The Struggle is Real: Activism in Rural Ireland

Mayo landscape

Most of us don’t know any different. It’s far from super-fast fibre-optic broadband we were reared. And don’t talk to us about mobile phone coverage; standing in a window to send a text, having to go outside to answer a call, or gripping onto your mobile for dear life as you swing your arm like a windmill in order to update Instagram are daily occurrences. Using technology is a full body workout. Our mobiles are very much that, because we struggle to find the best spot in the house to use them. The spot is elusive, and often changes during the day, depending largely on the weather; “Why is the internet not working?”, *looks outside* – “Oh it’s lashing/foggy/misty/sunny…” Yep, even the Mayo sun is against us.

When we do need proper internet, we go the extra mile. Because we are used to going the extra mile, often physically travelling many miles to meetings, or stalls or trainings. An hour round trip for a meeting that may only last half an hour is part and parcel of living here. Travelling an extra hour after a three-hour journey down from Dublin to deliver leaflets to Sligo is something we don’t think twice about. Sure, they have done the same for us!

The struggle is real. A skeleton crew of 30 people, to cover a county, is no mean feat. Sure, the towns are densely populated, but it’s the in-between places, and the travelling from A to B that adds to the workload. In a city, you use transit time to catch up, but all that work in the shticks has to be done when we’re not in transit…because generally, we are the one driving.

Most of the causes which bring people to activism are things that directly affect rural people slightly more. Our voice, therefore, must be heard on these issues. Holding stalls, finding a friendly venue for a fundraiser, or trying to coax people out at night for a public meeting in the dead of winter when the roads are dark and slippy, takes grit and a slightly fanatical commitment. But we do it because it’s important. And we struggle on because no one else will. And we continue because you can either get involved or be quiet. If you aren’t going to try and fix the thing that’s broken, then you have no right to say it’s broken in the first place.

All this makes getting involved difficult. It makes stepping up to take on more structured roles (reps etc.) difficult. Difficult because we want to do at least as good a job as people can do in Dublin. But we are already on the backfoot…which means bending over backwards to make up for where the systems fail us. Activism in Rural Ireland means being asked to write a blogpost about the challenges of activism in rural Ireland, which translates into dictating into my phone all the above on a walk through the fields with my dog, typing it up and hoping, through some form of witchcraft, that it makes it onto the internet. It’s not necessarily more or less difficult, it’s just a different kind of difficult. And It’s not that we don’t see it as a big deal, it’s that we don’t see an alternative. Because we are so used to having to go above and beyond, and make it up as we go along…it’s the Wild West after all.

So please, get involved if you can. We are always looking for new people to help out, and we can use all the help we can get.

Richael Carrol -Mayo Pro-Choice ARC