Tuesday 16 January 2018

Royal Mail letter boxes provide a truly inclusive history lesson on our doorstep

Closeup on a woman's hand as she is posting a letter
Closeup on a woman's hand as she is posting a letter
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

When I was growing up in Dublin, one of the big political and environmental questions was the demolition of Georgian Dublin. Some of the old houses built under the reigns of the Hanoverian kings George II and George III - both extremely unsympathetic to Ireland - between 1730 and 1800 were in dire straits. Gardiner Street, the setting for Sean O'Casey's Dublin plays, was a slum, and so was much of North Dublin.

Architects and builders wanted all this old stuff destroyed, and so did many Irish nationalists. Georgian Dublin was denounced as "a relic of British imperialism", erected at a time when Ireland was seriously neglected, in a century which ended with the abhorred Act of Union. Yet there were many protests against the destruction of this architectural inheritance and eventually, much was saved.

The old Georgian houses of Dublin are now a matter of pride, and of "heritage", too. We hear no more about the "British Imperialism" which they represent: on the contrary, it's underlined that Irish artists and artisans (and Italian ones too) embellished them, and in any case, heritage is now regarded as something inclusive. Would we pull down Trinity College Dublin because Elizabeth I intended it to be a means to Anglicise the Irish?

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