Saturday 23 September 2017

Dublin has a new 'district', but will it finally draw people north?

Capital Attractions

Dubliner Louise McSharry launching the new Dublin One brand on Dublin's Northside. Photo: Leon Farrrell/Photocall Ireland.
Dubliner Louise McSharry launching the new Dublin One brand on Dublin's Northside. Photo: Leon Farrrell/Photocall Ireland.
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Could a new 'Dublin One' district become the capital's North Star? Pól Ó Conghaile thinks so.

A great Dublin needs a great Northside.

I’ve been banging on about it for yonks. Besides standout attractions like the GPO and Hugh Lane Gallery, gritty gems like Capel, Moore and Parnell Streets, together with unique businesses like Camerino, K Chido Mexico, Pantibar, The Winding Stair and The Morrison Hotel make it Europe’s hippest ’hood, just waiting to happen.

Now we have momentum. This January, the Dublin Northside Attractions Alliance (dnadublin.ie) launched a trail and website.

Last week, Dublin Town, a network of business owners and creative talent, launched ‘Dublin One’ (dublin-one.ie) — a brand it hopes will boost the Northside district stretching from O’Connell Street to Capel Street and Parnell Square to the quays.

The area boasts 850 businesses, it says — including, of course, some of the city’s monster shops and malls. But beyond that are far more interesting nooks and crannies, from restaurants serving 17 different ethnic cuisines to the original Harry Clarke stained-glass ceiling in Madigan’s Pub.

With Grafton Street looking more generic by the day, the Northside has a unique opportunity. Sure, certain areas are shabby, unsafe and O’Connell Street is a disappointing main boulevard. But things are changing.

With a tenement museum in the works for Henrietta Street, an upgrade of the Old Jameson Distillery (it opens in March) and a reboot of the city’s Victorian fruit and vegetable market due in 2018, northern lights are shining.

Dublin One can be “the heart and soul of the city”, says Dublin Town chief executive Richard Guiney. I think he’s right — let’s just hope it doesn’t lose its character.

Witness This

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GPO Witness History. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

GPO Witness History (€10/€5) is one of Dublin’s newest visitor experiences — a series of interactive displays setting out the stories and contexts of the 1916 Rising.

Artefacts like Eamonn Ceannt’s razor and Countess Markievicz’s leather-bound prayer book balance out the 21st-century whistles and bells, and it all culminates in an electric opportunity to step into the GPO’s courtyard, which is invisible from O’Connell Street.

For a fleeting moment, standing in such a symbolic space, I felt like I was in the spiritual heart of the city. See gpowitnesshistory.ie.

Cross the water

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The Black Sheep, Capel Street. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Whatever about tourists, Southsiders can be shy of crossing the Liffey. The Northside is just yards from Temple Bar, but the river feels like a chasm.

Why not stretch your legs for sushi at Musashi on Capel Street (musashidublin.com), join the queue for a burrito at Boojum (boojummex.com) on the Millennium Walkway, or venture further north for a craft beer at The Black Sheep (above, galwaybaybrewery.com) or a sourdough sambo at Blás Cafe in the rejuvenated Williams & Woods building (blascafe.ie; chocolatefactory.ie).

Fortune favours the brave!

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