Tag Archives: rural Ireland

Catching up with modern Ireland: June

We’ve reached the halfway point of 2019. My monthly roundup follows below. I will be in Ireland from late July through early August, posting about my travels. The monthly round up will return at the end of August. MH

  • My piece on Éamon de Valera‘s 1919 visit to Louisville, Kentucky, where he was drawn by up-and-coming caricaturist Wyncie King, was published on The Filson Historical Society Blog. The accompanying watercolor image probably has not been seen in 100 years.
  • Edward F. Crawford, 81, a wealthy Ohio businessman, was sworn in as the new U.S. ambassador to Ireland, more than two years after the Trump administration came into office.
  • “So let’s not wrap the death of “rural Ireland” in a shroud of nostalgia. Piety has never done the real rural Ireland any good. Dying worlds attract romantics and since “rural Ireland” has been dying for 170 years, it has been romanticised up to its neck,” Fintan O’Toole writes in a column for The Irish Times, part of a five-story exploration of rural Ireland.
  • New “mortality differentials” from the Central Statistics Office show Irish women live longer than men; marrieds longer than singles; professionals longer than unskilled workers; and Protestants longer than Catholics.
  • Fodor’s is dropping online and print references to Belfast’s political murals after the BBC suggested it guides pandered to damaging, unhelpful and unfair stereotypes of unionists. The guides described Catholic murals as “wildly romantic” and “aspire to the heights of Sistine Chapel-lite” while Protestant murals “resemble war comics without the humor.” The guides also said, “In Northern Ireland they say the Protestants make the money and the Catholics make the art.”

“King Billy” mural in Belfast, from my 2016 visit.

  • The Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN) has secured one year of operational funding while it continues to look for long-term support. Ulster University announced earlier this year it was closing the highly-respected source of information about the Troubles and politics in Northern Ireland, drawing the ire of journalists, historians, and others.
  • Ivan Cooper, a founding member of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and civil rights leader in Northern Ireland, died at age 75.
  • TheJournal.ie has introduced an “Ireland 2029” podcast. The first episode explored whether Ireland (and the rest of the world) is ready for a four-day work week.
  • “A previously confidential government study detailing 142 areas of life in Northern Ireland that will be impacted by Brexit has been published, revealing risks to everything from cooperation on congenital heart disease and cross-border child protection to rules preventing the looting of national treasures,” The Guardian reported.
  • Niall Gibbons, the chief executive of Tourism Ireland, has rejected claims by the DUP’s Ian Paisley that the marketing agency favors the Republic of Ireland over Northern Ireland. Read Gibbons’ statement to the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.
  • Arranmore Island, three miles off the coast of County Donegal, is trying to attract immigrants to boost its dwindling population of fewer than 500 people. The community council is promoting the island’s high-speed internet service and laid-back lifestyle will attract knowledge workers to the remote local.

Árainn Mhór Island

The ongoing debate about the health of rural Ireland

Emotional hand-wringing and serious debate about economic and social challenges in rural Ireland are ongoing matters. The “Vanishing Ireland Project,” which began in 2001, has focused popular attention on this complicated topic. Lately, there’s been another mini-eruption of attention in the press.

In two pieces for the 3 April issue of The Irish Independent, Dan O’Brien insists that Rural Ireland is recovering, despite claims to the contrary, and There should be no caving in to rural populists. He writes:

Is rural Ireland dying? No, is the short answer, even if fears of a depopulated countryside are more than understandable. Over the course of human history, no trend has been more universal and more constant than urbanization. The move from the land into towns and cities has happened across the world. It continues to happen everywhere.

O’Brien says that population increases and job growth in most parts of the Republic contradict suggestions of rural Ireland being left behind and give “only very limited support for the claim that there is a two-speed recovery between urban and rural areas.” He does acknowledge the West remains “a signification exception to the good news story.”

rural ireland

Still, notions that economic recovery do not extend beyond the M50 motorway (Dublin’s Beltway) are both wrong and dangerous, O’Brien says in his political analysis:

The strong sense of grievance in much of rural Ireland is in keeping with the anger meme that has spread across the western world. Some rural dwellers claim the recovery is not being felt in their areas; that they are being ignored and neglected by the Dublin elites; and that they are losing out in all manner of ways. Some have even spoken of “the death of rural Ireland.”

Whether intentionally or not, his piece is published a year to the day after this headline appeared in IrishCentralThe strange death of rural Ireland as we know it. “Rural Ireland is in deep trouble,” John Spain wrote at time. He continued:

“To say that is not to announce anything new because the way of life in rural Ireland has been under severe pressure now for several decades. But the threat to the rural society that is central to the Irish character and to the image we have of ourselves and the image people around the world have of us has increased dramatically over the last decade. And that has been particularly evident during the economic collapse we have just been through.

A few weeks ago in The Irish Times, Dublin museum director Trevor White said there is “comical deference to rural Ireland” in the capital, which “treats rural Ireland with a respect that borders on fear.” Whether this is true or not will be partially revealed in the response to growing demands for a full-time agricultural minister in the new government.