CONCEPT/EDITOR: CONOR PURCELL CONTRIBUTORS: ANNE MAREE BARRY, ROB DOYLE, NATHAN HUGH O’ DONNELL, LORCAN FINNEGAN, DANIEL GRAY, TRIONA LALLY, GARETH PITCHER, STEFANIE PREISSNER, BRIAN PURCELL COVER IMAGE: CONOR PURCELL
six + west COPYRIGHT: SIXWEST MEDIA WEAREHEREMAGAZINE.COM/WEAREDUBLIN.IE HELLOSIXWEST.COM PUBLISHED IN DUBLIN, JULY 2014 ISSN 2009-7492
20 UST G U NE A
HOW TO RUN A CLOTHES STORE / 12 HOW TO RETURN / 18 HOW TO WRITE A PLAY / 22 PILLS AND TABLOID THRILLS / 28 THE EARLY HOUSE / 34 POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE / 40 LEAGUE OF IRELAND AND THE HIPSTER QUESTION / 48 THE THIN BLUE LINE / 56 THE SPACES IN BETWEEN / 66 THE TRAGEDY OF HERBERT SIMMS / 74 KILNAMANAGH MON AMOUR / 84 TO LIVE AND DIE IN CABRA / 94 PORTRAITS OF A CITY / 100 09
EDITOR’S LETTER Welcome to issue one of We Are Dublin, a new quarterly magazine about the city. Dublin is a city you can love and hate at the same time – love the people, the humour, the warmth; hate the weather, the politicians, the crime. But cities are not a zero-sum game – you can be confl icted when thinking of Dublin and that’s OK. We are not a political magazine; we just want to present the city as we find it. No one sees the same thing in the same way, and each of our writers brings their own history and perspective to the issue. Nothing in these pages is PR-generated and nothing has been sold. We are not trying to promote Dublin or sell any of its numerous brands; we just want to be read, and hopefully, enjoyed. As for the medium, well, we love print and did not want to present this content any other way. Our online presence serves only to drive awareness of the magazine – and we believe that print is still viable, and is the most beautiful way to present the words and pictures we have compiled. This issue we cover everywhere from Cabra to the Docklands, Grangegorman to the GPO and a few places in between. Our next issue will be out in November, and if you have something to say or feel you can contribute to the magazine, drop us a mail. CONOR PURCELL JULY 2014
HOW TO RUN A CLOTHES STORE / 12 HOW TO RETURN / 18 HOW TO WRITE A PLAY / 22 PILLS AND TABLOID THRILLS / 28 THE EARLY HOUSE / 34
H O W TO SELL MEN’S TH ARE OTH G ITH & CL W GO ON ATI INDI S R OM NVE CO ER FR CH PIT
F A S H I O N 014
We set the store up in 2007. My background was in the fashion industry, as a brand manager for the likes of Pepe Jeans, Tommy Hilfiger and Lee Jeans, so I knew the industry well enough. Our positioning was to sit somewhere between BT2 and the likes of Prada. Our customers have graduated from hoodies, but
One of the main reasons I started the store was that I realised there were more than ten brands in the world, and that is not always obvious in Dublin. I was exposed to many of the brands at trade shows while traveling as a brand manager and figured out that there is an abundance of good brands around the world. The market here is small so we try to work with brands that are not here already, picking the brands we feel are the most contemporary. We were originally based in South William Street and moved here [Essex Street, Temple Bar] when our lease came to an end and we thought South William Street had run out of steam.
The place was becoming somethey don’t want a suit yet. thing different to what we were promised, as it was traditionally I think the industry has probably an independent fashion area, and retracted to the way it was in 2007 before that a wholesalers’ street. – many of the stores that were set That all changed during the Celtic up in the good times no longer ex- Tiger when the ethos of Grafton ist. The middle market is gone now Street pushed out there and into and now there is either the premi- Dawson Street and Drury Street. um market or the high street and we fit in the middle of that – you could Temple Bar is not traditionally a say we are entry-level premium. retail area, and this end around 016
Cow’s Lane and Parliament Street still isn’t. We needed more space for the store and for the studio and we now have four floors in total. I think Dublin is still behind many other places when it comes to fashion, but we have definitely improved in the past five years. The high street has to take a lot of credit for that, but men are still uneducated about what they are buying. Every man here wants a full wardrobe, whereas in other countries they want to build up the quality of the wardrobe. With the recession, people are looking for fewer clothes, but want quality; they want things that will last. We aim to mix classics with emerging trends and getting that balance right is key.
ey for cash flow. I also would have invested more money into the fixtures and fittings and into the branding. It’s key to get the branding right – to ensure the website and the in-store branding is as good as it can be. The brand is the core of what we do and that allows us to do whatever we want. Before, we used to sell
We sometimes get suggestions about labels from our customers, but that is very rare. Our job is to lead and to introduce brands to our customers. We get ideas from travelling, from looking at peer stores around the world mostly.
women’s clothing, now we sell coffee, we have our own studio, and everything makes sense under the brand we have created. We try to be as streamlined as we can be. On average we would have between four and eight pieces of each depending on the style. We are buying less stock and that’s based on what we
We have learned a huge amount. We invested too much money at the start and if I could do it again, I would have reserved more mon017
know will sell as opposed to playing it broader and buying more.
There are not that many Irish people making things that you can sell; the clothing manufacturing industry is almost dead.
There is a lot happening here creatively at the moment, but whether
We have worked with tweed weavers, and the likes of Loft Trading in Belfast. They make their own ties and scarves and use Irish linen and Donegal wool. But there are very few others to look at. I wish we had invested more into the layout of this store. Most retail customers make a decision whether they want to buy something within three seconds. I did a lot of research before we went with this layout. The unit on its own was beautiful before we put anything into it. It was a textile workshop in the 1930s and it still retains that feel.
that has raised the level of creativity in Dublin is questionable. Most of the good people have emigrated, and even though those that have stayed are committed to making the city better, I think that most of the talent has already left. Having said that, in the past year I have noticed more people coming back. In terms of the cities that influence us, you have the usual bellwethers of Berlin and Paris and London. We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t look to Scandinavia too much, but Canada is getting very strong, particularly Toronto.
Indigo & Cloth, 9 Essex Street, Temple Bar 018
Buses wind slowly through deserted streets, summer rain bouncing off the windows. Everything seems slower; everyone seems resigned to their lot; radios chirp with the voices of the discontented. Newspapers are filled with bad memories: dead babies, bank bailouts, property prices, shootings, water taxes. Are people sad here, or happy? How should I be? I left Dubai, a sprawling city of ambition, to come back to Dublin, even more sprawling, but with little ambition. Someone tells me that the Irish are not doers; that they write, or shout, or sing or moan, but they don’t do. I could see 56 lanes of traffic from the balcony of my apartment in Dubai; here there are two. Here is a small suburban cul-de-sac, almost noiseless at night. I see hedgehogs and foxes sometimes, as I lean out my childhood bedroom window smoking. The Irish in Dubai told me to keep my head down in Dublin. Don’t talk about money made or property bought, they said. The Irish don’t like it. I was gone for more than a decade: Dubai, Hong Kong, three years in South Korea before that, every summer for four in Israel during college. Any excuse to leave – and now I am back.
how to return 020
I walk through the city, to parts I have never been before, streets I had never crossed: Infirmary Road, Morning Star Avenue, Empress Place and Mary Street Little. Hours spent walking and photographing, wary of strangers, my defences up, battered by the realities of this city. There was a safety in Dubai, a feeling of unreality. Dublin, in comparison, is very real, and its rough edges brush up against you as you venture through it. The newspapers seem unrelenting in their gloominess – welcome at first given the retardation of the Dubai press, but soon it becomes wearing. Are things that bad? Are we all screwed? Nothing in Dubai seemed ominous – everyone was making money, everyone was dining out; everyone was satisfied, at least superficially.
Men outside pubs tell me to watch out for beggars, criminals; that everything is connected and there are not enough Gardai on the streets. I listen and nod and later walk through town convinced I am about to be attacked. I never am, and the wariness recedes as the summer ploughs on. Is this the beginning of the end, a slow slide into irrelevance and obscurity, tucked away in the suburbs, safe from harm? It would be easy, too easy to drift, to engage with no one, to do nothing â&#x20AC;&#x201C; expectations here seem so low. Everything moves slowly, calls are not returned, incompetence reigns, and you realise why the country is where it is. Where are the rioters? Where are the dissenters? Why does everyone roar into their keyboards and not at those who have failed them? But then everyone failed, not just those in charge. And now, still, we are failing. Life in Dubai was unreal, in the best and worst sense of the word. You had no worries if you were white, European and skilled at something. Many had no skills and still made a good living. Money came and was spent and no one particularly worried about the future. There was always another job, another pay cheque, tax free, often undeserved. Here, there is none of that. People seem worried. Lives seem stalled, buoyed by the pub or the hope of things getting better. And maybe they will. And I am back now too, and their hopes are mine, but first I must reintegrate, relearn what has been forgotten. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hard to return, harder than leaving, for that is always easy. There are no more geographical solutions left, no escapes across the globe. Be here now, and face what I have to face, live like the rest, for the next few months at least.
H W A P
O R 024
W TO T E
, SNER S I E PR ND NIE FRIE A Y F O E T B S Y WITH INE IS M N O DE ATI VERS F SOLPA N O O C TOR CREA
My background is in theatre – it is just what I knew. When I was sixteen I was asked to write a play for Thomas Conway, the literary manager of Druid theatre. He worked with me and I learned that my writing does err on the side of over-sentimentality.
our slice of the pie came with two free sides. The new show looks at that – the generation of entitlement. I am 26 and I was in first year in college when I first heard the word ‘recession.’ Place has always been huge for me – I was born in Germany, moved around a lot and then moved to Mallow. I never really had a sense of home and I have that in Dublin. That’s a big thing for me. Moving from the second city to the capital, it takes a while for a city to accept you, but when you relax into it, that’s what happens.
