Saturday 21 July 2018

Temple Bar: a violent disgrace to Ireland or a national tourism treasure to be proud of?

Tourists in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Tourists in the Temple Bar area of Dublin. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Laura Lynott

There was uproar when Judge Anthony Halpin described the capital's cultural quarter, Temple Bar, as a "disgrace to Ireland" which was "covered in vomit" - but is there some truth in his words?

Visitors to the area yesterday might have seen a youth who tried to start a fight with one man, before attempting to steal a street entertainer's stool. 

Had it not been for the reality of the situation, the image of a leprechaun chasing the youth with his stick, to get back his stool, could have been amusing.

The entertainer, barely shaken by the incident, had recovered within moments and was back in business, posing for photos with tourists. It seemed this was part of everyday life in Temple Bar.

Kristen Eck and Rachel Karsh from LA. Picture: Fergal Phillips
Kristen Eck and Rachel Karsh from LA. Picture: Fergal Phillips

Market trader Peter Murray (53), from Perrystown, Dublin, who witnessed the incident, admitted he was inclined to agree with Judge Halpin's thoughts.

"It's bad at times," Mr Murray said. "I saw a guy take a mobile phone off a café table one day but unluckily for him, it was a detective and he was caught very quickly.

"We used to have a real problem with pickpockets and beggars too. I come down to my stall in the morning and I'm often greeted by vomit on the ground.

"But this is what happens in an area where people are drinking to excess. The only way to solving the problems here is to have two guards patrolling full-time."

Peter Murray at his stall Photo: Fergal Philips
Peter Murray at his stall Photo: Fergal Philips

Judge Halpin criticised the area after dismissing a case against father-of-two Addezine Baho (33), of Castlelands, Balbriggan, Dublin, who had been accused of fighting another man outside the Czech Inn, Temple Bar, last May. Mr Baho had acted in self-defence, Judge Halpin said, after a male attacker had set upon him. Rather than trying to assist him, onlookers stood by shadow-boxing.

But Angel Luis Gonzalez (45), the director of The Library Project, felt an anti-social element was just one side of Temple Bar.

"I've been here for four or five years and I've seen plenty, it's loud and it's messy at times. There are sometimes fights and people drink too much but I'm here every day and it's quiet mostly.

"We have a lot of nice cultural activities and it's too easy to focus on the negative. I would say it's similar in any place where there's a high level of drinking."

Nico Mezzina (34), manager of Moss & Gray restaurant, said: "It's an amazing place, full of tourists from all over the world. People can be a bit messy but it's all part of the game down here. And there's people out here cleaning up the morning after."

Most tourists were enjoying their festive holiday, lapping up traditional Irish music as they visited shops, bars and restaurants. They found Judge Halpin's description unrecognisable to their picture postcard perception of Dublin. Young women and men posed for photos, clutching selfie-sticks.

Friends Kristen Eck (30), a mortgage broker, and Rachel Karsh (31), a production manager, from Los Angeles, had just discovered Temple Bar, the place they'd yearned to visit just from seeing Instagram photos online.

"It's all over Instagram. We love it so far," Kristen said. "We haven't seen any trouble and I'm sure it gets just as bad as LA on a night out but it's been quiet here so far."

Mike Arbour (28), from Essex, and Sian Neale (22), from Melbourne, were similarly impressed.

"This is totally different to anything culturally in England," Mr Arbour, an editor for a publishing company, said.

While Temple Bar is perhaps a tourist haven for the most part, it's likely to remain undesirable for many Dubliners more likely to agree with Judge Halpin than Instagram images.

Irish Independent

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