I can only dream of living in Roscommon again

Niamh Towey: We talk about a recovery in Dublin but there is no such thing west of the Shannon

What if I never live in Roscommon again? What if I have kids who support Dublin in the football championship? What if I have to vote for TDs who aren't also turf contractors? (I'm looking at you, Michael Fitzmaurice. )

These incredibly troubling thoughts have been playing on my mind quite a bit recently.

It all started about two months ago when I bought a new car that had to be registered in Ireland. That meant getting a fresh set of registration plates – but would they say D or RN?

Someone at work told me I would look like a big eejit up from the country for the day if I got the Roscommon plates, which is funny – because I didn’t want Dublin plates for almost exactly the same reason.


“Look at your man down from Dublin for the day, can’t pull in,” people say at home, when someone with Dublin plates doesn’t immediately throw the car into the ditch and stick up the hand to wave when they meet a local on a road that’s too narrow for two cars to pass.

This kind of discriminatory talk is very familiar to me. I often engage in it myself when I’m home for the weekend.

What I hadn’t realised is that people say similar things about cars with country plates driving in Dublin.

It didn’t matter, though; my mind was made up. It would be blasphemy to put Dublin plates on the thing – I just haven’t passed that threshold yet.

Great pride

My uncle Sean was as proud as punch when he saw me rolling in with the RN plates, as if I'd just lined out on the full back line in Dr Hyde Park.

I drove all the way down to Roscommon to vote in the abortion referendum too, because I was too ignorant to change my polling address.

I took great pride in the fact that the Roscommon Herald was part of the Landmark media group, which The Irish Times is in the process of buying, a perfect collision of my two worlds.

But will those two worlds ever, in reality, meet? Because let’s face it – it wouldn’t be an easy task, moving home to Roscommon.

We have very little industry and nobody in Leinster House seems to be thinking about ways to change that.

The Project Ireland 2040 plan, released by the Government last year, gave little or no mention of the regeneration of rural Ireland. Our youth are being pulled away to jobs in the capital and unable to return home in the long term.

An Irish Times sports article, published in January of this year, articulated the problem in very stark fashion when it showed just how many players from rural county teams were playing at home but living in Dublin.

In Roscommon, 21 of our senior football players were based in Dublin for work. In Mayo it was 18 and in Leitrim it was 20.

You can imagine that men who are driving at least two hours each way (and much longer in some cases) several times a week to train for their county would much prefer to be living at home, but how can they if the work isn’t there?

City life

We talk about a recovery in Dublin, but there is no such thing west of the Shannon.

Yet when I’m down home I cannot help but dream. There is nothing like the air of the countryside in the summer to fill your chest with restorative zest.

I find myself constantly searching for that same harmony in Dublin, a place where I can exist – even for an hour a day – without the constant hum of a pulsating city

The wide open spaces, the gaggling of swallows and the ditches overgrown with cow parsley are enough to let you think that anything could be possible.

I always leave home restored, the burden of confined city life lifted. There is a rehabilitating power on the meandering roads of home in the summertime.

I wish I could bottle it, the peaceful feeling I get from walking through the lush landscape and pin-drop silence of a place so untouched by human footfall.

I find myself constantly searching for that same harmony in Dublin, a place where I can exist – even for an hour a day – without the constant hum of a pulsating city.

I am drawn now to the Papal Cross in the Phoenix Park and its vast expanse of 15 acres. It is amazing to stand on the edge of it and look out across so many corners of the city while still feeling completely isolated from its suburbia.

Perhaps someday I could stand on the roads of my hometown and not feel so far away from the thrumming heart of a district full of business.

We can only dream.