Sea and sky converge in Ireland

BEST FEATURE: Malin is on a peninsula and the coastline is spectacularly beautiful.
BEST FEATURE: Malin is on a peninsula and the coastline is spectacularly beautiful.

Tony Kearney endeavours to build a sustainable future from Ireland --------------------

Why did you move to the region? 

Having lived in London for 25 years where I worked as a corporate lawyer, I moved here to a farm seven years ago to practise a bit of what I preach about building sustainable futures, but also because my Irish wife told me to.

What do you do there?

I work as a mixture of author, consultant, facilitator, mediator, trainer, educator and farmer. I am passionate about finding new ways of developing sustainable relationships with ourselves, each other, the planet and the future. (

LONG WAY HOME: Tony Kearney loves living in Ireland but it's a long trip home to Christchurch.
LONG WAY HOME: Tony Kearney loves living in Ireland but it's a long trip home to Christchurch.

What do you like or dislike about life in Malin?

Where I live is a lot like where I grew up in Christchurch in some ways, in terms of the countryside and the look and feeling of it, although, as the Irish would say, it's closer here. You have to be Irish to understand that one. The weather isn't always the best here but, as they say, if you don't like the weather, some more will be along in 15 minutes. The countryside is beautiful and the pace of life is relaxed.

How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand?

About the same. Ireland went mad during the Celtic Tiger years and now it's paying the price big time. As the Irish say, people "lost the run of themselves" and bought in to the myth that they needed stuff to be happy. And when they bought it with money that neither they nor the banks had, they turned around and saw that the true stuff that made them happy was gone and that was themselves and each other. It will take a while for that magic to come back, but it's happening slowly.

What do you do at weekends?

Much the same as during the week, which is a great way to be. Stuff growing doesn't know it's Sunday.

What do you think of the food?

The food is similar to food in New Zealand in many ways, although my favourite food is the organic stuff we grow ourselves.

What's the best way to get around the city?

Avoid going into it in the first place. My city is the 9000 trees ("da boys") we have planted on the farm since we arrived here. Most of the rest of the time I cycle or walk and use the car for longer trips only when necessary.

What's the shopping like?

In town you pretend to go in to the shop to buy something, but really it's just to have a conversation with someone and a bit of craic. It's shopping the way it used to be in New Zealand when I grew up at Brian Palmer's dairy in Christchurch.

What's the nightlife like?

Mainly bats, owls and the odd fox. The nearby small town has one shop and three pubs. One of them used to be a shop, the post office, a pub and undertaker's all rolled into to one. So you could be born, live your life, post letters to friends and family to let them know how you are getting on, die there and then leave in a coffin from out the back.

What is your favourite part of the region?

As we live on a peninsula, I reckon it's the coastline. The east beach is 5 miles (8 kilometres) away, the west one is 1 mile away and Malin Head, the most northerly point of the whole island, is 7 miles away. They are all so different and spectacularly beautiful with sand, cliffs, sea and sky all converging from all directions to meet the past, the present and the future.

What time of year is best to visit?

Probably the summer is nicest, because up here in the far northwest where we live it doesn't get dark at the moment (June 21) until about 11.30pm. I won't tell you when it gets dark in mid-winter.

What's your must-do thing for visitors?

The sights are great, but the people are better. Try to get lost if at all possible. Meander. Up this way, explore the Inishowen 100, which is a 100-mile coastal trail that is truly amazing. Visit ancient sites, take in some traditional music sessions, meet the locals and, most important of all, practise doing nothing every now and then and then you'll fit in perfectly and really begin to enjoy yourself.

What are your top tips for tourists?

Slow down. Wherever you go, there you are, so why not stand still for a moment and just be? On my first trip to Ireland in 1980, when I cycled round the country, I asked a farmer once for directions on how to get to somewhere and he looked at me rather strangely and said: "What's wrong with here?" Quite.

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand?

Not very easy at all at all. About 35 hours from door to door, Malin to Christchurch. But since you're asking, hey, if enough folk want me to come and do some talks, events and wild school visits for kids about Cool Sustainability that would help pay for a ticket home, then I will swallow all that false humility and be there like a shot.

If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from home, email with Expat in the subject line.

Sunday Star Times