Viagra village is sick of fame

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The Independent Online
RINGASKIDDY is hardly a place that conforms to Ballykissangel- style stereotypes of rural Ireland. It's an industrial sort of place where people earn their living in chemical plants and, until a few month ago, lived their lives quietly and minded their own business. Until, that is, Viagra became the wonder drug of the age, and changed the lives not only of the impotent men who take it, but of those who live in the tiny County Cork town.

The apparently insatiable demands of the world for Viagra has brought a rare prosperity to Ringaskiddy - population 370 - for it is here that a key ingredient of the drug is made in the town's Pfizer plant.

Most of the farmland around Ringaskiddy was handed over to American chemical companies some time ago. Pfizer was the first, in 1969, and now dominates the village's skyline as much as the Cork-to-Swansea car ferryport. Its 320 workers have a small stake in the company and stand to reap their own financial windfall if its share price soars on the back of Viagra's success.

Viagra has already brought all sorts of visitors to Ringaskiddy, and not all of them welcome. Journalists, for instance, are not liked very much, especially ones who claim the smell of the chemical plant is making the dogs frisky. A few weeks ago, people in the Village Inn were reported to be merrily joking about how the 'Pfizer riser' would turn Ringaskiddy into the 'erection section'. Now the joke is wearing thin and people prefer to just roll up their sleeves and make pills, or anything else people around the world demand.

And demand has been quite extraordinary since the first batch of Viagra arrived on US pharmacy shelves last month.

"Let's face it, ageing Yanks will do anything to try to prolong their youth," said Jack Dunne, one of the few in Ringaskiddy who was keen to talk, as he waited for a lift home. "I'm still only 40 and my own personal view is that I don't need it."

This was hastily confirmed by his wife Pauline when she drew up in their nippy red car. "As you can see, we've got no problems in that department, " she smiled, as their young daughter bounced around in the back seat.

Born and raised in Ringaskiddy, Pauline Dunne thinks "it's great that Viagra is being made up the road". However, Pauline moved out of her hometown when she married Jack. She now lives up another road, like most of the Pfizer workforce, in the burgeoning neighbouring town of Carrigaline, where it has been much easier to avoid the media circus.

Michael Murphy, who runs the local newsagent, was slightly more forthcoming with his views on Viagra than the clientele in the Village Inn. After a little gentle coaxing, he opened up on the matter.

"I suppose the course of history might have been changed if Henry VIII could have got his hands on some Viagra, but I'd have thought a cure for baldness would be more widely welcomed," he commented, although Mr Murphy himself still has a fine head of hair at 62.

Martin O'Driscoll, a 42-year-old shipwright, has lived in Ringaskiddy all his days, apart from a few years abroad.

"Next they'll be making artificial penises in this village," he quipped, a reference to the local Johnson and Johnson plant, which manufactures a range of artificial limbs.

Mr O'Driscoll isn't always so droll. A bit of a bar-room philosopher when he isn't repairing boats, he has thought a lot about the pros and cons of the chemical companies which have crowded into Cork harbour.

"I suppose it's a question of ecology versus economics," he ruminated, swivelling round on his favourite bar stool in the Ringaskiddy Inn.

"I've seen a lot of people emigrating out of here. But we also had to put up with a lot of shit from the chemical companies for a while. Pfizer told us what they were pouring into the water was 100 per cent safe, but it's farcical to suggest that any chemical company is completely clean."

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