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Readers blog: Funeral bell tolls for rural Ireland unless we fight back

In his celebrated poem, “September 1913,” William Butler Yeats condemns the ruthless manner in which workers were locked out by their employers, giving rise to a winter of poverty and deprivation.

John O’Leary (1830 –1907), an old Fenian, emerges in the poem as the antithesis of the greedy, uncaring, grasping employers of 1913. In the poem, O’Leary is a symbol of integrity, idealism and vision. The refrain used by Yeats in the poem has the haunting toll of a funeral bell:

“Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone.

It’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

The funeral bell now tolls for Rural Ireland unless it awakens from its deep slumber and fights back.

The Rural Garda station has been closed. The Rural Post Office has been decommissioned. High speed fibre optic broadband has been promised but not rolled out. The Bank wants financial transactions done on-line from the loneliness of the kitchen table. Investment in sports and community facilities, the repair and upgrading of unused premises and the provision of long term sustainable employment in Rural Ireland has been negligible to-date.

The final nail in the coffin of Rural Ireland is the current plight of decent hard working Bus Éireann employees desperately fighting to retain their jobs in a company whose purpose is to provide a vital public service.

Rural Ireland will be totally isolated if public transport routes are decimated or exclusively privatised.

The Government is legally and morally obliged to provide adequate funding for socially necessary but financially unviable public transport services. It must continue to do so.

The Irish tax payers provide the Government with more than enough revenue to ensure that no citizen is left on the side of the road, misses a vital medical appointment, loses a job or forfeits a college place because of lack of public transport.

It is due time to think beyond the Pale. Those of us who live in Rural Ireland are entitled to and need the transport service that we collectively pay for. Rural Ireland needs Bus Éireann. Otherwise, with apologies to WB Yeats,

“Rural Ireland’s dead and gone.

It’s with O’Leary in the grave.”

Billy Ryle


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