Agree with that. Our small towns are not always the nicest places to live. Life has always centred around the pub but now there are other social problems too, especially with the drug culture having spread to pretty much everywhere.
In Belgium, which I have a little experience of, a lot of the houses in what passes for countryside are one-offs. That’s in the sense of being individually designed, but the serviced plots of land have been carefully parcelled up by the local gemeente so that you end up with a kind of extended village. I think the result is quite handsome, compared to Ireland there doesn’t seem to be any happy medium between randomly spaced garish McMansions and horrible densely packed rows of identikit shitboxes.
A more recent aspect of Ireland’s sloppy approach is that far more people can afford the McMansions than previously. According to one bloke on the radio recently, we’ve built half a million of them since the 90s, on an area he estimated could be twice the size of Dublin. We’ve always been crap at it, but now the problems of sustainability is looming large.