Comment: Why I feel guilty for turning my back on rural Ireland
Walking down Dublin’s South William Street, I glance at my phone to check I haven’t somehow misplaced four days of my life.
It’s a Monday evening in February and every bar is bustling with customers.
That god awful saying, which represents the kind of arrogance associated with those who played two helping hands in this country’s recession, pops into my head: ‘The boom is back’.
But it’s not, for people in rural Ireland anyway.
Back home in Wexford, most bars don’t open until 7pm as many publicans struggle to make ends meet.
A few months ago, I went to buy a bit of bacon and cabbage in a local butchers, only to be greeted by an empty shop.
As someone who has lived in Ireland’s capital for seven years now, I’m often out of the loop with the goings on in the sunny South East.
One of Enniscorthy’s longest running family businesses had closed its doors for the last time after 47 years, and I, in my oblivious Dublin bubble, didn’t have a clue.
Shortly afterwards SuperValu, which had been in the town for almost five decades, was forced to shut down with the loss of 27 jobs.
When stores like that are closing, you know something is wrong.
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That’s life, I suppose, businesses come and go, but headlines about the decline of rural Ireland don’t seem to be going anywhere.
The Government is criticised for not creating more jobs in counties outside the pale, or offering incentives for young people to stay at home.
But the truth is, even if there were jobs or incentives, I still don’t think many of us would be tempted to leave the bright lights of Dublin.
Don’t get me wrong, I love where I’m from and enjoy going home.
I'm proud to be from Wexford and always will be.
However, I would kind of compare visits home to being an auntie.
You get to swan in and have all the fun, then leave before it’s time to deal with the serious, responsible stuff.
I'm having the best of both worlds and eating my cake too by having the option of booting it back up the N11, back to the city that has spoiled me.
I can get buses where I want, have some of the biggest shopping brands in the world right at my feet and a social scene which would appeal to anyone in their mid-twenties.
Yet, rural Ireland trumps urban Ireland in many ways; the greater sense of community being one.
Neighbours spend half their lives gossiping about each other, but if something goes wrong, they’re right by your side.
Everyone may know your business, but sure I suppose it’s nice of them to take an interest.
In Dublin, you could live beside someone for a year and never get so much as an hello from them.
People tend to keep to themselves, unless you’re parked in their spot or playing music too loud, then you’ll know all about them.
I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve uttered “I can’t see myself moving back to Wexford” over the last seven years.
I suppose that is where my feeling of guilt originates from - my subconscious asking me “is that not a bit selfish, though?”
Sometimes I wonder are people like me the reason rural Ireland is in decline.
I see more people I know from Wexford on the streets of Dublin, than I do when I’m in Wexford.
We’re all here, in the big city, taking what is probably the easier, more lucrative option.
We swap the sticks for the 'big smoke' to get a college degree, but many of us stay long after graduation day.
Our parents understand why we stay.
However, I still get a heavy feeling in my heart when I hear the disappointment in my mam's voice if I say I’m not coming home at the weekend.
It’s only a little over an hour down the road, so some may see that as a slight exaggeration, but it’s not.
While we in Dublin have the privilege of hopping nightlife and job prosperity, the people we leave behind in rural Ireland are facing an everyday struggle.
Local banks are closing and you may have to drive 45 minutes away to make a lodgement, family businesses can no longer keep their heads above water, and rural pubs, which were once the life and soul of the country, are dying.
Towns are on edge as they wait to see which shop will be the next to close its doors.
So next time you think about saying ‘the boom is back’, take a visit to rural Ireland first.
You may end up feeling guilty too.