Wednesday 21 August 2019

Why Sean Dunne is this city, the only way is up, and up, and up

There we have it: Dublin 4, home of the imaginative future of the capital, and home also to the craziest piece of conservative, backward thinking this country has seen since the Church of Ireland prelate Archbishop Ussher calculated in 1650 that God made the world at noon, on October 23, 4004 BC.

Yes, everyone's had fun with that one, as they will with the new stadium to be built at Lansdowne Road: maximum capacity 50,000-ish.

Meanwhile, showing the vision and verve of Luke Gardiner over two centuries ago, Sean Dunne - yes, the much despised, much sneered at, much mocked - Sean Dunne has unveiled his brilliant plans for the old Berkeley Court/Jury's site.


Well why wouldn't Sean Dunne be derided? Why wouldn't he be a figure of fun? How else does the smug Irish middle-class respond to energy and a dramatic sense of the future? Making fun of property speculators is the last respectable refuge of snobs.

They can parade their canape little-fingers and their shining teeth and their exquisite postal addresses, and refer to "that ghastly little man Sean Dunne", and his "appallingly vulgar associates."

And behind it all is the voice of old money, lazy money, unimaginative money, and most of all, snobbish money, expressing the discomfort that always comes with change.

But the discomfort of not changing will be far more toxic than of change itself; and Dublin, hemmed in by the sea and the hills, cannot continue to spread horizontally, or rather it can, but not in any sane and civilised way.

If you want to know what unrestricted horizontal growth can mean, go to Tokyo, and get the bullet train to Kyoto. It travels at 200mph. After an hour, you finally leave the urban sprawl of the greater capital. In other words, two hundred miles of urban hell, and it is this way not because of bad planning, but earthquakes.

Unlike Tokyo, we can build up, but don't, because of our own seismic faultline, embodied in a strange Hibernian fusion of Dublin 4 snobbery, pseudo-ecology, lefty begrudgery, and bigoted conservatism, all bound together by a shared loathing of any jumped-up Johnny from Carlow who doesn't know his place.

Listen. It's over. The old days of dear old dirty Dublin are gone for ever. The tides of change have washed away the limits of what the city can be. You can regret it, as I do, but this is as useful as regretting the death of the Roman Empire or of the feudal system.

And the engine of change is not Sean Dunne, or any other individual.

A city which barely changed in a century is now awash with hundreds of millions of euros and hundreds of thousands of new people who need homes. And the only way they can get those homes in the city, rather than a one-hour ride away in a bullet train, is by using some of that money to build up. And up. And up.

Yes, it might end the favourite Dublin 4 sport of nude back-garden sunbathing, but there we are.

We have no choice in the matter. None. You do know that, surely? All other options are elitist, racist, snobbish, and in the long run, counter-productive. We cannot protect Dublin 4 merely because the influential people who live there want us to.


Sooner or later, the voters of Dublin will decide that life in the capital is unbearable, and the only solution is tall buildings. Do I like it? No. Do I think it inevitable? Yes. So, the old Whig solution: give way to the irresistible gracefully.

Now item two: Lansdowne Road. The new stadium is being limited to the 50,000 mark because of objections from precisely the kind of people who only see the future as a threat, not as an opportunity.

The IRFU land there has a real value of several hundred million euros.

To plonk a small football stadium there, which would suit the likes of Portsmouth or Southampton football clubs, is an economic lunacy, an utterly immoral waste of resources, done for purely sentimental reasons.

We already have probably the best stadium in Europe in Croke Park. Why build a half-sized Joke Park across the city, when we already know that the demand for tickets for rugby internationals already outstrips the capacity of the GAA headquarters?

What logic is there in that, either for the city, for the IRFU and most of all, for rugby supporters?

There is none. The only likely outcome is to create a huge black market for tickets, driving up prices so that they can be afforded only by the organisers of corporate hospitality.

Garryowen or Young Munster fans will never attend a home international again: meanwhile, in Joke Park, the well-heeled supporters think that "There is an Isle" refers to their little place in the Aegean sea.

The match crowds there will probably be as silent as a Massey Funeral Home during the obsequies for a friendless pauper.

Face reality. The future of soccer and rugby lies not at Joke Park but across the river at Jones's Road. Meanwhile, the destiny of Dublin is upwards. For if it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were Dunne quickly.

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