Joined-up thinking

David Lynch

Reporter:

David Lynch

Joined-up thinking

Dundalk has a fine tradition of industry, the kind of companies that brought huge employment to the town and bankrolled a lot of other businesses in the process. Down through the years the type of company and industry has changed from one field to another, but always the sense of community prevails.

The breweries of course usually comes to mind in this instance. The news last week that the old Ecco building on the Ecco Road could be granted a new lease of life as a cash and carry and warehouse facility stirred up many memories in this regard.

Our own photographer here, Arthur Kinahan, worked there for over 30 years. He was one of over 1800 at the time. My own father worked a night shift. Everybody knew someone who worked there, such was it's reach.

In more recent years the big tech companies have filled this void. In my college days I worked in the Vodafone call centre (formerly Eircell) on the Ramparts at the weekends and in the evenings. It helped greatly to supplement my meagre student lifestyle. It was the sense of community I remember most though.

These were the jobs that ensured so many didn't have to leave, not just the town but possibly the country, to seek opportunity. Dundalk is, as we all know, ideally placed geographically for large scale production and service centre jobs. Being smack bang in the middle between the island's two biggest cities helps enormously.

But it can also be a hindrance. Of late Dundalk has the feeling of a commuter-belt town about it. The buses and trains stop and start here and you can head to Dublin for the weekend in 40 minutes. And that's our fault really.

Despite the undoubted hardwork of many, there's just not enough in the town to hold a young person's attention. Those same young people who have disposable income and time to spare.

Today we have the likes of PayPal, eBay and National Pen assuming the mantle. These are all companies that bring over foreign workers. Workers that live here in Dundalk. But anecdotal evidence suggests that many of these folk will head to Dublin or Belfast during their off time.

Dundalk is work, but not pleasure.

So what can we do to halt this slide and try to stem the loss of money to the big cities?

First thing first - Dundalk cannot compete with either Dublin or Belfast. Therefore we shouldn't try and style ourselves on them. We need to think differently. Dundalk should be a break from city living. It should be the peace, the sanctuary, the release. But that shouldn't mean boring. Dundalk needs to look up the road at Carlingford as a potential model. Here is a small village which teems with life and vitality.

By linking Dundalk with Carlingford in a more direct manner - ie regular and constant cheap (free?) public transport at all times - could be a start.

Dundalk should be the gateway to Carlingford and the adventure activities that lie there and beyond.