Is Dublin a city exclusively for tourists?

Maeve Harris explores the intricacies of Dublin’s prioritization of tourists, how it affects the city’s arts and culture scene, and what it means for the city’s future

It’s 2019 and two things are still, regrettably, on the menu: climate change and tourism in Ireland. Of course, the Irish economy heavily relies on the influx of sightseers touring the emerald isle during the summer months, often spilling into other seasons. According to an Irish Times article, “Tourism is among the most important elements of the Irish economy, employing more than 300,000 people and generating billions of euro in revenue.” So yes, tourism can be great.

The Grafton Street we all know and love wouldn’t exude the same manic energy if the entire youth population of Spain didn’t fly over during July and August. The allure of short-lived summer romances turned long-distance relationships must afford credit to the sudden flood of mainland Europeans booking out hostels and hotel rooms. Be that as it may, Dublin’s social scene and nightlife has endured a constant decline in recent years thanks to the demolition of multiple clubs and venues in the effort of creating more accommodation for visitors. Rather than prioritize the full-time residents of Dublin city, Dublin City Council has put all of its efforts into making Ireland’s capital a tourist’s utopia with the help of a newly founded 12m tourism campaign.

“Rather than prioritize the full-time residents of Dublin city, Dublin City Council has put all of its efforts into making Ireland’s capital a tourist’s utopia with the help of a newly founded €12m tourism campaign.”

The prospect of popular business closures occurring all over the city is not a recent news topic. In October and November of 2018, Nassau Street as well as Dawson Street, both bustling student domains, saw the discontinuation of famed eateries Lemon and Mooch as well as Spar. And while there are about a hundred Spars in Dublin city alone, and with Lemon’s relocation only a stone’s-throw away on South William Street, it appears as if the city in which 1.8 million residents subsist does not welcome its own citizens, but rather those who fly over to spend foreign money in designer shops. It appears as if students and fellow Dubliners mourning the loss of frequented restaurants and shops is a small price to pay for opulence. According to the Dublin Gazette, the closure of these businesses is in the effort of “a €58 million revamp” in which the buildings will be “redeveloped into offices and commercial units.”

While the aforementioned polemic against tourism in Ireland’s capital may seem harsh, it cannot be seen as melodramatic. One would find it practically impossible to spot a tourist in Dublin without a shopping bag bearing a luxury label. Though nearly everyone can be found guilty of purchasing unnecessary brand-name goods on their holidays, the tourism epidemic in Dublin has grown to be a major problem. Due in part to Dublin’s charming alleyways and upper height building limitations, the city simply cannot accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people touring its streets. A walk down South William Street during the weekend is nearly impossible without bumping into lost holiday-makers. The fact is, Dublin is morphing into a city far more suited for short-term visitors than its own long-term inhabitants. 

If all of this is an effort to make Dublin a more profitable and structured city, then to hell with anti-tourism rhetoric. But of course, this isn’t the case. According to an article published on July 26th of this year on TheJournal.ie, the pedestrianisation of College Green, though a hopeful project aiming to refine the bustling atmosphere of Dame Street, is far more trouble than it is worth. “By mid-afternoon,” Stephen McDermott writes, “some barriers had been removed and bigger crowds began to flock to College Green, but it remained an underwhelming use of a public space which the council hopes will one day become a pedestrianised plaza.” To make matters worse, McDermott reported on the “second of three 12-hour traffic-free trails” which occurred in College Green, describing the nonvehicular  space in which the public is given an opportunity to sit and avail of free entertainment on what is otherwise one of Dublin city centre’s busiest thoroughfares.” If you didn’t read “the public” as “tourists”, then you are as naive as Dublin City Council thinks we are. 

“Rather than simplify the chaos of the crossway, the trials created a headache for commuters who dread the cursed Sundays of Dublin City Council’s wickedly haphazard experiments.”

If you think for a second that the pedestrianisation of Dame Street in the effort of creating a Plaza in one of the liveliest intersections in Ireland is for the sake of dubliners, I envy your guilelessness. Rather than simplify the chaos of the crossway, the trials created a headache for commuters who dread the cursed Sundays of Dublin City Council’s wickedly haphazard experiments. McDermott’s article also highlighted the council’s proposal to “provide additional seating and more spaces to allow the public to ‘come in and linger in the area’, which may provide a more accurate depiction of what the area might look like.” In danger of speaking on another’s behalf, it is safe to say College Green hasn’t been more than a corridor to pass through quickly with the occasional stop at Tesco Express. In short, as Green Party councillor Neasa Hourigan put best, “[The pedestrianisation] created a situation where people were segregated, and actually had to go a longer way around than they normally would have in the space before the Bank of Ireland building.”

While tourism in Ireland has stimulated the Irish economy the people of Dublin may not even be able to comprehend, would it be self-indulgent to expect greater attention be paid to the commuters living within Dublin’s fringes? It appears as if, right under our noses, Dublin is transforming into a city bereft of its own people with priority towards short-term holiday makers who stimulate the economy.

Maeve Harris

Maeve Harris is the current Deputy Arts and Culture Editor of Trinity News.