One of my summer reads will be Long Island by Colm Toibín which Leo Powell profiles in this month’s book page. It is the sequel to Brooklyn, a novel many are aware of it because of the success of the Oscar-nominated film. I remember reading it years ago, mesmerised by Eilis Lacey and her bravery to start a new life, so far away in New York. It is a journey of immigration that many people took – to England, America, Canada and Australia; a journey that many young people still take today.

Leaving home isn’t just about leaving your country, leaving your hometown or county also leaves people homesick. Soon, I will have lived half my life away from Cork and yet, it is still such a part of my identity, and always will be, no matter how long I’m away from home. We regularly go on holidays to West Cork and driving home, my husband and I have the same conversation – someday, we’ll hopefully make the move, and if so, when? Perhaps when the kids go to college or we retire?

Soon, I will have lived half my life away from Cork and yet, it is still such a part of my identity, and always will be, no matter how long I’m away from home

Gemma Smyth and her husband Ronan used have this same conversation driving back to Dublin after weekends in Strandhill, Co Sligo, where Gemma grew up). The difference is after making remote working a reality during the summers of the pandemic, they decided now is the time. They sold their house in Castleknock and made Sligo living a reality. Our front cover tells a similar story in which Niamh O’Mahony and her partner Tony Malone have also left Dublin and moved back to Niamh’s hometown of Headford in east Kerry; and we look forward to following them on their journey to hopefully, revive a run-down cottage, by availing of the Vacant Property Refurbishment Grant.

Rural life

We are so used to the narrative of immigration and leaving rural Ireland for city life, but these stories of moving home also should be told. Jacqueline Hogge writes that according to Census figures, the population of Strandhill grew by 25% in ten years. Those leaving big cities want a more relaxed pace of life, but they also want the amenities that they are used to – good transport, high speed broadband, playgrounds, and of course, excellent coffee. Many communities are absolutely thriving; others need investment. So it was welcome news that the Department of Rural Affairs announced recently that it will be allocating €50 million towards rural regeneration. This needs to be an ongoing investment to ensure that rural Ireland continues to be an attractive place to live and work.

For years, Irish Country Living has told that positive story – of people building their homes and businesses in rural Ireland, whether that’s farming, innovative food companies or entrepreneurial craft brands; and we will continue to write those inspirational articles. However, we also have a responsibility to highlight the issues that are affecting the everyday lives of our readers. When will remote areas of the country actually get high speed broadband? What is the real impact of cocaine in rural Ireland – how is it affecting our young people, on farms, in sport? Since 2005, 22% of pubs have closed in Ireland, mostly in rural areas – how does that impact feelings of isolation?

Jacqueline has recently joined the Irish Country Living team and her role is to be on the ground, reflecting these issues on the pages of our paper. For the more controversial stories, we hope that by highlighting what is really impacting our readers, the government, both at local and national level will sit up and pay attention. Irish Country Living wants to reflect your rural life so get in touch about the issues impacting you.