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The best news is local - the power of grassroots media has not gone away

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In the same month that our taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny grimly eyeballed the whole wide world from the cover of the European edition of Time magazine, I picked up a copy of his own local Mayo weekly paper. It is known as The Western People, and it is one of the venerable and highly respected weekly county newspapers in Ireland.

These mighty old weekly newspapers never forgot the power of their grass roots. Here dwelt those who bought the paper and advertised in it and got their world view from it. Nobody did that better than The Western People.

I bet there is a paragraph in the Ballina notes section from a half-century and more ago recording the birth of infant Enda Kenny. And the photo archive probably includes shots of Enda at eight years old playing juvenile football or winning a school sports race. Or maybe losing it!

I’m reflecting, reading this week’s district notes in the People, at how much the world has changed in Enda Kenny’s political lifetime -- and, ironically, how little it has changed.

The marriages and the deaths of folk in all the villages and parishes and hamlets of Mayo are still faithfully recorded in the notes. And so too the births of the little boys and girls who just might also adorn a Time magazine cover in their time and season.

I know I’m often accused of  “spinning” the charms of a vanishing Ireland in an unjustified fashion. Perhaps there is some validity to these criticisms.

However, a glance at the splendid district notes supplement of Enda’s local paper this week is nothing short of fascinating, comforting and stimulating.

If Time and its cover men are dealing with a savagely demanding global situation, it is equally true that the warp and weft and woof of local communities is never more important.  The Mayo news from the green grass roots tells us in which homes the ritual Station Masses will be held in next Wednesday (“all welcome”), and who won the GAA bingo, and what art classes are being held in the community center, and which farmers won prizes at the show of cattle and sheep. 

And who is down to play the organ at Mass next Sunday. And at what time you can donate a pint of blood to the hospital system. And if you are lonely or down you can contact the number below.

Columns and columns of heart warming stuff. Affirmation in every line that this special west I keep talking about is indeed still well and strong. And even more closely bonded than before.

It will endure maybe even longer than Time magazine.

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