Friday, April 17, 2015

If You Build It, They Will Raze It

Your new home here----if Wicklow County Council approves
A man's home is his castle, inviolate, protected under the Irish Constitution. Man has the right to own property, and that would include owning a piece of land and/or the house sitting on it.

A man can, therefore, build a house on his personal property if he likes, and live in it with his family. Family is also protected under the Constitution. Put a family in that house and you're safe twice over.

Or so you might think.

After the Constitution was ratified, a government sprang up to manage all the rules and regulations. Among those rules were planning ordinances that defined where and how man could exercise his natural rights regarding personal property. The Irish State stumbled along in its moribund state for decades with those laws, and the next thing anyone knew, prosperity came knocking and changed everything.

Men started building houses all over the place, wherever they thought other men would pay generously for amenities like a lovely view or a fishing stream or the nearby roar of the Irish Sea.

The authorities looked at the hodge-podge of homes taking up valuable farming land, or blocking lovely views to the detriment of others, and devised more rules and regulations to control where man could exercise his natural rights.

But this is Ireland, the land of the conniving colonist with centuries of practice at skirting laws seen as unjust. At least the laws were unjust when the British were making them. The habit just never quite faded out with time.

Gary Kinsella bought a plot of ground in County Wicklow, conveniently located along a major road. It's all about location when you're in the real estate game, and who wouldn't want to be near easy access to the motorways. There was some sort of structure already on site, but it did not suit Mr. Kinsella's needs, so he tore it down and then built himself a charming little chalet. He moved in with his partner and their child, and by all appearance they were quite happy.

Wicklow County Council notified Mr. Kinsella that he was in violation of local planning laws. He could not build anything, much less a home, without their permission. He said he would come in and file the proper forms, but it was just talk. Hadn't the martyrs of 1916 shed their blood so that a cold bureacracy couild no longer deny a man his natural right to a home for his family?

Mr. Kinsella never got that back-dated permission. He just went on ahead with his building project. The Constitution, he was confident, would protect his family home once he had it up and was living in it.

We're razing it, said Wicklow County Council, to which Mr. Kinsella shrugged and went back to puttering in the shed.

We mean it, the Council repeated, and they took Mr. Kinsella to court where he threw himself on the Constitution and its promises. Mr. Justice Kearns listened to both sides, and stood with the Council.

People cannot just erect homes wherever they like, the judge determined, or there would be bungalows surrounding the GPO filled with people claiming their natural rights as guaranteed by the Constitution. If a home is inviolate to that extent, anyone could slap up a lean-to or erect a shed and say it was home, sweet home, and the authorities could do nothing to move them out.

The Kinsellas will be given a timeframe for their removal, followed by the demolition of the family home.

The government has the authority to enforce its rules regarding where a man's inviolate home can be placed. If you build it without that approval, they will raze it.

The days of the Penal Laws and all the cheating that went on to get around them are over.  

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