Ireland's rural west bearing the brunt of the recession
Is the sun setting on Galway?
Even when I politely explained that I was from New York and would not be voting, both sides insisted on telling me what a disaster it would be if the other side won.
In the event the yes side romped home, and everyone in power breathed a sigh of relief.
The vote was strictly among class and city and rural lines. The more educated and city dwelling you were, the more likely that you would vote for the treaty.
Rural areas such as Donegal voted against the treaty, as did many working class areas.
It neatly describes the schism in Ireland these days. Rural areas are feeling abandoned by central government, especially in light of the infamous McCarthy report which has demanded that funds for pretty much everything that is not Dublin centered be slashed and cut.
Working class communities are also bearing the brunt. The feeling is rampant that the property developers and bankers who got the country into such a mess are getting away with it, while the less well off are suffering with unemployment likely to hit close to record levels by next year.
In the west the sun is going down on Galway Bay, but not in the way the song envisaged it.
I was in Galway speaking at a media conference, and the anger that welled up when the discussion turned to what has happened to Ireland in the past 12 months was palpable.
It was clear that the media business is also hurting. Galway University’s journalism school graduated 30 students last year and none have yet been placed.
The Connacht Tribune newspaper, celebrating its 100th birthday, is the jewel of the west of Ireland, by far the most powerful regional publication, and yet it too is struggling in these astonishing times.
Galway itself is hurting. As I walked to a nearby pub with some participants after the conference, one pointed out to me a large swathe of downtown Galway that was abandoned and in disrepair.
It was to be the largest development in Galway’s history and was all set to go when the downturn happened. Now it is an empty shell.
Galway is the most buoyant of cities, a wonderful college town that annually hosts two of Ireland’s greatest events, the legendary Galway Races and a street festival that is one of the highlights of the year.
This year attendance at both was down dramatically. The pub we went into at peak time on Friday night was practically deserted but for some locals and a group of musicians playing traditional music.