Tuesday 16 January 2018

We are far from Angela's Ashes but a happy society still eludes us

'Exclusive' estates are supposed to make us feel secure, yet urban design really just cages us in, writes Eoin O'Malley

'If politics could make people happier, that’s something we’d want it to do. That’s what it is there for'. Photo: David Soanes
'If politics could make people happier, that’s something we’d want it to do. That’s what it is there for'. Photo: David Soanes

Eoin O'Malley

Alice Taylor's memoir of growing up in rural Ireland in the 1940s presents an idyllic country where children go To School Through the Fields and, though wanting for running water and electricity, the childhood presented is a happy one. It's a stark contrast to Frank McCourt's urban hell in Limerick city at around the same time where only the incessant rain washes the stench of disease from the streets in Angela's Ashes.

What made Taylor's childhood happy was that it was safe, and though not wealthy, her family and community gave her security. What made McCourt's so bad was the financial and emotional insecurity from an unstable home life, that wasn't balanced by anything we might call a community.

No politician since de Valera has glorified the Taylor-style childhood, nor do we sentimentalise the McCourt one. But if we were to take elements of one it would be from Taylor not McCourt you'd want to choose. It seemed happier.

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