I had occasion, dear reader, to travel to the Irish city of Cork from the Irish city of Galway the other day. From the provinces of Connacht to Munster. I was driving, as I don’t think you can even complete the journey on public transport, without massive detours.

My first time living in Ireland was the late 1990’s.  Although the celtic tiger had been leaping into first place within Europe’s fastest growing countries for a few years, it was still benefitting from the lag effect of massive EU infrastructure funding. Not a moment too soon either. Back then, the roads were very poor and train travel was very slow, with large parts of the rail network being single track.

I theorised at the time that this didn’t matter. You see, the web was gathering such pace that it would permeate all sections of Irish business and life and I figured the need to travel physically to and from places would be greatly reduced. The country could make jump from third world infrastructure to first world economic powerhouse with an Internet-enabled quantum leap.

Well, it didn’t quite happen like that. Which brings us to 2014. Dublin is possibly the only European capital city with no rail service to its airport. There’s no motorway connecting Galway, the fourth largest city, to Limerick, the third largest. Worse still, there’s no motorway connecting the third largest to Cork, number two on the list. Hence my rather lengthy journey from number four to number two via number three. And back.

On the rail side, it’s still largely single track which causes scheduling and punctuality challenges as the only places the trains can cross are at at stations. All tracks lead to Dublin, but travelling between the other cities on the train doesn’t really happen. Oh, and in the country you get railway crossings manned by humans.  Yes, that’s right, someone is paid rather well to close and open gates every half hour or so. I think that’s what they call a sinecure – or ‘doss job’ as we would say in England.

You see, greater Dublin accounts for half of the country’s population and its road and network systems are pretty good. Everything else is the country, literally.

Then there’s the virtual infrastructure, otherwise known as Internet bandwidth.  It’s not too bad in the seething metropolis and other city areas.  Out here, as I write my rural idyll, where the local switches have not been updated, it’s about 7MB and 1:48 contention. So I’m sharing some paper and string with up to 47 others.

All this contributes to the paradox that is Ireland, as I touched on in a previous post. Forging ahead in some areas and well behind the curve, with seemingly no chance or intention of catching up, in others.

 

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