Fading rural Ireland in our hands and trolleys


I was reared on a small farm in West Cork. All my siblings still live in West Cork. I live in West Cork. I am blessed to have these connections with a beautiful part of Ireland. I have visited many other parts of the world, but there are none that can compare when all things are considered.

But the West Cork I have known and love is dying. It isn’t just change; it isn’t just progress — it is fading away. But it can be saved if people pull together in a committed way.

It’s not just the villages that are in trouble. I walked through parts of Skibbereen today and my siblings and I recalled the families who used to run thriving businesses in the buildings that are now derelict or run down. I had two wonderful summer jobs in the Wine Vaults on Bridge Street and it was an honours course in anthropology and sociology! 

Families lived here for centuries but not anymore.

Today, there was a taste of West Cork — not just in the food stalls — but in the conversations that were being had as people meandered around with bites of food in their hands and stopped to talk to one another.

West Cork’s strength is its people. But people are best when we pull together. And that’s what’s changed.
We have been infected by a virus called “convenience”. Hence it’s more convenient to buy all one’s shopping in a ‘supermarket’ than to shop, talk and connect in a local shop. 

It’s more convenient to go online and order goods though they are sitting on shelves just down the local street.
It’s become more convenient to put one’s feet up at home and follow the arguments of a fake community in a soap than it is to support the local voluntary organisation who are disappearing for lack of volunteers.

Yes, we need a national policy to sustain and support rural communities. But it has to begin with the people who live in local communities supporting the life-blood of local communities. Anyone who lives west of the Viaduct just should not drive back to West Cork with food they bought east of it! 

Stop the rot! Be aware of it! Look around! Talk about it! Do something about it. The antidote for this virus is in our hands. Be inconvenienced enough to care, please.

[Images taken in Skibbereen’s main streets.]

This was a bar when I worked here in my college years!

When the local cattle mart was in the centre of town, this bar did a very busy trade!

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