Having noticed a steady decline in people coming through their doors, publicans in Causeway North Kerry and Faha, South Kerry, came together to address isolation in the community by creating a unique transport solution involving the whole community.
“Socialising is the fabric that knits our community in Faha together and fewer people meeting-up in a social setting began to impact the atmosphere in the area,” said Sean O’Mahony, owner and publican at Faha Court Pub in speaking about Social Spin, “We knew something had to be done so we bought a community car, set-up a dedicated mobile number and asked people to volunteer to drive their friends and neighbours to and from the pub.”
Every day from 5pm to closing time over 70 volunteer drivers throughout Causeway and Faha get behind the wheel, opting to drive to the pub and back home in place of drinking. Anyone over 25 years-of-age and licensed to drive can sign-up and volunteer to drive the Social Spin car.
To provide awareness of this community initiative, Roscommon-born Hollywood actor Chris O’Dowd got behind the wheel and drove some of the local community to the pub in Faha to show his support for the initiative.
“Having grown up in Boyle, a rural area in Roscommon, I understand the significance of the local pub in bringing people together in a community,” said Chris, speaking about Social Spin, “It’s a social hub, somewhere to catch-up and share stories. Socialising is part of our DNA and I think Social Spin is a brilliant and simple way of nurturing and celebrating this sociability which is such an important part of our culture”.
Pub-goers can either call or text the dedicated Social Spin number when they want to head down to the pub to meet people. There’s no charge for the use of the service but users can offer a maximum voluntary contribution of €5.
“Since introducing Social Spin the atmosphere in the area has changed for the better,” continued Sean, “On average we drive between 80 and 100 people to and from the pub on a weekly basis and as a result it has contributed to a renewed sense of community spirit.”
Alan McAleenan, Marketing Director for Guinness said, “Social Spin is a progressive and positive solution that addresses rural isolation and also brings communities together in the pub in a safe and positive way”.
Also speaking about the initiative VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said, “Lack of rural transport inhibits sociability in villages and towns where there are little or no options to get to or from the pub to meet up with friends or family.
“Social Spin is a fantastic initiative run by local communities that promotes and nurtures sociability within Causeway and Faha which we believe will inspire other communities across Ireland to consider introducing a similar scheme. Once this pilot is complete, we’ll bring a strong message to government that funding needs to be made available to support Social Spin across rural Ireland.”
There are two trials in this pilot – one in Causeway in North Kerry and one in the Faha, South Kerry. While the principles in both trials are precisely the same there are some differences in terms of the backgrounds.
Causeway is a small village with six pubs:
- Harty’s Bar – publican Marian Harty
- Keane’s Bar – publican Richard Keane
- The Forge – publican Thomas Diggin
- Hopper Inn – publican David Barron
- The Stretford End – publican John McHale
- An Tochar Inn – publican Mary Yallop.
Faha is a wide rural area with no meeting-point other than the current pub, the Faha Court Pub.
In one area a number of publicans work together while in the other there’s a challenge for just the one publican to make it work.
All seven publicans who’ve introduced Social Spin into their communities across Causeway and Faha have seen a positive impact with a notable increase in sociability, a more connected community spirit and a renewed sense of vibrancy in the area.
For more information, visit https://vfipubs.ie
Transport Minister Brendan Griffin is himself involved in a community car scheme in his own locality in County Kerry.
He stated recently, “It’s about tackling social isolation but it’s also providing an important economic boost to businesses in the area such as the bars and restaurants that benefit from their customers being able to come and go using this scheme”.
The rural lift scheme he’s involved in was set up eight months ago with 20 volunteer drivers and has already exceeded expectations in carrying 3,000 people so far.
“Each volunteer gives up one night in the month — myself included, I am one of the 20 — we all enjoy doing our night and we also benefit from the service on the nights that we aren’t working if we want to avail of it, the same as everyone else in the community,” he said.
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