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Lynette Fay: I didn't recognise my home county in There's No Place Like Tyrone

It has been well established that I'm a big fan of my home county but I have to say I did not recognise any aspect of the Tyrone portrayed in There's No Place Like Tyrone

A scene from There's No Place Like Tyrone – not all country people jive and love country music
Lynette Fay

THIS month, I have been living in Belfast for 18 years. Very soon, I will have been an urban dweller longer than I ever lived in the country. For some reason, in Ireland, north and south, there is a huge divide between rural and urban society.

Each of the two tribes view each other with an equal level of suspicion, neither understands the other fully, nor do they attempt to try to understand each other. Sadly, this can result in patronising perception of what the other stands for, who they are, what they’re into, and this often leads to infuriating representations and stereotypes.

Given my roots, I may be a little sensitive on this subject. My perception is that urban dwellers can be very critical of their country counterparts. (I am aware that I have not researched this subject at length and that I only have my own experience to go on.)

I often hear country people referred to as culchies, rednecks, farmers, country music lovers. They all wear wellie boots, GAA jerseys, drive tractors and wouldn’t be the brightest. Is that a sweeping generalisation with absolutely no foundation?

Sadly, it’s the representation of country people that is being sold to us through the media. We are often misrepresented.

Recently There’s No Place Like Tyrone has divided opinion on this very subject. It has been well established that I’m a big fan of my home county but I have to say I did not recognise any aspect of the Tyrone portrayed in this series.

It does raise the question of how country people are portrayed, and who exactly is providing the insight into this world? Not all country people can or want to jive. Not all love country music, particularly Irish country, not all of them tune in to Hugo every day and most have nothing to do with farm machinery or working farms.

I think that country people can have a good laugh at themselves but it’s a different story when people from outside choose to laugh at them.

How can we solve this? Should we pack Barra Best off on his travels to discover the real rural Ulster? Organise bus trips for city dwellers to the Mournes, south Armagh, the Sperrins and Monaghan?

The first thing I did when I got my driving licence was to go to Bangor and to Carrickfergus. Before that, I had never been east of Belfast. I had no reason ever to go there.

My initial reaction to these places is irrelevant. I made these journeys because I had never seen them before and I was curious. How many city natives can say that they have never travelled an hour outside the city? What are they afraid of, besides getting a nosebleed of course.

I was talking to a business woman from rural Co Antrim who is based in Belfast. As it happens, all the employees of the business she jointly runs are from rural areas. She told me that city clients have questioned why none of the staff are from the city. They have complained about no Belfast accents among the employees.

In another, more alarming conversation, someone who was born and raised in a city suggested that country people are less aware of the need to recycle and reduce plastic use than people from the city – naturally.

I wondered if this person had ever been to Primark where the demand for disposable clothes that will end up in landfill is going from strength to strength. It would be fair to say that a good percentage of the customers are from the city.

What the comment insinuated, however, was that city people are more educated than people from the country. They are more clued in. Is this a widely held belief? I don’t think that he accounted for those of us who live in the city who take pride in our rural upbringing.

As I sit watching Love Island for the first time ever, I am reminded that sometimes it is difficult not to be judgmental, especially when it comes to television programmes that are presented in a particular way.

When thinking of the rural/urban divide, the blackboard scene in Season 2 of Derry Girls comes to mind. As with the TV show's Catholic/Protestant similarities list, the list of what country and city people have in common needs filled out – that should help you pass the rest of the weekend.

As for the differences? Thank God I’m a country girl…

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