A trip to Tigh Mhicí in the village of An Cheathrú Rua, where I went to school was quite an adventure. Tigh Mhicí was the local shop and social centre! Anything, from a bag of cement, to a copy book for school, to a pound of ham could be bought there. Micí opened the doors at 8.00 am, 7 days a week. He closed at night-time around 11.00 pm. The ‘closed’ sign was on the door on Christmas day, Good Friday and if the Galway hurlers were in the All-Ireland final. Micí was always there. It was his way of life. He calculated his payments by totting his sums with a biro on the skin of a banana which he sold after. Tigh Mhicí was a place for young and old to meet, greet and engage on all sorts of issues. It was very much a social centre for the surrounding villages and broader Connemara area.
In recent week we saw the centrality of the local shop in rural communities when the tragedy happened in Creeslough. In the aftermath of the disaster the heart has been taken out of the area, not only because of the devastating human loss, but also the absence of the important location in the community.
During the past week Flora Crowe, Grocery Store Manager in the local Gala shop in Sixmilebridge posted an item on social media and the issue went viral. Her recent electricity bill was the catalyst for much debate at local and national level. It got huge coverage on social media along with traditional main-stream media. In recent times the electracy bill for the local shop was in the region of €6,000 but the latest bill had dramatically increased to €20,000, a threefold increase in a very short space of time. Her fear was, despite the promised government assistance in this area that it would just not be sustainable, and it would inevitably lead to job losses and perhaps closure.
Living in these post Celtic Tiger, post Covid and in the midst of the economic fallout from the Ukranian situation – we are all so conscious of the sudden and dramatic increase in the cost of living. This is evident not only basics like heat and light but right across the board with so many essentials for living.
In the past year I have been nominated to be on the Board of the Charity Organisation Trócaire, the Agency of the Episcopal Conference that help to alleviate poverty and injustice in the developing world. In the face of rampant globalisation one of the key strategies that the Board and Staff and workers of Trócaire are trying as far as possible to promote strategies of localisation. Localisation is defined as the process of organizing a business or industry so that its main activities happen in local areas rather than nationally or internationally. This approach seems to be a wise way to embrace to help sustain local communities and encourage indigenous industries and individual and local talents.
Not surprisingly the parish personnel of Sixmilebridge are very concerned and anxious to address the issue outlined above constructively. The following press-release was issued during the week:
“We in the Parish of Sixmilebridge would like to support the call made by Flora Crowe during the week on behalf of local businesses and especially in small town and urban areas across rural Ireland. The local shop is the heart of these towns and villages and plays a huge part in keeping Rural Ireland alive. Each one of us in our own communities can support these. We know that the cost of living affects everyone. It’s incumbent on all of us now to support the local.
We can do this in two ways at least:
- By giving our support to these businesses.
- To approach our Local and National Politicians, TD’s and Councillors with the important issue Flora made during the week.
At the heart of Rural Ireland in every community is the local village and town and the businesses in them. Our local communities are vital for the future of this country. Flora has made a significant call for a way to support these. We can never forget when we were all isolated during Covid 19 Lockdown the magnificent parts Flora and people like her played not only to supply us with our shopping needs but also in helping us to cope with our isolation.
This could be an opportunity for all of us to show our support and gratitude now for all that. Fr. Harry (Bohan) has given his life to rural areas and rural communities – he would now call on all Parishes to support Flora’s call.”
Shop local, but watch out for the bills on the banana skins!
✠ Fintan Monahan – Bishop of Killaloe
Clare Champion Article Friday 19th of November 2022