Saturday 18 January 2020

Editorial: There's still fight in rural Ireland

Rural co-ops have banded together effectively to supply milk to food processing firms
Rural co-ops have banded together effectively to supply milk to food processing firms


The radical maverick John Mc Guinness has correctly claimed the great failure of Ireland's political and administrative elites is one of failing to keep the people safe. Over the summer, this failure has secured a visible symbol courtesy of the people's revolt in Roscrea.

Theirs is a tale that begs the question as to whether anything has changed in Irish public governance since 1968, when John Healy wrote his seminal No One Shouted Stop about the death of a small Mayo town. It is a wretched indictment of the inertia and careless indifference of our rulers who, after decades of non-accountability, have become utterly fearless about displaying their utter indifference over the lives of the citizens, that so little appears to have changed, except perhaps that radicalism now appears to be the sole preserve of mavericks. 

Lest the claim of deterioration be thought unfair, it should be noted 1968 was a year of hope. By contrast, in recent years, indifferent centralising forces have ripped the heart out of rural Ireland. First, they came for the post offices; then they came for the rural pub; they then came for the garda station. Then the self-same central government abandoned these communities when the recession came for the building workers, the factories, the retail workers and the high streets.

Hilary Clinton once famously wrote about how "it takes a village" to build a healthy country. Sadly, by contrast, in Ireland a combination of hostile world forces and indifferent governance has created a thousand deserted villages. Multinational capitalism is, in fairness, not expected to have a social conscience. The failure of a government and its self-interested mandarins, however, to raise their heads from appeasing bondholders to deal with the destruction of the small rural town is an abdication of duty.

It is all the less defensible because the decay in rural Ireland - which for our urban elite appears to only be of use as a place to locate pylons and wind farms - resembles the sense of national decline of the equally lost Ireland of 1959. That same soft mist of purposelessness that turned Ireland into the Indian reservation of Europe is now racing across our rural towns. The most high-profile consequence of the moral malaise that comes with the boarding up of communal hope is the embrace of a nihilistic culture of heroin use last seen in the most social and economically blighted areas of Dublin in the 1980s. This, and the highest rates of youth suicide in Europe, are the visible consequences of the sense of abandonment wounded communities are feeling.

A responsible political class would attempt to repair these wounded communities. Instead, a government obsessed by smart jobs in Google centres only offers condescension about Ireland turning the corner. It may be for some, and thank God for that. But, for those areas of Ireland who do not belong to Enda Kenny's cherished Google quarter, the road they have taken leads back to 1959. And, sadly, rather than a Lemass, all they see waiting to guide them are political clowns dressed in motley. Happily, far from being dead, Roscrea and other towns are fighting back. The people, far from being credulous, are in arms against the reality of austerity and those fatted political calves who, like John Redmond a century ago, would sacrifice the flower of today's youth to this fiscal witchcraft. It will be interesting to see over the next year what generals they will choose to lead the kick-back.

Sunday Independent

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