If there is one thread in the public reaction to our Reinventing Dublin series, it is that people actually like Ireland’s capital and want it to be a better place.
Whether it can aim to be “world class” – as city manager John Tierney says it should – is probably a chimera, given its relatively small scale. Until recently, the view prevalent among our city planners was that high-rise buildings were needed to put it on the map, as it were. But this has been repeatedly rebuffed by An Bord Pleanála, most recently in its decision to refuse planning permission for the tall and bulky building proposed to replace Liberty Hall. If Dublin is to secure world heritage site status for its Georgian core, it needs to protect the skyline of the city against such visual intrusions.
There is a growing consensus that the city needs much more effective leadership by having a directly elected mayor with executive powers – something the Government appears quite unwilling to countenance. Postponing the matter to a plebiscite in June 2014, when the next local government elections are to be held, seems to be a case of kicking for touch. But why should we have to wait until then to decide the issue? The promised plebiscite could be held at the same time as the Seanad referendum, due next year, thus paving the way for a mayor to be elected in 2014.
We also need to develop urban sensibilities, recognising that Dublin belongs to all of its citizens and to everyone in Ireland. Thus, there should be low tolerance of the raucous antisocial behaviour that’s commonplace on the city’s streets. It is also worth noting the insightful and challenging dictum by Gustavo Petro, the progressive mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, that “a developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation”. Indeed, if more people in Dublin made use of buses, trams and trains, there would be less need for such swingeing increases in fares as those approved yesterday by the National Transport Authority.