In this opinion piece, Tadgh Quill-Manley in the second of a two-part series, shares his thoughts on Ireland’s land market, which follows his first segment.
Land has been devoured by powerful, exterior forces in a manner not seen since the outbreak of the Land Wars during the 19th century.
This period served as a precursor to the independence movement in the early 20th century.
When the first Dáil was established in 1919, and its mission, being the ‘Democratic Programme,’ designed by Tom R. Johnson, was adopted, the present make-up of the land market is a far cry from what the architects of an independent Ireland had envisaged.
The Democratic Programme of the first Dáil famously asserted “the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies to be indefeasible, and in the language of our first president, Pádraig Mac Phiarais, we declare that thenation’s sovereignty extends not only to all men and women of the nation, but to all its material possessions, the nation’s soil and all its resources, all the wealth and all the wealth-producing processes within the nation”.
This has been facilitated by denigrating democracy into simply a transactional process, e.g. “I’ll only vote for you if you give me this.”
Young people are being driven from the land
We have forgotten how to look at the ‘bigger picture.’ As former US president, Barack Obama, noted back in 2020, a strong society can never function properly in such a manner.
We have, as a society, lost our focus on serving as custodians of the Democratic Programme, and an era has emerged in which we find ourselves facing a miserable situation.
Young people, such as myself, are being driven from the land, as our forefathers were a few centuries ago.
We are fed up with this regression, which we did not ourselves cause, yet are certainly the most adversely affected.
To quote Oscar Wilde, “They are discontented, disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so”.
An outright ban on institutional investors buying ag land
Although it would not be in full compliance with EU Directives and governing principles to implement an outright ban on institutional investors buying up agricultural land, it is entirely possible to implement restrictions on such activity.
As the National Agricultural Law Centre in the USA notes, for example, while there is no federal ban on foreign ownership of agricultural land (as it may appear unconstitutional and unlawful to do so), there are several individual states who have passed and implemented restrictions.
Approximately twenty-one states specifically limit non-resident aliens, foreign business entities, or foreign governments from acquiring or owning an interest in private agricultural land within the boundaries of their state. There are numerous varying laws as examples.
Many jurisdictions limit certain categories of foreign investors, such as foreign persons or non-resident aliens, foreign firms and corporations, or foreign governments, since each state approaches foreign ownership legislation differently.
Furthermore, specific entities affiliated with a restricted foreign investor, such as an agent or trustee, are prohibited in certain states.
For example, Indiana’s foreign ownership statute prohibits solely foreign business organisations from acquiring agricultural property, but Oklahoma’s law prohibits both non-resident people and foreign firms and corporations from investing in agricultural land.
It is a political choice as to whether we take sufficient action to rectify this most pressing problem.
Concluding, it is clear that we are returning to a new form of feudalism, which is now becoming known in research circles as “neo-feudalism”.
If we do not act soon, we will surely fall into serfdom. Solving these problems will require an active and informed citizenry.
Until then, the present attitudes towards land only serve as a smokescreen in which the norms in the great monarchies and feudal societies of old are carried forward into the present age.
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