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'This could be a catalyst for a community revival' - Ruairí McKiernan

In the aftermath of the Celtic Tiger crash, Ruairí McKiernan found an anger laced with positivity when he hitch-hiked around Ireland for his new book. As we stare into another crisis, he tells John Meagher that a new focus is needed from those who govern us

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A challenge with a difference: Ruairí McKiernan. Photo by Myriam Riand

A challenge with a difference: Ruairí McKiernan. Photo by Myriam Riand

Hitching for Hope by Ruairí McKiernan

Hitching for Hope by Ruairí McKiernan

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A challenge with a difference: Ruairí McKiernan. Photo by Myriam Riand

On the face of it, Ruairí McKiernan had it all. The year was 2013, he was in his early 30s and was a much-admired mental health advocate. He had founded the young people's charity SpunOut and he was engaged to be married.

But underneath it all, the Dublin-based Cavan native was deeply unhappy. He began to realise that he had been on a treadmill of his own making for years and he was completely burnt out. His health was suffering. And, it was the period when the so-called 'Great Recession' had hit hardest and he sensed despair all around him. Ireland, frankly, was broken.

"I had been on overdrive," he recalls. "I hadn't put any fuel in the tank." The same, perhaps, could have been said about Ireland.