Personally, I can't understand what appears to be a general disappointment at the poor quality of the built environment and the lack of environmental awareness in contemporary Ireland.
For me, the reason is simple: 100 years ago almost all Irish Catholics were peasants, or were at most one or two generations removed from being peasants. These were the people who drove out the people with power, money and "cultural memory" (1916, etc,.)and took over the running of this country from them. Nothing has filled this vacuum since.
It is on this point that McCullough's paralleling of Irish historico-cultural experience with that of the Czech Republic or Finland breaks down. In these countries, the ruling class, with an urban culture, was never ejected within the space of 10 years.
Our almost non-existing planning laws, apparent urban environmental awareness, etc., etc. are all caused by our roots as the peasant class on this island 100 short years ago.
A peasant mentality is not interested in the built environment. Its true spiritual home is the fields and the misty mornings of an Irish autumn morning and the open fire. This is what we are. It will take some time before we become a truly urban people, if indeed we ever do.