Dublin, I love you but we need to turn things around

Right now, it doesn’t just feel like Dublin is changing, we can see it transform before our very eyes. As shiny office blocks and uniformed boutique hotels burst out from the ground and change the skyline, their presence overshadows the businesses, amenities and people that make Dublin an interesting and welcoming city to live in. 


As rents continue to rise and unaffordable, Instagram-ready student accommodation pushes people further out of the city, the places we used to call 'ours' in Dublin are being repackaged and repurposed for short-term visitors and tech giants. 

We feel a disconnect with these new builds. This can potentially dampen the grá that we have for the city entirely if there’s any grá left at all.


Let the good things thrive
When things feel desperate, it’s easy to highlight the bad. Misery, as they say, loves company but we have to remind ourselves that there is good in the world. There is good in the city.

Advertisement

There’s an awful lot of bad too, we know this, but we have to find ways to let the good things thrive.

There are things we can do to change the way we use Dublin. We can go to the events we say we’re going to attend, fill up bars who need punters and fill up venues for artists who need an audience. We can commit to not just consuming arts and culture during festivals or one-off nights. We need to feed our brains all year round. Every time we say “I’m sorry, I don’t have any change”, use your Revolut card and buy a sandwich for the person who asked or make regular donations to the Simon Community, St. Vincent de Paul and the Peter McVerry Trust. We are up against a lot but we also need to do better.

It can be overwhelming here. It feels like we have to pay money to have a quiet sit down and, in many ways, with the lack of public seating and near-total absence of public toilets, the change in your pocket rarely gathers dust. But among the overpriced pints and tourist-trapping dinner spots, we’ve meal deals, deli counters, price tags in corner shops and bakeries that evade time. 

Break out of bad habits and reconnect

We can forget that there’s a life to be lived sometimes. Falling into old habits, we give lifelong friends the excuse that “we’re boring now” and hide away at the weekends.

Staying in when we could reach out,  especially when we know we’re not the only ones to experience rough patches, low days and tight months. We don’t have to spend a lot to reconnect, we just need to give the time it deserves. Sometimes the cost of a pot of tea can turn someone’s day around and we forget that. Loneliness gets amplified in every city but at least in ours it doesn't take long to get from one side of the city to the other. 

We’ve protested and marched in the streets, feeling both hopeless and hopeful. You’re just one person but, in numbers, you’re strong, even if you’re getting drenched. We brought in marriage equality and we voted to repeal the eighth but equality doesn’t always come in immediately with a vote. We have to have the hard conversations around gender, class and race. People living in Direct Provision are people too. People living in Direct Provision are people too. People living in Direct Provision are people too. Take note of the politicians who don’t agree. Take note of the politicians who are absent from the Dáil when subjects of child abuse, climate change, improving living conditions for people waiting on asylum status here, preserving the culture of Ireland. Take note of them.

Advertisement

Online words need real-life action

We sign petitions and add ribbons to our Facebook profile pictures. We send tweets to save pubs and partake in a threads (thank you to the 560+ people who replied to that one tweet) to remind ourselves that there’s some good in the world.  But all the reminding and tweeting and signing and subscribing can only do so much. Your online words need real-life action, which can be done by changing the way you vote, reexamining where you spend your money or realising that you don’t have to spend a fortune to have an enriching day, although that is getting harder and harder to achieve. 


Right now, it’s very easy to focus on the badness that is consuming and demolishing Dublin, but there’s still a beating heart to this city. It’s totally trivial to celebrate the good things without mentioning the very, very bad things but in the good things listed above, maybe you’ll find a new way to love Dublin or maybe you’ve been reminded of an old haunt you’ve been meaning to visit again.

So, meet that friend you’ve been meaning to grab a pint with for ages. Try out that new café. Lie down in the grass of that wide open space that’s free for us to use all year round. Go for a cycle and find a new hidden gem. Fill up the pubs until the walls are sweating. Catch the last of the evening sun by the canal. Support your local artists and go to their gigs, shows exhibitions and buy their goddamn art and merch. All is not quite lost...

I’ll leave you with this quote that Conor Houghton tweeted in reply to me during the week: “When you're in Dublin it's the worst worst place, insufferable, impossible, but when you leave you miss every fucking brick: red, granite or grime. It's a city built of words, dreams and deeds, impossible not to love.”