Part of Solpadeine was borne out of expectations. I expected my life to go a certain way because I was told it would. Get a job, get a degree. I did drama, finished up in the Gaiety and the phone was not ringing. The title came before the show, and it was said in all seriousness, so it came out of a sad state of affairs. I started looking at my friends and their friends, and they were chasing a promise made during the Celtic Tiger that is not actually available. Then my house burnt down and I lost everything. I wrote the play in six weeks, workshopped with the director [Gina Moxley] and managed to get it finished. I think everyone has a story in them, and for me, writing it quickly was the best way to go about it. I have since finished my second play – Fianna Falling For You – that looks at my experiences growing up in a Fianna Fail household. I support Fianna Fail and I support Cork because my family does and no other reason. This play will feature four people on stage – I will be acting and there will be three others on stage reviewing the show live.
Solpadeine is just one act – there is a movement, a sort of post-modern move towards shorter plays. Also because of the funding cuts, we have to become more creative. Solpadeine is a one person, one-act show, it’s where economics meets art. But of course there is no agreement on how long the story needs to be ¬ some say it needs to be fifteen minutes longer, others think it should be forty minutes longer. The title drew in a lot of people who had never been to the theatre be-
fore. I go to the theatre to be moved and to learn something – some people go to be entertained, or to see a spectacle. I go to be moved and educated, maybe in a way that newspapers used to do, before they became censored and uncreative. I am always trying to keep my ego in check – Gina made me very aware that in order to speak about yourself, you have to earn that right – so people can relate to it. I hope that my work is universal. My generation was told that
Dublin is my home now – I moved here in 2008. I first lived in Temple Bar, then I moved to Phibsborough. I know people here and I feel that the city is not too vast and intimidating like London, but at the same time I am not going to see people I went to school with in Cork. When I returned to Cork It was disappointing – Cork has a such a hold. They are obsessed about it, with an ill-conceived sense of pride – a strange sense of pride. I now feel a sense of detachment from Cork. I feel that there are a lot of brilliant artists from Cork who never fitted in. Cork is not very welcoming when you blow back in – everyone knows each other. That was even more of the case in Mallow. I am a huge procrastinator, particularly with my plays; they
will just sit there in my head. Because they are in rhyme, my notes may just be two words on my phone, and then it comes out very quickly. I stopped being so precious about the rhyme – it comes when it comes. And compared to say, a screenplay, there are far fewer rules. I used to have no internal compass when it came to my work – no ego and no self-belief and I would get feedback from fifty different people. With Solpadeine, I only shared it with Gina, who poked a lot of holes in it, so when I fixed those, we were both really happy with it. With this latest play (Fianna Failing For You), I am working with Tom Cread, the director, and I had to learn when to hold back. I am starting to learn when and how to defend the work for the right reasons. I think that seeing a lot of theatre enables you to be more critical. And in general I think we need more critics – we seem to tell everyone we are brilliant and then bitch about them behind their backs. Some writers are very precious but I can’t afford to be precious and if someone gives me advice, I will listen to it. However I write for myself, I know how things are meant to be said. If something is said in a Cork accent it can seem different to the same thing said in a Dublin accent.
sult in an empathy that allows you to write and see the bad in the world. I am struck by my own superfluousness. To be ignorant of that is easier. But creativity comes from discipline – from exercise, eating well, and that discipline has never come easy to me. I think that ties into inspiration and the myth that you needto wait for it. I don’t wait for inspiration – it comes to me when I allow it to come and that requires the discipline to live a certain way. It’s easy to get side-tracked; there is so much stuff out there. If you look at things like Panti-Gate and the resulting never-ending social commentary for example. There are so many people bitching about things on Facebook and I really think they should get off their computers. We are a nation of writers and talkers. If you look at famous Irish people throughout history, we have not been doers. And there is a definite sense of powerlessness, despite the fact we are a supposed democracy. I don’t protest, I just deleted my Facebook. Sometimes I look at my own acceptance of the way things are and I don’t know why I am not angrier. We have created a society where politicians can make promises they can’t keep and they are not held to account. Stephanie Preissner is a writer based in Phibsborough
The more difficult you are as an artist, the more tortured, can re028
r. familia d e ig seem ra l d , b dline e a H e h g line enin The t h e Ev e - d e c k h e a d o n s a w It sy ’ t h re ld, a r E c st a e re o e l b l i K d ‘ n a ut e w ing abo . T h re s s c re a m t s o f D u b l i n i l l s wa p r e e l l e i r fk ethe st b a t c h o t b e e n h e re b a d n a o dead be exd we n o a t o H . g e a t o b l a m h a d , 1 9 ye a r s t h e g r i p o f e in f o re ? W D u b l i n wa s e E s c o u l d n e er act, wh pidemic; wh n a fiver, se tha isk. a drug r less o f t re a t r g e h g w u s o d b lon be ur ki and a e re yo g h n i w n e d he an n n y e v y s t ow a r d s t u s A . t a 1995 as jus the qu w n w s o d wa l k d h e D o c k l a n T 030 Point.
PILLS AND THRI LLS
N’S UBLI INT D F SO PO ORIE IPPING M E T M BING B U L C
Skinny, shirtless men are already dancing when you arrive. There are no women to be seen and a thick white smoke flutters through the venue. The music is loud. The baseline churns your stomach, but it feels right 032
drugs such as ecstasy at clubs and dance events, and third, initiate an effective and imaginative advertising campaign involving the promoters of events to get the message across that ecstasy kills, a message they sadly do not hear at present. It has been stated that we are going to have a summer of ‘E’ I remember the name of the event: let us ensure that does not happen. Dance Nation, and the feeling that this music was everywhere. All the That was Tom Kitt, then a radio stations played dance mu- Fianna Fail TD for South Dubsic – Sunset, Nova, Power FM, and lin. In truth there was little Kitt the British and Irish charts were or the government could do to full of it, although this was just stop young people taking drugs or before everything crossed over. going out clubbing. Licence laws Wandering down the quays that were still archaic in 1995 (and sunny evening, we felt we were still are), but there were enough the smart ones, we were the ones illicit raves to suggest that mattered that knew. While the rest of the little to a generation of clubbers. city got drunk in wine bars or in rugby club discos, we were here, Saturday afternoons were spent at the forefront of youth culture. buying mix tapes in Temple Bar and Friends, parents and the media on Abbey Street. Later they were definitely did not understand. spent buying vinyl in places like The scaremongering that fol- Tagged on the Quays, where older, lowed Dance Nation only height- surly men in record label t-shirts ened the perception that those would pile stacks of records in in power ‘didn’t get it.’ Take front of us, and we skipped through for example, a Dail Eireann each one, aware that we could only debate a few days after the event: afford three 12” (at a fiver a pop). the docklands back then, no shiny hotels or identikit apartments, no street sculptures or coffee shops, just boarded up row houses and waste ground, a section of the city faced in on itself, ignoring the Liffey and those, like us, who wandered past that May evening.
The introduction of ecstasy seems to have taken the fun out of concerts and dances and it is becoming more acceptable. I appeal to the Minister to instigate an investigation into the death of Stephen McMillan who lost his life after taking ecstasy; second, carry out an investigation into the sale of
We were told that we had missed the boat, that by 1995, the scene was dead: “You should have gone to Sides in 1990” they said. Never mind I was 12 in 1990; that was my loss, the glory days were over and the scene had imploded, with sell-out DJs and Jumped-TheShark promoters, the whole scene
was dead and too bad for you. that night at the Point on 24th June 1995. It seems incredible now that Looking back it seems absurd that the likes of Liquid Wheel, Sound 1995 could have been thought of as Crowd and Mark Kavanagh could some type of Fin de siècle, but rath- fill the Point, but that they did. er the scene’s early adopters flexing their retrospective muscles. There Promoters must have looked at the were still good things to come in crowds moving towards the Point the 1990s: the Tuesday night tech- that night and saw pound signs. If no shindigs at the Kitchen on Essex that many people were willing to Street in Temple Bar, the Red Box pay more than a tenner to see a roshad yet to open, and various ware- ter of local talent, how much would houses across the Docklands were they pay for big name international the scenes of impromptu gather- acts? The coming years would anings. Influx was yet to emerge, and swer that question, with events like I remember the epic 33:45 parties the Winter Party (also at the Point) on Thomas Street. And labels such and Homelands (25,000 people deas Bassbin and D1 made music that scended on Mosney for the first lasted beyond the night before. Homelands event in September 1999) bringing over electronic By the mid-1990s, Sides of course music chart toppers and filling was gone, as was The Olympic, out arenas. Think The Chemical and the demise of the Ormond, Brothers, Paul Oakenfield, Orbital the Temple of Sound and UFO was and Leftfield. The scene peaked imminent. Looking back now it and then, later nosedived – dance seems incredible how many good music became old hat, or absorbed clubs there were in Dublin. Today completely into popular culture. there is little for the clubber to The first, undergound clubs gave enjoy: the abandoned warehous- way to the likes of David Guetta, es have been bulldozed or turned who advertised shampoo in the into apartments, Sides is now a ad breaks for Coronation Street. forgettable pub on Dame Street. Every generation looks back wistIn 1995, the scene was on the cusp fully at the years when they were of mainstream acceptance, and vil- young, presuming they were the ification, at least as far as the tab- chosen ones. The older lads who loids were concerned. Overdoses told us that the scene was dead in and stabbings were of little inter- 1995 are no different to those today est when the victims were working that lament the ‘good old days.’ Mayclass, but once the middle classes be everything just comes full circle, were affected, the tabloids started and even the Herald’s headlines singing. Which brings us back to now seem somehow reassuring. 034
It seems absurd that 1995 was seen as some sort of Fin de siècle, and looking back, it seems now more that the scene’s early adopters were flexing their muscles. Good things were still to come. 035
HOW TO RUN AN ALL NIGHT DRINKING DEN When the lights of Dublin thin out at midnight and the respectable clubs turn out their members, the day begins in half a dozen notorious drinking dens. In squalid houses in several Dublin streets, whiskey is served in coffee to all-night drinkers. Stray men arrive with questionable women up ‘til 6am, and the drinkers are still at it when the newsboy knocks with the city edition.
