10 ways to make Dublin better
Reclaim the Liffey, elect a mayor, borrow books in the bank, cycle from Sutton to Sandymount, spend a penny without spending a penny, and plan your journey1 Create a science museum in the Docklands
A 32-storey residential tower once planned for a site near Heuston Station was to be flanked by Exploration Station, the State’s first interactive science and discovery centre. It was to be a “world-class facility” for children, adults, teachers and families, on a par with W5 in Belfast, but has since vanished from the radar.
Although Trinity College has since opened its Science Gallery on Pearse Street, this is is used only for temporary exhibitions. Yet an ideal space is available for Exploration Station: Stack A, in Custom House Docks. Renovated at a cost of €45 million, it is now a ghost shopping mall known as CHQ and urgently needs a new people-pulling use.
2 Elect a city boss
Dublin accounts for 40 per cent of the population, but nobody speaks for the city in the way Michael Bloomberg does for New York and Boris Johnson for London. Civic governance is incredibly weak, with an array of public bodies, from Dublin Port Company to the National Transport Authority, exercising power in the city. Any chance of metropolitan cohesion was squandered when Dublin was carved up arbitrarily between four local authorities in 1994.
Dublin City Council is beholden to the Department of the Environment and, apart from revenue from commercial rates, must seek approval from a broke central Government beholden to its troika creditors for every cent it spends on capital projects. Plans for a directly elected mayor of Dublin, with executive power, have been put on the long finger, with talk of a possible plebiscite in 2014. Such a mayor, backed by a metropolitan council, could really change things.
3 Move the central library to College Green
There’s an unrivalled opportunity to rescue Dublin’s Central Library from the upper level of the Ilac shopping centre and place it on the city’s most important public space: College Green.
The Central Bank is due to relocate to Anglo Irish Bank’s unfinished headquarters at North Wall Quay by 2015, leaving its iconic building on Dame Street vacant. So why not do a swap with Bank of Ireland: it gets the Central Bank building and the people get the old houses of parliament?
The neoclassical banking hall, with its high windows, would make a fine reading room, and there would be plenty of room in the vaults for book storage. It might even be possible to relocate Dublin Writers’ Museum from Parnell Square to the old central bank, on Foster Place, which is currently a waxwork museum.
The State can’t force Bank of Ireland to return the old parliament, to which the bank feels a strong historical connection: only public pressure offers any hope of changing its stance. And with the plan to run the Luas through College Green, there’s an opportunity to reorder the space, transforming it from a traffic thoroughfare into a European-style piazza.
4 Promote a simple, sensible transport map
A simplified map of Dublin’s transport network, including frequent bus routes as well as Luas, Dart and suburban rail service has been compiled by a DIT graduate, Colin Broderick, who works for Eirgrid. Frustrated that the transport providers were “unable to produce clean, useful network maps”, he produced his own integrated transport map for the city.