Rural Ireland is rising up

June 19th, 2021 5:10 PM

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THERE’S a sense of deja-vu in recent weeks, with the amount of protests taking place.

One would be forgiven for thinking we were living through a real-life edition of Reeling in the Years, of the 80s or early noughties.

A few weeks ago we had the fishermen and women of West Cork and beyond bringing their trawlers to a protest in Cork city – albeit in a peaceful rally that caused no issues with commercial shipping. These same men and women are heading for Dublin next week to bring their concerns about Brexit and regulation to the capital.

Last Friday we had a ‘Day of Action’ in 30 towns around the county, organised by the IFA, whereby cavalcades of tractor-driving farmers brought their fears about the Cap negotiations, climate action, and what they see as an overall lack of support from government, to the wider public. A second protest was held in Dublin on Wednesday.

And this week we have the people of Donegal, Mayo, and a number of other counties, pleading with the government in Dublin to help them replace their mica and pyrite mineral-damaged homes. In all of these cases the protests have been well organised, calm and focused.

But there is a growing sense that rural communities are beginning to lose faith in the current government, especially when it comes to issues that are not of huge significance in the capital.

Homelessness and property stories have loomed large in our national headlines in recent years, but the plight of our fishing communities and our farmers does not seem to be able to garner the same coverage. Cork South West TD Michael Collins has been echoing his Kerry Dáil colleagues Jackie and Danny Healy Rae on the lack of support for rural Ireland, for several years.

But nowhere was the gap between rural and urban more evident than in the treatment of those whose homes are crumbling due to ‘light touch regulation’ in construction during the Celtic Tiger years. In January, the government offered those rural homeowners 90% of the rebuild costs, up to a maximum of €275,000. Yet Dublin and other east coast homeowners have been allowed seek 100% redress for pyrite-affected homes.

The anger and frustration of local communities was summed up by one farmer who said that they are sick and tired of having ‘people behind desks in Dublin’ making decisions for rural Ireland, without properly understanding the issues on the ground.

Having overseen a relatively successful vaccination campaign which is starting to get the country out of the pandemic, the current government can justifiably feel a sense of smugness about its progress in this regard. But it would do well to realise that other issues, which were kept in abeyance while we battled Covid-19, will now begin to return to prominence.

And the Irish electorate has a notoriously short memory about the good times, but finds it difficult to forget neglect or ignorance.

The government will have no-one to blame but themselves if, when the next election comes around, the current protestors adopt a less tranquil demeanour, if the issues surrounding farming, fishing and construction are not treated more seriously.

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