Cormac MacConnell: The hidden Ireland: it’s on Channel 191

Just how well do you know your own country?

If you were born and bred here, and have lived and worked here since, I would bet there are a fair few amongst you who know a few of the Spanish sunspots far better than you know huge reaches and ranges of our native island.

It is the modern way of the world.

Have you ever visited the Aran Islands or Clare Island or Inishbofin or Tory Island?

Have you ever spent a weekend, or even one night, in the Virginia that glows in Cavan?

Do you know there is another Coney Island, off the Sligo coast, and there is a mighty pub there?

Have you any idea where Ahascragh is?

Have you ever been awestruck by eagles flying over a sundrenched Errigal?

Have you ever suffered on Lough Derg’s barefoot pilgrim island, or even climbed Croagh Patrick?

Do you know what the nightly craic sounds like in Ring or Passage or Dunmore East. Or in the other Dunmore, above in East Galway.

Do you know where you can get a drink in The Stagger Inn?

Do you know where Knockcroghery is, or what it was famed for producing in the distant past?

Where is The Hand?

Where can you find an Irish version of Bethlehem? Or a townland called Waterloo?

Or the site of the other White House in, I swear, the postal district of Washington?

These all exist in our Ireland, and I am frequently amazed at the high percentage of the population that have walked every district of the Riviera or every second beach in Portugal, and have so little real grasp of the rural realities of the Four Green Fields.

The pure truth, once more, as I see it.

As the plight of rural Ireland and its dwindling population begins to attract a belated sliver of attention in the Pale corridors of power, it is also sadly the reality that the treatment of all of Ireland outside the cities and a handful of tourist hotspots like Killarney by the main TV stations leaves a lot to be desired.

Yes, crews will visit the Ploughing Championships and events like the Galway Races and the Rose of Tralee but, in my view anyway, the slick suited presenters generally “spin” the coverage in a way which maximises their presence, but also somehow reduces the event they are covering.

Very often the country item on a news bulletin, for example, will be thrown out as a slight “tail” to the bulletin. Even a bit condescending, more than rarely.

However, in case you are not aware yet that it exists on your life-screen, there is one new channel which, in all fairness to it, shows all the counties of Ireland as they truly are, warts and all, craic and all, resilience and all, day after day, night after night, 24-7.

It is Irish TV on Channel 191, and I want to stress at once that I have no connection with the station whatever, except as a regular viewer.

Irish TV features every county and shows us (and the world) the real truths of what we are like, and how we live, in a way that no other station comes close to, except perhaps TG4 at its best.

The Irish TV presenters on the County Matters shows are not slick metropolitans pushing their egos.

Some of them are very amateurish, some of them are quite sub-standard in their presentations too, but all of them are filled with the raw enthusiasm of life in the counties they are covering and the events they are featuring.

As I am writing this, for example, I have one eye on a feature on Strokestown Show, on the Co Roscommon programme. Events like that are featured, baby shows and dog shows and festivals and fetes and sporting clashes.

There is a high element of country and western music shows, scenes of folk jiving away in little old ballrooms to the singing of the likes of Big Tom and Declan Nerney and Susan McCann — and many more artistes who are unknown outside their own parishes. But featured and honoured, nonetheless.

Some interviews run too long and are boring, and some of the shows don’t work that well but, again in all fairness, is that not the real unvarnished unspun pure truth of what we are.

I stress again I have merely a viewer connection with Irish TV on Channel 191, but I warmly commend it to you all.

If you tune in. you might discover where lies the other White House in Washington!

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