First published in the Irish Times, October 7th, 1944
like something from an American film of the “dry” days, with passwords and constant clearing of tables at each knock. The only outside evidence of the drinking den were chinks of shaded light from the door and window spilling out onto the footwalk of a sleeping city at 3am. Inside was silence. A low knock, with an interval for the drinkers to clear the ‘evidence’ brought a voice. My conductor made the necessary explanations, the door opened to admit us, and we found ourselves in an unbelievably queer room, which passed for an indifferent café in daylight. The waiter locked the door after us.
I was taken to one of these city haunts last night, writes a contributor. It was 036
Roughly a dozen small tables lined the walls and ran down the centre. A dozen people, all in a tipsy condition, produced cups and glasses from under tables and returned to a buzz of conversation. They sat in pairs, men and women, except for one elderly man, who lay slumped over a table in best detective story fashion, dead – but dead drunk. My friend asked for coffee, and through a process of semi-sign talk the coffee arrived at 1s. 6d. a cup – 6d. for the coffee, 1s. for the additional contents. Subsequently whiskies were supplied in glasses but the customer emptied these into coffee and the glasses were quickly cleared away. A knock swaying, nounced, ble.” The
subdued whispers and went round the room “Glasses under the table.” When all evidence was removed – even coffee cups, for most were too intoxicated to appreciate the comparative immunity of the coffee cup – the waiter said through the door: “We’re closed.”
The drunks outside insisted: “Coffee… a small one… two small ones.” “Closed,” repeated the waiter. “This is no pub. Only suppers.” He crouched with his eyes to a seam, conducting this special entrance formula for strangers, anxious to make up his mind that they were real money, not police. “Only suppers, half-a-dollar a time.” Silence. Steps and drunks faded came to the door. The away. An amused buzz of conversahalf-drunk waiter an- tion broke out again and cups and “Glasses under the ta- glasses returned to the table-tops. warning was taken up in Between 3am and 5am, eight strag-
glers were admitted. Even on the point of 5am, a middleaged man and his love of the night came in. They sat down and were served with a handsome breakfast of coffee, eggs and bacon, cooked in an inner kitchen by a young man. Along came the inevitable whiskies, and as the safer morning hours approached, the glasses remained on the tables. The milkman arrived, delivered the milk with an amused but not surprised glance at the diners. The newsboy came, and sold his papers to the diners. Indeed, quite a circle knows of this all-night den.
little weaker when he looks like becoming a sleeping partner. It is usual for some men to drink the night through at dens of this kind. After a sleepless night and the weak drink of these places, one normal drink is enough to knock a man over. The den described here, with its prostitute hangers-on, its semi-secret entrance formula, its cups and glasses on the table, is only one of several Dublin drinking dens, higher up and lower down the scale. They are not, in general, frequented by young people, most of whom do their late drinking through the private house party, but they are traps for the unwary youngster who comes to the city on his own, finds himself out late at night on his own, feels like drinking and has no friends.
From two o’clock, the room was filled with intoxicated people, but few got any drunker. Most had been drunk when they got there and this diluted whiskey and the sobering qualities of the coffee kept them in the pleasurable state (for the management) where Investing drink with adventhey could still cash and carry. ture in a false atmosphere, they lead to excess, espe“A small whiskey and a cially where the “customers” bucket of water does this bring their own supplies with place for a night,” said my them. Judging from the type of friend. This accounts for the woman present, they are easy normal charge for the whis- stepping stones to disease. key. It is watered down to suit the customer’s state of intoxication – a little stronger when he seems too sober, a
40 /111 19
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE / 40 LEAGUE OF IRELAND AND THE HIPSTER QUESTION / 48 THE THIN BLUE LINE / 56 THE SPACES IN BETWEEN / 66 THE TRAGEDY OF HERBERT SIMMS / 74 KILNAMANAGH MON AMOUR / 84 TO LIVE AND DIE IN CABRA / 94 PORTRAITS OF A CITY / 100 040
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE
When I walk up Grangegorman from the Smithfield end, I pass the entrance to a fire station. Its metal doors are high enough for fire engines or kneeling giraffes to squeeze through. Further up the road, the words ‘Nonces Out’ are scrawled on a boarded-up house. There is no passing traffic. The clocks in the tower on the east side of the psychiatric hospital tell the wrong time, but at least they all tell the same wrong time. The numbers on the weather vane say 1816, the year Richmond General Pe n i t e n t i a r y was opened on this site, before it was amalgamated into Richmond Lunatic Asylum. The name of the institution has grown marginally less offensive every few decades: from lunatic asylum through mental hospital to psychiatric hospital. The building on the east side of Grangegorman still stands. I walk through the archway. The inner courtyard is surrounded on three sides by lots of windows, some cracked, some boarded-up, pigeons flapping about the sills. It’s easy to lapse into negative adjectives for large buildings in the process of decay, but there is something 044
disturbing about places in which people were kept against their will. I follow a sign for ‘Personal Effects: A History of Possession,’ an exhibition of belongings of some former inmates of St. Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital, that leads to a door on the north side of the courtyard. The atmosphere of a derelict building is morbidly compelling. I feel like a misery tourist, rubbernecking at the past. Disused buildings cause my mind to wander, inventing histories for people whose names I do not know. The exhibition is housed in two rooms in the Food Stores building. At first I believed I was in the patients’ living quarters and had begun to project my ideas of their lives into the rooms. A food store does not possess the same ghoulish potential, but by the time I realised the purpose of this building, I was in full imaginative swing. As a child, I was regularly brought with my sister and brothers to visit an elderly relative in a psychiatric hospital. We were fascinated by the eccentric characters and their strange ways. A woman in the ward strapped bodily to a chair, Hannibal Lecter-style, used to roar
abuse at the nurses, in language we children weren’t allowed to use. We saw nothing to be fearful of in that hospital, and only as an adult did I realise that some of these women were not there by choice. The corridor is lit by a fluorescent bulb, the floor is bare concrete. The walls are painted a garish orange, the doors a deeper shade of orange. The effect is unsettling, a kind of citrus overload or disjointed cheer. Printed in large capital letters on an A4 sheet taped to a door are the words: ‘Do Not Count.’ The inmates may not have counted as individuals, but they were meticulously counted within the system: their former possessions itemised, their new identities numbered, their medications recorded. Rot or damp stains in the food store rooms run the length of walls and across the ceiling. They bulge in rotten cloudscapes or rivers from a post-nuclear hell. One of the exhibits, a small hand mirror, hangs on a wall next to a gush of dry brown rain. A sticker near the door says Bait Station No. 6, the sixth stage in a potentially fatal obstacle course for vermin. Labels for Women’s Socks and Knickers followed by
numbers and letters are stuck on the damp-patterned walls alongside the names of foodstuffs: Special K, All Bran, Cornflakes, Club Orange, 7up, Coke Diet, Coke 300ml, Leaded Fruit Cocktail, Peaches, Pineapple, Rhubarb Soup, Oil 1 litre. I spent several summers working in the kitchens of nursing homes and a hospital, washing enormous saucepans and cooking vessels by hand in deep sinks, sluicing away the suds with a pull-down hose, clearing away huge amounts of food that fed industrial quantities of people. The sacks of potatoes, huge boxes of teabags, vats of prunes, and oversized tins of fruit made me feel like a shrunken Alice in Wo n d e r l a n d , and it saddened me that everyone was inflicted with the same food regardless of personal taste. If one of the patients requested a cream cake for breakfast or a sherbet fountain for supper, they would probably be ignored. There is a quiet sadness in sameness. Five wooden bars on one wall hold huge quantities of the inmates’ rosary beads. A clump of religious medals and trinkets hangs from lengths of ribbon and 046
pieces of string on the same wall; the words on two small square fabric pictures of the Sacred Heart read MERCY JESUS and on an image of the Virgin Mary read MARY HELP. Unknown histories interest me more than known ones. Some years ago, I dug an old brown leather suitcase out of a neighbour’s skip and cleaned it up enough to remove the surface dirt, not enough to rinse away the story of its previous owner. Recently, I found a batch of torn, faded old photographs of unknown people in the attic of our house. I framed them, trying to imagine their pasts and futures beyond the smiling present. There are mundane items in the exhibition – a pair of false teeth, reading glasses, a razor and shaving brush, and, intriguingly, a fork and a spoon. There are lots of bunches of large rusty keys. There are more rosary beads and a prayer book entitled Key of Heaven. The most striking belongings are the ones that show personal preference or previous interests: a gold pencil with a red top, a tortoiseshell hair accessory, a lilac beaded necklace, a thimble, the broken head of an angel 048
ornament, a hardback copy of Book IX of Virgil’s Aeneid, a whelk shell, the kind you can hear the sea from. A red pincushion, trimmed with white lace, hangs from a blue ribbon, part of its stuffing coming undone. It’s filled with rusty safety pins and needles. Many fearless words have been written about this country’s past fixation with dumping misfits and non-circular pegs into large buildings with high walls for the apparent safekeeping of society. Some of the choices I’ve made or not made, some of the things I’ve done or not done would have put me behind high stone walls a couple of generations ago; my belongings on show for future visitors. I leave the exhibition and head north past the recycling centre for household goods. On the sign displaying the opening hours, the words “all cops are target” are written in lower case letters. It’s the same swirling script as the grafitti on the side wall of the nearby bank, saying ‘Smash Capitalism.’
