Dirty old towns will soon be cleaning up
Published 24/05/2015 | 02:30
Dublin is popularly known as a 'dirty old town' - even though the phrase is actually the title of a British song, written by Ewan MacColl, about his own backyard of Salford, Lancashire.
But just as the term fits the bill for our less than clean capital, it could equally apply to plenty of more modestly sized settlements around Ireland. Unfortunately, without the economic upside that comes with being a majorly populated, if polluted, metropolis.
For a new study finds that country towns and villages are stagnating as the rural-urban gulf continues to widen. Rural areas are blighted with emigration, the loss of garda stations, bank branches and post offices, while a large number of shops are boarded up.
This is hardly news to anyone who lives outside 'the big smoke'. And while this country town has always had a winning streak of resilience, it still shows signs of struggling.
"Too poor to paint - too proud to whitewash" is what folk used to say about impoverished dwellings here, back when local shopkeeper and general font of wry wisdom, Paudie O'Neill, was a boy. He had no idea just how poor some of his neighbours were, until he watched footage of civil unrest on the newfangled television. Only then did he also realise that most western-world communities took electricity and running water for granted.
Things have long since changed on those fronts, while this town has always been fairly tidy, thanks to the committee of that name. They leave no stone unturned, or litter strewn, as well as pruning and planting public areas.
Still, this town has its fair share of economic-downturn eyesores, in the form of dilapidated and abandoned buildings. It is dispiriting to see the slow but insidious decline of one particular period property, every storm bringing more slates falling from its worn-out roof.
But it's the businesses that go bust which really affect morale, for it diminishes a community's sense of independence. You can feel as if you're living in a satellite stopover, where you have to travel elsewhere for even basic needs.
Thankfully, the tide is turning, for this town is in the throes of getting a facelift. But as any beauty queen might say: no pain - no gain. Or grumbling. Especially as one of the conditions of the scheme was the full-time archaeological supervision of excavation works, which inevitably delayed progress. This added to the general grousing about traffic jams as well as the dirt and noise caused by all the drilling and digging.
But things are finally beginning to take shape. Kerbing and footpath reconstruction are well under way, while ornate street furniture will soon be installed, including seats, bicycle stands, bins, bollards and lighting, along with minor landscaping and road-marking works.
So hopefully this not-so-dirty town will once again be cleaning up.