As the editor of the "unfortunately titled" Le Cool Dublin – so referenced by Trevor White in his St Patrick's Day piece for The Irish Times , here – which questioned why Irish people take so little pride in the capital, I feel it my civic, Dublin duty to address some of the points raised.
Le Cool Dublin and another site referenced in the piece, LovinDublin, are websites that try to disseminate knowledge for better Dublin living. While we differ on tone and subject matter, both online publications celebrate the city and point the reader (whether they are denizens or blow-ins) in the direction of all the best experiences that are on offer here. Our pride for Dublin is not in question. We are card-carrying, flag-waving, Dublin lovers. We are as true blue as the eyes of Ronnie Drew. If you prick us, we'd probably bleed Guinness stew.
As the previous owner of fortunately named The Dubliner Magazine , Trevor White does raise some interesting issues about how others may feel about this city though. White poses the idea that a gulf exists not only between rural Ireland and Dublin, but between Dubliners themselves and their city and that websites like ours are try-hard rather than die-hard Dublin lovers. I feel the opposite is true, rather than shying away from the love that White thinks dare not speak its name, we're a city in danger of losing ourselves in an introspective, onanist love-in.
One only has to look at the plethora of sites, blogs, apps and twitter handles that devote themselves to the city: The Dublin Event Guide (For Free Events), Do In Dublin, Like Where/Dublin, Come Here To Me, @PhotosofDublin, @dublinlife, @Dublininaday...in fact, internet publishers are falling over each other like competing suitors to declare their love for Dublin. Perhaps then, it’s only former print magazine publishers that have lost that Dublinlovin’ feeling?
As for rural Ireland, there is a difference between pride and appreciation. Irish counties are like children and farts, you only like your own. I wouldn’t expect a Cork person to be proud of Dublin, and they wouldn’t expect the opposite from me. However, we’d both have an appreciation for each other’s home. This is not an exclusively Irish thing. I wouldn’t expect a Liverpudlian to be proud of London or a Marseillais to be proud of Paris.White suggests our “digital biographies” are “slavish references” to somewhere else, somewhere more deserving of our love than our own city. If that was a reference to Le Cool’s name, I should point out that it was founded (and named) by a Swede living in Spain, hence the euro-friendly, transborder-ness. It’s a franchise that exists all over Europe, wherever it exists though, it is powered by passion from locals.
I’d like to think that the cover artists, writers and photographers would produce the same quality work that they do for us each week even if the name was something more local, like The G’Jaysis Pages.
And it’s true that Niall Harbison, of LovinDublin, publically declares that he’d like Dublin to be more like Berlin. As someone who has lived there, I can understand why. Berlin is cheap, creative and cuts a cool, contemporary zeal. Dublin is only two of those things. Berlin is a city of artists, dreamers and day-trippers. You can find almost anything in Berlin, apart from authentic Berliners. But I don’t think that’s what Harbisonmeans. I think he, like me, would like to see an integrated transport system, city-wide WIFI, cheap food and drink options and a different approach to after-hours living. And what’s wrong with that? Irish people have always travelled and brought home ideas from other places. It’s hardly “slavish” to do so. It further proves our emotional attachment to the city when we bring back the best from the rest of the world to trial it here at home.
White also rests a lot of the city’s reputation on its association with certain historical and cultural figures yet fails to realise they were far more popular elsewhere than they ever were in Ireland. In fact, this is the oldest trick in the book as far as the Irish tourist business is concerned. We’ve been commercialising our cultural history for years and White picks three interesting cases: “Dubliners walk in the shadow of Emmet, Wilde and Joyce.”
Robert Emmet was publicly executed by his fellow Irishmen on Thomas Street, aged 25, so that's awkward. Oscar Wilde fled for Oxford aged 19 and James Joyce escaped for Trieste aged 22. If it hadn't been for "elsewhere", who's to say we ever would of heard of those two great Dubliners? I'd imagine our present-day Joyce and Wilde have already spent a lost weekend in Berlin, they've probably cycled around Copenhagen, danced in Dalston, rambled around Barcelona's Las Ramblas and are thinking about which ideas to kickstart here. Unlike our shadowy ancestors who preferred to stay away.
I’d prefer not to live under the anchor of our ancestors anyway. As a nation we spend an unhealthy amount of time looking back. Perhaps it’s a generational thing but most Irish people I know are more concerned with the here and now, the crackle of the contemporary and the excitement of the new. We can doff our caps to those who went before, but we should be celebrating those who live among us. Without people changing the cityscape there is no content for websites like ours. We simply reflect the great work of others. After five years doing Le Cool we’ve rarely stuggled to fill our online pages, our problem is how to curate the best of it.
Dublin doesn’t have an issue with pride, it’s bursting with the stuff. Our only issue is how to contain it.