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Historic walkway will re-energise Dublin 8

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Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral

Christchurch Cathedral

AT last, some good news for the fairest part of Dublin's fair city.

As a resident of Christchurch, I am heartened by the ambitious plan to re-energise Dublin 8, the main location for Dublin City Council's Dubline walking trail.

This will run from College Green via Christchurch, on to the Liberties and St James's Gate, ending in Kilmainham. The goal is to attract tourists and energise communities.

The trail is the latest part of a recent transformation D8. This traditional working-class area has seen an influx of apartment renters and owners. They sit beside communities that have survived years of neglect.

Parts of the area have been poorly treated. The collapse of public-private partnerships has meant an increase in derelict buildings.

The effect is of an unplanned bohemian quarter. But it's one worth visiting, whether you're just here for St Patrick's Day or not.

If you don't know D8, get on your feet. I love strolling to Christchurch Cathedral. In summer, I meet friends for lunch at one of the stalls in its grounds, where the smell of exotic meats makes a nice contrast to the car exhaust fumes farting out from nearby Dame Street.

Walk across to Thomas Street and you'll find wonderful coffee houses. A friend of mine who bought a house in the area tells me she has never had community support like it. For many other people, apartment and house living is a lonely, isolating experience in a big city.

From Thomas Street upwards you can have that coffee without having to remortgage the house. The weekend markets and daytime stalls are paradise when compared to suburban supermarket hell.

It's not perfect, but D8 has been lucky in one respect. One of the dangers, though, for inner-city communities is that big plans are often bids at gentrification.

Go back to the 1960s and the creation of urban ghettos such as Ballymun. Think of the Celtic Tiger and the Yuppification of parts of Irishtown and Ringsend. Cheque book cleansing has left communities split and at the mercy of planners.

Thankfully, Dubline appears to be rooted in preserving the local infrastructure and community.

VIBRANT

Councillor Mannix Flynn, who grew up in the inner city, was in San Jose, USA when I spoke to him this week. He is part of a delegation trying to attract business into the Digital Hub in D8 and believes Dubline can only be a good thing.

He told me: "This will lift and create employment for communities through Thomas Street to the Coombe and onwards. They have been neglected. The important thing is to create a safe and vibrant community for everyone. It will be here after the tourists are gone."

He's right. Previously, most tourists were stuffed in a bus and deposited in the Storehouse.

This plan will get them to walk to the attraction. The Guinness site drew more than one million visitors last year. While it's not my favourite place in D8 – give me the haunting solace of St Patrick's Cathedral – it's an important draw.

The new children's hospital has to be taken into account as well. That will bring a whole new community to live in the area. And the refurbishment of Kilmainham Jail is of huge significance, especially with the Easter Rising centenary coming up.

When I walk through Dublin 8, I can see that the Council is at last joining the dots that link up all of these historic areas.

As Mannix Flynn said of Dubline: "This whole project is about investment in people and their environment." Walk on.


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