Joyce house hostel plan ‘cannot be contemplated’, says Minister

Plan for house featured in The Dead needs to be ‘reconsidered fully’

The project at 15 Ushers Island in Dublin “will undermine, diminish and devalue a site of cultural heritage importance”, according to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

The project at 15 Ushers Island in Dublin “will undermine, diminish and devalue a site of cultural heritage importance”, according to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh

 

Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan has said plans to convert a Joycean literary landmark in Dublin into a hostel “cannot be contemplated” as the structure is an “objet de theatre” and “must be regarded as part of the draft of [a] work of literary brilliance”.

The controversial project at the house at 15 Ushers Island in Dublin city centre “will undermine, diminish and devalue a site of cultural heritage importance” and needs to be “reconsidered fully”, according to planning documents submitted by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on behalf of Ms Madigan.

The house is the setting for James Joyce’s story The Dead, from Dubliners, and was home to his aunts in the 1890s.

It was sold almost two years ago for €650,000. Property investors Fergus McCabe and Brian Stynes are seeking planning permission to turn the protected structure into a 56-bed hostel and cafe.

“The department is concerned that the proposed reuse for this building will significantly undermine its cultural, literary and heritage significance in the city,” the planning observation warns, pointing out that Dublin is one of four cities in the world to be afforded the Unesco City of Literature designation.

“The proposal, as documented, represents an inconsonant outcome for this building in terms of retaining and presenting its cultural and literary significance,” the submission states.

The Minister is a statutory consultee under planning legislation for built heritage projects. The observation warns of a risk that “the architecturally important spaces at the upper floor level will be diminished utterly” and of “the loss of the historic and architectural character of the protected structure”.

“The experience of the house as the context for the short story The Dead will be lost. Given the house’s standing, such a loss cannot be contemplated.”