Sunday 25 February 2018

Bridging the gap as we go forward

Lay of the Land

Jerpoint Abbey Photo: Getty
Jerpoint Abbey Photo: Getty

Fiona O'Connell

The modern may be marvellous, but it is wise to remember our roots. You can still see how this country looked, before the development of past decades. Castles are nestled around every rural nook and cranny.

Our connection to these ancient artefacts is very much alive. A lane near the medieval hotspot of Jerpoint was recently named after the Fennelly family who have lived there for aeons. While in town, the bridge has likewise been given the same name as the adjacent watchtower.

The elegant widow, Esther, who still lives in the family home next to both, tells me that it is named after her late husband's uncle. That long gone generation lives on in her grandson, who shares his name.

Nicholas hates the heat and would rather go to Iceland than Ibiza for his holidays. "But, sure, he doesn't need to travel," his grandmother laughs, "for his school is so full of foreigners!"

Ireland has had more than its fair share of blow ins, as this Norman neck of the woods exemplifies. Where, alongside former city slickers, such as yours truly, are newbies from neighbouring shores. There are also folk from much further afield. Yet recent polls suggest that rural people are wary of immigration.

Maybe that's because a country town is not a mini metropolis, but a self- contained community. Where even little changes can make a difference. Which nowadays cannot always be presumed to be positive. Especially when imposed by external authorities that conceal politically incorrect truths about the ensuing turmoil that may occur.

Such as the sex attacks in Germany, where initially the mayor of Cologne had the audacity as to reprimand the victims. It was left to Muslim journalist Shamil Shams of DW, Germany's state run international broadcaster, to express concerns about "the German government's decision to allow thousands of refugees into the country without much scrutiny of their backgrounds...what happened in Cologne happens regularly in my homeland, Pakistan. The men are never ashamed, never feel guilty, never show remorse...I am sure they did it with absolute contempt for the European culture, its norms and its people."

So why wouldn't rural communities be wary of the possibility of sex offenders who disrespect our democracy? Or prioritise them above the memory of those who died defending it? Because whatever about "the long fellow" de Valera, this centenary year, locals have been talking about "the long man", Thomas de Cantwell, a knight who fought during the crusades, and whose effigy still lies in the ruins of a nearby 14th century church.

For the apparently ancient is always with us. And we should not allow amnesia to annihilate it. Because when it comes to changes that could destroy what we cherish, forgetting our forebears is a bridge too far.

Sunday Independent

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