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Mary helping Duhallow connect online throughout lockdown

Mary Cullinane's work moderating the Facebook page she set up in 2017 has never been more important than in these Covid times

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Mary Cullinane from Dromagh runs the hugely popular Duhallow Area Newsletter Facebook Page

Mary Cullinane from Dromagh runs the hugely popular Duhallow Area Newsletter Facebook Page

Mary Cullinane from Dromagh runs the hugely popular Duhallow Area Newsletter Facebook Page

The Duhallow Area Newsletter Facebook Page has been a hugely popular publication locally since it was established in 2017 by Dromagh lady Mary Cullinane.

However, the  platform really gained momentum and came into its own over the past few months as Ireland endured the Covid restrictions.

"When the lockdown started I thought there would be very little to share on the page but in fact the opposite was true, I think with so many people having extra time on their hands and not able to go out, a lot of them were reaching out to social media for that all-important contact with others and this group became a good way of achieving that," Mary Cullinane told The Corkman.

However, Mary went one step further and ultimately provided invaluable help to older and vulnerable people who were cocooning at the time. "I put out a call for volunteers within the Duhallow area who were willing to help out with shopping, dog walking, collecting medication etc. and the response I got was just phenomenal," she said.

Within a very short period of time, Mary had a list of over 40 people from throughout the area who volunteered to help out.

"I was able to put people needing assistance in touch with volunteers, so that was really positive, the kindness of people was phenomenal and really uplifting" she said.

Another facet of the page which people appreciate is the live streaming of Masses.

"I think during these scary times a lot of people need something to hold on to and they find being able to participate in Mass that way helps them.

"Somebody said to me recently that even though she is living in Kanturk she felt connected to all of Duhallow through the page during the lockdown and not as isolated as she would have felt without it," Mary said.

While those of us who frequently visit the Page enjoy and appreciate the varied and fast moving content, we rarely realise that being a Moderator can be pretty time consuming.

"On a normal day I would spend about an hour each morning going through my own news feed and sharing anything that I think would be of interest locally.

"I try to spend another bit of time in the afternoon and evening checking out anything new that would be suitable for the page and uploading that," Mary explained.

While it's mostly plain sailing, on a few occasions Mary has had to remove posts.

"Once there was somebody advertising puppies, and as advertising and selling pets is against Facebook rules, I had to intervene," she said.

Also, in the lead up to the general election she had to remove a post that was very political which led to a heated discussion between members! "I had to explain that the group was not really the place for that," she said.

And of course there are always the inevitable virtual jokers looking for a victim!

"On a funny note, I came across this beautiful photo of a young couple one day that a friend had posted with the caption "Please help, I found this outside Tesco with 'Mam and Dad 1955' written on the back, I would love to return it to the owner so could I please ask you all to share it'."

"Well of course I, trying to be a good Samaritan, put it up on the page. After a while a member commented that this was a photo doing the rounds on Facebook for a joke, the photo from the film Back to the Future!" Mary said.

Not all people are genuine, especially in the virtual world as Mary discovered.

"While I do my best to ensure that those who request to join the group are genuine I did get caught out on one occasion. I realised very shortly that an individual had put up spam posts shortly after he joined. Luckily I discovered this quickly and removed the posts and blocked him from the group.

"I have had other requests since from people wishing to join that I have been suspicious of, so in such cases now I always send a private message asking for more information on why they want to join - generally I don't hear from them again," she said.

Mary has also made the Page available to entertainers whose livelihood has been disrupted by the virus.

"It's great to see a lot of them keeping our spirits up by performing live gigs on Facebook. Many of them use the Duhallow group as a platform to reach people and that is just fantastic. I know I speak for all the members when I thank them for doing that for us all.

"Early on in the lockdown I did a 'Watch Party' one night with many of our local singers and musicians. I tried to include as much of our wonderful local talent as possible and it got a great response," she said.

Mary has been delighted over the years with the reaction she gets from locals:

"I'm always amazed at the number of people who say to me 'aren't you the woman who runs the Duhallow Newsletter, keep up the good work it is a brilliant way of keeping in touch locally'. A compliment like that on occasion makes all the effort worth while."

Going forward, Mary plans to continue with the Page while the interest in it remains.

"I also hope that more and more members put up posts themselves. Even though I set up the page it belongs to the members as much as it does to me.

"We hear a lot about the downside of social media and I know well there can be a very dark side to it but I honestly think that if it is used in the correct way it can be a wonderful way for people to reach others and keep in touch with what's happening in their local community. I honestly think that is more important now than ever so please continue to enjoy the page," Mary said with a smile.   

Corkman