Triona Lally is a writer based in Cabra
THE FAN’S E D TH N A X S, RER PARADO E D R AN Y W HIPSTE A R ’S ,B ANS ELAND I M E IR BOH UE OF G LEA
It is a muggy evening in mid-June and most football fans in Dublin – most sensible ones at any rate – are watching the second day of the World Cup finals, or more specifically, the defending to the league or its teams. The champions Spain take on Holland. bizarre episode involving Sporting Fingal FC – founded in 2007, I am not. I am on the DART, played in Europe in 2010, dissolved winding my way down Dublin’s in 2011 – was just one of many sun-drenched south eastern coast, where greed-soaked businessmen, towards Bray, just over the Dublin- over eager amateurs and asleep-atWicklow border. I am on this half- the-wheel officials let the promise empty train (most of the regular of instant riches go to their heads. commuters, I assume, are drinking in city-centre beer gardens) No one is dreaming of riches these travelling to the Carlisle Grounds days. Bray Wanderers had an avto watch Bray Wanderers take erage attendance of 689 last seaon Bohemians, a mid-table clash son, and judging by tonight most that I expect will be a grim affair. of those were away fans. There are about 600 here this evening, Most League of Ireland matches almost all Bohs supporters, with are grim affairs, a statement that is the home stand nearly empty. The a result of wasted childhood after- old, exposed stand is for the away noons watching dull FAI Cup finals, support and there are about 60 and a particularly wet Saturday Bohs fans there when I arrive 15 afternoon in the late Eighties when minutes before kick off. ‘SomeBohs beat Galway 1-0 in a drenched thing Happened On The Way To Dalymount Park. As the train rum- Heaven’ blasts out of the Tannoy bles down the coast, disgorging while two bald men put up a large sweaty office workers at each stop red and black flag emblazoned with (and, at Sandymount, a homeless the words: ‘The Bohs Are Back in man drinking a can of Devil’s Bit Town’ over a picture of Phil Lynott. cider), I wonder if any Bohemians fans will show up. At fifteen Euro There are hoardings for local a ticket, the games are not cheap, garages, restaurants and mineral and really, can anyone be bothered? water, a gym, a furniture store, Oakfield Nursing Home. There is The League of Ireland is in a bad the smell of fast food, as men and way. To be fair, it has always been a bad way, but these days, times are as hard as they have ever been. The Celtic Tiger was not kind 052
boys walk past with cartons of sausages and chips. A young boy with a Bohemians scarf clambers up the steps with a box of Jaffa Cakes. The dressing rooms are reconstituted Portakabins, visible from the stands. It all seems closer to schoolboy football than to the Premiership. There is an intimacy here not present in bigger grounds, a byproduct of the size, or lack of it. There are two security guards scanning the crowd, but anyone could duck under the waist-high metal fence and run onto the pitch. No one does. Most seem content to sit on the grey bucket seats, eating sausage and chips and knocking back bottles of Coke. No alcohol is available. Bohemians have won the League of Ireland 11 times, but find themselves near the bottom of the table before they visit Bray. Various people tell me this is due to the excessive money the club wasted on players during the tail end of the Celtic Tiger. The fact that the club now has no money is illustrated by the youth of the team – most are in their early twenties or younger, almost all are from Dublin.
tackle. They seem like a longsuffering wife, standing by their husband, but not expecting him to change. Yet within 25 minutes their team are 3-0 up, playing slick one-touch football and exposing a bereft Wanderers’ defence. Over in Salvador, Spain open the scoring against the Dutch, Xabi Alonso slotting home a penalty after a dubious fall by Costa. We sit, smug in the knowledge that the Spanish will grind out a dull victory against the Netherlands, while we, sitting in the late evening sun, are witnessing a footballing spectacle, all the more pleasing as it is so unexpected. There is another goal before halftime and a red card for the Bray keeper. Four goals up and the halftime break is jovial, the Bohs’ fans’ scarcely believing their luck, the Bray fans quieter, but good natured. No one really expects anything from these matches, not when you are as far down the table as these teams. I walk around the pitch into the home fan’s section. I see some men in a Portakabin drinking tea, but before I can enter I am stopped by a middle-aged man who tells me that’s the VIP Lounge. Back on the Bohs side, there are queues for the toilets and the burger stand has attracted a small queue.
The crowd gets impatient quickly, Vice Magazine, the original bible the Bohs’ fans hard on any mistake, of all things hipster, ran a piece on any misplaced pass or mistimed the League of Ireland a few years ago. The article, by an American writer, is scathing in its attack on the league. This is not surpris 054
as well, but the life has gone out of the game. The home stand is nearly completely empty. Dinny Corcoran, the man who scored a hat-trick for Bohs, has been taken off, and with him, much of the game’s spark. ing. What is surprising is that the League of Ireland has not been adopted by the city’s growing number of hipsters, the type of people that would seek Vice Magazine out. Bohemian’s ground, Dalymount Park, is only 15 minutes from Stoneybatter. And while most Bohemians fans are no-frills working class males, there is surely room for some bearded baristas on a night off.
The night reverts back to overhit passes and mistimed tackles. So where are the hipsters? Surely the League of Ireland is ripe for a takeover? The teams are obscure, the standards low, and choosing to spend your Friday night watching Bohs vs Bray (and on a World Cup night!) wins numerous points on Twitter. In truth, the hipsters’ obsession with football (centred The second half gets underway at mainly on tactics, formations and a slower pace. Bray – down to 10 Borussia Dortmund) exists only on men – know they are done for, and the internet. It’s easy to ‘support’ attempt to shut up shop. Bohs con- a team from the comfort of your tinue to create chances and the away bedroom, less so when it involves fans are getting impatient. Over in trekking out to Bray or Dundalk or Salvador, the second half has also Sligo. Real fans couldn’t care less kicked off and the Dutch have gone about false number nines, or Jurgen ahead. There is a murmur of rec- Klopp’s sartorial choices, they just ognition from the crowd in Bray. want to win. And for fans of Bray Still, there’s been more goals in and Bohemians (and most League of this match, and most probably bet- Ireland clubs), the wins are few and ter goals. Right? Then we hear the far between. It’s far easier to stay at Dutch are 3-1 up after a header from home, which is why, on this beautiDe Vrij. With less than 20 minutes ful summer evening, so many have. left Van Persie scores his second. A man behind me tells his friend: It’s reassuring in a way. The kids “The Dutch are fucking destroy- at the game will be here in 30 ing them.” And then it’s five. 5-1. At years’ time with their own kids, the that stage Bohs have scored a fifth dressing rooms will still be Portacabins and Bohemians and Bray will still be struggling. In a world ever-changing, it’s good to know some things will stay the same.
THE THIN BLUE LINE
A dirt track leads through scrub grass, rubble, and weeds. To my right, a few dilapidated light industrial buildings lie unoccupied. To my left, mounds of overgrown foliage – buddleia, bramble – overshadow the path; beyond them runs a train line along which trains occasionally pass, heading to Sligo or Maynooth. All I can see here is wasteland, pure and simple. But as Kaethe, who is leading me through the site, points out, that’s a question of perspective. She points to one large pile of concrete rubble. “Those are the remains of the platform,” she says. “They’ve thrown it around, but 058
that was the stop for the steam train. It ran this line until the 60s.” This is Kaethe Burt-O’Dea, a healthcare design consultant and also what she calls, with a little hesitation, an ‘urban ecologist.’ (“I’m sorry. I can’t think of a better way to put it,” she apologises, in her still distinctive eastcoast American accent.) She is a striking woman, with brilliant white hair and arresting eyes. It is an uncertain Sunday in early May and we are walking the path of the long-deserted train line from the north Dublin suburb of Broombridge, in Cabra, to Broad
stone Station on the edge of the inner city. This scrubland marks the point at which the new Luas extension, crossing the city centre and extending into the northside, will terminate. It is also, as Kaethe tells me, the site for something called the Lifeline, an idea that she has been working on for five years.
anti-social behaviour. Part of the remit of the Lifeline is to involve local communities, something I suspect might be a challenge. I grew up in nearby Glasnevin and have to confess I’m sceptical about the appetite for ‘urban ecology’ in this part of Dublin. Kaethe, however, to her credit, doesn’t want to speculate about what a comWhat she aims to do is to reclaim munity will or won’t do. Instead some of this unused land for the she talks about the creation of one city, through a series of ambitious thing after another: an allotment, ‘interventions’ to be delivered a roof-top apiary. These are things alongside the massive processes people can get into. Let them get of construction which will be tak- involved. Keep it low-level. Keep ing place over the coming years. it open. This, she believes, is how Last year she won a Guinness Pro- a neighbourhood can change. jects Award to begin to realise it. The Lifeline is still very much in The extension of the Luas Green planning, but the grant enabled Line – the BDX or ‘Cross-City’ exher to think big and people, she tension, as it has been ‘rebranded’ says, have finally begun to listen. – was approved in August 2012. Mostly it has been touted, and There is a light wind whipping welcomed, as a connector for the around us. Overhead, grey skies two extant Luas lines which both threaten rain – but are so far hold- opened in 2004, each of them ening off. To get onto the site we’ve tering the city centre but failing to had to walk the railway and sneak join up. The funding approval was through a gap in the railings. A announced alongside the Fine Gael/ year ago the site would have been Labour government’s 2 billion euro full of kids on dirt bikes, but as stimulus package, which included Kaethe assures me, in the past designation of the large Grangemonths it has been much improved. gorman site as the home for a new campus for DIT, an established “They’ve got a great Policing Fo- technical university in the city. rum in Cabra, and a dedicated community officer,” she tells me. Together these two initiatives “People have really rallied around.” have been hailed as a long-overdue This is an area that has long been a boost to the economy of the northcentre for anti-social violence. The side: as is stated in the official anunmonitored Broombridge train nouncements, they represent ‘an station nearby is notorious for opportunity for substantial devel 060
opment and rejuvenation of an important inner city urban quarter.’
