Growing up as I did in an urban area, you always thought Macra na Feirme was a rural organisation that held dances for young farmers to meet potential spouses. To urban dwellers Macra was about as rural as it gets and I never thought that I’d end up at a Macra do but yesterday that’s exactly what happened and there wasn’t a Massey Ferguson in sight.
A few years ago Macra came up with the idea of “Know your neighbour week-end”. The idea was to get new communities to meet together for a day and to undertake an activity. They understood that integration of communities was fundamental to balanced societies. There’s an important need to bond communities together. Given how commuting, pressure on incomes, high mortgages, long working hours or shift working have impacted on family and community life Macra have definitely touched on something with this idea. There’s a limit to the number of working hours you can knock out of a day and its easy to see why you could be tempted in an estate to say get someone to do the job and pay them. You never see a residential property marketed by an auctioneer as “set within an active community with a thriving residents association”.
Margaret Thatcher once famously said that there was no such thing as society only consumers. Fundamental to her view was a strong belief that everything and everyone has a market price. She was wrong. Events like the one Cromwellsfort Residents Association hosted yesterday proved her so. The Thatcher view ignored the reality that communities are more complex and based on more valuable criteria than mere financial values. You cannot put a value on social interaction, neighbours working together, the old Irish idea of Meitheal. In Ireland we have this Boston versus Berlin debate where liberal free marketeers take the view that to be enterprising we should get the state of our backs and commercialise everything. Just as the British Tories found out there are limits as to how far you can push communities, despite the propaganda, they still thrive and you marginalise them at your peril.
So there we were on Saturday afternoon, cutting down trees, lifting manhole covers, spraying and sweeping the verge. We started at 1.30 and as the residents came out armed with spades, wheelbarrows and spraying tanks we set off around the estate. Children collected 2 bags of rubbish in black polythene bags and then sorted it to see what could be re-cycled. When we finished up, we all had a drink and a good chat together and already we’re already looking forward to next year.