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The community spirit that battled the Christmas floods is inspiring

Most communities in rural Ireland are being denuded of vitally-important services such as post offices, banks, garda stations and small hospitals.

People themselves are being herded into a technologically driven environment which is somewhat sterile and unfriendly. This type of society limits interaction with other human beings which is a vital component of life in rural areas especially.

It is heartening to note during the flooding that a co-operative sense of neighbourliness has not yet been damaged by such changes.

Apart from the excellent work carried out by official personnel in an effort to alleviate the misery of families whose homes and lands have been infiltrated and ruined by filthy flood water and sludge, we have also witnessed amazing acts of kindness undertaken by neighbours.

All types of farm machinery such as tractors and trailers and JCBs have been used to ferry food and fodder to people and animals. We have seen neighbouring farmers carrying stranded families from their island-type residences to shops, churches and doctors.

The sight of a coffin being transported to a graveyard in a tractor trailer was particularly poignant. These unofficial helpers, who are clad in rain-gear and wellingtons, are extremely vigilant in terms of identifying vulnerable individuals and families. Their input represents an extremely valuable contribution as some officials would not be familiar with local family structures and areas.

It is interesting to note that this ‘meitheal’ custom of cooperation, which was an integral component of traditional Irish life, is still being practiced in the micro-environment of my own townland which has escaped the worst ravages of recent torrential rainfalls.

Local men have cleared blocked drains and removed fallen trees and bushes, not only in the immediate vicinity of their own holdings, but in other parts of the neighbourhood as well.

Heavy rubbish such as refrigerators, cookers and sodden mattresses, which have been indiscriminately fly-tipped in potentially hazardous locations have been removed almost immediately by farmers.

These obstacles could have caused serious road accidents if left in place.

Let’s hope that this spirit of neighbourly concern and helpfulness which we are currently witnessing will survive in the contemporary world of utilitarian technology of all types.

Margaret Humphreys



Co Cork

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