The Re Emergence Of The Land Question In Ireland.

1167 words - 5 pages

This briefing examines the history of the Irish land question and its re-emergence in recent years, as a background to an international conference: Land, The Claim of the Community to be held at the Tara Towers Hotel, Booterstown, Dublin on 9th and 10th October 2003.The first land reform?The history of Ireland must be based on a study of the relationship between the land and the people?Thomas Nulty, Bishop of Meath, ?Back to the Land? 1938 p.33The Land question has always been central to Irish history. Now, following a relatively quiet period, is at the centre again. Starting in the 1870s a massive land redistribution was carried under the Land Acts, the Congested Districts Board and the Land Commission, dividing the nation?s land more or less evenly amongst Ireland?s many farmers. As a result, 15% of Irish citizens now own farmland, a very high percentage compared to Britain. But this redistribution of land rights excluded whole classes of citizens, including the entire urban population as well as the landless labourers, who largely disappeared after the famine.?Peasant proprietorship is simply landlordism in another form?Michael Davitt, ?Leaves from a Prison Diary? 1885For a long time this omission was not a serious issue, as farming and land ownership were not highly profitable. Farmland first acquired real value when Ireland joined the EEC, and the common agricultural policy began to guarantee payments linked to production. Farmers could also augment their income, or ?set up? their children, by the sale of house sites. More importantly, housing development land near the cities became a source of effortless fortunes, and the subject of intense political lobbying. Nonetheless, the lottery in land was allowed to continue delivering modest benefits to the bulk of farmers and huge prizes to a lucky few, partly because the situation did not seem to threaten the wider economic and social fabric of the country. Taxes on land were even reduced or eliminated: first rates on domestic dwellings in 1978, and then on land in the 80s. Tax incentives and rates relief schemes followed: first for urban areas and then for rural Ireland. Finally capital gains tax on development land was reduced to 20%.? The enhancement of land values relative to GNP, which has been taken further in Ireland than any other country, has operated more effectively here than elsewhere to select out the least competent to operate the land.?Raymond Crotty, ?Ireland in Crisis? 1986 p.74A new land question emergesThe downside of privatised land ownership soon began to appear. Housing became more and more expensive, rent levels in the private rent sector rocketed, and local authorities could not afford to buy building land. Cities and towns sprawled as more and more land was zoned, and single house site sales began to impact on the environment, community servicing costs and farmland prices. The knock-on effects of high land costs have become a very real threat ? to infrastructure...

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