistic” and unconnected to the hoax. He added that the incident was the second or third security alert in the area in recent months. “If some of those rioters, or the people responsible for the hoax, had relatives who necessitated going to Daisy Hill by ambulance in an emergency, what were they to do?” he asked.

Ambulance diverted

Ambulance diverted


Trade unions building links between migrant workers and local communities

Trade unions in County Monaghan are playing an important role in a new initiative to build links between migrant workers and the local community and to stop racism. The secretary of Monaghan Trades Council, Peter McAleer from Clones, joined an audience of over seventy people in Newry for the launch of the “Racism is Wrong” campaign. Chaired by TV presenter Pamela Ballantine, the event featured a panel discussion including the North’s Transport Minister and Newry and Armagh MP, Conor Murphy (Sinn Féin), Jane Morrice of the Equality Commission in Belfast and Kasia Garbal, Migrant Worker Coordinator with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Conor Murphy MP & Peter McAleer, Secretary Monaghan Trades Council

Racism is Wrong has used local people from black and ethnic minority communities as the “faces” for an advertising campaign. Their profiles will be seen over the next five months throughout Monaghan and Louth as well as the areas of Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, and Newry and Mourne. The campaign has received European funding through the PEACE III Programme. It aims to raise awareness of racism and includes newspaper and radio advertising, billboards and a website at (new window) It is supported by the Equality Commission in the North and the Unite Against Hate group.

Michael Fisher, Jane Morrice (Equality Commission) & broadcaster Pamela Ballantine

Among the priorities for this cross-border partnership is to change the perceptions and stereotypes that exist in relation to ethnic minority communities. It aims to develop, promote and facilitate the integration of migrant workers and local communities. It hopes the campaign will help to improve understanding and support between local communities and migrant workers or ethnic minorities.