The Irish Dream

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

A photograph accompanying an article in the New York Times on the troubled Irish economy shows a planned community with a street of unfinished houses, their construction halted by the slump. What surprised me was their appearance. Despite being in a different culture, and being constructed out of different materials—solid brick rather than a wood frame—the houses could have been in an American suburb. They exhibited the same traditional domestic features: pitched roofs, dormers, divided lights. Many reports about the bursting Irish housing bubble refer darkly to “McMansions,” but that is hardly the case with these modest houses on what appear to be small lots. Nor should we imagine that Ireland is in some respect a copy of America. The Irish were a house-occupying nation long before the current crisis; 90 percent of Irish dwellings are houses, a substantially higher number than in America. The American Dream is Irish, too.

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