There was a time when only one public bus a day went through my home town. Locally, and rather sarcastically, they called it ‘The Galway Bay Express’. It came down from Cavan, moved along the N63 from Longford to Roscommon, and finally, made its way to the bus terminal in Galway’s Eyre Square. That is of course, after stopping off at practically every small town and decent-sized village along the route.

It would usually pick us up around 8.30am of a morning as we waited outside the chemist on Lanesborough’s main street, all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready for our exciting excursion into the West. All going well, it brought us back along the same route that evening from the City of the Tribes and had us home at 6.30pm ‘for the dinner’. It was the only public transport link we had with the outside world in those depression-filled days of the 1980’s and many’s the trip to Galway city, the Gaeltacht and beyond were enjoyed.

This all changed and changed utterly in 2023 – a terrible beauty being born, as someone once said. It’s called the Local Link ‘Route 426’ and operates a service between Longford and Roscommon seven times a day from Monday to Thursday, eight on a Friday and Saturday and four on a Sunday. It’s changing our lives in this town.


My 18-year-old son calls it the, ‘Drink-Link’ and I’m not sure if I’m pleased or otherwise with the connotations there. But I do know that for the first time since I left Dundrum during my fledgling days with RTE in 1995 and living in the ‘Big Smoke’, I can now get a public bus service from pretty much outside my door in rural Ireland and head the 14 km into Roscommon at 10pm and all it costs me is the princely sum of €2.50. Mighty value.

Today, there are 15 Local Link offices nationwide with around 1,000 public bus services in local and rural areas all over Ireland. It seems as if they are finally getting their act together.

Today, there are 15 Local Link offices nationwide with around 1,000 public bus services in local and rural areas all over Ireland. It seems as if they are finally getting their act together. I have to admit I was a bit of a critic of Local Link when it started. From what I had seen, I thought it was offering a bit of tokenism with short routes around busy provincial towns and just a scattering of services on a Friday to get the older citizens of rural Ireland in for their pension, but I have to admit, I was wrong.

Today ‘Route 426’ stops nearly everywhere between Longford and Roscommon, offering the people of remote places like Killashee, Clonfower Cross, Cloonadra, Moneen, Beechwood and Emoe Cross the chance to get the bus. I was particularly happy about the Beechwood stop as for years my Dad used to tell us about the RIC barracks there and the nearby site of an unsuccessful ambush of the Black and Tans with local volunteers losing their lives setting up the trap. Now that the place is on a public transport route, a history trail cannot be far away.

The feedback is that the people of rural Ireland are excited and very delighted about the new service. Hugely subsidised, it must be costing quite a fortune. Yet there’s evidence that people are changing their weekly shopping habits, as well as using national transport services in the bigger towns with the help of the Local Link schedules - and why not?


Local cynics say, but for the opening of the Ukrainian residents centre in Ballyleague, we would never have got the enhanced transport service on the N63. It is undoubtedly true that the arrival of over 100,000 people in Ireland following the Russian invasion has surely pushed up the demand for proper public transport around the country, but for me that’s immaterial. I just think back on some of the most recent reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General and the millions of euros wasted on projects such as e-voting, and I say that rural Ireland is surely entitled to every cent spent on their Local Link buses.

They tell me now that the next advance will be community cars from local development companies. These wagons will get up and down boreens and country lanes to pick up even more isolated residents and those with severe mobility issues. Proper order. They too pay their taxes like the good folk of Dundrum and Sallynoggin and are well-entitled to the service.

When the lights went out

When the lights went out last weekend during Storm Isha, my thoughts went back to my Dad who used milk 16 cows with an old Gascoigne milking machine in the 1980s. In winter, he wasn’t too worried about power failures but I remember the absolute panic about the milk going sour in the cooling tank if it happened in high summer. The old creamery cans were often dug out again and the barrels filled with water to get by. Sophisticated it was not but it worked.

Follow Ciaran on X Twitter at @ciaranmullooly

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