Orwell Road residents: ‘Are we allowing Putin stain the name of this road?’

Residents of Russian embassy road ponder name change to Independent Ukraine Road

Orwell Road is one of the longest roads in Dublin. It stretches from Rathgar to Churchtown, with a busy parade of shops at the Rathgar end and a golf course at the other end.

It is 3km in length and spans two local authority areas. The northern half is in Dublin City Council; the southern, on which the Russian embassy is located, is in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

The origins of the name have been lost in time. According to Ged Walsh's book On the History of the Dodder, Orwell Road dates to 1864 and may be named after a ruined church in Scotland called Orwell Kirk.

It is certainly not named after the author George Orwell, although many have pointed out the irony of the Russian embassy being located on a road which shares a name with one of the great critics of Soviet communism.

With the addition of more than 200 new apartments in a development called Marianella in recent years, there are likely now thousands of people with an Orwell Road address.

Councillors in both local authorities want to change its name to Independent Ukraine Road as a gesture of solidarity with Ukraine and of criticism of the Russian government.

It will be up to the residents to decide if they want to make that change by way of a plebiscite.

Up to no good

MacDonald Cycles at 1 Orwell Road is one of its longest-established businesses. Proprietor Alex MacDonald has posters in support of Ukraine in the window and has concluded that the Russians are up to no good in an embassy that he believes is too big for their needs.

Unlike others who spoke to The Irish Times and are adamantly opposed to the renaming, he is prepared to consider the issue. "I have mixed views. I want to show solidarity with the Ukrainian people, but on a long-term basis are we allowing Vladimir Putin to stain the name of this road?" he said.

Similar sentiments were expressed in more forthright terms by the well-known geriatrician Prof Rónán Collins who is a resident of Orwell Road.

He said the current name is appropriate given the manner in which the war is being reported in Russia or not reported as it turns out.

The proposal was adapted unanimously by a subcommittee of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown county council. Dr Collins believes the consultation process should have taken place before it was proposed by the council and that residents are being “embarrassed into accepting”.

“That’s publicly pressurising people. I have been bringing down tea and coffee to the protesters. Any suggestion that we would not be supportive . . . because we want to retain the historic name of the road is nonsense,” he said.

“If the council wanted to do something meaningful, they should have passed a measure calling for the expulsion of the ambassador.”

Defaced with graffiti

The Russian embassy is towards the Churchtown end of the road. It has been picketed by protesters every day since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th and the front has been defaced with graffiti.

Barriers have been erected along the perimeter of the embassy complex since a driver drove his truck at the gates and took them off their hinges.

Vicki-Ann Ryan Hannon grew up two doors down from the embassy and remembers more tranquil times. “We used to talk to the kids in the embassy at the end of our garden. We have been invited into it,” she said.

“We are all in support of the Ukrainian people, but I think the residents want to keep the road the name that it has always been.”

Anne Bouchier-Hayes, who lives in Green Park, Orwell Road, described the proposed renaming as "rubbish".

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction and we all support the Ukrainians, but this is ridiculous.”

She came up with a compromise proposal. Why not name the land that the embassy is on as Independent Ukraine Place and leave the name of the rest of the road as it is?

“Changing the name of the road would affect the residents more than the Russians because the Russians don’t give a damn obviously,” she said.