From the point of view of the rural Irish themselves, however, this may look very different. The greenness of Ireland is a false greenness, after all. Not that it isn’t green — the place can still make you have to pull off and swallow one of your heart pills. It’s that the greenness doesn’t mean what it seems. It doesn’t encode a pastoral past, much less a timeless vale where wee folk trip the demesne. The countryside is not supposed to look like that, to be that empty. Ireland was at one time one of the most densely populated places in Europe. In the 1830s, there were more people living there than today. What you see in the open spaces the island is famous for are hundreds and hundreds of years of Irish dying and fleeing in large numbers. Famines, wars, epidemics and a wretched postcolonial poverty drove them through the ports by the millions. It’s perhaps not so strange that such a people, experiencing their first flush of disposable income, would undergo a mania of home building and land development. Perhaps in a way, the houses were meant for returning immigrants even before they became ghost estates. They were built for the diaspora.