There was a time when living in the countryside was a great perk, and all of us who have had that luxury were envied by towns folk and city folk, who were forced to live in concrete jungles.
A Dublin fellow who I was talking to today described it perfectly, when he said he lived in such a congested area he was lucky to be able to see a yard of sky.
And so this week as myself and a number of volunteers travelled around the parish, selling the tickets for next week’s Big Dance (I will give it one last plug at the end of this piece), and as we enjoyed the beautiful Autumn evening, you would be forgiven for thinking that all was perfectly blissful in our part of rural Ireland.
Yet there was an inescapable feeling that fear is now a huge part of everyday (maybe everynight) life, out the country, and we were very aware that we would not, and should not, call to isolated houses much after 9 o’clock at night.
As a rule, despite the fact that we were looking for financial support, people were genuinely glad to welcome us into their homes, but we were also very conscious of the doubts, and fears, they particularly the older folk, would have as they came to answer the knock at the hall door.
We are all very aware of the impact the closure of local Garda Stations has had in rural Ireland, but the appalling case of the seven thugs who terrorised the Corcoran family in Co. Tipperary two years ago, has brought all this to the forefront again, and has highlighted the extent of the brutal criminality that is prevalent all around the country.
In fairness to the Gardai, the legal teams, and the Judge, I would have to say that the sentences handed down to the seven-man gang, who had 315 previous convictions between them, appeared on the face of it to be reasonably severe.
But what was so disgusting, and even frightening, was the total contempt shown by the gang as their sentences were handed down.
All bar one had many more previous convictions, and jail obviously holds no fear for any of them – free digs, three meals a day, televisions, gyms, education all laid on and paid for by us – and it’s all just like a holiday camp.
I know some people campaign for longer sentences, but, in my opinion it’s when they are actually in prison that they should be forced to learn the errors of their ways.
Take away all their privileges, make them do hard manual labour and let them realise that prison is in fact a punishment, and not a place where they can relax in comfort until they come back out, and continue on their merry criminal ways.
It’s also indisputable that Enda Kenny and his appalling Government made a huge mistake in closing all the local Garda stations – now that he has all this €27 billion (or is it €42 billion?) to spend, let him admit his error, do a u-turn and re-open most if not all the closed stations, and maybe our elderly neighbours might be able to sleep peacefully and without fear in their beds as the dark winter nights close in.
In the Sunday Independent, the highly-respected journalist Eugene McGee has a piece on crime in his own county of Longford, and he questioned the role that CAB actually play in rural Ireland – he wonders how people who never worked a day in their lives, and have no intention of doing so, can have exotic lifestyles, own large SUVs, stage massive family events, and own large houses and he poses the question – are CAB too busy elsewhere to bother about smaller counties?
He also highlights the text alert system which he says is very successful in the Longford area, and has thwarted a lot of crime, and yet he says many residents seem to be going out or their way to make it easy for the criminal gangs.
Lights should be left on at night, and I believe every rural house should have a dog around the place or in the house, and in the case of pensioners the dog license fee should be waived.
I’m aware that criminals will ‘take out’ the dog, but in my experience nothing is as off-putting, in every way, as the sound of a dog barking in the middle of the night. Going back to CAB and their apparent inaction against obviously wealthy non-workers, you’d wonder why the Revenue who target small legitimate businesses and go through the books with a fine comb, couldn’t team up with the CAB people and hit the crime bosses where it hurts – in the pocket.
Anyway, for all of us who live out the country, keep vigilant, watch out for suspicious activity, look out for your neighbours, and between us all, maybe we can make the countryside safer for all of us who are still lucky enough to live there.
Supporting Joe on The X Factor
Changing subjects (thank God, says you, what’s wrong with him), and last night I watched, for the first time in a few years, most of The X Factor Talent Show, and I cannot imagine anything more cruel than the six-chair challenge.
I’ll assume you know what it entails, but to give a contestant one of the six chairs (which should mean they are through to the next stage) and then take it away when someone better comes along, makes great television, but at what cost, psychologically, to the unlucky participant?
I don’t think it’s morally right, and I will only watch next week because Athlone man Joe McCaul is taking part. As you know, I work in Athlone (or if you don’t, you should) and I’d often see Joe in or around the shopping centre, and I have to commend him for what I like to call his stickability – he never gives up, keeps bouncing back, and just when you think he’s faded away fully, back he appears again!
It’s all over the papers that he doesn’t survive the six-chair challenge, but even if he doesn’t, in my mind he’s still a winner! Come on Joe.
Frank Nelson for charity dance
Talking of winners and in the world of country music, Frank Nelson is certainly a winner, and himself and his band have played all over Ireland and beyond – he is one of our best-known songwriters, and we are delighted to have him playing at our charity dance in Dowd’s Glencastle Lounge in Glinsk on Saturday night coming, 10th of October.
Just in case you saw on a different local paper that Frank is playing somewhere else that night, that was a genuine mistake and the man with the hat will definitely be in Glinsk, so don’t miss him.
We are in the last few nights for calling with our tickets, and we will do our best to get to you, but if we don’t make it, or indeed if there’s no one home when we call, don’t let that put you off!
You can still contribute at the door. Our two charities, Cancer Care West and The Lourdes Invalid Fund, help many local people and indeed their families, and need all the help they can get, so thank you for the wonderful support we’ve got so far, and looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday night.
‘Till next week, Bye for now