Tackling rural isolation seen as key challenge
A proposal that would see people allowed to arm themselves for protection from intruders would be a sign that the country has “lost its soul”, a leading priest-campaigner for rural Ireland has warned.
Fr Harry Bohan has also appealed to parishioners to work to tackle the scourge of rural isolation urging people to “turn off the television and check on your neighbours” who may be living alone.
It comes after independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice raised a proposal to allow elderly people in the countryside to arm themselves with pepper spray or taser guns to feud-off would-be attackers.
The Gardaí have launched a special task force in a bid to stamp out a recent upsurge in rural crime. However, Mr Fitzmaurice believes that allowing people to use such weapons “may alleviate their worries and may help prevent them being injured or hurt”.
Deputy Fitzmaurice also called for homeowners to be given the right to store legally-held firearms in their bedrooms.
However, Fr Bohan rejected this insisting to The Irish Catholic that if people have guns in their bedrooms “they are living in dread all the time”.
The well-known activist for rural economic and social development agreed, nonetheless, that the deputy had made a good point in relation to isolation which in rural areas “has become a huge problem”.
“There is isolation everywhere. Doors that were always open in towns and villages are all closed now. People have their own entertainment with TV, and ‘business’ is taking over the time that parents have.”
According to Fr Bohan, parishioners need to be “doers of the word – faith in action, caring for one another, stepping outside the church building”.
He agreed that people need to learn to turn off the television and go out to meet or check on their neighbours.
While he said there may be a need to “re-structure” the Church, he said, the real challenge is to “bring the Gospel message back into action.”
The priest who founded the Rural Resource Organisation which ultimately resulted in the building of 2,500 houses in 120 villages, said there was a huge search for meaning going on in Ireland today as evidenced by the plethora of books on yoga, mindfulness and Christian spirituality. He saw Deputy Fitzmaurice’s initiative as a “wake-up call”.
Without people resorting to arming themselves, a lot more could be done to relieve rural isolation, he said. “There must be ways for people to look out for each other even in rural Ireland.”