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'Treating a rural pub like a big Dublin pub is not right'

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Lockdown: Fr Donal Cotter, of Watergrasshill in Cork, said the pandemic had taken its toll on village social life. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/ Provision

Lockdown: Fr Donal Cotter, of Watergrasshill in Cork, said the pandemic had taken its toll on village social life. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/ Provision

Lockdown: Fr Donal Cotter, of Watergrasshill in Cork, said the pandemic had taken its toll on village social life. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/ Provision

Rural pubs say they are being judged on Dublin standards, even though they perform a vital social and community service.

One village has seen four of the five pubs in its hinterland closed because of Covid-19 pandemic controls.

Locals of Watergrasshill in Cork have been left frustrated that small pubs in rural Ireland were effectively being judged by the problems witnessed in parts of Dublin.

"A pub in rural Ireland isn't just about drinking a few pints," local businessman John O'Mahony said.

"I am not a drinking man but I go there for social reasons.

"It is a place to meet your friends and neighbours, catch up on the local news and even support local events like charity fundraisers."

"For older people the pub is basically a social centre. There are some small pubs where you might have only a dozen people there on a good night."

Mr O'Mahony pointed out that some house parties staged in Ireland during lockdown have had 10 times that number of people in attendance.

"It is disgraceful the way rural Ireland has been treated. Small rural pubs are important to the local social life and economy."

Watergrasshill parish priest Fr Donal Cotter said it was clearly unfair for small pubs in rural Ireland to be assessed in the same way as major pubs in cities and towns. "I really think a special case should be made for small, rural pubs," he said. "I would like to see them reopen, especially for older people. There is only one pub open here now and that is because it is serving food.

"The lads who used to stand at the bar drinking pints are now sitting down eating pizza."

Fr Cotter said the pandemic lockdown had taken a toll on village social life, as well as facilities that local residents always took for granted.

Lizzie O'Leary, a mother of five, said a lot of local sports groups used pubs for vital fundraisers and even for social gatherings after major community events.

Barry McCarthy said some people now had nowhere else to go for social outings with village pubs closed, unless they have invested in a food business.

"It has hurt a lot of the sports groups and charities too. I was due to play a darts tournament a few months back to raise money for Marymount (Hospice). It was cancelled and the fundraiser didn't take place."

Ken Murphy said rural dwellers were fed up with the "one-size-fits-all approach". "How can you treat a village pub that has maybe a dozen people in it in the same way as those huge pubs and clubs in Dublin? It just isn't fair."

Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI) official and Cork publican Michael O'Donovan said the situation was affecting more people than just publicans.

"They (elderly) have no social interaction at the moment. They miss coming into their local pub to have banter, a chat and a drink. For them, and for us, we miss each other."

Irish Independent