‘Why is the centre of the Irish world on St Patrick’s Day such a kip?’

Sound Off: Dublin Theatre Festival artistic director Willie White on O’Connell Street

Willie White,  of Dublin Theatre Festival: The dereliction on O’Connell Street is remarkable. Photograph:  Dara Mac Donaill

Willie White, of Dublin Theatre Festival: The dereliction on O’Connell Street is remarkable. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

I walk down O’Connell Street almost every day. It breaks my heart and frustrates me. What is the centre of the Irish world on St Patrick’s Day, is such a kip.

After 1916, I believe that they hadn’t finished fixing up O’Connell Street before we gained independence and the north side of the street was affected, and particularly the west side of the street where you still have that big gap beside Dr. Quirky’s. Even if something does happen there, the last idea was a shopping centre.

The dereliction is remarkable. This is not a post-industrial area, this is not a side street, this is the main street of Ireland. Apart form the fact that there are all the fast-food restaurants, just the idea that there could be dead space there for so long is unbelievable to me.

Then Cleary’s on the other side, nothing doing there. That’s what happens when land is used as something to speculate on, not as part of the fabric of the city. Even those buildings that are used, the floors above them aren’t used.

Annexation of path space

Then you have the Ambassador, which is not a fit for purpose space for exhibition. Added to that is the annexation of path space that is public space by retailers. They put swing signs and giant coffee cups out. That space doesn’t belong to them. It’s not on.

It’s unbelievable that we allow all this to persist, everything from the level of dereliction, to the shabby banners. The bonkers thing is you can gamble until 6am on a Saturday night.

When it comes to the street, we need to use it or lose it. The world has changed since people were speculating about shopping centres. Retail has really changed. I think the solution is places for large events that are purpose-built, as opposed to another Argos.

Willie White is artistic director of Dublin Theatre Festival

Do you have something you’d like to Sound Off about? Email 300 words to magazine@irishtimes.com with “Sound Off” in the subject line

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