Laws of Attraction

Some time back at the height of the boom, a high ranking member of one of the countries leading tourism bodies called for Ireland to build a ‘super attraction’, something like the Eden Project in the heart of the English countryside, a kind of ‘super botanical garden’ which apparently attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The idea is that this ‘super attraction’ would bring lots and lots of people into the country and help boost our tourism revenues. Maybe it would and maybe it wouldn’t, but the notion that we need super attractions, whether they be Disney fairgrounds or well meaning scientific projects, underlines the fact that we have been obsessed with new development and have paid less and less regard to our most important and oldest attraction, our landscape and our heritage. It also says a lot about modern Ireland and how we see our selves in the twenty first century and gives us an indication of where we might be headed for in the future.

Ireland was not called the Emerald Isle for nothing. It described fairly accurately the first and immediate impressions of nearly every first time visitor to these shores. They saw a green and pleasant land rooted firmly to a vibrant and friendly rural community. Many of these visitors were people who spent most of their lives living in highly developed sprawling suburban landscapes that, while comfortable and modern, lacked charm, had no sense of history and no connection to the land or people around them. They holidayed in Ireland to get away from all that, not to see it replicated here.

Are we in danger of turning rural Ireland into such a place? Could we end up with a large modern urban sprawl with no charm, no scenery and no heritage? A kind of ‘Celtic Tiger Theme Park’ super attraction?  We don’t need to look too far to see that the pressures of modern Ireland as a vibrant economy weighed heavily on rural Ireland. All around the country large tracts of land were being traded for large housing or industrial developments while more and more farmers are forced to leave the land. Many small towns and villages around Ireland have been changed irrevocably due to the development of houses in and around them. This has had the effect of giving them a more urban or perhaps suburban feel. The white and yellow road markings, traffic islands and red brick pavements in our redeveloped towns and villages while making a place look tidy and fresh and possibly safer, do nothing to add to the charm and rural feel they once had. Every day it seems, another piece of rural Ireland is lost to us.

And what loss is it? A big loss actually. A loss which in future years could cost us dearly. Our landscape and our heritage is the very thing that makes us attractive in the first place. It is our very own ‘super attraction’ and it is an attraction that Disney and all of Hollywood couldn’t hold a candle to.  It is unique to us, and though it was forged from the past, it is as important to our future as the air we breathe today is to our present. It is our greatest asset and with its loss we might find that the stream of visitors and holidaymakers to this country and the accompanying revenues they bring will dry up to a mere trickle, something which may have terrible consequences for us all as we forge ahead into the twenty first century.


About Ronan Gallagher

Writer and Film-maker living and working in Leitrim in the North West of Ireland. View all posts by Ronan Gallagher

7 responses to “Laws of Attraction

  • Mary C. Dolan

    Well done, Ronan!

    Very insightful and yes, while we need to attract visitors again, they don’t want to see a themepark which are ‘a dime a dozen’ in other parts of the world. They do want the peace, tranquility, luscious landscapes, great music and craic, and above all welcoming nature of the Irish. While I welcome the infrastructural improvements that make the whole of Ireland more accessible and the fine housing stock that is warmer and more healthy, I regret the ruination of our most prized villages and towns with overdevelopment.

    I heard a German tourist comment just the other day during the Carrick Water Music Festival that Carrick-on-Shannon was losing its charm and getting to look just like some other nothing-special towns. I think, in this case, the only thing that keeps us charming in this part of the world in the River Shannon and the wonderful vistas, and long may that continue in its undeveloped, open state.

    We need desperately to get back to value for money (I noted the statement in the adverts for the Joe Mooney Summer School asking local businesses not to rip off visitors as they did last year!) and treating visitors (and natives alike)in the manner for which the Irish were known once upon a time, NOT that long ago.

  • Anthony Murphy

    Well said Ronan. You’ve hit the nail on the head. Most people would be astonished at what’s there in the landscape already, e.g.:

    Keep up the good work . . .

  • Seadhna

    The crazy and unstructured nature of the excessive development during the celtic tiger, and the ridiculous cost of living in this country is destroying what is left of our under-valued and under-exploited tourism industry.
    Most of the blame should lie firmly in the hands of the Fianna Fail government of the day, who placed more importance on development and the appearance of wealth, than on the damage they were doing to rural communities.
    When considering the thought and insight that clearly inspired your very accurate observations, two very famous and contextually significant native american quotations came to mind:
    “One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk”- Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse)

    Only after the last tree has been cut down,
    Only after the last river has been poisoned,
    only after the last fish has been caught,
    Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.

    Unfortunately for the generations to come, they are going to have to listen to and endure stories of a beautiful and unspoilt land,and read stories and poetry about historic sites (TARA),that will not be there because the government of the day felt that development was more important than the preservation of what was the best of our traditional Irish qualities and identity.

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