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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 11, 2008 @ 6:10 pm

    Living city or living hell?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Judging from my colleague Frank  McDonald’s article in yesterday’s Irish Times,  Temple Bar in Dublin is a living hell for local residents, at least at night. Many readers will identify with McDonald’s cri de coeur, whether they live in the city centre as he does or in what used to be quiet suburbia.

            Will someone remind me what Temple Bar was supposed to be in the first place? I have a hazy recollection of a vision for a Dublin “Left Bank” where our cultural flowering would be on display to native and foreigner alike. Charlie Haughey had a hand in it and presumably intended it to be a showcase for visitors.

           Somehow it doesn’t seem to have worked out like that. I go there at night sometimes to see a movie at the IFI or, less often, to have a meal at a restaurant. The words “tourist trap” tend to form in my mind. One night I went to a place where some Irish music was playing, so that a foreign visitor to our home could get a taste of our culture. The standard of performance left a good deal to be desired in my opinion.

           On one memorable occasion I had to drive past Parliament Street at 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning to collect someone from  a night shift and a young man was amusing himself by daring the cars to knock him down.  The John Boorman film The Tiger’s Tail presented a very negative and depressing picture of Temple Bar which I hope was exaggerated.

            Green Party leader and Environment Minister John Gormley has put the issue of noise from neighbours or entertainment outlets on the political agenda. It is not an easy problem to deal with and there is some scepticism about Gormley’s initiative, but it’s good that the discussion has at least started.

            I think I would rather sleep under a bridge somewhere than put up with what Frank McDonald describes in The Irish Times. From what he has to say and from other information it would appear there is very little of any real practical value that the ordinary citizen can do, if a neighbour or nightclub in the vicinity decides to play loud music late into the night.

          Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent, The Irish Times

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      “Will someone remind me what Temple Bar was supposed to be in the first place?” The thing is that the Temple Bar, like a lot of things in Ireland, is an accident. It was ‘supposed’ to be the location for an enlarged bus depot, which led to cheap short-term leasing which suited the ‘arts’ community. Over time the bus depot idea was hit on the head and we ended up with knick-knack shops and so on that helped create a vibe. And suddenly we had people in their 20s living and working around the city who wanted somewhere to go out but close to where they could get a cab. ‘Cos they all had to live in the suburbs since there was little or no housing in the city centre.

      I must admit to reading Frank’s article and thinking to myself, if not there for late-night activity, then where? Ireland doesn’t have huge experience with urban living as anyone in an apartment can vouch. People think rather selfishly that it is all about their right to do as they please, whenever they please. However set against that is the plain fact there are few other alternative locales for late-night socialising in Dublin.

      We had a case in the last 12 months where people were objecting to sex shops on the grounds that there were people living nearby. Where are there places with no people living nearby? The Burren? Take as an example the area north of Drumcondra all the way out to Swords and there isn’t a single niteclub to be found for miles around. People are compelled to come into the city-centre.

      The City Council was trying a while back to introduce an ordinance to prevent busking after a certain time (10 or 11 pm) and you’d swear they were the child-catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang looking to round up anyone with a tin whistle or a bodhrán, the way it was reported and reacted to by some people.

    • paul m says:

      “Judging from my colleague Frank McDonald’s article in yesterday’s Irish Times, Temple Bar in Dublin is a living hell for local residents”

      Then move out. It seems it was a young thriving energetic group that moved in initially and now have all settled and grown up. There are plenty of areas in the city-centre where the music is less intrusive and if you move into central enclave of any thriving city expecting peaceful bliss then you have been living in a bubble. Most people in other cities live where the action and nightlife is when they are younger and more carefree and accept that moving on to quiet neighbourhoods as their lifestyles change is part of city living. Maybe we’re too new to this apartment lifestyle to realise that or it’s our long-instilled attitude that your home is where you make it for the rest of your life (or as long as is possible until children appear).

      I think it’s unfair to brand Temple Bar as a facade of knick-knack stores and tourist-traps. Name one other central tourist ‘cultural’ quarter in any city that doesn’t resort to the usual cheap-shots for tourist entertainment. All major cities are guilty of it. Temple Bar for an area so small has two photography galleries, a print gallery, an arthouse cinema, food market, two theatres (one of them children-specific), Cows Lane market showcasing independent Irish fashion and craft, that nestle amongst the pubs, cafés and trinket and secondhand clothes store. Compare that to Soho in London and New York and Montmartre/Pigalle in Paris and you see cheap and sleaze go hand in hand with new vibrant and creative endeavours.

      To some extent the pub clubs The Hub and Doran’s have a lot of unknown Irish bands playing in them that positively contribute to this showcase of culture (even if the noise irritates some). There could be more on at night that some would consider more cultural but during daytime hours I think there is enough of variety there for every taste.

      All of these encompass modern Dublin culture and are preferable over a bus depot. I think some would prefer it to be a collection of galleries, theatres and upmarket restaurants that would betray the mix of Dublin’s inner city that permeates from both sides of the Liffey around the centre-point that is Temple Bar.

      After all the place has a history of being the central hub of this city for so long that I’m sure the hustle and bustle of artisan trade, music, drunken behaviour, all existed as far back as the first settlements and that Temple Bar is merely following in traditional footsteps.

    • Deaglán says:

      Two very thoughtful comments, thanks. But it would be a pity if residents of more mature years could not live there because of the noise. I think Frank’s point is that more could be done with technology and soundproofing to damp down the noise. I am sure there are residents in the Paris tourist areas too, but that the level of noise is not as bad. In addition, the French have a different approach to drinking than we do. There is also the more general issue of noisy neighbours and house alarms going all night. The Greens have suggested Garda powers to enter premises to disable a ringing alarm, but that may pose constitutional problems. Deaglán

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