Where are we going?
Hello there. I've lived in Dublin for three years. There's a lot of things I like about it. And that's my first issue.
My overriding impression is that Dublin could be an amazing city. But it's like it doesn't want to become one. And that is so frustrating to see every day.
I'm going to outline my impression as a visitor. Maybe I've got it totally wrong, but this is what I've seen:
The recession scarred different parts of Ireland in different ways. In Dublin, people are now obsessed with making money. They need that cash to live without anxiety.
People feel guilty if they take a day off, like they have committed some mortal sin. "I know I shouldn't but I was answering emails all night" - well why were you doing that?
I realise that will come as a shock to many Irish people, who believe Irish society is undermined by the lazy and the work-shy. You might be right, but the people you're thinking of aren't the people we are building things for. So allow me to continue: you're all very busy.
This obsession can be seen in the design of the city. You go to the premier streets like Henry Street or O'Connell and there are no benches or fountains because the streets are just tools, places we use while on our way somewhere.
The idea of taking a five minute break in the city centre seems totally alien. Breathing space? With no pressure to buy something or be making money? No, no, no, it's to the shopping centre for you.
The reaction to The Bernard Shaw closing has been impressive, and I'm not surprised some people think it's too much. You might think it's a bit of a stretch that I'm going to tie it into this post.
But it is totally relevent, because The Bernard Shaw's crime was that it was a nice place to be. It wasn't perfect, but it was part of Dublin's social and cultural scene and it was paying its own way. It's just that the land could have been used for something more profitable, so in Dublin logic that means it wasn't good enough.
Fixing this isn't as simple as ordering "more culture". Saying "more culture" is as bad as saying "more profit" because it still doesn't answer the question: who is the city for?
The city should have a nightlife district. It should be open until late at night and have buses to take people home. There should be a historic district which is carefully maintained and not just with a random use of cobblestones. It should be a city centre which people want to visit and not just drive in and out quickly.
Then maybe the city's potential will be realised.