Thursday, August 27, 2015

Update August 28th

 ‘The Battle for Rural Ireland’

The ‘Battle for Rural Ireland’ was a repeat programme from RTE on Tuesday night last. The presenter was Richard Curran who with his family had moved from Dublin to the Inishowen peninsula in Donegal. It painted a pretty bleak picture for the future of swathes of remote rural areas. It focussed on a number of examples such as the area of Moygownagh in North Mayo once sustained by the power station of Bellacorrick. Many of the issues are only too familiar to us in our own region.

Those of us old enough to recall will remember the vibrancy and life of towns smaller than our own. Now, villages like Ballinameen, Frenchpark, Croghan, and Cootehall have declined in the service provisions that once were the reasons for their existence or which made them vibrant in times past. That decline has crept up the scale to larger settlements like Elphin and Strokestown. Boyle too has had its losses with the closure of Hotels, Banks, the Courthouse, Teagasc, mills, shops and the decline in employment opportunities.

The restrictions on the opening times of the Garda station were a curious final straw in that respect. Still Boyle has a lot of positives. It has ongoing potential for tourist development with Lough Forest Park having positive additional features, King House, Boyle Abbey, and Arigna Mining Experience and so on. In this respect it has received considerable name recognition from say Moone Boy and Paul Young of Cartoon Saloon.  Vention Medical as far as I know is a quietly growing entity plus Trojan, Feelystone, National Automation, McGovern Directional Drilling, Keville Engineering, Keenehan Tarmac, Roadstone and so on. It retains its educational, recreational, legal and many more services. It has a vital railway connection and it is recognised as an attractive architectural town of heritage proportions. So it has a considerable amount going for it.

Tourism is rightly seen as an option to assist in sustainability and certainly it is a product that can be enhanced. This summer we have seen a considerable increase in the number of visitors on the streets of Boyle. How much impact a summer of gloomy skies and rain will have is impossible to quantify. 

The TV programme focussed on the ‘push and pull’ factors which threaten rural settlement. 50% of world population now live in cities and this is continually on the rise. The cities are now the engines that drive the economic success of a country’s economy. They are the zones of employment and opportunity and where many young people want to be. They want to be in the city because of its employment opportunities but also for the social, cultural and lifestyle environment. All this comes at a cost to the urban over-populated region and the rural regions in a netherland of existence.
Dublin is Ireland’s hub as London is in the UK. We in Ireland are going down the road of the ‘two speed economy’.

There have been efforts by the IDA and others to spread the employment dividend through the country with limited success. Some factories have come and gone, some have stuck. It was thought a few years ago that working from home was going to be a significant option but that has gone off the boil. It was thought also that the new high- tech industries could set up anywhere but instead they have become clustered together in the cities particularly Dublin.

Even large towns now are under pressure and an example in the programme cited a shop closure in Longford an example that could be replicated in many towns.

A few small communities have in a sense ‘fought back’ like the example of Ballyhoura in county Limerick. I remember this being said of Kiltymagh in County Mayo, a good while ago. I do not know how that is going now.

Farming was once the lifeblood of the rural community and of the towns in its region. While it is still hugely important in that respect the numbers in farming have declined enormously. The recent crash in milk prices so quickly after the opening up of the quota system is a further blow to the sector.
So what of the future? The east of this country is going to continue to develop with population and employment increasing rapidly. Apparently Drogheda is a prime example of the population explosion of an old established town. All this has its challenges to these areas in the provision of vital services to facilitate this growth. Often these services lag far behind as we can see with accommodation once again in Dublin, schools provision, crèche issues, the crowded roads as in Galway, the interminable commuting from longer distances and so on.

Of course what is happening in Ireland is only a follow on to what has happened in other developed countries in recent decades.

Will large areas of rural Ireland just become retreats for those wishing to vacate the city at the week-end? We see evidence of this even at this remove from Dublin with the returning Dublin traffic on Sunday evenings.
There are huge changes afoot. We miss perhaps how dramatic these changes are since they are creeping changes though ‘creeping’ is too slow a word. Someone who leaves the country now and returns in say a decade’s time will really see the changes. Can we hope that large areas of the West of Ireland will be any more than a thinly populated theme park for the urbanites of the East? 
The Cost of Car Insurance.

