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Ireland is one of the least densely populated regions of Europe. This is changing, and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. Most of the population lives on the eastern seaboard in the cities of Belfast and Dublin. This is where, due to the density of population, most of the industry and administration is carried on. People gravitate there because a large population can support the things we like, such as restaurants, galleries, concert venues, cinemas, theatres, unversities, libraries and so on.

In contrast, the rest of the country, apart perhaps, from Galway, lacks sufficient concentration of population to provide a market for these endeavours.

Recently, a leading economic commentator has pointed out this truism. And, he asserts, until we stop building in the ’scattergun’ manner we have heretofore, nothing can change. By this, he means the complete refusal of the Irish to entertain the idea of building up rather than out. and the immutable dislike of rented accomodation as opposed to private ownership as a way to house oneself.

We had one attempt at high rise living. That was in Ballymun, in Dublin. It was a failure. But this was because no effort was made to provide infrastructure to support the size of population that was going to live there. And so, inevitably, it turned into a ghetto of the poor, with matching crime rates.

The complete refusal to acknowledge that infrastructure is necessary for communities continues today. On the outskirts of Dublin, and even into the surrounding countryside, vast housing estates have sprung up, built with no schools, shops or play areas, and even without proper roads connecting these suburbs to the city.

Until we realise that planning means more than the most profitable way of siting single-unit, private housing, we are doomed to have the gradual increase in sprawling estates, which will gradually be transformed into spawning grounds for criminals in the not-too-distant future.

The reversal of this trend will not happen until the powers that be realise that builders, backed up by greedy local government officials bent on lining their own pockets and prolonging their tenure in office, will never deliver what this country desperately needs: authoritative government.

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Limerick 2027?

Site created 14/07/2002; updated 03/12/2007
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