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Brianna Parkins: I’m launching a Keep Dublin Just a Bit Crap campaign. Its mascot is the Spire

The Spire of Dublin is about to turn 20. It could be art – or Dublin giving the finger to the world. Either way, it’s hardly Sydney Opera House or the Eiffel Tower

The Spire of Dublin turns 20 on Saturday – which means it’s had enough time to settle in that we can accurately assess its significance.

Nicknamed the Stiletto in the Ghetto and the Stiffy by the Liffey, it’s a monument to the interminable Irish will to rip the piss out of things as a form of passive protest. (In modern times this practice is mainly seen on Irish Twitter when a British royal has died.)

Like the Spire, the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House were initially met with ridicule and resistance to a modern eyesore clogging up the city. Unlike the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House, the Spire has never become a beloved part of the city skyline. No, we reserve that for a set of disused red-and-white chimneys. I’ve seen multiple tattoos of the Poolbeg towers but none of the Spire.

That’s Dublin for you: You think we’re going to be impressed with your big fancy silver yoke? G’way!


In fairness, I’ve never had foreign visitors ask me to take them to the Spire of Dublin. They say build it and they will come, but in the Spire’s case it’s build it and your guests will probably stand aimlessly looking up at it, wondering why you’ve taken them there when you could all have been inside the warm McDonald’s over the road.

The top of the Spire, aka the Monument of Light, was designed to be illuminated at night by LEDs. Which it is. But not all the time. Sometimes the light is broken. Which makes the Spire in some ways a fitting tribute to a country where sometimes things work well and sometimes they don’t but people resign themselves to it with pessimistic optimism. A sort of national shrug of “Sure, it’s a heap of shite, but it will be grand.”

The illustrator TwistedDoodles once tweeted: “Overheard an American tourist talking about the Dublin Spire. ‘Is that art? It just looks like Dublin giving the finger to the world!”

Yeah, and maybe we are. Maybe that’s the point. If you want good public transport, you can bugger off to Germany. If you want fusion cuisine in glass skyscrapers, go to London. If you want a lovely beach, rack off to Sydney. We’re a living, breathing city, not just a destination. It’s our Spire. We know it might be a bit rubbish, but that’s what’s so good about it. Take it from a Sydneysider: lovely cities with nice buildings produce people who are no craic.

We have to leave parts of Dublin as they are: that’s where the magic is. No more homogeneous coffee places, no more chain stores and no more empty hotel bars. I want a Leave Some Parts of Dublin Just a Bit Crap campaign.

I don’t want charming little precincts selling the same craft brew I could buy in Australia. I want a dark bar with aul fellas in tweed reading the paper at midday. I want a bartender who’ll tell me a story about his grandfather in the War of Independence that may or may not be true. I want a woman I’ve never met insisting I must know her grandson because he went to Australia in 1998. I want musicians who are more facial hair than human belt out a song about a pretty girl who died from a preventable disease or the English being terrible.

If you ask people what they loved most about their trip to Ireland, it was usually the interactions they had with people they met – like my parents accidentally crashing a wedding in Kerry and, instead of being told to get out of the hotel, being handed cake by the bride.

Dublin’s – and Ireland’s – greatest attraction is its people. We need to invest in them. We need to make sure people who serve our pints, drive the cabs and lead tourist groups can afford to live here. The Spire represents us as a city. We’ve had a rough start, but we’re still hanging in there, giving a finger to those who said we couldn’t make it.

The Spire’s light will lead the way for the new Keep Dublin a Bit Crap campaign. We just have to make sure it’s working first.