I like your line of thinking there James, because i feel in dense countries like Holland, you get the impression that land is respected and taken care of by everyone. I must say i do like that way of seeing things. I Helsinki i also noticed the approach to land, roads, development, houses and vegetation was so much more environmentally friendly than here. I mean as soon as we build houses here, we have to suddenly rip up nature and tame it, to straighten it out and replace it altogether. I was interested in Helsinki how nature was often allowed to co-exist, and buildings were merely using the ground as sensitively as they could manage to. But in that harsh Northern climate, people did not attempt 'to beat nature'.
However, the idea of the estate breaking up is incorrect in my view. I most parts of the country, where the land commission worked, right up until 1979 (when it had lost its relevancy completely and become another fat extension of buerocracy, to be used and abused by politians and people alike) it was used to take property off many older people in the West or Ireland. They change of focus to un-utilised land as it was refered to - or land where the owner was perhaps too old, and his/her kids/relations were in Dublin opting for a different lifestyle. The neighbours would simply make a cartel together and decide which piece they wanted to have for themselves. The land commission was simply another 'farmer get rich quickly scheme'.
How alot of these people who received land back in the 60s or 70s even, in this fashion, are getting old themselves. The state would end up keeping them in homes etc, as they grow older, but rather than burden the state, liquidising their assets allows them to remain somewhat more independent. You see the same happening in Dublin nowadays with the 'nanny's old house in town'. In England, the State forced older people to sell the house, and they are put into homes. Paying out of the money for their houses.
Most plots the land commission gave away initially were just starter packs, to get people off-the-ground. One cow, a few hens, a pig and some hay, spuds etc - subsistance famer really, like in the third world. However, most of those 10-acre plots which the land commission gave away initially in the 1930s were soon found to be un-economical, and were re-distributed to people who got bigger and bigger and bigger gradually WITHOUT paying for a scrap of land, through the land commission. Why do you think today that farmers own so many segragated, scattered across the whole parish, narrow 10-acre plots stretching back from our rural road infrastructure?
I believe this is where the original farmer getting hand-outs came from, in an era before there was dole, or free education, unmarried mothers allowance or very much else - the clergy and nuns were taking care of education, health, and basically most services to the community. Like in the third world today, it is dangerous to give people too much, too quickly - the land commission in its second and final phases, helped to start a trend of 'over-dependency' by the farming culture, which has continued right until this day - the current bungalow row, is just the last great battle in this long saga between people and land.
So while, you have struck upon a very relevant point there, I am afraid you need to get a bit of 'on the ground' info first, before tearing off in any one direction or argument. I would love to see the Irish people living in cities like Dublin, be able to buy the land required for LUAS project for instance. Since so much money is being spent, it would been nice if the thing had worked out better. Perhaps Bertie should have been stronger willed there also. Another point i would like to mention, is that Dublin City Council would love to get rid of alot of park areas around Dublin, and little open spaces - sell them to private interests and make them inaccessible to the public. Again, in a place like Paris, Barcelona, Helsinki this doesn't happen as much.
But don't forget for a second, it was the current Bertie administration who initially gave the thumbs up to selling very important assets we had control over, such as the Eircom company. I know that Bertie's government must have got temporarily obese with the gains from selling Eircom, and has managed to spend all of that cash already. So we are back to square one, and I think the information infrastructure could have been much improved to develop some of the remoter parts of Ireland, and to bring them up to the 21C. So don't blame the farmers now, for wanting to be entreprising in their own right - they learned from the Master in that - Bertie.