Ireland stands out as a country which has landscapes that are admired the world over and a society that is ill at ease with the places it inhabits. We tend to assume that when we look at a hill or a valley or a row of houses, our neighbours see much the same as we do, but this is often not the case.
Public debates about landscape in Ireland may hold a promise of an easily won consensus but this rarely happens. There have been numerous bitter landscape disputes in recent decades, leading one visiting anthropologist to describe the Irish countryside as ‘a perennial site of struggle’.
This book, which is written by a professional planner, is an account of that era of change and conflict, covering not just the conflicts that make the headlines but also the day-to-day tensions within the Irish planning system. At the outset the book outlines the country’s outstanding landscape heritage. Changes to that heritage are then explored from different perspectives, with landscape viewed as commodity and symbol and as an expression of beauty. Three especially contentious types of development are described in detail; wind farms, rural housing and the designation of countryside for public recreation and enjoyment. To aid the analysis the recent stories of a handful of places are told in some detail. These are the Burren in Clare, Erris in Mayo, Woodstock in Kilkenny, the Old Head of Kinsale in Cork and Howth in Dublin.