long-established largely workingclass area, with rows of those Corporation houses – common across This ‘urban quarter’ – in the pecu- Dublin – built as part of the major liar lingo that arises when property slum clearance of the 1920s and ‘30s. development meets bureaucratic government policy – is certainly due It is to view the track from Broadsome ‘rejuvenation.’ The new Cross- stone to Broombridge that Kaethe City Luas will run through some of has brought me, a neglected line the most neglected areas of the city through largely neglected terrain. centre, following Marlborough, This will be the site for the LifeParnell, and Dominick Streets as far line project. The only glimpse most as Constitution Hill before reach- Dubliners have had of it since 1937 ing the striking Broadstone Station, when it was closed to passenger trafbuilt between 1841-50 by the Mid- fic, has been from one of the three lands Great Western Railway com- road bridges which cross it. You can pany. From Broadsone the tram-line look down from any of these bridgwill traverse a stretch or ‘cutting’ es onto a dense mass of overgrown of railway line, through Phibsbor- green, beautiful, wild, and utterly ough, Cabra, and terminating at uncherished nature. The line has Broombridge, which has been out also long been an improvised dump of operation for more than 50 years. site, scattered with old couches, electrical items, and of course, The line will serve communities the ubiquitous plastic bag everyof vastly varying fortunes. Domin- where, hanging out of tree branchick Street and Constitution Hill are es and flattened into the earth. flanked by rows of corporation flats from the 1960s, built without amen- The dirt path takes a dip alongities and since generally neglected side the wall of the old Batch– though long-term plans for the elors Beans factory, from here a regeneration of Dominick Street vast blank stone wall topped by have been put into motion. Uphill uneven serrations. All of a sudsit the now-fashionable cottages of den the air becomes clammy. Broadstone, occupying a haven of quiet seclusion, and beyond them “Can you feel the change as you the strange residential mixture of come down?” asks Kaethe. “There’s Phibsborough: well-off families oc- a sort of micro-climate just here. cupying rows of respectable Victo- You could grow medicinal herbs rian redbricks, cheek by jowl with here. St John’s Wort. Did you know the staggeringly bleak studio-apart- there was a study done, demonment hell of the largely-Georgian strating that camomile grown in North Circular Road. And from Ireland is more potent than the there the line snakes into Cabra, a camomile grown anywhere else?” 062
I didn’t. To be honest, it feels at times as if we are looking at two different terrains. Maybe it’s that question of perspective. I have been so long used to thinking of these bits of unused territory in the city as wastelands, or at most as sites for development, for building, for ‘regeneration.’ I don’t tend to look beyond this. Certainly the kind of thrift required to cultivate a strip of land as unpromising as this seems to me, frankly, quixotic. Just ahead, Kaethe tells me, is a plot of contaminated land, once a works for treating railway sleepers with coal-tar creosote.
oil from restaurants and chippers. She wants to establish an apiary where people could train as beekeepers and sell on local honey, pollinated along the Green Line and the nearby Botanic Gardens. There is something congenial to her about the bees’ working pattern: the commonage, the hive, the freedom from boundaries. In fact, she sees in them a model for the kind of operational structure the project as a whole might take.
What becomes clear, as we talk, is that the Lifeline is about much The use of creosote here over dec- more than this single strip of land. ades polluted the canal so badly that It is a symbolic struggle: a contest they’ve not yet, all these years later, over how we view, and use, our city. been able to dredge it. And yet she is In conversation with developundeterred. There is, as she readily ment agencies, she tells me, she admits, ten years more work in this, encounters a particular mentality. at least, but she seems to relish the challenge. To Kaethe, this kind of “If I want to build a bridge, say, economy is what makes a city work. there’s a process. ‘We’ll apply to Europe, we’ll ask for five million, She has a crusader’s zeal, which we’ll fly in Calatrava.’ It’s on that maybe allies her with the indus- scale. It’s just so removed. And trialists and canal-builders of the I’m thinking, couldn’t we stage 18th Century. Certainly she has a competition, get designs in for a robust 18th Century merchant- temporary pontoon bridges that trader’s pragmatism about waste. people can build out of – I don’t The Lifeline, as she describes it, know, empty plastic bottles?” is all about waste. The modern urban environment is inexora- She smiles. She’s exaggerating, bly wasteful: there are the day- but she has a point. To look at to-day waste products we gener- the ‘Grangegorman Urban Quarate of course, but there are also ter’ website – that grotesque so many wasted resources, such phrasing again – will give some wasted human potential. She sense of the kind of sanitised, would like to see cottage indus- overdesigned environment that tries, producing soap out of waste planners envision for the area. 064
Kaethe is not interested in these kinds of pristine, privatised spaces. To create a genuine public space in the city, she argues, requires handson involvement. You do not wade in with a series of prescriptions for whatever urban malaise you’ve managed to diagnose. You have to be reactive, you have to be listening, and you have to be present. “Just look at this tract of land,” she says. “A few streets over, they built an entire stretch of canal to serve this railway, and it was only operational for 30 years. You have to be ready for change. That’s the mistake, planning for permanence. You’ve got to react. You have to always be reacting.”
Railway Procurement Agency, for instance, really going to give more than lip service to the Lifeline? The afternoon has turned on us. We get as far as the Liam Whelan Bridge, over which runs the Fassaugh Road, before the rain really pelts down. We turn to go back. But first, Kaethe stops in the middle of the mud track, crouching to examine the greenery.
“There’s such diversity here,” she exclaims. It is easy to be sceptical. This kind of close-focused enthusiasm is hardly enough to challenge the heavily-financed forces of urban development. But there is something in Kaethe’s conviction that For her, as for the canal-builders, I find curiously contagious. This this is what cities are about: con- microscopic eye to detail informs stant change. A city isn’t a problem a much broader vision: a vision of to be solved, she says: it’s some- a sort of Eden in northside Dublin. thing that will always be evolving. It’s a vision with which I have to This ethos, I suggest, might place say, as a northsider myself, I’m her at odds with the interests of unfamiliar. But listening to her centralised urban planning. “That’s describe it, and taking one last true. This is absolutely not the top- look down the overgrown line, past down agency approach. But you can the three bridges to Broadstone go too far the other way as well. You station, even in the peltcan wind up in a state of sheer rela- ing rain, it feels like sometivism.” She pauses. “It’s striking thing not only possible, but the balance that’s the challenge.” valuable, necessary, and brave. It’s a challenge that will underpin the whole of this project. We are effectively trespassing here, unauthorised, on a Sunday. The Guinness grant is one thing, but a project of this magnitude will require more. From where? Are the 066
Nathan Hugh O’Donnell is a writer based in Stoneybatter 067
THE SPACES IN BETWEEN
Anne Maree Barry is a filmmaker based in Dublin. Her work is both beautiful and compelling, forcing the viewer to think about spaces and the people that live in them. Missing Green is a short documentary about Cork Street that features interviews with Councilor John Gallagher, architect Gerry Cahill, author and journalist Frank McDonald and sociologist Aileen O’ Gorman. The result is a stark and moving journey through one of the city’s most forgotten, yet fascinating areas. I lived in Rialto from 2003 and I saw the area change quite a lot with the demolition of
Fatima Mansions. I got awarded a studio residency at Studio 468 in Rialto (Rialto Twirlers) and my proposal was to make a film on the majorettes. Rialto Twirlers was completed and screened in 2010 and even before I fully completed that project I began to wonder what I should do next. I had done a Post Graduate degree in Community Arts Education, and my paper was on why we build and then demolish, which looked mainly at social housing. I had a conversation with Nicky Gogan (producer of Rialto Twirlers) at that time and she mentioned Cork Street, 070
so it was a combination of living in the area and that conversation. Also places such as Ballymun had got a lot of coverage, but the area around Cork Street had not. I did the treatment for the film in 2009, so I always knew what it would look like, but did not know about how the voice-over would fit. It’s interesting to look at an area that people have certain percep-
tions of and throw that on its head. I think the whole area is interesting. I started research in 2011, did the interviews in 2012, and began shooting in 2013, and it was finished in June of that year. I had all the interviews collected, then I shot the street, and then I went back and matched the interviews to the visuals. It’s about layers, and finding things that you can’t see. 071
When they see an open space, they just see it as a place where social disorder is likely to happen so every type of space is looked at in terms of its likelihood to contribute to social disorder and there response has been to fence it off. If you go around a lot of the housing estates now in Dublin you see an amazing amount of green spaces that have just been cordoned off and you can’t access them – Aileen O’ Gorman
It was quite a challenge to get all the elements working. I watched a lot of architecture films such as Patrick Keiller’s London (1994) – and although that had a voiceover – the girl in my film carries you through the visuals.
not going to show up and she was the last person to come. The shoot itself ran from 7pm to 1am – everything was very thorough and very fast, and that was down to Glen Collins, the producer. Glen forces me to make snappy decisions, plus on a film set there is no room for The girl in the film is Niamh Al- indecisiveness. We also had good ger. She came to casting here on kit, I enjoy having all the toys that South William Street. She was are used in major hollywood action 072
movies – however due to budget constraints we could not afford a crane this time! I photographed the area first, then storyboarded and then met Piers, the Director of Photography and we worked out what was possible and what was not.
People drive and follow the road from cork street out to the suburbs Many people who lived in St Michael’s Estate, Inchicore were encouraged to leave under the Surrender Grant. A lot of people with initiative left and you were left with a loss of community and more and more anti-social problems. James Buckley who I interviewed for Missing Green (his interview did not make the cut) and lives in the Weaver Street flats talks about the communities that were scattered around the city in the wake of the property boom.
There is hope for Cork Street particularly around the allotment area seen in the film where Chambers and Weavers Court once stood. A skateboard park has recently been approved for that specific area. In some ways there is always going to be an issue around the use of space. 073
The city was being targeted for carving up to make new roads to cater for traffic coming in and out of the suburbs. And people who lived in the city weren’t treated seriously. They were almost treated as if they were relics from the past and they hadn’t got with the game of moving out – Frank McDonald Communities were broken up. People are quite angry because they have been consistently ignored and disregarded. Rita Hagen and John Bissett have been campaigning tirelessly for the regeneration of St Michael’s Estate. They are not going to sit back and accept whatever happens. I greatly admire them for this. With this film, it was a different way of looking at the situation, so there were a lot of decisions to be made about how to present the film. I am very interested in hybrid documentaries. I recently watched The Act of Killing which was both fascinating and horrifying. Another influence was Dreams of a Life, about a woman who was living in London and just disap074
peared, with her body being discovered in her bedsit three years later. The woman used to sing, so part of the documentary focuses on that, on the joyful side to her life. I find that interesting, in terms of a different way of presenting something something that is essentially quite upsetting. My responsibility is ultimately to myself and to the work to make sure I am happy with it. Peter Jackson once said: “the most honest form of filmaking is to make a film for yourself.” I believe in this ethos and I hope it comes through in the work. I am still excited by the opportunities in Dublin. There is lot’s of stories here in the city, and once you meet people you discover more and more.
