Thursday 23 January 2020

History plea: Literary stars object to hostel plans at setting of Joyce's 'The Dead'

The house at Usher’s Island, Dublin 8, where Joyce’s great aunts lived. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos
The house at Usher’s Island, Dublin 8, where Joyce’s great aunts lived. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

Gordon Deegan

One of the key reception rooms in which James Joyce's short story 'The Dead' is set is to be turned into a dormitory as part of plans to turn the building into a tourist hostel.

That is according to one of the country's most acclaimed authors, Colm Tóibín, who has hit out at the contentious proposal in an objection lodged with Dublin City Council.

In the objection, drawn up by the triple Booker Prize shortlisted author John McCourt, they state: "Nothing in the application convinces us that adequate steps will be taken to preserve the house. On the contrary: no building of this size could accommodate a 56-bed hostel without serious structural changes."

The two are responding to plans by Fergus McCabe and Brian Stynes to change the use of the former visitor centre at 15 Usher's Island, Dublin 8, on Dublin's quays.

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The house was once home to James Joyce's great aunts and is the setting of Joyce's best-known short story, 'The Dead'. The objection by the 'Brooklyn' author and Mr McCourt claims that the plan will "destroy an essential part of Ireland's cultural history".

They state that "the atmosphere in the house and the way the rooms are configured are mostly untouched since Joyce's time". The objection is supported by a host of other well-known writers including Sally Rooney, Anne Enright, Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie.

The door of the house, where Joyce's short story ‘The Dead’ was set. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos
The door of the house, where Joyce's short story ‘The Dead’ was set. Photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins Photos

However, an Architectural Heritage Assessment (AHA) lodged with the plan states that the proposal "provides a sustainable new future for an important historic building".

That is according to author of the AHA conservation architect Duncan McLaren, who states that from a conservation perspective, the proposals "are considered to be acceptable in principle on the grounds that it will facilitate an appropriate sustainable use for the redundant building".

A decision will be made on the application later this month.

Author Colm Tóibín has objected to the hostel plans. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Author Colm Tóibín has objected to the hostel plans. Photo: Gerry Mooney

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