Sunday, March 13, 2011

Urban Party @ The Complex

The Complex
Constantin Gurdgiev
Dave and I were both at this interesting evening of aspirations for Dublin on Wednesday.  I'm not really sure how to classify The Complex in Smithfield - part small theatre (sans seating), part function room, part industrial warehouse.  Regardless of type: it suited the Urban Party very well.  A small stage was at the front and each speaker had 3 mins to outline a vision for Dublin.  If they went over, a klaxony-airhorn thing sounded.  I wrote notes on almost every speaker and they've come out like a stream of consciousness.  But don't worry, I won't inflict my Joycean style ramblings on you: I can summarise.  The full list of speakers is here and there was only one no show.  One tiny complaint, possibly due to my own ignorance; I didn't know some of the people or why they had been chosen.  Many of them were touting a particular plan or bugbear.  It was immediately obvious who were the politicians and lecturers: those people were at home with public speaking and were mostly clear, concise and "on message". Some of the city employees (architect, planners, etc) should have been better but I found myself zoning out (oh god, terrible terrible pun there but I'm leaving it in) during their 3 minutes.  Cllr Dermot Lacey and economist Constantin Gurdgiev got the biggest applause of the night.
Dermot Lacey
Lacey talked about the problems of 4 regional authorities for one city and how even a unanimous vote of the Dublin City Council could still be countermanded by public servants.  He mentioned that there are 44 separate authorities involved  in managing Dublic traffic.  His call for the State to take back the Bank of Ireland houses of parliament (still always the central bank for me: it's round and in the centre of town) for Dublin yielded massive approval.  Senator Ivana Bacik and Elaine Byrne also were for this in some format.  Byrne talked about how Dublin had no real heart - just a commercial centre and O'Connell St, which is kind a nothing street these days.   When you look at 18th century images of the capital, you see that originally Sackville St had a pedestrianised mall down the centre rather than the traffic avoiding walkway it is today.  On a side point, she was wearing a great knitted dress, and I wondered if she'd made it herself.  Dave has unhelpfully not taken a picture of it so I can't show you.
Elaine Byrne
Michael McDermott
Michael McDermott of Le Cool read out a list of things people reading Le Cool had suggested which included butchers that open in the evening, integrated ticketing, late night coffee bars, chess tables, forcing shopowners and businesses to maintain the area in front of their premises and the ever popular (at least with me), swings. In a similar vein, Leanne Caulfield of the 2nd level students union spoke eloquently about improving the quality of life for kids in Dublin with more playgrounds, safe spaces they can use to meet for free and setting up youth groups so they aren't just hanging around on the corners of our city. 
Aaron Copeland - not the famous composer, presumably.
Aaron Copeland of Upstart spoke some words but I was mostly looking at the fabulous images they had adorned lampposts with during the election campaign.  The nature of the event meant that some people had completely contrary views on the future of Dublin.  Gerry Godley wanted the city to be smaller and think smaller and better.  Dick Gleeson, the city planner, was curiously against creating any tall buildings in Dublin so I guess he wants it to be even more spreadout.  Maxim Laroussi, another architect, wanted to take what we already had and change its usage while creating some sort of heart around the Liffey with cafes and parks.  Kieran Rose outlined a vision for a new Dublin library, perhaps on the site of the hated motor tax office behind the Four Courts.  He thought we could find a 21st century Andrew Carnegie to possibly fund the project too.  I'm all for more books.  Sandra O'Connell wanted us to elect a city poet and read several nice lines about Dublin from various Irish poets.  Two quotes that really stuck in my head from the evening were Paul Keogh's "is Dublin just going to be famous for Guinness and craic or is there something more?" and Constantin Gurdgiev's opinion that we should "tax land" because it can't move offshore.  A few people talked again about this notion of an elected mayor for the city.  I'm not sure why we can't merge the office of Lord Mayor and just make that office elected.  Do we really need a 6th mayor in the county?  Surely not.  My favourite amalgam of several ideas from the evening is the notion of a pedestrianised College Green heart with the houses of parliament returned to Dubliners housing a museum about our fair city.


  1. Felt as if I was there; interesting review.

  2. One of the comments I liked - because I've thought the same - is that the current availability of prime properties for rent has created opportunities for new start-ups. For example there have been lots of new cafes opened in the last year or so.