Ireland’s ghost towns

February 29, 2012

“If you build it, they will come.” The iconic quote from the film Field of Dreams seems like a rebuke to Ireland’s misguided builders and planners as the depressing sight of rows of newly built empty houses – windows broken and doors flapping in the wind – stretch out in the distance.

I’d come to Co Leitrim, in the west of Ireland, to see for myself the so-called ghost housing estates that first came to the public’s attention four years ago as the Celtic Tiger collapsed leaving thousands of developers bankrupt and projects half finished. Surely in four years, something would have been done about this national embarrassment – so obvious a sign of the demise of Ireland’s once envied economy?

But endless talk of charity schemes buying over the developments to house Ireland’s sizeable homeless population , huge price cuts to entice buyers or even demolition have come to nothing as thousands of houses once commanding price tags of over E250,000 still lie empty. The only solution that seems to have been put into action is fencing off the estates – hiding the embarrassing problem behind huge hoardings – leaving the houses to crumble into disrepair away from the gaze of despairing neighbours who paid full price for an identical house just 200 yards away.

But it’s the sheer scale of the problem that beggars belief. Hardly a town or village in Leitrim – the least populated county in Ireland and the worst affected by the over-enthusiastic builders – has been untouched. Pretty lakeside villages with perhaps just 200 residents now have 50 empty ‘dream homes’ in new developments where fading advertising signs boast of private moorings and roof gardens. Larger market towns have row upon row of once smart new town houses – clearly built with the upwardly mobile commuters who were supposed to move to the countryside as part of the government’s largely ignored decentralisation project – now with brambles growing over the gardens, potholed roads unfinished and adorned with graffiti by the kids who use them as drinking dens.

Impressive holiday homes with ‘stunning sea views’ lie vacant with at most one unlucky tenant sharing their ghost street with long abandoned builder’s rubble and broken advertising hoardings banging in the wind at night keeping them awake.
Surprisingly many of the houses aren’t even for sale any more – even if a buyer could be found in the precarious Irish financial market.

One resident – the sole home owner in a once stunning lakeside development – explained. “These were all sold but the developer needed more money from the bank to finish it and they refused. He went bust and that was that.”


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What a disgrace!

Posted by forceFielOfLove | Report as abusive

Great blog post here. Nice images. I will have to add this to my list of places to see.

Thanks for sharing.


Posted by creativeriot | Report as abusive

03/03/12 Our family ancestral home was CO Leitrim. After emigration to the USA in 1850, our family (Roark/Rourke)corresponded with their Irish families. My GGF, John Roark, married Mary Rourke,on Sept 1, 1850 in Co Leitim (Townland unknown but possibly Carrigallen).
The indomitable Irish people have faced much worse crises and will ‘rise above’ this ‘temporary’ crisis/experience in time.

John Roark
Burke, VA

Posted by JohnRoark | Report as abusive

My da came from the old land.
County Leitrim was his home.
As those bygone days went
there were several ways
to ensure sadness & disquiet
steeped in misery, the depth of despair
& Eire’s spilled blood,
quelled the odd riot.
Twas rare
to see a Catholic smiling.
Now the derelict housing estates, meant
for the soiled land to irrigate
grow & bloom
are in states of disrepair,
deepest despair,
& gloom.
Walls damp, decayed, roofs need re-tiling.
In those days it was almost a damnation,
yet they owned to their pride
which circulated free & wild.
Now in the 21c what happened to this once proud nation?

Posted by leprechaungnome | Report as abusive

I certainly would hope that the old country could bounce back yet again. I believe it is a universal ailment that anyone is subject to, as far as thinking it is easy to get ahead. When the money starts rolling in, and tomorrow it’s gone.

Posted by Woodzer | Report as abusive

Why aren’t these abandoned homes snapped up forhomeless and low-income persons? Cetainly, they could be made useful, and either the Republic’s government or corporate leader might underwrite this.

Posted by orionciara | Report as abusive