WITH tourist travel across the world disrupted by the presence of the coronavirus and the associated social restrictions, the Irish community in Scotland has been unable to enjoy the physical link it maintains across the Irish Sea.
Though some essential travel has been allowed, the usual steady stream of those visiting families or travelling to their favourite spots around the country has dried up—leaving travel providers and the hospitality industry in an uncertain landscape.
Speaking of how the restrictions have affected travellers from Scotland to Ireland, Mo Sweeney of Donegal Travel told The Irish Voice about the impact the restrictions are having on the business and of the desire to see people crossing the Irish Sea once again.
“Travel to Ireland from the UK is all we do,” she explained. “Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland all have a totally different set of rules which are always being updated and which we have to navigate.
“This is on top of keeping up to date with the Republic of Ireland, where ‘Phase 2 Plus’ has now come into effect. Both P&O and Stena were operating optimised sailings which meant fewer sailings which were changing at short notice, so while travel has been possible for essential reasons there are even ‘essential’ reasons which fall outside the official definition
“In the 20 years of running Donegal Travel since my parents Eamonn and Rose started the business there has been nothing to compare with this. This will take the business back to the beginning. We don’t know how people will feel. There might be many reason why they will be put off travelling including lack of confidence and fear of catching or spreading the virus.
“Against that, there will be those very keen to travel because they miss their families or are desperate for a holiday. Those who have a home over there will also be keen to get back. I don’t believe the pubs or other venues not being open will bother them too much at this stage. They’ll just enjoy the scenery and meeting people and sharing the craic.”
While the restrictions have prevented the travel industry from functioning normally, ordinary members of the Irish community have also felt the impact more personally, having been unable to visit with family and friends at a time of great concern. The situation has forced families and friends to find new ways to stay in contact.
“One of the effects of the coronavirus was to keep us from our beloved hills of Donegal,” Susan Hanlin told The Irish Voice. “Not to mention the rest of the family, and in particular the lovely green Gweedore where our Daddy came from and neighbouring Annagry from where our wonderful wee Mammy hailed.
“We are eight siblings, now all with our own families more than half of whom live there, while we in the Glasgow contingent visit regularly and whenever a window allows, usually more than three times a year at the least.
“We have had to look on at our brothers’ and sisters’ photos of deserted beaches and beauty spots with envy during the last spell of good weather. We have mastered zoom calls, although the wifi is challenging in the more remote parts, and I can’t help but daydream whether I could possibly do my work from over there having had to do it from my own home for the last three months. How much nicer to isolate and socially distance in such a paradise, and indeed we have been doing this in some respects for years by using this as a place to wind down and just chill.
“I often thank my lucky stars that I have this home from home and another place to which I wholeheartedly feel I belong with several generations of the family having lived there before me.
It is a bit of an understatement to say I have missed the family and this beautiful place as photos, although wonderful to see, cannot compare with the feeling you get when you are there.”
Despite not being able to be a part of the community she loves so much, Susan told how seeing people rally around others in their district to take care of one another has been a heartening sight.
“My siblings have told us of heartwarming stories of people helping the elderly looking out for the community, playing music and so on, but in truth there has always been a strong sense of community there merely amplified by this trying time for everyone,” she explained. “However there has been a big impact mainly in the older community as there were 491 confirmed deaths in Donegal, which although relatively low has had a big impact there.
“I like to think that future generations will have their children running about the hills as we did during our long eight-week summer holidays and that essentially it wont change that much as it is simply perfect the way it is. As Ireland prepares to come out of lockdown we are ever hopeful of a visit sooner rather than later whenever they let us back to our home from home.”