Dublin shows it has the write stuff to be a City of Literature
THE Dubliner would be pleased. A century after James Joyce crafted some of the seminal works of Irish fiction, his native city has been declared a UNESCO City of Literature.
The Rathgar-born author's legacy was part of yesterday's announcement at the Grand Canal Theatre that Dublin becomes only the fourth site design UNESCO literary site.
UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which promotes world culture.
Arts Minister Mary Hanafin told the assembled literary luminaries: "Names such as Swift, O'Casey, Wilde, Shaw, Behan, Beckett and Joyce are synonymous with Dublin and there are reminders of their great literary works throughout the city -- which captures both scholars and tourist imaginations when they visit the city."
Dublin follows in the footsteps of Edinburgh, Melbourne and Iowa City in the US with the permanent title.
While the number of famous writers who have come from Dublin might make it seem like a foregone conclusion, the decision is based on fulfilling criteria which measure a city's promotion of literature -- including events and festivals.
The designation is a matter of honour rather than money, because it does not bring any funding with it. But it can make a difference due to the extra profile it gives a city. It is estimated Edinburgh, the first city to be designated in 2004, has seen an increase in literary tourism worth several million pounds.
Now tourism and marketing experts are planning to use the honour to draw in visitors to the capital and develop and promote events around literature.
Among the writers celebrating the announcement were Joe O'Connor, Cathy Kelly, Colm Toibin and John Banville.
Mr O'Connor said: "It's an acknowledgment of a literary history that is by any fair standard remarkable.
"It brings positive international attention to the city and to Ireland at a time when we sorely need it. If a stranger looked at much recent news emanating from Ireland, he might think Dublin should be the UNESCO City of Thieving Bankers or Inept Politicians.
"I'd rather the place were known for its valuable contributions to the literary world. It might remind us that we can sometimes play at the highest level and win. I'm not saying it merits a fireworks display over Farmleigh or dancing in the streets, but it's a good and happy news."
Best-selling chick-lit author Cathy Kelly said: "What a wonderful honour for Ireland, a nation of poets and writers, where you can find glorious literary conversation in the corner shop. We'll have a ball."
Colm Toibin added: "I think the honour is important. It means during the next boom and the one after when they want to knock down buildings associated with Yeats, Joyce, Wilde, Bram Stoker, Beckett, Flann O'Brien, Patrick Kavanagh and other writers, we will have an international forum to appeal to."
A website to celebrate the achievement -- dublincityofliterature.com -- highlights literary events and explains the city's history and heritage.