It would be naive in the extreme to expect society to remain the same as the years go by. Naturally, it keeps evolving and changing. However, a number of the changes that have happened to Irish society in the past couple of years are really stark and maybe not for the general good either. Rural Ireland is changing so fast, at times it’s hard to keep up. And there is much more on the way.
The pub scene in country areas – which was part of our society for many decades – is now almost over. Save for a Saturday night, pubs in small towns and villages all over the country are close to being empty during the week. Price is a factor of course, but the tougher drink-driving laws and the stiffer enforcement of those laws is spelling the deathknell for the pub scene.
I know that you simply can’t argue with the science and it is absolutely impossible to take issue with the relatives of victims of drink-related accidents. Not for one second would I ever condone drink-driving…but the facts are that people in rural areas are now terrified to go out and have a few drinks. People who act responsibly and who get a lift/taxi home, are now afraid that they will be over the limit when they get up for work in the morning. Even if you go in for a few pints during the week there is a fair chance that you will have no way of getting home. There is no public transport in much of rural Ireland and the taxi service in rural areas is very patchy, especially on week nights.
A friend of mine said to me at the weekend that he socialises on a Saturday night, but is now fearful of going out to get a newspaper/litre of milk the following morning. Whatever the reasons behind it, this is a huge change in Irish society. There are many people who would say that it’s no harm at all, given the problem that we have with drink as a nation – but it has driven drinking into the home, where there is no regulation at all.
There was great fun and social interaction for people in the pub for many decades and the vast majority of pub-goers could enjoy that without it becoming a problem for them.
Mind you, even that change in rural Irish society will pale into insignificance if the recommendations contained in last week’s report from the top medical journal in the UK, The Lancet, are to come into force. They say that in order to ‘save’ the planet, people should give up eating red meat altogether and have chicken and fish once a week. We should eat vegetables and fruit and lentils and nuts, according to the report. Such a change in habits would in my view essentially signal an end to farming in Ireland as we know it.
We are turning into a ‘coffee shop society’ where people either cannot afford to go out to the pub any more, aren’t interested in doing so, or, for the reasons outlined above, are afraid to. But what will happen if farming as we know it disappears?
Yes we will have to grow vegetables and feed our people some way or other – but it’s a fairly depressing prospect, to be honest.