Opinion: The next phase of rapid change is unfolding in our rural communities

An old professor of mine would often contrast the Ireland of his youth with the Ireland of his students. “I was brought up at a time,” he would say, “when the Pope‘s triple tiara, a Kerryman‘s football boot and the rosary beads were equal symbols of the Roman Catholic Church.”

In reality, there wasn‘t much difference between his youth and ours, except for the triple tiara.

Those who don‘t remember the famous piece of pontifical headgear might like to know it was conical in shape with three bejewelled circles representing the ‘triregnum‘ or the levels at which power was wielded by the pontiff – temporal, spiritual and ecclesiastical.

John Paul I decided to forego the tiara when he was elected Pope in 1978 and since then it has been consigned to the papal museum.

In today‘s Ireland the rosary beads look like they may be headed for the museum as the old rhythmic prayer becomes the preserve of funerals and pilgrimages.

Meanwhile, the Kerryman‘s football boot continues to be a potent symbol of another kingdom.

Much has changed since the days when the pope‘s tiara held sway; what we eat and drink, how we make our livings and how we spend our spare time are very different. Indeed, the very notion of spare time would amaze those who went before us.

Watching this year‘s Eurovision, the changed society we have become was beautifully illustrated when the performance of Ireland‘s entry included two male dancers enacting a story of romantic love between two young men.