'It’s unfair. And it’s further ruining Irish culture': Kerry publicans hit out at decision

The delay in reopening pubs is seen as an attack on rural Ireland and its traditional ways
'It’s unfair. And it’s further ruining Irish culture': Kerry publicans hit out at decision
Billy Keane: "It’s the uncertainty that is the worst part. And no one knows if NPHET are right. There is no mental health perspective in their decision."

There has been a bewildered and angry reaction to the Government decision to delay the opening of traditional Irish pubs across villages and towns in Kerry. 

The decision is being seen as an entirely Dublin-based one, where public transport and the gastropub means there is choice for city dwellers.

Few villages and tourist towns in Kerry have gastropubs, while most pubs across the county are traditional.

The delay is seen as an attack on rural Ireland and its traditional ways.

Outside the tourist belt, away from the madding crowds, where social distancing is a given because of so few clients, the problem has long been "to get people to come into the bar", as one bar owner put it.

Inny Tavern, Mastergeehy, Dromid, Gaeltacht

The Inny Tavern is a stop-off for anglers who appreciate the rich fishing grounds for sea trout and salmon, but mostly the customers are local farmers. Picture: File photo
The Inny Tavern is a stop-off for anglers who appreciate the rich fishing grounds for sea trout and salmon, but mostly the customers are local farmers. Picture: File photo

It is a decision he never regretted — Mr O'Connor says Ireland is the best country in the world given the chance, and life is not a bed of roses elsewhere.

The bar is a stop-off for anglers who appreciate the rich fishing grounds for sea trout and salmon, but mostly the customers are local farmers.

If the delay helps to prevent a Covid-19 flare-up, an extra two or three weeks won’t matter because “our year is gone down the drain anyway", he says.

However, regulars are bewildered at the further delay.

Nestled in Mastergeeha, 13km from Waterville and about 15km from Caherciveen, the Inny customers are very upset, says Mr O’Connor, adding that they would never have believed they would have to wait from March 14 to August 10 to be able to get a pint in the large bar. 

“It dragged on and dragged on,” he said.

A lot of pubs will not reopen — even in Caherciveen, a decent-sized town, there are rumours some of the bars are closing down for good, according to Mr O'Connor, who admitted he has tossed around the idea of letting the pub go himself.

“To get people to come into the bars is a bigger problem than keeping them apart,” says Mr  O'Connor.

John B Keane’s Pub, Listowel 

Just one of the 15 pubs in Listowel serves food and only the Horsehoe Pub, apart from the Listowel Arms Hotel, is open in the busy literary and rural town.

At the well-known John B Keane’s pub in William St, publicans all morning have been contacting Billy Keane to express their dismay.

Mr Keane, a columnist and writer, runs the pub called after his late writer father. 

"It’s the uncertainty that is the worst part. And no one knows if NPHET are right. There is no mental health perspective in their decision,” he says. 

While the regulated trade of the traditional pub is shut down, there are a lot of shebeens and lots and lots of house parties going on, claims Mr Keane.

Eddie Walsh’s Bar, Knocknagoshel

John Walsh, grandson of the late, great Kerry footballer Eddie Walsh, after whom the family-run pub is named, says the decision is a direct blow to rural Ireland.  Picture: File photo
John Walsh, grandson of the late, great Kerry footballer Eddie Walsh, after whom the family-run pub is named, says the decision is a direct blow to rural Ireland.  Picture: File photo

With all pubs closed not just in Knocknagoshel, but in the town of Abbeyfeale, Castleisland, the villages of Cordal and Currow, and the four pubs in Brosna, there will be no rising of many traditional pubs in rural Ireland after Covid-19.

John Walsh, grandson of the late, great Kerry footballer Eddie Walsh, after whom the family-run pub is named, says the decision is a direct blow to rural Ireland. 

"It’s unfair. And it’s further ruining Irish culture. A lot of rural pubs will never open again unless there is some kind of special support,” he says. 

The decision is urban based, claims Mr Walsh, adding that foreign tourists should not have been allowed in this year and local communities would have been protected.

The nearest pint now for people across the Limerick-Kerry border will be at least 30 minutes away by car.

Jackie Healy-Rae Bar, Kilgarvan 

Danny Healy-Rae says he is "gutted" at the decision. Picture: Andy Gibson.
Danny Healy-Rae says he is "gutted" at the decision. Picture: Andy Gibson.

He, like his customers and other publicans all around the country, is "gutted" at the decision and, like Mr Keane in Listowel, believes mental health is the hidden issue here. 

"The rural people now must travel past their own local pub and travel miles to the nearest big town and have a meal to have a pint. 

"They have enough to eat at home, thank God.” 

Most of his customers only want one or, at most, two pints and want to socialise, but there is no understanding of this tradition in the Government, says the TD.

In a rare move, the TD/publican has issued a written statement today. 

It states: "On behalf of all of the publicans in rural Ireland, I ask the Taoiseach to give them the green light to open next Monday. 

They have waited for 17 or 18 weeks. People living in rural valleys, glens, and highways do not have the wherewithal to go to bigger towns where they have to have a meal. 

"They do not have the time or funding to do so. 

"People used to go to their local pub for a couple of drinks. They are at their wits' end. 

"Mental health is an issue for publicans and people who cannot get a drink and have a conversation in rural Ireland because all the doors have been closed to them. 

"Some two-thirds of the publicans in Dublin are working. Half of the pubs in larger towns have reopened. 

"Nothing is happening in rural Ireland. Places such as Gneeveguilla, Scartaglin, Rathmore, Brosna, Knocknagoshel, and Sneem have been shut down. 

"It is not fair. The Government is discriminating against the publicans in rural Ireland."

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