What is at the heart of our relationship with land, with the land? Indeed, we could extend that out to include property in general. Could it be that we are more strongly informed by our tragic history on this than we think?
Somewhere deep in the murky recesses of the Irish psyche is the remembrance of the powerlessness of our forebears during penal times. The mind easily conjures chilling pictures of our people starving to death on the sides of roads or in wretched coffin ships half way across the Atlantic Ocean. The images of that desolation and desperation are seared into our subconscious via school text books and countless solemn television documentaries. On some psychic level we have collectively vowed never again to render ourselves so impotent, so systemically incapable of any shred of self determination should we ever again find ourselves in similarly dire circumstances. Who knows how it could come this time; post Brexit economic Armageddon, post nuclear desolation, post ice-cap sea surges, global warming induced freak weather events.
We know not the day nor the hour, what we do know is that this time we have the keys to a lovely spacious four bedroomed Victorian revival down the country and a funky 800 square foot pied- a- terre in town. Not to mention that field outside Oughterard. We do property and property ownership more obsessively than anyone. It’s replaced the Eurovision for us. Do you think it’s a coincidence that our performances in the much loved song contest started to deteriorate in or around the start of the property boom? Hardly.
Which is all great but what is it all about, in this love affair with land what are we bringing to the table? As far as I can see, not much. The next time you’re out and about just take a look, a real look at the extent to which valuable land is squandered. Squandered by misguided compartmentalization, underuse, inappropriate use, no use.
You honour something by trying to get the best out of it. Chefs continually speak of using every possible piece of an animal that has been slaughtered for food as a means of honouring the sacrifice. We are not getting the best out of our land and for a nation with a supposedly deep spiritual connection to the land, that ain’t good enough.
The list of culprits is long and familiar; the proliferation of once off rural houses of questionable need on huge sites, idle marginal land that could be feasibly employed for willow or forestry, livestock being reared with multiples of the space they actually need, fields being left totally unproductive, planning for sprawling bungalows being granted in village centres where we should be concentrating lower footprint construction and avoiding some of the need for all this once off rural stuff in the first place. Is it just me or can we do a whole lot better on this stuff?