Ten objects that define modern Ireland
The gold band has taken on a new significance, that of human rights and equality, and symbolises a new humane, advanced and open Irish society.
Civil partnership is a landmark achievement in Irish history: the move to civil marriage is not a massive legislative leap. It is in clear sight.
Bicycle Two wheels good
Back when everyone was getting excited about tax incentives for holiday homes, the Bike to Work scheme was introduced and kick-started a cycling boom in Ireland that continues to grow. Cycling has taken off and our roads are full of commuters and Lycra-clad enthusiasts, and it’s easy to see why.
Cycling is a sociable pastime that’s about as environmentally friendly as you can get; it’s great exercise and the perfect antidote to a packed Luas on a Monday morning.
Of all the free-bike schemes, Dublin has the highest per-capita usage, with more than three million journeys made on the 550 familiar blue bikes. So despite our weather, dodgy roads and even dodgier motorists (was it George Orwell who said “four wheels bad, two wheels good”?), the humble bicycle earns its place on the list.
A bottle of methadone: A nontransitional protocol
Theatre director and writer of ‘Heroin’
In late 1999, we decided to try and fend off the onslaught of Dublin’s third heroin epidemic by introducing the Methadone Protocol. Methadone is an opiate substitute. It’s green. It comes in little plastic bottles, like medicated shampoo. Drug users take it with fruit juice.
When you are on the protocol you attend a clinic twice a week and you give a urine sample to a doctor. If you miss your clinic, you get sick. Withdrawals are most commonly described as being like the worst flu you can imagine. It’s very hard to get a job or go on holiday when you have to report to a clinic twice a week.
Methadone eases the sickness and it’s designed to help people get off drugs. It’s supposed to be transitional, but throughout the past decade, we didn’t provide much else. There are 28
detoxification beds in Ireland for a drug-using population of 11,000.
It was designed be a transition, but that is not the true protocol. What actually happens is that a lot of people become dependent on it for life and tied to State services, while smoking heroin at the weekend.
Billion Euro House: A fairytale home
MICHAEL JOHN GORMAN
Director of the Science Gallery
What object represents Ireland in the 2000s? Billion Euro House by the Dublin artist Frank Buckley has to be a pretty strong contender. This consists of a three-room house built entirely from pulped banknotes recovered by the artist from the Central Bank, on show at Coke Lane in Smithfield. As an artistic commentary on Ireland’s property bubble and banking collapse, it is about as subtle as a brick, or indeed a couple of thousand bricks that amount to an estimated €1.4 billion in original value.
Artists have been playing around with money for centuries, from Marcel Duchamp’s fake cheques to Otis Kaye’s trompe-l’oeil paintings of the Wall Street Crash. But something about the brash simplicity and trashiness of Frank Buckley’s work, influenced by his own experience of negative equity, says it all about our moment of collective illusion. This is a fairy-tale home to which the Anglo Avenger might come after the three little pigs in his cement mixer.
The Anglo sign: An almost anagram for a synonym for hubris
Director of the Little Museum of Dublin
Anglo Irish Bank is a synonym for the hubris of the Celtic Tiger. For that reason, the sign outside the bank’s former headquarters in Dublin would make a fine exhibit in a museum of the recent past. However, it is unlikely that Irish people would flock to see the sign as it was, so it might be best to rearrange the letters. While it is not quite a perfect anagram, “big loanshark” reflects the contempt most of us have for the bank today. This newly tweaked sign would at least bring a smile to the face of the hard-pressed taxpayer.
Sugru: A symbol of innovation
Curator of the National Craft Gallery
Although perhaps not quite an “object”, Sugru’s ability to alter and improve so many objects makes it a significant milestone in our material culture. This mouldable air-curing rubber, invented by Kilkenny-born Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh and described as “the best invention since Sellotape” by the Daily Telegraph, invites us into a future where we move from passive mass-consumption to individual creation. Very soon, 3D printers will be domestically available and patterns of production and consumption will change dramatically. Sugru is not just an ahead-of-the-curve ticket for us to jump on that bus, it’s a concrete symbol of the power of innovative thinking.