"...Down on Jimmy's Farm..."
Monivea, Co. Galway
My son Dáire with a one day year-old Charleroi calf on Jimmy Flaherty's farm in Monivea, Co. Galway.
Earlier this month, my family paid a delightful visit to Jimmy's farm when we spent a day walking around the countryside of Currantarmuid in Co. Galway where my wife Cepta spent her childhood and teenage years.
Cepta recently inherited a small farm and its house as a result of the recent death of her much-loved aunt Caca.
We are therefore spending many of our weekends on the farm.
It is a wonderful experience for a hard-nosed city person like myself. In fact, I have to be honest and say that I am falling in love with the Irish countryside. The walks along the narrow roads (boereens = 'little roads'), the smell of turf, the sights of sheep and rabbits in the fields, the views of green fields surrounded by drystone walls, and the sounds of the birds in the trees have cast a spell over me. I am bewitched!
Yet I am not blind to the dramatic changes taht are transforming the countryside as a result of economic wealth and increasing population numbers. Fuelled by the 'Celtic Tiger', rural Ireland is becoming increasingly urbanised.
Farming as we once knew it is finished. For most, it is no longer viable and the main crop for farmers nowadays is 'building land'.
While accepting the need to construct more houses for people, nevertheless I believe that these developments should be concentrated in existing towns and villages. So-called 'once-off housing' is a mis-nomer as it is creating lines of houses stretching along every single country road. This is leading to more car dependancy not less. The resultant motorised traffic and sewerage systems are creating unacceptabel levels of pollutions.
The government must re-think its rural policy and provide significient economic incentives for its inhabitants to become the guardians rather than the destroyers of the nation's lands and waterways.
For example, the state should:
- create no-housing zones
- re-establish natural habitats across large swathes of the country
- concentrate on 'eco-tourism'
- get the EU to prioritise schemes to promote organic food farming & a 'buy local produce' policy
- substantially increase the fines for pollution.
Otherwise we are 'killing the goose that lays the goldern egg' and destroying our children's future.
Ireland so long famed for its 'green countryside' will be characterised soon by a 'concrete and tarmacadan' landscape