Fintan O’Toole: Do we love Ireland enough to look after it?

Our fecklessness with nature might be interpreted as a postcolonial hangover

Raw sewage running into the Avoca river in Arklow, 2016

Raw sewage running into the Avoca river in Arklow, 2016

Generations of Irish people used to sing Thomas Moore’s The Vale of Avoca, rhapsodising nature’s bounty in shedding “o’er the scene/ Her purest of crystal and brightest of green”. Today the crystal is not so pure. The ecological status of the Avoca river is ranked by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as “bad”.

It is one of the most chemically polluted bodies of water on the island. But its fate is not unique. In the late 1980s, Ireland had 573 pristine rivers. Today it has a mere 20.

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