Deputation of businesses to seek removal of Grafton Quarter sign

Decision by Dublin Town ‘points to the lack of accountability in the organisation’

The new branding has proved unpopular with hundreds of social media users and other city business groups. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

The new branding has proved unpopular with hundreds of social media users and other city business groups. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan will be urged on Monday to press for the removal of the new “Grafton Quarter” Christmas lights sign on Dublin’s premier shopping district.

Dublin Town, the business organisation responsible for installing the city’s Christmas lights, has defended the controversial sign which has replaced the Nollaig Shona Duit lights at the top of Grafton Street.

Grafton Street Christmas lights were switched on this week including the new sign which says “Welcome to Grafton Quarter”. The new branding has proved unpopular with hundreds of social media users and other city business groups. Mr Keegan said he would prefer the Irish language sign was reinstated.

However, a group of businesses lead by Adrian Cummins, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland is to meet Mr Keegan on Monday and will ask that he urge Dublin Town to remove the sign.

Mr Cummins acknowledged the council does not pay for the lights, but said Mr Keegan could seek the removal of the sign.

“A lot of businesses feel disenfranchised by Dublin Town. They don’t know who decided on this sign, they weren’t consulted about this sign, and while this is just one issue, it points to the lack of accountability in the organisation,” Mr Cummins said.

‘Colloquial reference’

In a statement Dublin Town said it acts on behalf of the city’s businesses in erecting Christmas lights on 30 streets in Dublin City Centre including Grafton Street.

“The initiative is aimed at encouraging footfall not only to Grafton Street but also to adjoining streets, in the run up to Christmas, a crucial trading period for retailers.” The organisation spends approximately €400,000 a year on Christmas lights in the city.

The term “Grafton Quarter” had been in common usage for a number of years the statement said. “The Grafton Quarter refers to Grafton Street and the streets adjacent and has been a colloquial reference for the area for a number of years,” it said. “The Grafton Quarter has had its own website and social media platforms since 2014.”

Labour councillor Dermot Lacey, who was on the board of Dublin Town at the time the Christmas lights were commissioned, has no recollection of being consulted in relation to the “Grafton Quarter” sign. “The amount of money being spent on Christmas lights would have come before the board, but I don’t remember this issue coming up, if it had, my instinct would have been to dismiss the suggestion, though I am supportive of the work Dublin Town does in general.”

Dublin Town chief executive Richard Guiney did not respond to requests for comment. Its chairman Lorcan O’Connor, Director of Carroll’s Irish Gifts said the issue was “ridiculous”, but he did “not want to get involved”.

Plebiscite

Dublin Town, originally called Dublin City Business Improvement District, was set up 12 years ago, to promote the city and supplement council services through additional cleaning, graffiti removal, floral planting, as well as the Christmas lights.

City businesses must pay the equivalent of 5 per cent of their rates bill each year to Dublin Town, which has an annual income of more than €3 million.Once rate-payers are within its area of operation they are legally obliged to pay, and cannot opt out.

A plebiscite of businesses is held every five years to determine if the organisation should continue. In 2017 the vote in favour of retaining Dublin Town was carried by 54 per cent of businesses.