Thursday, 15 February 2007

Celtic Tiger devouring our heartland?

This piece by John Drennan was in the Sunday Indo' - sorry, I'm just getting round to reading it now:

BACK in the 18th century, Oliver Goldsmith's Deserted Village pined for an idealised village with its "gazing rustics", "never failing brook" and "busy mill". The English village may have been destroyed by the industrial revolution, but in the Free State it was still the focus of the Irish consciousness.
The parish - with its post office, its public house/corner shop and its Macra Na Feirme parish hall - was celebrated by politician, GAA man and poet. Even Hollywood got in on the act courtesy of The Quiet Man. However, the village, with its bridge where oul fellas could look into the river for hours, is under pressure.
I live in Laois which was once the heartland of the small village, a place of mythical hamlets like Clonaslee, Durrow, Stradbally. However, the formerly semi-independent kingdom of the O'Moores is slowly evolving into a parish - or, worse still, a province - of Dublin.
We originally hail from the little one-street parish of Shanahoe. Up to 20 years ago it was the classic Irish village. However, first the pub and then the post office and finally its small shop, closed. There are compensations. The good people of Shanahoe can now spend in Tesco rather than the humble village shop. They can savour being up to their collective arses in cappuccinos, lattes, paninis, foreign properties, fancy restaurants and the rest of the delights of the Celtic Tiger.
However, there are losses too. Pollution has killed all the fish, while with all the traffic these days any man leaning over a bridge for too long is likely to be ploughed out of it by an articulated lorry.
The new reality is epitomised by the beautiful village of Castletown. The arrival of the commuting nation, however, means its frost-sparkled streets and fields are as deserted as Goldsmith's mythical Sweet Auburn. Bertie Ahern can talk all he wants about Putnam, but it will take rather more than a one-page synopsis of the work of an obscure US academic to rescue the new Ireland where "the country blooms - a garden and a grave".

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