Advertisement

And while I am here, I might as well share some of the other great Twitter responses I received too:

"When someone stands up to say a poem in any bar the whole pub falls silent. Tutting loudly at planning permission notifications. Hiking up to The Scalp and the old lead mines in Barnaslingan in the Dublin Mountains. Making the pilgrimage for a pint in the Blue Light. The Lighthouse cinema, once saved, (hopefully) forever ours. The tortilla chips from Picado. Croke Park and all its joy and sorrow. A nosey around Glasnevin Cemetery and a pint afterwards in the Gravediggers. Urban foxes and how their magic freezes time on a late night walk home.

 

"€15 bottle of wine in Johnny Rush’s. Watching the world go by as you eat a bacon and pear sandwich from Pepper Pot Cafe.  Hugh Lane Gallery. Friday night lights in Dalymount. Visiting North Bull Island and feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere but you’re just a five-minute drive outside the city. A swim in the Forty Foot, even when it’s cold. Nick’s Coffee in Ranelagh. The divisive bang of hops and yeast in Dublin 8 from the Guinness Factory. The haven that is the Gutter Bookshop and not just because Bob gives you free wine at the many events he hosts…

 

"A slice of Ray’s pizza. Meath Street on a Friday. Georgian doors. The Botanic Gardens. Cinnamon Rolls from Simon’s Place, a place where it’s always 1991. The view from the DART all the way north and south.

 

Advertisement

"Coffee from Happy Out on Dollymount Strand. Feeding the ducks at Blessington Basin. Chips from Roma II at 4am after a feed of pints.

 

"The chicken nuggets from Aprile’s. Actually, the chips from Aprile’s. The garlic cheese chips too. Oh, it's all good. The Dublin GAA Mural on Ballybough Road. Going to Charlie’s after dancing all night in the George. The diversity of Capel Street. Pop up choirs and Pop Up Gael. The Gallery of Photography and the National Gallery of Ireland. A bike ride through War Memorial Gardens all the way out to Chapelizod and on your way home, a pint in the Royal Oak. Dogs in pubs. The kids' area in Kevin Street Library. Gerry's fry ups and multiple cups of scalds on Montague Street. Do you need a scorpion encased in Plexiglas? A soviet medal? A band T-shirt? A block of fudge? Go to George’s Street Arcade. People watching in the Library Bar as you hog the table closest to the fire. Finding treasures in the Oxfam, St Vincent's and Enable charity shops on George Street. The Long Hall. Finding a seat in Kehoe's on a rainy day. The Garda Museum in Dublin Castle. The rose garden in Trinity. A bag of cans by the canal.

 

"A sandwich from Green Bench eaten in the Iveagh Gardens. A visit to the Hellfire Club, includes a full view of Dublin. Phoenix Park in the summertime. Phoenix Park on a crisp October day. This big green open space that’s both ours and home to the many herds of deer, the President and his doggos, the Phoenix Park is a gift. The Leisureplex. It’s an institution. The Why Go Bald sign, the last blinking reminder of times gone. Dublin Fringe Festival and the way it makes the city feel alive. Donuts from the kiosk on O’Connell Street, although do not eat them in front of a seagull. Creamy pints, toasted sandwiches, people watching and craic, all found inside and outside Grogan’s.

 

"Christmas lights on Johnston's Court. Quiet afternoons in the IFI. Beating Bohs. Beating Youth Defence. Going for a jog with the rest of Dublin and pausing to inhale that gorgeous sunset. Dublin Digital Radio. Spotting a seal sunbathing near O’Casey Bridge. The specials from 147 Deli.  Mr. Foley in Foley’s Chemist. The flower beds in Mountjoy Square. Walks on Sutton Strand. The calm found in Irishtown Nature Park. The fact that the maternity hospital is called the Rotunda.  Views of the Poolbeg Towers from every angle. Leaving the Lock Hospital with a cert reading "CURED". Battered sausage from Sorrentos in Stoneybatter. Sitting with a new book and a tea in the window of Books Upstairs. 

Advertisement

 

"Gigs by Homebeat. The Dead Zoo. The actual zoo. Free entry to museums.  Ordering books fromDublin City Libraries and collecting them at 8pm because of late opening hours. The steps on South William Street. Chips and seal watching in Howth. When you order a slice of DiFontaines Pizza, use their  Pay It Forward initiative and contribute to the many pizzas sent to voluntary groups working with the homeless community and anyone who may be struggling in Dublin. Doing a lap of Stephen's Green on a sunny day.



Read more:  The death of Dublin: what can we do to save it?
Read more: Culture Night is coming up - what have you got planned?

The image newsletter