Saturday 24 February 2018

The two Irelands . . . the other side of the M50

M50 (Stock photo)
M50 (Stock photo)

John Masterson

You would never be too lonely living in Kilkenny. There are lots of people who have fallen in love with this part of the world and they keep coming back. So it was not out of the ordinary to get a call from an old friend who wanted to come down for a night last weekend. "Anything in particular you want to do," I asked.

"Well I wouldn't mind a pint in Tynan's for a start."

There was a problem. I had to explain to him that the much-loved Tynan's Bridge House Bar had recently closed its doors.

He rapidly moved to Plan B which was Carroll's in Thomastown where over the years we have enjoyed many a fine night of music.

I had to explain to him that they were also closed. The two of us bemoaned the fact that two of the most beautiful pubs in the country were in some difficulty or other. I hope by the time you read this, the situation will have been reversed. We moved on to Plan C which was a bottle of wine in my garden which is still thankfully in business. There we discussed the problems of the world and solved most of them.

I live in a beautiful part of the country but it is outside the M50. Increasingly there are two Irelands: one inside the M50 and then the rest. In the last election 'they' kept going on about The Recovery and 'us' outside the M50 scratched our heads. Last week, three long-standing businesses in Carlow closed. A jeweller that had been in business for 22 years. A dry cleaner with almost 20 years behind them went too. As did a florist after 34 years in business. Small businesses, many of which are family businesses are vital to our economy and society. They are still suffering and, in retail in particular, under huge pressure. Some of this may be due to our American ring road shopping centres. I do not know the ins and outs of why the pubs are closed or the three Carlow businesses but I am sure there is some financial element. People blame the banks. I know nothing of the dealings of these businesses but it would be reasonable to assume the hand of the banks is involved.

I have nothing against civil servants. But like many in the private sector, I wonder what the world is coming to when I see massive golden handshakes, huge pensions and talk of 'restoration' of wages to already well-paid people. Big business may be doing fine, but small businesses are still struggling and it is as if they do not exist as far as 'inside the M50' Ireland knows.

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