The capital city we almost had
REINVENTING DUBLIN: Dublin's recent history is littered with plans that never got off the ground, writes FRANK McDONALD, Environment Editor
Dublin has had a history of unrealised plans since Patrick Abercrombie, Arthur Kelly and Sydney Kelly proposed, in the 1920s, a great Catholic cathedral on Ormond Quay Upper, almost directly opposite Christ Church Cathedral. The toll of destruction of quay-front buildings would have been immense.
Destruction was also at the heart of the General Traffic Plan for Dublin in the mid-1960s. Its aim was to widen every main route in the inner city so that it would become more accessible to cars. But the plan provided the basis for road schemes that were realised, such as High Street, Clanbrassil Street and Parnell Street.
In the late 1970s, Dublin’s traffic engineers had lines drawn on maps along the entire length of the Liffey quays so that they could all be widened over time to a standard width of 18.3m, the width of Wood Quay in front of the Civic Offices.
Equally alarming was the Travers Morgan plan from 1973, which would have included a high-level bridge linking Bridgefoot Street to Queen Street. But like so many of the other schemes, there wasn’t enough money to fund them.
And then when we thought we were rich, Dublin was to get a metro system, of which Metro North was merely the first phase. Tens of millions of euro were invested in Metro North on the basis that it would serve Dublin Airport and a swathe of commuterland around Swords. But it would have done immense damage to the city centre during the construction phase, notably to St Stephen’s Green.
Mercifully, Bertie Ahern’s plans for a national stadium at Abbotstown, off the M50, bit the dust after the full cost was revealed and Lansdowne Road was redeveloped instead. Doubts about how it would look frustrated plans for a “Suas” cable car along the Liffey.
Then there were all the “skyscraper” schemes. The Progressive Democrats even produced startling visuals showing a mini-Manhattan in the docklands and on the land occupied by Dublin Port, if it could be persuaded to relocate to Bremore, near Balbriggan. This didn’t happen.
Now, after years of stressing the need for urban density, packing in as many apartments as possible on every site, the development lobby – chartered surveyors, estate agents and other cheerleaders – now stresses the desirability of low-density “family homes” in today’s market.
If we’re serious about having a compact, mixed-use city friendly to cycling and public transport, the last thing we need is to revert to semidetached houses with front and back gardens. Because if we do we’ll have to live with the inevitable car dependency that goes with them.