Tourists left out in the cold as castle limits access
It’s a cold Friday morning at the front gate of Trinity College where Tommy Graham is handing out leaflets to tourists and students shuffling past.
His historical walking tours of Dublin are just one of a number of such operations but Tommy (54) claims his, established in 1986, is the oldest.
Shortly after 11am, with an expectant crowd of Australians, Scottish and Irish enthusiasts, he sweeps into the college interior for the beginning of an epic, humorous history of the island.
He tells them, sheltering under the bell tower in the cobbled courtyard: “The aim is to discuss all of Irish history over the course of two hours, so you have to pay attention or you might miss a century or two.”
The crowd ambles on, to be entertained by a summary of 18th-century buildings here, an Act of Union there; captivated by his insights into the Famine on a Dame Street footpath or Strongbow at Christ Church Cathedral.
The tourists are enjoying his style. Stopping briefly outside the Central Bank, Tommy opines that perhaps he should “end the tour here because all the sacrifices of the revolutionaries are down the toilet thanks to these bankers”.
But there is an issue that checks the flow. Tommy and his tour guides have been put out by the Government’s decision to close parts of Dublin Castle for the six-month duration of the EU presidency.
They are not alone: Lorcan Collins of the 1916 Rebellion Walking Tours has also complained that he was not told of the decision, which places the main courtyard and State apartments off limits.
Outside the square, Tommy explains the situation: “I’m not happy, I have to say; we have held the presidency before and you could get through a security check.”
The tourists are disappointed. “It’s a pity it’s closed for the whole time, that you can’t come along in a few hours and go in,” muses Vickki Wood (23), a student from Glasgow.
The Department of the Taoiseach says the move is necessary to provide “a very high level of security” during 20 meetings at the castle.
“There are no public tours of the State apartments during the presidency [but] tour operators have access to the lower yard, Chester Beatty Library and Dubh Linn Gardens,” a spokeswoman said, adding that everyone had been informed despite protestations to the contrary.
Resigned, Tommy gathers the crowd and steers for Christ Church Cathedral, the Four Courts and Temple Bar. Along the way, he fields questions – is that the hotel U2 own? – and wows them with stories of how he once saw the iconic band for just 50 pence at the Dandelion Market in the not-so-auld Dublin.