The Irish landscape is scattered with ruins of big houses, cottages and farm out houses in overgrown fields, falling into disrepair. Often out of sight of locals, the derelict buildings are slowly becoming an eyesore in the Irish countryside.
Derelict dwellings are particularly evident in Co. Donegal, as many buildings were boarded up as family members moved from the county. Thus, the story of the properties’ former owners is quickly forgotten.
Often located in areas of natural beauty, these ruins are quickly becoming destroying the natural landscape. Cllr Michael McBride, spoke of his fears for these buildings in Donegal, “unfortunately these properties are lying unattended, the bigger problem with them is the safety issue.” Many of the properties are no longer structurally stable, and are a major safety concern for the people of Donegal. Whilst, blotted the natural landscape, they also contribute to anti social behaviour within Co. Donegal as many are hangouts for teenagers and young people.
The condition that many of these buildings are in, with ivy growing through the stonework and crumbling brickwork is a stark contrast to the original state of these buildings. Many of the doors are boarded up and broken windows are blocked up, as the new landowners are not incentivised to repair the historical ruins. Although these properties are no longer suited to dwelling houses, many of those located on farming land could be used as storage units or could house animals.
Ireland is currently in the midst of a housing crisis with homeless numbers at an all high time high. The Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness is a new initiative directly aimed at repairing recently abandoned and uncompleted homes. However, it does not include the derelict properties throughout the Irish landscape.
The Derelict Sites Act 1990, does cover such derelict and abandoned ruins. The Act defines a derelict site as any land that, “detracts, or is likely to detract, to a material degree from the amenity, character or appearance of land in the neighbourhood of the land in question because of.” Under the Derelict Sites Act, local authorities are responsible for dealing with derelict sites and can prosecute owners that do not comply with notices served, “to purchase land compulsorily; and to carry out necessary work themselves and charge the owners for the cost.”
A register of all derelict sites is maintained by each local authority, containing the location of the derelict building, the owners’ details and a record of the local authority’s action on the site. The register is available to the public. Properties can be removed from the register once the local authority is satisfied that works have been carried out on the site.
Although, this is adequate for uncompleted housing estates etc, the above measures do not adequately provide for derelict buildings dating back hundreds of years. These buildings are steeped in history and provide an insight into the area in years gone by. More must be done by local authorities and land owners to protect Ireland’s historical built environment.