Emily Sheehy reflects on the changing landscape of Dublin city and how this is being received by residents.
Most days I walk down O’Connell Street, passing the boarded up former Clerys department store. What once was a popular rendez-vous for Dubliners – “I’ll meet ye under the Clerys’ clock” – and the place where many romances first blossomed, is now set to be developed into the ‘Clerys Quarter,’ which will house a mix of retail outlets, office spaces, restaurants and a four-star hotel. It is bleak to think that not only have we lost a historical and cultural landmark, but it is being replaced with a ‘quarter’ that is misaligned to Dublin culture.
The constant renovation of historic buildings into hotels, offices and stores feels like Dublin is being turned into a hub for visitors and international companies, which in turn alienates those who actually inhabit the city. With the city set to welcome over 50 new hotels in the coming years, it is evident that the focus is on accommodating tourists as opposed to tackling the ongoing housing crisis. It is understandable that tourism is a vital part of Ireland’s economy and has faced a number of hardships following the Covid-19 pandemic, but it is equally important to retain Dublin’s cultural venues and housing. What use will it be to tourists coming to Dublin if there is no culture for them to experience? How is it possible to find employees for these new businesses if there is nowhere for them to live in the city?
The constant renovation of historic buildings into hotels, offices and stores feels like Dublin is being turned into a hub for visitors and international companies, which in turn alienates those who actually inhabit the city.
The numerous construction sites and boarded up buildings appear as if Dublin is being taken away from its residents and being handed to international companies to shape Dublin as they see fit. It seems as if Dubliners no longer have a say on how they would like their city to be, that the real life struggles and demands of its inhabitants are being neglected for the commercial gains of those whose only goals are to profit off of the city’s landscape. The constant construction also gives the impression that the city is a never ending project, always in a state of limbo. Dublin is framed as an incomplete city that has never reached its full potential. It is true that almost every city continues to grow, but the sheer volume of construction on every street in Dublin creates the image that the former character of the city is being deconstructed in favour of something more modern and more accessible to those who visit the city. We are denied appreciation of what once was, and forced to accept what is to come.
The boards hiding the face of Clerys from the public advertise all the exciting new possibilities of the Clerys quarter, that we can “entertain, inspire, mingle, exercise and explore.” Yet the graffiti scrawled over this reads “build more public housing!”. It is evident from this that what the people of Dublin want and what they are being given are two completely different things.