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  Landscape and Society in Contemporary Ireland

Our Price: €39.00
Authors: Brendan McGrath
Affiliation: Consultant planner in the West of Ireland
Publication Year: Hardback September 2013
Pages: 248
Size: 234 x 156mm

ISBN: 9781909005716


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.

Average Rating: 5 of 5 | Total Reviews: 2 Write a review »

  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
Landscape and Society in Contemporary Ireland January 31, 2014
Reviewer: Paul Murphy from Cork, Cork Republic of Ireland  
This book is well written, concise, and is both informative and beautiful.  
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so is landscape, one person's romantic vista is anothers building site.Why do we 'destroy the things we love'? These and related weighty matters are tackled by the author without resorting to righteous or emotional indignation.
One off housing has impacted practically all rural Ireland including less well known or established scenic areas. He quotes the poet Patrick  Kavanagh, in describing such areas as 'the humble scene in a backyard place, where no one important ever looked' This book has many other such wonderful poetic quotations and insights.
If, to quote Bob Dylan 'beauty walks a razor's edge'  Mr McGrath has managed to walk such a razor's  edge with style.
This book is beautiful, insightful and profound, a rare gem in a book dealing with contemporary environmental matters in Ireland.Is Brendan McGrath the Simon Schama of the Emerald Isle?

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  2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
planning January 28, 2014
Reviewer: Bill Sansum from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK  
This book takes a fresh look at the Irish landscape and draws on the author's experience from working as a local authority planner and as a planning consultant. Living and working in County Clare during the rise and fall of the celtic tiger years has enabled him to see the effects of the often conflicting demands of today's society, including new housing in settlements and one off rural dwellings, renewable energy, agriculture, minerals extraction and tourism upon what we regard as traditional and mostly unspoilt landscapes. These often arouse strong emotions, depending on your point of view. The author describes these issues by reference to case studies and the book is beautifully illustrated with his own photographs. He also visits a number of areas where attempts have been made to address some of these issues, albeit with varying degrees of success. This book will appeal to students, teachers and non academics alike and references to the author's own family involvement in local initiatives gives it a personal flavour. To anyone travelling through the Irish countryside, the advice is: slow down, turn off the satnav, look around you and enjoy the book.  

Bill Sansum, Retired local authority planner in England and Ireland, Newcastle upon Tyne

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