The local mart - no longer the common gathering spot for rural Ireland

Rural Ireland is changing rapidly with many of the mainstays of that culture fading fast.

A friend from rural Tipperary put it best to me last week during my visit to Ireland.

We were driving to Belfast from Dublin and I was remarking on how the new highways, while wonderful, where changing the way people saw Ireland nowadays, no roads through rural towns and villages anymore, where much of the charm of Ireland lay.

He said rural Ireland had changed forever.

“Time was when people would gather at the fair day which is now mostly a memory, or the mart which no longer really happens.

“Before they’d gather outside mass but fewer and fewer are going nowadays because of all the scandals and the emigration.”

Even the most hallowed place, the pub, has its shortcomings today.

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“Even that ritual has become far less common nowadays because so many pubs have closed or locals are afraid of drunk driving because of the massive crackdowns. People mostly drink at home now.”

The only mainstay left he declares is the local GAA team, the sports of hurling and football played in every parish in Ireland.

“Were it not for the GAA there would be no community spirit in Ireland at all,” he says emphatically. “It has come down to them.”

It is definitely true. The GAA team plays for the pride of the village or townland and has seriously deep roots in the community.

But  in every other way the rural Ireland that we all knew is dying fast and neighbors are far less neighborly than they were even a few years ago.

It is not all downhill. Things have actually gotten a bit better since the demise of the Celtic Tiger when the emphasis was on big brash homes where keeping people out rather than fostering community bonds was the norm. There are not too many MacMansions any more.

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There has also been the advent of Facebook which has heavily impacted rural Ireland. I see it on my Facebook friend’s feeds who live in rural Ireland where it is a whole new way of communicating news.

Reports of break ins, local events, places to go with kids are all on Facebook daily now, replacing the community bulletins of old.

My niece’s Facebook last week in rural Meath was full of news of where Santa was showing up, how a car had been broken into, where the old folk’s Christmas luncheon was being held.

Rural Ireland is changing and adapting to the modern world. Whether Facebook will ever take the place of the gathering outside Mass or the pint on a Saturday night remains to be seen.

Someone once defined life’s three great needs as food, love and gossip. I’m inclined to agree and think rural Ireland will be fine, just different, in the future as there will always be lots of those three components to be found!