Daniel McConnell: My dear old Dublin is fast becoming a dirty old town

Daniel McConnell: My dear old Dublin is fast becoming a dirty old town

Swans looking for food among litter at the Grand Canal Docks in Dublin. Picture: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

I love Dublin.

My home city. Apart from a stint in New Orleans, Louisiana, it has been my home for my entire life.

I grew up in the suburb of Stillorgan before moving into the city where I have made my home for the past 18 years.

I love its history, its complications, its contradictions perhaps.

I am constantly amazed by how close I live to where so much of our country’s struggle for independence took place 100 years ago.

Not the most aesthetically beautiful city in the world, it is fair to say, but the energy of Dublin is unique.

A county to explore

For years before the kids arrived, when I was a gigging musician, I got to see the city at its most vibrant and energetic.

Now with three juniors in tow, there is so much on our doorstep to explore with them from the Botanic Gardens and Glasnevin Cemetery to Croke Park to town itself. In summertime, to be less than 30 minutes from stunning beaches in one direction and the Dublin mountains in the other is a joy. Cycles along the canal have become a family favourite as have the boat trips around Dublin bay.

I really was so impressed by the ingenuity and efforts made by so many businesses during Covid to embrace the outdoor living experiences, with the pedestrianised Capel Street and South William Street becoming notable successes.

In winter, I love meeting friends and putting the world to right over a pint or two in pubs such as the Oval with its rich journalistic history or the Long Hall.

But the city I love is in a world of pain and it is awful to see

One of the most encouraging things we saw after the financial crash, was Dublin started again and for a short number of years really sparkled.

But now it is filthy. Really, really filthy.

Day after day, week after week, street after street is manky with piles of discarded rubbish from overflowing bins

To illustrate my point, I will take you through my cycle route in to work from my home in Drumcondra to Kildare Street yesterday morning.

As I headed from Whitworth Road onto Dorset Street by the canal, beer cans, food cartons and various other pieces of litter were strewn all over the ground while the canal itself remains a popular dumping ground for discarded utensils of avarice.

Onto Belvedere Road and then Upper Sherrard Street where things really turn nasty.

It was foul.

Bin bags which have split open or been opened by predatory birds have seen their disgusting contents spill out on the paths and roads with the detritus escaping in all directions.

Large piles of rubbish and no sign of any effort being made to clean it up.

Sherrard Street is notoriously bad and often sees abandoned furniture or other unwanted household items casually and wantonly set aside.

The most depressing thing is that these streets in North inner city Dublin are like this more often than not these days

Then left onto Upper Gardiner Street with its considerable amount of vacant or unused properties which constantly seems to have a problem with dog shit and public bins overflowing.

This area was previously flagged as a litter black spot and yesterday it lived up to its reputation.

Litter piles are again on show on Belvedere Place as I head on my bike toward O’Connell Street which remains a giant basketcase of a street, despite some efforts to improve its grim vista.

The scars of Covid-19 are really visible on what is supposed to be Dublin’s premier promenade but while the bins at least appeared to have been tended to, the paths were filthy.

Large derelict sites in the heart of the city, at a time when so many need housing, is a scandal and the lack of urgency from councillors or national government to address the problem beggars belief.

Across the Liffey and onto D’Olier Street which is a busy thoroughfare for buses, cars and cyclists, but those Covid scars are again on show.

Around College Green and past the bottom of Grafton Street, which itself is in so much pain, radical therapy required to restore its former glory.

On what has been Dublin and Ireland’s most prestigious shopping street, almost 20 units remain vacant, some for more than two years now.

The relatively new pavements are manky and in dire need of power washing, but there seems no appetite to do so

As I turn onto the previously elegant Kildare Street on my way into Leinster House, it strikes me as apt that the former Department of Transport remains boarded up and out of use more than two years after it was vacated.

This was my experience at 9am on Friday when many thousands of people who would normally be in Dublin are away.

It is much, much worse at weekends and late at night.

Coupled to the fact that on weekend nights, you can’t get a taxi late at night anymore and you have a transport minister refusing to address the problem.

The scummy conditions in the city centre mirror the deplorable state our major airport has been in at times in recent months.

And at the same time, you have hotels and other premises effectively gouging holiday makers and aspirant guests with exorbitant nightly rates, while car rental rates are simply bonkers at present.

Added to this is that you can’t even get a cup of tea on an Irish Rail train at the moment.

Tourism

And people are watching.

As reporter Ken Foxe set out the other day, tour operators in other countries are “concerned and worried” about “soaring hotel costs” and how renting a car would make a “significant dent” in a visitor’s budget.

An internal email in Tourism Ireland said: “Danger of it getting amplified across countries as a tourism topic.”

The bigger scandal for me is that Dublin City Council appear to be shooting itself in the foot when it comes to tackling the state of the city’s litter crisis.

When asked about the proposed response to fix this problem, DCC boss Owen Keegan appeared to shrug his shoulders and say nothing can be done.

He recently told councillors from the North Central Area Committee, the system to tackle littering “doesn’t work”.

He said: “The reality is the system of enforcement doesn’t work.” He also said he isn’t comfortable sending wardens into litter black spots as they are at risk of being attacked.

City funding

Worse still is that last year, again, Dublin city councillors voted not to increase the rate of local property tax that will be paid by homeowners next year, despite warnings from Keegan about the urgent need for city funding.

The Green Party, Labour and the Social Democrats supported Mr Keegan’s recommendation not to cut the rate while Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Sinn Féin, People Before Profit and Independent councillors voted to support a Fianna Fáil motion to implement the 15% reduction.

Cllr Deirdre Heney of Fianna Fáil said the tax was “very unfair tax on Dubliners”.

What’s unfair is the kip we have to now endure because of a failure to clean the city up.

How about, don’t reduce the LPT by 15% and clean up the city you are supposed to represent.

If we want the tourists to return and if we as citizens are to get the city in the shape it was previously in, then radical action is needed. People need to do their jobs and get it done.

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