The life and death of Herbert Simms After years of pro-Souness brainwashing and replica jersey birthday purchases, you can imagine the frustration of my dad, aunts and uncles when their sired generation of Grays abandoned their familial legacy of rabid support for Liverpool Football Club in an exodus towards Alex Fergusonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all-conquering Manchester United. In pubs from Ringsend to Rialto we, the newfound Busby babes, would line up in front of TVs in our contraband United shirts and cheer each excoriating tackle Nicky Butt laid into an opponent, every toe-poked Andy Cole goal. Our respective parents passed it off as folly, laid 076
down gentle sanctions in a policy of appeasement; that was until the crisis of the 1996 FA Cup Final. Liverpool 0 - 1 Man United. For fear of the intergenerational torch being left to burn out by the Wembley roadside, and of losing the last, fading atoms of respect from their gloating pack of children, the elder Grays gathered for an emergency conference. Diplomacy was abandoned. It was time for total war. My Da, Uncles Miley, Beno and Trevor and Aunties Pippi and Martina signed a secret pact to sow dissent through the only deeper-held tribal identity they could think of: our local pride.
Here is the strategy in action: “Da, can we go watch the United match in Anto’s flat? It’s only on Sky.” “Anto’s? In St. Teresa’s? After what happened to that young fella last week?” “What young fella?” “The fella they threw off the top balcony for being from Markievicz House.” “Wha? But… I’m from Markie…” “Exactly. “What about Uncle Tr…” “At least it’s not like over at Trevor’s in Stella Gardens, where they locked an auld wan into a pram shed for two weeks with no food. They’re little savages over there.”
There were no more requests for across-town trips to cousins’ houses or local pubs for United matches. Saturdays were spent painting gang colours on our arms and planning assaults on enemy enclaves. We still wore our Devil crests on our hearts, but our parents had us divided, and ready to be conquered. Unbeknownst to them, they were tapping into a deep-running force for their entire execrable crusade. Social housing tends to fall foul of a local prejudice on a universal scale. We build a mythos around these monoliths of working class life, spaces we deem anti-social, crime-ridden and aesthetically foul.
Through a massive campaign of garrulous propaganda, the Take an architecturally-minded older generation incited interne- friend from London, Amsterdam or cine spats that soon took flight. Marrakech down Chancery Lane, Dublin 7, and it’s likely that her eye Scott Brazil, from two floors will be drawn to the thick, white below my own base in Markievicz slabs of the Four Courts. If she’s a House, broke my cousin James’ arm particularly inquisitive sort, though, in a bonfire raid. I didn’t intervene. she’ll take a second glance at the curiRetribution came our way in the ous, lightly Art Nouveau-flourished shape of a banger attack through our gateway to a tiny, manicured park. letterbox on Halloween Night and If she does, take her in to look at the a note: ‘trick or treat from Domin- newly-forged plaque which reads: ick Street.’ Schoolyards were no longer safe, as dog shit sandwiches HERBERT G. SIMMS made their way into our lunchbox1898 - 1948 es from the grimy hands of Pearse CHIEF HOUSING ARCHITECT House urchins. By the time Christ- AND DESIGNER OF CHANCERY mas came around at the Nanny HOUSE AND CHANCERY PARK Gray household, we were stealing each others selection boxes and fill- and then you can tell her this story: ing them with rotten turnip mash. Dublin’s most critical post-inde 078
A sense of ownership and community control was underpinned by the unique, inward design of the flats Simms built
pendence struggle was slum clearance. British colonisation had left a rich architectural legacy in the capital which, by the 1920s, served almost exclusively as a oncemajestic facade covering up entropic social dilapidation. Dublin Corporation’s budget, powers and motivation in that first decade were limited, and the tenement issue was left to philanthropic movements to apply a Band-Aid to.
s Simms’ visionary planning saw 17,000 houses erected from the most barren of resources – and some of them were even pretty
whatever the proposed solution was. Simms’ panacea was twofold: a combination of inner-city social housing complexes and a jockeying of the growing trend for suburban sprawl. Thanks to newfound compulsory purchase powers won by the Corporation, the former was originally favoured, and tower blocks such as Markievicz House, Thorncastle Street Flats, Chancery House and Pearse House emerged across town. A contextIt was the ascendance of Herbert less stranger would hardly even Simms, a London-born, Liverpool- identify these complexes as such; educated architect to the position their modesty rarely pushing beof Dublin’s first ever City Archi- yond four stories, very much in-line tect in 1932 that finally ushered with Dublin’s unimposing skyline. in an age of cohesive, city-wide planning and the return of a sense Flats were built for single families of domestic dignity to the city’s only and, while still by no means palumpen proletariat. Through Her- latial in scope, one can imagine the culean labour, Simms’ visionary relief at the advent of personal space planning and graft 17,000 homes and private facilities in the face of a were erected from the most bar- century of tenement life. A sense of ren of resources – miraculously, ownership and of community consome of them even looked pretty. trol was underpinned by the unique, inward-looking design of the flats. Aesthetics, of course, were subli- Balconies all faced inwards, towards mated to the task of housing 81,000 the centre of the complex, and not destitute Dubliners. This was the out on to the street. This encourgreat urban conundrum for plan- aged community-run security and ners internationally in the modern conviviality (and is perhaps why, to era. Dublin’s problem, one of the this day, in spite of the always-open worst amongst its European con- gates of flat complexes that the nontemporaries, was compounded by native feels like a trespasser should political and economic instability, they take a shortcut through them. a Catholic hierarchy that warned There is something of the reverse against the morally corrupting panopticon to this arrangement, potential of flats, an inexorable a nightmare scenario for any selfinflux of rural immigration and, respecting bourgeois passers-by). well, not a lot of timber to prop up The function of the central com 081
munal areas is not prescribed and they are often trellised with washing lines and dotted with pram sheds – a sort of add-on garage space for those with either newborns or too much clutter in their new houses – and the exterior of the buildings made room for retail units, many of which are still functioning today, housing businesses reaching back to enterprises established in the 1930s. This was place-making at its most efficient, and the aforementioned inter-Gray tribal wars found their source in this reservoir of community-pride. Nonetheless, cities had long established their reputations as social cesspits inappropriate for families to raise their children. The economic and cultural drive for a clean start led to the first concrete daubs on the tabula rasa of Dublin’s city limits, as the establishment of satellite towns led to the first wave of Dublin suburbanism under Simms’ aegis – a significant point to note, as it is suburbanism that has really defined residential development in Ireland ever since. In 1938 it cost £992 to build a single flat in the city centre, while only £365 needed to be dug out of the Corporation coffers to build a cottage in a new suburb, such as Crumlin or Cabra. While the houses built were generous enough, this first sprawl was rather naive in its grander design. Quickly, a tension between inner-city and outer-
city emerged, a tale of community upheaval that would repeat itself more pointedly in future waves of the city’s development. The first word on this suburban alienation comes from Brendan Behan in his play Moving Out, wherein Crumlin is described as ‘Siberia,’ a place full of weirdos that ‘ate their young.’ The onset of World War II further encouraged penny-pinching, as the country’s supplies of timber and cable disappeared. Simms maintained a dogged determination to his design standard, inventing new ways to supply light and heat, and intervening on a national level to force importation of iron and lead from England. Suburban development, though, drained almost all resources from flat-planning, and some of the more problematic buildings bearing Simms’ imprint began to appear as his office attempted to build more flats on less money in the city. The buildings from this war-time period, such as Fatima Mansions and St. Joseph’s, were more poorly-constructed.
In 1938 it cost £992 to build a single flat in the city centre, while only £365 was needed to build a cottage in a new suburb
The former’s reputation as the inner-most circle of urban hell has been so long entrenched that one of the country’s foremost rock bands, Fatima Mansions, adopted its name fifty years on. It does not seem like too much of a stretch to correlate the rushed design, forced to deviate from blueprints
that had already proved successful with longer-lasting social problems – these later homes were built with their decay already encoded.
Dublin’s inner city flats, in contrast to the sky-scraping tower blocks that loom over most capitals, tend to hide in plain sight
whiskey imbibed, Simms drove to Dun Laoghaire, threw himself in front of an oncoming train and, despite being found alive, died in hospital later that day.
Even the most workaday architecture, of course, deserves its embellishments. Dublin’s inner city flats, in contrast to the sky-scraping tower blocks that loom over most capital cities, tend to hide in plain sight. Herbert Simms took influence from contemporary Dutch, Punjabi and English architecture, garnered from research trips.
