The east just don’t understand


About five years ago I was doing some consultancy work in a Dublin 10 suburb that is historically well-known for its loose horses. I was speaking with the coordinator of a local community development project and in trying to characterise the cynicism of some residents when presented by publicly-funded programmes designed to assist the community he said “if you keep treating people like dogs, they’ll start acting like them.”

Quite apart from the political desperation that this implies, the prescience of his statement came to mind this morning when listening to Michael Ring TD on RTE Radio 1 just before 9am. Clearly Ring was trying to summarise some of the anger present over the decision by former ‘flag-carrier’ (whatever that means) Aer Lingus to switch four of their Heathrow slots from Shannon to Belfast. He was not going to fly Aer Lingus again because of their decision, which might make him fortune’s hostage. He was furious. No doubt local politicking is at play given his constituency but let’s take Ring at his word for just a moment. His anger was little short of telling Aine Lawlor to sling her hook and start listening to him. You can find the portion of the show I am talking about here (Realplayer streaming).

Ring and others are trying to put across their dismay at the decision to switch the slots and in representing the interests of some of the local population their anger and frustration is clear. The vehemence of their argument is something that the mandarins of Montrose and the acolytes of Abbey Street (whoops!) just don’t understand. Anything west of a line running from Derry through to Cavan town, Athlone, Thurles to Killarney is hardly deserving of serious analysis. “You want a railway line where now?”, “you don’t want pressured gas pipes running through your front gardens!?”, “what do you mean cancer services are woefully deficient?”

The force with which public representatives and other spokespeople west of this line put across their argument is borne out of a frustration with not being listened to. I am not trying to construct a conspiracy theory; I just don’t see a correspondence in the analysis of east and west coast issues in this Statelet. Fog on the M50, 31 counties cut off. If this hooha had blown up at any time other than August it would have been safely contained by now. Truth is that journalists love a heated story like this in August because it fills dead air and columns. The dismissive tone of much of the national coverage is evident when Ring asks Lawlor if RTE cancelled a successful Morning Ireland and moved it to be broadcast from London – “but sure I don’t know anything about the money” was her chuckled response.

I do not get to hear local radio outside Dublin or read local newspapers but Ring and others are angry about Aer Lingus’ decision and they have to shout really loud for centralised power in Dublin to hear them. Like my interviewee said: “you treat people like dogs, they’ll start acting like them.”

UPDATE: and apparently a few hotels closed down in Dublin yesterday. Terribly culturally significant, only 600 jobs lost.

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2 thoughts on “The east just don’t understand

  1. Anything west of a line running from Derry through to Cavan town, Athlone.

    Actually , that’s not entirely true. For the Northern parts of the Republic (i.e. Donegal, Sligo, Cavan) Belfast is a lot more accesible than Shannon. Especially now that the Republic is investing millions in NI roads.

    Doesn’t help you if you live in Limerick, but it was always impossible to serve ‘the west’ with just one airport.

  2. Paul, thanks for your comment. I wanted to make the point that Dublin based media tend to homogenise anything of serious political concern to people living west of this notional zone. It’s as much in people’s heads as it is about a line on a map.

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