Ballinrobe ‘ahead of the game’

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OPEN FOR BUSINESS Martin Murphy’s Newsagency in Ballinrobe has remained open during the Covid-19 crisis. Shop assistant Rosie O’Connor is pictured outside the premises on Main Street in the town. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Martin Murphy of Murphy’s Newsagents, Main Street, Ballinrobe, on life under lockdown

1404 martin-murphy 300Everybody I’m meeting is in good form and people are getting by without complaining.
I myself am lucky in the fact that I’m still open. It’s bound to be difficult on the other business owners who have had to close their doors.
We’ve had to make changes to the shop, putting social distancing guidelines on the floor, placing sanitisers, gloves and wipes around the place, as well making sure we wipe and clean all the surfaces every half an hour. We also have Perspex glass up across the two tills. People have been very good in sticking to [the rules] and using their cards for payment as much as they can.  
Covid-19 is definitely going to change everything for the future. One good thing I think that’s going to come out of this, is that a lot more people will be able to work from home. There’ll be no need to hop into cars and commute to Galway and the likes everyday. That will be good for smaller towns. Also with people not being allowed to go further than two kilometres, people are shopping in the town more.
There was pressure on me from home to close the shop. When the first announcement came out I thought we would, but papers are essential and they’re important. A lot of people aren’t on social media, so the newspaper is the only way of getting information, apart from the radio. It can be very hard to take a lot of news in on the radio, but when you sit down and read it sinks in better.
I still do a newspaper round and since Covid-19 I’m delivering more papers than ever. A lot of elderly people have asked me to deliver them. And we’d oblige.

Community spirit
There has been great community spirit shown, especially from Believe in Ballinrobe, who were setting up support mechanisms straight away, from collecting prescriptions to grocery and Meals on Wheels, and getting all the information and contact numbers and services that people may need, such as the application for the Government subsidy and Government guidelines in different languages for the foreign nationals in the town. They’ve been phenomenal, and I think we here in Ballinrobe have been ahead of the game in general thanks to them.
They’ve given everyone a fantastic lift. It shows what a good community we have and you’d be very proud of it in times like this.
I’ve never seen anything like this Covid-19. The nearest thing I have seen was when I was a young lad. My uncle lost his wife and two children with TB. And he eventually lost his life with it too.
My parents used to bring me up every Sunday to visit him, but all I could do was look from the outside.
Similar to today, it’s absolutely heart-breaking for families. We had one family recently where their mother died in hospital and they couldn’t go. That’s heart-breaking. A lot of her family would be away in England and couldn’t come back. So it’s a very difficult time for people who lose a loved one.

‘Tough as nails’
The economy is going to need a huge amount of money and resources pumped in by everyone, the Government and the likes. This is nearly like a war. I think after the last wars they pretty much had to print money.
It will be very difficult because there’s a lot of businesses you probably won’t see opening, which is very sad. But you know that’s something that we just have to face.
One thing I’ll often say about Irish people is we’re very adaptable and we’re very resilient. You look at our older age group, pensioners and what not, they’re as tough as nails. They can take all this in their stride, where as the young people might find it difficult to adjust. But again, they will.
We’re very lucky to be in a country area. I would not like to be in a city stuck in an apartment or a hotel bedroom with three or four kids. That must be very stressful so we’re quite lucky to be here.

In conversation with Ger Flanagan.