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Letter from Dublin

The Irish are emigrating once again, leaving ghost estates and zombie hotels behind them

By Colin Murphy   July 2010

There are two kinds of ghost village in Ireland. Each is the legacy of over-reliance on an exotic and apparently endless resource.

In the 1800s, Francis Drake’s potato rapidly became the staple crop of the Irish peasant. Nutritious, bountiful and resilient, it could support families on tiny parcels of land, and new settlements extended far up into previously inhospitable hills.

Then the blight came and wiped the potato out. Arcane land laws and a remote foreign government conspired to reduce the people to starvation. Emigration provided the sole safety valve. Today, the deserted villages of the great famine…

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