Turning Joyce’s house of ‘The Dead’ into a tourist hostel beggars belief

Great writers such as Joyce are the Irish equivalent of the pyramids in Egypt, the Colosseum in Rome

Dublin City Council has given the go ahead to plans to turn James Joyce’s ‘House of the Dead’ into a 56-bed tourist hostel. 15 Usher’s Island was once home to his grand aunts and the setting of short story 'The Dead'. Video: Bryan O'Brien

Could Irish Book Week have got off to a worse start? On Friday we read the disheartening news that planning permission has been granted to turn Joyce’s house of ‘The Dead’ into a 56-bed hostel despite objections from leading cultural figures at home and abroad, from the Department of Culture and Heritage, An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, the Irish Georgian Society, the Heritage Council, and from city councillor, Fianna Fail’s Deirdre Conroy, who is also an architectural historian. In granting permission for the hostel conversion and the installation of ‘a platform lift on front elevation’ as well as other substantial changes that will irreparably alter the building’s interior (which remains today exactly as Joyce described it in “The Dead”), Dublin City Council ignores all objections and does not deign to acknowledge the house’s Joyce connection.

If this redevelopment is allowed to go ahead, it will disfigure one of the most famous settings in modern literature. Back in the autumn of 2019, many of the world’s leading writers and literary academics, from Salman Rushdie to Edna O’Brien to Ian McEwan, signed a petition, drafted by Colm Toibin and myself, calling for the preservation of the house. These writers will again be backing a formal appeal against this planning decision and calling for the safe conservation of 15 Usher’s island as a vital national heritage site located not in Dublin’s periphery but, if one’s vision is not myopic, at its centre.

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