In his suicide note he declared that after 20 years of hard work he thought that he was slowly going mad. Widely lamented at the time, Simms then somewhat disappears from Dublin’s social history. Until quite recently, there were few evaluations of his work and not a single photograph of the man himself. Indeed, some structures The complex exteriors are genially built that bear his trademarks are decorated, usually in two-colour not even documented as certainly brickwork, and place-marked in his own (such as Clontarf Baths). looping Celtic fonts that reflect the cultural nationalism in the visual Simms sacrificed twenty years communication of the time. Their to restore a city that wasn’t his, silhouette is undramatic, all curved and his legacy can be found in the edges and slim roofs, usually set current City Architects’ credo: off the street by small green spaces “work to achieve excellence in the sometimes occupied by Catholic ordinary.” Almost every flat comshrines and cordoned off by railings. plex built under his guidance still stands today – no surprise given Generally, they fit in with the ex- their adherence to the checklist isting architectural rhythm of their most right-minded urbanists expect streetscapes, though Thorncastle from social housing today: low-rise, Street flats, facing onto the Dodder multi-functional, socially-responRiver, provides a beautiful, now-his- sive and cost-effective. They remain torical contrast to the 21st Century citadels for their commuhigh-rise skyline of Grand Canal nities and they will make Dock that lends character and con- ample battlegrounds for the next text to Dublin’s most modern area. generation of turncoat Grays. Simms’ achievements are bewildering, though his subjective view was entirely contrary. On the 27th September 1948, a bottle of
Daniel Gray is a writer based in The Liberties
KILNAMANAGH MON AMOUR EARS
Y NAGE E E T IS ITS H S ROUTE S I V RE BU OYLE THE 27A D B RO ON
In interviews, the novelist John Banville has said he was always so certain he would leave whichever parochial Wexford town he grew up in at the soonest possible moment, he never even bothered to learn the names of the streets. I grew up in the house on Kildare Road, Crumlin, where now, at the age of thirty-one, I find myself temporarily living once again – a convenient Dublin base while I promote my recently published début novel. There are streets a stone’s throw from this room whose names I never learned – I can see one of them as I glance out the window. Since first moving out of the family home eight years ago, I have lived in many cities: I could probably still draw an accurately labelled map of the area around Grove Street, San Francisco, or Hackney and Stoke Newington, or even Alcamo, the Sicilian town where I wrote a worthless novel while trying to bestir teenage language students from their lethargy. I could name the streets in those places, but not in Crumlin. As a teenager, most of the time I spent in Crumlin, I spent getting out of it – in every sense. One way of getting out of Crumlin was to take the 77 bus, which left the city centre, passed down the Crumlin Road, veered around at Walkinstown to head up the Greenhills Road, skirted Kilnamanagh, stopped off at the Square in Tallaght, and finally vanished into the darklands of Jobstown – a forbidding place to those of us who are huddled down here in the city’s more proximate suburbs.
In those years, and later when I was a college student, none of my friends lived in Crumlin. Most of them lived in Tallaght or Kilnamanagh, the large suburbs that represent the physical limits of Dublin’s westward sprawl, bordered by the Dublin Mountains and the forests that line their feet. I used to play in bands in Kilnamanagh and Tallaght. Often, I used to say I was playing in bands, but really did little more than sit around with a guitar while drinking, smoking hash, and grandiloquently holding forth on the crisis facing Western civilisation. The 77 bus route no longer exists: it is now called the 27. I don’t know why they changed the number. Perhaps it was a rebranding: the 77 was a notorious route, with junkies shooting up or smoking gear upstairs, routine Saturday-night violence, and an enduring atmosphere of tension and aggression. It was on that bus that I once saw a hulking, crew-cut man from the suburban underclass punch a beautiful young Eastern European woman in the face. It happened on the top deck
KILNA MANA MON AMO 089
in broad daylight. The man then encouraged his son, who was about four or five, to spit in the woman’s face. The top deck was almost full – everyone saw it happen. An old man in the seat in front of the victim tried to maintain an expression of stony dignity as the outrage took place behind him. Afterwards, we were collectively too ashamed to even try and comfort the girl as she wept. Today I take the bus towards Tallaght for the first time in a decade. I get on at Crumlin Road. It is an overcast day, the first in a while. We’re having a hot summer so far, some days even approaching the heatwave heights of last year. I moved back to Dublin last June after seven years away, right at the beginning of that balmiest of summers, when the glorious weather was a consolation for other circumstances in my life that were not so sunny. As the bus turns left up the Walkinstown Road, I catch a glimpse of my old school, Drimnagh Castle. I sit on the top deck – there aren’t many people on board – looking out the window and listening to the woman in the seat behind me talking into her phone. Much of her conversation relates to Luis Suárez and his shoulder-biting
KILNA MANA MON AMOU
incident of last night. We pass what used to be Superquinn and is now Supervalu, prompting me to reflect that I once worked for, and was fired from, both of these companies. (The reason for dismissal was the same in both cases: my bad attitude and aversion to work – fair enough.) It is late morning and there is scant traffic as we pass the roundabout and drive up the Greenhills Road, which climbs out of the city towards the mountains. To the right, the Ballymount Industrial estate – site of other menial jobs I had when I was younger. Earlier this morning I was out here at Ballymount to do a live interview at the TV3 studios. I reflect on how it would have been a comfort to the younger, angstier, angrier me to know how things would play out, given time – this reversal of fortunes. The woman behind me gets off the bus at the Cuckoo’s Nest pub, still disparaging Suárez and laughing mischievously. I got drunk in that pub on many nights, years ago. Two of my oldest friends, Jason and Trevor, grew up here in Kilnamanagh. I met them at school. They know a lot about me, and I about them, not much of it flattering. (Such ambivalence and caginess is concealed in that phrase, ‘old friends’.) Jason is currently living in Puerto Rico with his fiancée, and Trevor recently moved back in with his parents following a breakup. Jason is not Jason’s real name, whereas Trevor is Trevor’s. This must be so for the following reason: I am about to tell you about Jason’s porno collection, and the caravan
KILNAMANAGH MON parked in his parents’ front-garden where we used to take drugs. The caravan was used by Jason when he was a teenager as a kind of second bedroom. He hardly ever slept there, but it was full of CDs, videos, musical equipment, a TV and video-player, music magazines… and pornography. The pornography was kept hidden under the floorboards. This was in the late nineties and early noughties, that transitional period when paper-porn had yet to cede fully to the online variety. They were also the twilight years of the video tape. Jason had plenty of both: porn mags and porn videos. He acquired a pan-Kilnamanagh reputation as a kind of pornographic Don Corleone. Tracksuited, acne-faced lads would knock meekly on the caravan door at all times of the day or night, then shuffle off, eyes darting nervously, with folded magazines or videos under their arms. Jason built up a lot of good will for himself in the area, a lot of favours to call on. One of our favourite pastimes in that caravan was drug abuse. We would spend many nights crammed in there, usually three or four of us, occasionally as many as seven or eight, smoking the place up like a Native American sweat-lodge. Later there would be speed, pills, a bit of coke. Being respectable people, Jason’s parents mustn’t have known that the caravan
in their front garden was a drug den and a porno parlour, where friends – and local tough kids we hardly knew but couldn’t refuse – would congregate to get off their faces. One friend, Derrek Sexton – Sexy Boy, as we should have called him – was a stoner of legend. He worked as a builder, and had a genius for constructing provocatively massive cones and elaborate, multi-user bongs fashioned from sections of plumbing pipe. Once he appeared in the caravan door clutching a World War Two gas mask, which he had spent the afternoon modifying: the idea was that a single user could smoke four joints at the same time and flood the mask with hash fumes – the extreme sports version of getting stoned. I saw a picture of Derrek on Facebook recently, with a smiling, blonde infant boy in his arms. Jason was a member of the more legitimate bands I played in back then, and as the years passed he kept the music up, while I gradually transferred my energies to prose, coming to terms with my near-total lack of musical talent. Some of the bands we formed as younger men remained strictly at the level of the conceptual. Fuelled by whiskey, cigarettes and amphetamines, we once dreamed up a punk band called The Caliphate (this was some time after the 9/11 attacks): we would dress up in skullcaps, hijabs, and turbans to perform songs – never actually written – with titles like ‘God is Great,’ ‘There is No God But God,’ and ‘Mohammad is Our Prophet – Peace Be Upon Him.’ It wasn’t very clever – I seem to
recall that that was the point, though I can’t be sure. I don’t even remember who or what we were trying to satirise. I’d like to say it was less confusing at the time, but I doubt it was. As the bus pulls out from the traffic lights, two teenagers in tracksuits are crossing a field that divides the road from a housing estate. One of them takes a photo of the other on his phone. The guy being photographed pauses to look into the camera, not smiling. Then they walk on. The bus passes business parks and new apartment blocks and soon we are at the Square, with its once-iconic, silver pyramidal roof over the blocky, redbrick edifice. It all seemed so astonishingly futuristic when the shopping centre was launched in 1990 – a UFO had landed in Tallaght! 45,000 people attended the launch – a standing army of ecstatic, working-class consumers, marching to the pyramidal wonder that would bestow some glamour on their dreary, cement- hued lives. As I approach, two men in suits are standing outside the front entrance clutching stacks of glossy pamphlets. I assume they are trying to sell something and it comes as a relief when I realise they are Christian proselytisers. They politely let me walk past without forc-
ing their pitch on me – another relief. I look back at the stall they have set up: ‘God’s View on Smoking,’ offers one of their pamphlets (I assume He isn’t into it). Inside the Square – the ‘Town Centre,’ as it labels itself, though there isn’t really any way of being here, of loitering even, without engaging in commerce – I am surprised at how little has changed. The cinema where I spent many Saturday afternoons as a teenager is no longer the UCI, but the IMC. It still offers only the safest American blockbusters – all those explosion orgies and soul-withering frat-boy ‘comedies.’ McDonalds is still there, as are Eddie Rockets, Burger King and the rest. Along with a couple of health-conscious newbies like the Smoothie Shack, there is now the inevitable Starbucks. I buy a flat white and a croissant and sit on the third floor viewing area, remembering how vast and full of possibilities this place used to appear to me. I am surprised at how pleasantly dreamy and lulling I find the ambience: I had expected the Square to have fallen into neglect, but it is not an unpleasant place to pass a cloudy, late Wednesday morning. I check out a video game shop, envying modern gamers the array of dazzling console titles. If I were to give in to my curiosity about these amazinglooking Call of Duty games, let alone the Assassin’s Creed series, I’d never get anything done. Eason bookshop is on the third floor. I walk in and look around for my novel. There has been a lot of publicity and the book seems to be selling well: I am disap-
pointed to find there are no copies on the shelves. I ask the lady at the till: she knows the book and tells me she ordered it in that very morning – there have been a number of requests over the past few days, she says. I walk out of there feeling better. It has started to drizzle as I leave the Square an hour later. Crossing the road to the bus stop, I see another 27 offloading a cluster of passengers, then trundling away towards Jobstown. I don’t recall ever visiting Jobstown – you wouldn’t, unless you had reason to – so reality cannot impede my envisioning it as a scorched landscape of burning cars, blackened apartment blocks and jack-knifed trucks, where gangs of hooded youths stand in rows along overpasses, emptying machine-gun cartridges into passing buses. Instead of the 27, I take the 77A home – the scenic route, as my mother would call it. As I board the bus, a heavily pregnant woman disembarks, holding the hand of a young boy while pushing a buggy. I find myself aroused at the sight of her – a first. I wonder what this means, if it has something to do with getting older, or whether I just badly need to get laid (‘get my hole’, in the local dialect I have never been able to deploy without irony). I sit on the top deck again. As the bus passes through Old Bawn and Firhouse, I realise anew just how close we are to the mountains and the countryside, to forests and green expanses. The drizzle is still falling as I look out the window at the sleepy streets, where I enjoyed or endured countless indistinguisha-
ble teenage evenings. Down the back of the bus, three teenagers – two girls and a boy – are having a bit of banter. With their harsh Dublin accents, it’s the kind of setup that used to be intimidating, but I’ve outgrown the age group where the threat of physical confrontation is high (young men attack young men, so it has been and so it will be forever more). I sit at the front and listen to their voices behind me, beginning to find them endearing. They are having a good time; they like one another. How could I render their dialogue in a way that would convince the non-Dubliner that, for all the coarseness and ostensible aggression of the words, the sentiment conveyed is affection, playfulness, good humour? ‘Fuck you, ye skinny little anorexic cunt ye,’ says the taller of the two young men to the girl, who he probably fancies, or who might be his friend’s girlfriend, or his own girlfriend, or an on-and-off thing, or just a friend he slept with once, or who he fingered in the bushes while they were drinking cans by the Dodder some night during the summer holidays. ‘I’ll snap ye over me fuckin leg and then ye’ll know all about it,’ he adds, smirking. The other lad giggles. And the girl? She is loving it.
