There’s a fascinating project underway in Ireland at the moment. It has nothing to do with politicians, banks, or multinationals, there are no celebrities or sports stars involved, no meetings or committees were convened to plan it, nor is there going to be a shiny new product for sale at the end. One man, Ruairí McKiernan, is hitch-hiking around the country talking to people about their life, about their experiences during this recession, and of their hopes and ideas for the future, all for the basic reason that he hopes to learn something. At the end, Ruairi will be speaking at a conference about what he’s learned and what it might say about Ireland in 2013, and will share any great ideas that he’s heard on his journey.
Ruairi is interviewing people as he goes, and shares those interviews and tells the stories of his adventures on his blog daily. The picture that’s emerging is a mosaic of the high and the low, the ambitious and the simple, and there are more interesting ideas and hopeful attitudes on display than you hear around Leinster House any day of the week.
Some of the updates that I’ve found the most personally interesting so far included:
- Interviews with people on Inis Bofin, including individual attempts to simplify life, and a suggestion that Irish government needs to be less centrally planned…
- Comments on the pressures on farmers from European regulations (and the moment this farmer begins to talk about the power of music — about 10 mins in — is sheer magic)…
Despite the challenges of life on the road, Ruairí is doing a fairly good job of keeping his blog updated as he goes. It’s heart-warming to read about so many ordinary people with positive outlooks and generous personalities — makes a refreshing change from greedy bankers and self-centered politicians. The picture of modern Ireland that’s emerging from this project so far is one of people struggling to deal with massive change as best they can. Some sound like they’re barely holding on, and other are rising to the challenge through retraining or doing what they can to get by. One gentleman commented that one thing the Irish as a whole seemed to lose during the Tiger years was a sense of concern for one another, but austerity has seen that return. It’s an interesting observation, and one that suggests the best aspects of our national character may be reasserting themselves.
I’ll be following Ruairí McKiernan’s travels for the rest of July and will be very interested to hear his conclusions.
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