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Dublin's Fair City Is Now Rather Sh.....ocking
Dublin in General
Dublin in General
Date: 23/10/02, updated on 19/06/03 (62 review reads)
I used to love Dublin but something rotten is slowly working it's way through the city turning it into a nasty cesspool. I think the famous Celtic Tiger has finally decided to chew up and spit out the Dublin of old. Of course the guidebook/tourist/historic version of Dublin is still there somewhere, buried deep beneath the smog and grime and litter and mobile phone conversations and stag party vomit, but it is getting harder and harder to find.
Look hard enough and you can find traces of the Dublin of James Joyce and Brendan Behan. You can still find a few 'traditional' pubs dotted around, pubs where you can physically feel the history as you walk through the door, pubs where your pint is pulled to perfection by a genuine Dublin barman and where you can still enjoy a bit of craic with the locals. You can still walk off your hangover with a stroll through the beautiful St Stephens Green, a place of relative solitude in an otherwise hectic city. You can still dander through Trinity College along with the thousands of other tourists and pay your few euros to see the Book of Kells, or take the tour through the awesome history of Kilmainham Gaol. The GPO that acted as headquarters for the rebel forces in 1916 still stands in all its glory on O'Connell Street, just across the road from the famous Clerys department store. The Moore Street market stalls are still there too, the goods being wheeled in each morning on old prams and suchlike to stalls passed down through generations.
You can see the statue of Molly Malone, or walk across the ha'penny bridge. You can stroll through Glasnevin Cemetary and see the final resting-place of so many great sons and daughters or Erin. You can go round the Writers Museum, or the 'Dead Zoo' - the local name for the natural history museum. You can see artists at work in Merrion Square, have a wee look at Leinster House, visit the Guinness Brewery, take a trip on the DART (Europe's o
ldest urban railway) down to Bray or up to Howth. Oh, but don't go to Bray, it sucks big time! No, the old Dublin isn't entirely lost yet, you can still see all of the things you would love about Dublin. You just have to clamber over the mess to get there.
'Progress' has taken its toll on the city that I used to love so dearly. The really horrible thing about 'progress' is that only those and such as those actually benefit from it while the less privileged folk become even more less privileged than before. The social deprivation and class division has always been apparent in Dublin, but never so much as it is now. There are more beggars on the streets and a horrendous drug problem. I used to feel quite safe wandering around the outlying areas, the ones off the tourist trail, but not now. I had reason to recently be in the South Side of the city with a friend, a burly big strapping lad! For some reason we decided to walk through one of the most notorious districts, Dolphins Barn. We even stopped off at a pub for (another) quick pint, I think the pub was called 'The Bridge'. If you've ever had a pint in Glasgow's Shettleston district on a Saturday night you might begin to understand what this place was like, although Shettleston on a Saturday night is probably like this place on a Monday afternoon! We didn't personally get caught up in any trouble, but we saw plenty in the short time that we were in there. The blood was flowing more readily than the ale. Outside there were people lying around the streets mangled out their minds on drink/drugs/whatever. No different to many big cities, no, but much different to the Dolphins Barn that I visited 15 years ago.
On leaving the pub my pal stopped at the filling station next door for ciggies. A local cabbie (not kenjohn!) heard the Scottish accents and asked what we were doing hanging around there. We told him we were just wandering and he was horrified! His advic
e to us? Get in his cab and he would take us out of that area up to the city centre - he wouldn't even charge us for the lift! Umm, yeh, a nasty place all round, save for the occasional good samaritan cabbie who probably didn't want the murder of two Scots on his conscience! The point of that story is that there are many areas in Dublin that have become no-go areas, even some that the Garda won't go into!
Meanwhile back at the city centre ranch. Dublin is being overrun by immigrants. Chinese mainly, or Orientals of some sort. My emotions are rather split on this particular issue. No they're not, yes they are, no they... oh get on with it will ya. I was speaking to a friend in London a few months ago, sitting in an 'Irish Club', drinking Guinness. The conversation turned to the immigration in Ireland issue and I was somewhat horrified by what he spouted. My normally intelligent and compassionate friend was beginning to sound like an Irish version of Enoch Powell. I don't get riled to easily, but he was seriously cruising for a bruising that night. He was coming out with all the usual stuff about immigrants taking jobs and housing and making it difficult for the natives to get the same. He was rather startled when I eventually flew off the handle and started giving it to him big style. Weren't he and his wife immigrants in London, taking someones job and house space? Didn't his wife come to London to get a better education and qualifications in her chosen field of nursing? Aren't the Irish history books littered with moans and laments about how the English let them die during the great famine instead of welcoming them in and helping them to live? I reminded him of the days of "No Irish need apply", the days when immigrant ships were leaving for Australia, New Zealand, USA, England, in their droves, the days when gangs of Irish Navvies were building the British roads, working in the mines, labouring on the buil
ding sites. I not-so-gently made it sink into his head that the immigrants coming into Ireland today were no different to those who left the very same country in the past. He got the message.
But that said, the immigrants do have a big effect on 'my Dublin'. It's strange to walk into a pub or a restaurant and be served not by an Irishman but by a Chinese dude. It's strange to see the native Irish in the office jobs, managerial positions etc while the immigrants do the manual work. It has changed Dublin beyond recognition. There is no longer the same 'craic' that was to be found in days gone by. The legendary banter has been replaced by people in suits talking about stock prices on their mobiles. It's all rather sad. Call it progress, call it a natural move towards a multi-cultural society, call it what you will, but it is the death of the Dublin of old and that is a bit of a shame.
Right down to the very look of the place the City has transformed itself into something that can be found anywhere in the world. Huge glass and concrete buildings, roads gridlocked with traffic, demolition, scaffolding. This could be Rotterdam, or anywhere, Liverpool or Rome as the Beautiful South once sang. And it could be. Dublin doesn't have much left for me that Glasgow or Edinburgh doesn't have, indeed in many ways it has less.
The above are just a few of the reasons that I won't be returning to Dublin for pleasure other than to visit my friends there. I certainly won't be hitting the tourist trail there again. It's a shame really, but there ya go, or rather don't go if you have any sense.