Rob Doyle is a writer based in Crumlin
TO LIVE AND DIE IN CABRA TO LIVE AND DIE IN CABRA
It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Paul Cullen. The newspaper photographs could be those of any young Dublin man. In one he wears a baseball cap and a hoodie as, smiling, he holds a child in his arms. In another he is clad in a Nike t-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, the ‘Just Do It’ logo emblazoned across his chest, as he relaxes with his arm around a woman. The photo has been cropped to preserve the woman’s anononymity and we are left to imagine if she is a relative or a friend. The photo looks like it was taken in a family home with pastel yellow walls and Venetian blinds. In the third photo he is wearing an Adidas hoodie but he’s not smiling. His face is tense as he looks to one side, his mobile phone clasped in both hands like a protective amulet. It looks like it was taken without Paul realising he was being photographed. The viewer is left to presume it was taken outside a courthouse.
final hours he would have heard the echoing shouts of children as he submerged himself into the pool. The smell of chlorine and the cold white tiles. He would have felt relaxed in the pool knowing that there was a certain safety in being in such a public place. Perhaps he had the same feeling a few hours later as he sat, slightly tired, beside his wheelchairbound father and other family members in The Cabra House pub. What was Paul thinking as he sat down in the pub? Did he feel any sense of threat? His family sitting beside him probably gave him a false sense of security. Surely nobody would be callous enough to attack a man in front of his disabled father. Maybe he felt a small sense of defiance that his life wasn’t being controlled by those who wanted him dead. Shortly after 7pm on a Sunday evening a masked man shot Paul Cullen six times, three times in the head. The gunman was pursued out the door by a rain of chairs, thrown Paul Cullen was a small time crim- by Paul’s family members, a last act inal who was shot dead in The of love for a dying family member. Cabra House pub in March 2013. The gunman escaped on the back Piecing together the various news- of a waiting motorbike. The handpaper reports gives you a picture gun used in the killing has never of the scene. Paul had been out been found and nobody has been swimming earlier in the day. In his convicted for the crime (although 098 098
apparently Gardaí know who committed the murder). In 2011 two men were also injured in a shooting in the same bar. Nobody was ever convicted for that crime either.
a second look. I have never been inside the pub but am curious to see if its reputation is deserved. A taximans’ message board rates it as one of the roughest pubs in the city. There is however one positive Dublin pubs are dangerous places review which calls it a “landfor men with a price on their heads. mark pub in a tightly-knit comIn the Cabra area there have been munity setting” and goes on to three fatal shootings in as many extol its authentic atmosphere. years. Paul Cullen died at the scene, a scene that Gardaí described as I take a deep breath as I enter the “chaotic.” Not surprisingly most of pub on a weekday afternoon. The the 20 or so people in the pub tried pub is similar to most Dublin pubs. to flee. Most Irish It’s dimly lit, with people have never worn floorboards heard the sound and tiling around of a handgun or the bar area. The seen its effects at furniture is traclose range. In the ditional solid enclosed space of dark wood. There a pub the sound aren’t many cusof six shots would tomers at this have been territime of the day. fying. The Cabra The pub lacks any House looks like unnecessary orthe classic locanamentation and tion for a gangthe roof is supland shooting. The ground floor ported by concrete pillars. The has no windows to speak of, un- smell is that typical daytime smell less you count the two small win- of slightly stale beer and lingerdows high on the wall that squint ing smoke, a comforting smell. A suspiciously out onto the street. handwritten sign advises that no The facade is covered in rows of credit or debit cards are accepted. broken black tiles. A sign warns The barman is a fatherly figure, against anti-social behaviour. The tall, and neatly dressed in a shirt entrance is a shoddy wooden con- and tie. I order a pint of Heineken, struction with scratched plexiglass it’s good value at 3.70 Euro, most in place of anything more smash- pubs in the city would charge at able. I have passed the pub numer- least 4.50 Euro for the same drink. ous times. The characters smok- I sit at table with a view of the ing in the doorway do not invite whole pub, feeling more relaxed. 099 099
I read my paper. The headline reads: “Fugitive Freddie in a Fake Beard as He’s Arrested.” It’s about ‘Fat Freddie’ a Dublin criminal who has been arrested in a flat in Amsterdam. He is on bail in Spain for links to Christy Kinahan’s drugs cartel but was wanted in Dublin for violent disorder in a pub following the funeral of another criminal.
en the choice of being dragged to a remote field and tortured to death, or dying instantly in a friendly local pub, I know which I would prefer.
The music is played through the TV and is RTÉ Gold, playing a mixture of middle of the road songs. The first song playing is My Girl by The Temptations. I wonder where Paul Cullen sat on the day As a young Dublin drugs criminal he was murdered. Probably at a your chances of living until you’re table like the one I am sitting at. 40 are slim. There is a belief that drugs money is The pub walls easy money, that are a pastel gang memberyellow colour, the ship will bring same colour as the you wealth, sex, walls in the photo and respect. In of Paul and the reality it’s a death woman, a homely sentence. The colour, the kind reasons for Paul your granny might Cullen’s murder pick to paint a are opaque. He room. There are had been jailed two men sitfor possessting in a corner ing 56,000 Euro drinking pints of worth of cannabis resin that he Tennents. A builder in had been holding to pay off a drugs work boots sits at the bar. debt. Cullen’s family had paid Another builder in a hi-viz vest 20,000 Euro to try and prevent arrives, sits a few stools down from his death, but it wasn’t enough. the first builder, and orders a pint. The music is just loud enough to There was talk that he tried to set drown out quietly spoken conversaup his own drugs business or that tion. The two builders are discusshe had tried to arrange a hit on an- ing horse racing, one eats a pack of other gang member. In the end the cheese and onion crisps. The buildreason for his murder is secondary; er in the hi-viz vest moves closer to somebody higher in the foodchain the other builder. I can only catch felt threatened or disrespected by bits of their conversation, names of him and wanted him dead. Yet, giv- jockeys and horses. I can’t hear any0100
thing the two men in the corner say, they are further away and talk more quietly. After a while one leaves. The barman moves between the backroom and the bar. He knows the names of the two Tennents drinkers. Just before the builders leave, an old man arrives, the barman greets him by name too. He has a walking stick and is quite dapper, wearing a hat and old style dark framed glasses and, somewhat incongrously, a pair of grey Nike runners. He orders a whiskey and a half pint of Guinness. School must be finishing as an another old man walks in holding the hand of a blonde child. The man greets the barman by name and takes the child to the toilet, they leave soon after. There is a board in the corner with some postcards cards stuck to it. Apart from beer signs there are some framed photographs on the wall, possibly of past barstaff. I begin to understand how Paul Cullen could have felt completely at ease in here. The low light and warm atmosphere creates a cocoon cut off from the troubles outside.
ing. There are several signs on the wall advising of the smoking ban. I glance up and see one of the Tennents drinkers, still alone, with a roll up cigarette in his hand. He lights it quickly, inhales deeply, and then stubs it out again. He does this every time the barman disappears from view. At one point there is a noise from the door, the sound of shouting, and the door being slammed open. I glance around to see some teenagers in school uniforms through the half-opened door. The barman walks quickly around the bar and out the front door, telling off the kids. They have thrown some pieces of an orange into the bar. The barman picks them up, cursing at the gurriers. I realise that the media image of the pub is formed by one image, a photograph of the black, almost windowless outisde of the pub, with Gardaí standing in the doorway. There are no photographs of the inside of the bar. No stories about the genuine warmth of the barman or the friendliness of the customers.
When the barman is in the backroom I sometimes hear the sound of a cigarette lighter click0101
Brian Purcell is a writer based in Cabra
iPhone portraits by Lorcan Finnegan
street life 102
GPO, O’CONNELL STREET
SOUTH GREAT GEORGE’S STREET
ISSUE TWO OUT NOVEMBER 1
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