Last week I brought my daughter and her friends to see Justin Beiber in Dublin. He was playing in the SSE Arena – which I had always known as the Point Depot. Driving the girls, I was completely struck by the changes in the North Inner City of Dublin.
I met my friend for dinner and she agreed that you really would not recognise the area which has been transformed by the building of the financial centre, the conference centre and all of the hotels, restaurants and services that go with them. But something has been lost too. Without coming over “I remember Dublin City in the Rare Aul Times”, Summerhill, North Strand, East Wall are the heart of what makes Dublin great. If Dublin were a living body, then the North Inner City would be its heartbeat. While there are of course thousands still living there, that community, for better or worse has been completely overwhelmed by fancy office blocks and 9-5 middle class jobs that sail in and sail out. It seems that it has been less of a regeneration and more of a subversion.
The next morning, I took the girls for the compulsory trip to Penney’s. As we walked I came over all guide book and told the girls about these streets. On these streets working class Dublin took on the might of the bosses and fought a lock out, formed the Irish Volunteers, Citizen army and Cumainn na mBan. And in 1916 they took on the biggest empire the world has ever seen.
Those streets we walked remain fairly much the same as they did 100 years ago. Until you reach Parnell Street. Here, like around Summerhill and the Docks there has been some demolition and some ugly rebuilding.
We turned into Moore Street. Very few of the women that trade from stalls are left. My childhood Saturdays involved walkingwith my mother and a pull along trolley to Moore Street. Women selling, women buying and children learning to judgethe seasons by what was on the stalls. Carrots smelt like carrots and parsley and thyme would near knock you out with their smell. But what was a carnival of human life is mostly gone now. While artisan markets are trendy all over the place Dublin’s Moore Street has been deliberately denigrated as profit makers turn a fast buck on the buildings that surround it. It’s as scandalous as it is sad. But to heap shame onto that scandal is what is happening to our national history. Moore Street is where the 1916 heroes fled to when British gunships destroyed the GPO. It’s where the republic was kept alive for a few more days until the surrender. The area was granted the status of national monument. But that was contested by the profiteers who saw that as a nuisance rather than pride. There have been occupations of the buildings and court cases to retain this sacred place. But it remains under significant threat
As much as it belongs to the North Inner City, Moore Street also belongs to our nation. It belongs to my daughter, her friends and their children.
So, my lesson from my trip to Dublin? Progress for progress sake needs serious questioning. And what we have shouldn’t be taken for granted, it’s pretty valuable.