Pól Ó Conghaile: Do we actually need Dublin to show into Dundrum City Centre?

Sweny’s Chemist in Dublin. Photograph: Fáilte Eire

Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile: Do we actually need Dublin to show into Dundrum City Centre?


“You’ll be able to write your individual Ulysses,” PJ Murphy grinned.




“You’ll be able to write your individual Ulysses,” PJ Murphy grinned.

An American customer had simply stepped into Sweny’s, the Lincoln Place pharmacy that options in James Joyce’s masterpiece, looking for a literary memento. On the time, I used to be interviewing PJ, one of many volunteers operating the store. I cherished his suggestion: a diary with a picture of Ulysses as its cowl.

Sweny’s is dyed-in-the-wool Dublin. A pharmacy courting from 1847, immortalised by Joyce (‘Odor virtually treatment you just like the dentist’s doorbell,’ Leopold Bloom muses), closed in 2009 however rescued from oblivion by a bunch of volunteers who’ve bought books and cleaning soap, held readings, sang songs and poured cups of tea ever since. That second was a yr in the past, and it could not have occurred wherever else.

Quickly, it might not occur wherever in any respect. As a result of there’s an opportunity that Sweny’s will shut by summer time.

Till not too long ago, the not-for-profit has survived on small gross sales and donations. However the rental market in Dublin “has gone bonkers,” its group wrote not too long ago on patreon.com.

“Because of this, our hire has doubled. Sure, doubled.”

It’s now calling for donations, inviting folks to grow to be patrons for as little as €1 a month (you may assist at sweny.ie). However for the way lengthy can this tiny establishment survive?

Sweny’s is not alone. Final week additionally noticed the abrupt liquidation of the Jo’Burger Group, an impartial clutch of eating places – together with Jo’Burger, Hey Donna and Crackbird – that was influential in rebooting Dublin’s post-Celtic Tiger informal eating scene. The closures had been on account of a number of components, together with “difficult buying and selling situations”, it stated.

Coming so near Christmas, the developments really feel ominous. Together with rising rents and charges, January will usher in the next VAT price simply as Brexit involves the boil and shoppers endure a seasonal hangover. There’s darkish chatter on social media in regards to the outlook for small meals and retail companies.

Cities want change. Additionally they want malls, chains and worldwide manufacturers. However small companies like Sweny’s and Jo’Burger stability these large, bland storefronts with native color and inventive concepts. They assist neighborhood and foster social material. They’re the form of locations Dublin wants extra, not much less, of.

The Starbucks and H&Ms of this world can journey out all types of “buying and selling situations”, however do we actually need Dublin to grow to be a Dundrum City Centre?

This additionally issues from a tourism perspective.

Dublin wants to tell apart itself from cheaper competitor cities like Prague, Valencia and Edinburgh. We might not see the urgency to this now, with customer numbers booming, however we’ll when the inevitable slowdown comes.

As a customer vacation spot, Dublin cannot compete on value, transport or cultural infrastructure. Past large hits just like the Guinness Storehouse, Trinity School and St Patrick’s Cathedral, vacationers love town for its environment, its wealthy tapestry of streets, pubs, retailers and eating places. To face aside, Dublin must protect and develop that, to assist quirky retailers, impartial eating places serving Irish meals, distinctive strips like Capel, Drury and Parnell Streets, or enclaves just like the Blackrock Market. It does not want extra Starbucks and superpubs.

As a person, it is simple to really feel helpless. What can one individual do with Dublin’s future within the palms of builders, chains and faceless ‘traders’? We are able to protest, after all. However we are able to additionally snap out of our fog of distractedness, break habits of comfort and truly re-engage with the small companies that make our metropolis particular.

You do not have to upend your life. However one small change could make a distinction. Beginning in January, why not make an effort, as soon as per week, to assist a small enterprise in a single new manner? Purchase your meat at a butcher as an alternative of the grocery store; eat at an impartial restaurant slightly than an enormous franchise, store on the Gutter Bookshop slightly than Amazon, strive a small cafe over an enormous chain. In a small manner, you will assist neighborhood… and you may really feel just a little higher, too.

Not all of us can write our personal Ulysses, however we can assist create our metropolis. Sadly, it is too late to drop into Jo’Burger. However there’s nonetheless time to purchase a bar of cleaning soap in Sweny’s.

We get the Dublin we deserve.

Learn extra:

The Dublin Bucket Listing: 30 issues to do within the metropolis earlier than you die

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