Like so many utility bills the cost of car insurance keeps rising. When the estimate for our car insurance came to the house during the week its quotation was something of a surprise as nothing happened on our side during the year to warrant it. A call to the broker informed us that the cost of Insurance premiums were 20% up across the board this year due to claims. So there was the answer to most of the increase. On Tuesday’s Roscommon Herald- page 81- there was a piece on the cost of motoring generally, suggesting that while fuel prices were  down in the last year the insurance hike wipes these savings away. “This is the biggest one-year rise in insurance prices in well over a decade”, according to a statement from the AA. Of course in all insurance premiums there is a 5% payment to offset the issues with the former Quinn insurance. The AA also suggests that the average cost of running a family car for a year is in the region of €10,000!

Mayo versus Dublin

Could this be Mayo’s year? We may have suggested that many times down the years. Remarkably each time Mayo advance to this stage of the championship the hopes not just of Mayo people but certainly Connacht and indeed a multitude of people through the country are with Mayo. There is a strong feeling that no other county deserves an All-Ireland title currently as Mayo does. They have had fine teams since their last All-Ireland wins in ’50 and ’51. They have had many great footballers (including Boyle man Ned Moriarty). They have been so close but the fates have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory often. Their route this year is not some scenic route but right through the heart of the powerhouse teams at the top of the pecking order; Galway, Sligo, Donegal, Dublin and Kerry. If they win the last three in that list will demonstrate the quality of their achievement. A Mayo win would release a celebration that would only have been rivalled by Clare’s victory in ’95. I know I am getting ahead of myself and maybe that has been a flaw in previous years. Still one can dream and the resilience of Mayo’s attitude is remarkable. I hope this is the year it gets its just reward.
Kerry seems to be creating another great team and in Eamon Fitzmaurice they appear to have a talented manager with the characteristics of Kilkenny’s Brian Cody. Interestingly the Kerry minor team- manager is Jack O’Connor who in June last was appointed to manage the Kerry U 21 team for their next campaign.   
Boyle versus Strokestown

On Saturday evening next Boyle seniors play Strokestown in one of their most important games in a very long time. Boyle just now have a collection of fine players and when they are on song, as they have been a number of times this summer, they are a match for the best. It is an amazing thing that Boyle has never won a senior championship. An army backed team from Boyle won one in 1928. In the early fifties Boyle Junior team (there were only junior and senior grades then) included three players who played Railway Cup football for Connacht . This was in a time when the Railway Cup was a hugely important competition and Connacht counties had arguably their greatest players with Sean Purcell of Galway; Packie McGarty of Leitrim; Naas O’Dowd of Sligo; Gerry O’Malley of Roscommon and Mayo had a number of contenders in Langan, Carney and so on. The three Boyle junior players who played on the Connacht Railway Cup teams were John Joe Nerney, Dr. Bill McQuillan and Tim Lynch. Realboyle has already noted the presentation of a picture last Monday night to the Lynch family in appreciation of their generosity in allowing club teams train on their lands at Abbeytown. It also notes the football achievements of a footballer that many people would not be aware of as such, Tim Lynch.

Why I have wandered a good bit into those past records is that Boyle seniors this year have one of the best sides they have had in a very long time, as I’ve said, and a bit like Mayo who knows where the journey will take us. They meet another emerging team in Strokestown, on Saturday evening in Elphin. Strokestown have a wealth of young talent with whom we have become very familiar over the last decade. So Saturday evening in Elphin a good deal will be revealed about where we are at and where we are going in terms of senior football. I wish all involved the very best.

Boyle Ladies Agonising Defeat

Commiserations to our Green Street Veterinary Intermediate Ladies who bowed out if this year's Championship following an agonising one point loss to Kilglass Gaels in Croghan on Tuesday evening.  Playing conditions were difficult due to a water logged pitch following a day’s rain. Both teams gave it everything. Boyle took the lead for the first time mid-way through the second half but they were caught by an injury time goal. They can; however, look forward with confidence to next year as there is a strong panel of experienced players and emerging youthful talent.

Brian Keenan

It is twenty five years since the release of Belfast man Brian Keenan from captivity in Beirut. He had been held for four and a half years by Shia Militia much of it with English journalist John McCarthy.  He was first abducted in April 1986 and released after various campaigns on August 24th 1990. McCarthy was released a year later. For a time after returning to Ireland he lived in Mayo and now lives in Dun Laoghaire. Brian Keenan subsequently wrote an acclaimed account of his captivity in the book ‘An Evil Cradling’.    

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