Opinion Analysis

Sunday 24 September 2017

Deirdre Conroy: Memory is in the walls around us: that's why they are worth saving

Dublin City Council is considering an application to demolish the James Joyce-associated Ormond Hotel. COLIN KEEGAN
Dublin City Council is considering an application to demolish the James Joyce-associated Ormond Hotel. COLIN KEEGAN
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

Alchemy attaches to the place where writers dip their pens. Our Nobel Laureate is not long asleep; soon plaques will appear on places where he lived and worked. With Seamus Heaney, whether it is the bog or Beowulf, the brick walls wherein he wrote have added significance now that his hand will write no more. In 100 years time, when we are all in the grave, will it be acceptable to demolish the house or place that inspired him, to make way for a block of apartments? Or will the places where he wrote about "memory" be remembered?

Since the news that Dublin City Council is considering an application to demolish the Ormond Hotel, where the Sirens episode of 'Ulysses' takes place, Joycean scholars and readers, historians and architects and people who actually like Dublin city are objecting to the proposal to replace the empty four-storey historic building with a six-storey hotel. The Dublin Tourism plaque to commemorate Joyce has been removed.

The designation of Dublin as a UNESCO City of Literature was formal recognition of its international literary significance, as is the placing of Dublin on the tentative World Heritage Site list in 2010. How, then, did Bernard McNamara obtain permission to demolish the building in the first place? That era is over, the permission has lapsed and he has lost a minimum of €17m for his effort.

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