WITHIN THE LAST month there have been multiple devastating blows for culture in the nation’s capital.
First came the announcement that a significant portion of the iconic Merchants Arch in Temple Bar – a structure dating back to at least 1800 – would be demolished to make way for a three-storey hotel.
Next came the news, in quick succession, that Chapters bookstore on Parnell Street would close its doors after 40 years in business, that the Science Gallery on Pearse Street was facing an uncertain future owing to financial problems, and that Irish trad haven The Sackville Lounge – along with 32 other Dublin boozers – was shutting up shop.
Justification for such things tends to ring a little hollow, especially when one considers that the average rent in Dublin now stands at a whopping €2,000 per month and that the availability of such rental properties is at its lowest point since records began.
Despite this, developers and other vested interests cite a ‘fall in demand’ or ‘calls for modernisation’ as potential reasons why cultural venues in Dublin are being hollowed out at such an alarming rate.
But given that the alternatives being offered tend to take the form of private outdoor whitewater rafting projects or luxury apartments which nobody can afford except tax exiles from America’s elite tech companies, the question now becomes: who is this new version of the city actually for?
The sense of detachment from reality is especially jarring given that a sizable 36% of Irish households have a recorded income of less than €15,000 per year whilst a miniscule 10% have a recorded income of €60,000 or more.
What this means in practice is that Dublin is now not only a city for tourists or people who love shiny, pointless reproductions of Silicon Valley, but more specifically, a city for rich tourists and people who love shiny, pointless reproductions of Silicon Valley (categories which admittedly are not mutually exclusive).
The tragedy here is that Ireland is once again repeating the mistakes of a very recent past; forcing its young into economic migration and offering only a sanitised, baseline version of what was once a thriving, characterful and beautiful city.
It can, of course, be that again, but the government needs to take seriously opposition demands for more sustainable public housing policy, stringent regulation on property development and public discontent with the cultural erosion of their nation’s capital.
In that sense, power is still very much with the people, it now needs to be organised on a wider scale.