Many of the world’s great cities have a strong relationship with the sea through their ports. On a weekend visit to Dublin I recently walked along the Great South Wall pier on the southern side of the entrance into Dublin port. This has an atmosphere all of its own – and I am not talking about the sewage treatment plant you pass on the way. Well worth a Sunday walk.
Posted tagged ‘Dublin’
The photograph below was taken on a recent visit to Dublin. It was early in the morning, not long after sunrise. In the East the sun was shining brightly, while in the West dark clouds had gathered. The effect of the sunlight shining on Gandon’s magnificent Custom House, and the rather less magnificent but very visible high rise Liberty Hall, against the backdrop of the clouds was quite stunning.
I spent two hours this morning moving between different parts of Dublin in journeys that should, in aggregate, have taken me 20 minutes, even in heavy traffic. It took so long because it was snowing, and because this creates chaos when it happens in Dublin. One car caused a major problem when the driver got out, leaving his car standing in the middle of the road, while he made a call on a public call box on the pavement. Another car had skidded into the middle of the road and the driver was so shell shocked that she was unable to move it. Another major problem was caused by a truck delivering something or other and just stopping on the road to do this, without pulling in at all to the side.
Today’s weather in Dublin is not good, but it is not that bad either. I suppose we are so bad at handling snow and ice because, by and large, it is such a rare thing. We just can’t deal with anything in our weather other than ‘scattered showers’, which is our default meteorological condition. But at least it has given us a topic of conversation other than the Irish taxpayer’s bailing out of the German banks. And that’s something.
A ‘housing estate’ from a past era – some readers may be able to identify where in Dublin this is. I like the rows of chimneys, and all of it has a bit if a feel of Mrs Gaskin’s Victorian England. Except of course that it isn’t England…
In my opinion, one of the great delights of Dublin is its waterways – rivers and canals that run through the city, often providing walkways, though sometimes also causing floods affecting those living nearby.
The photo below is of the Grand Canal at Wilton Place.
This was taken last weekend on Dublin’s Grafton Street. In fairness we have (so far) also had some rather good weather, but unless we get a sizzling July this will still seem more typical of an Irish summer.
If you are an ambitious sort of person you may want to take an interest in the post of Mayor of Dublin, for which there will shortly be an election. It is an important post, with significant influence over planning, development and services, and with an annual budget of approximately €70m. What, really? No, wait – that’s actually Dublin, California, where the term of current Mayor Tim Sbranti ends this coming November. Dublin has a population of around 50,000. If you were to be even more ambitious and take an interest in the job of Mayor of New York, you would be playing with a budget of $22bn, though admittedly you would be under pressure to get that figure down somewhat in the current times.
So what about our new promised Mayor of Dublin, Ireland? What will he or she be able to do, and how much will they have by way of resources to do it? The latter question is easy to answer: zilch. Although the announcement yesterday by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government suggested that the Mayor of Dublin will have a ‘range of substantial powers’, I am struggling somewhat to see what they might be, and how they could be at all meaningful (never mind ‘substantial’) in the absence of any discretionary budget whatsoever. The proposed legislation, published yesterday as the Local Government (Dublin Mayor and Regional Authority) Bill, sets out various responsibilities for the mayor, but these are about general strategy and policy, with little in the way of a direct ability to manage and develop.
All of this is part of the general ambivalence in Ireland about local government. We have local authorities, but they are viewed in many circles with some suspicion, and many of them didn’t do their reputations much good over the past decade or so by being key players in the promotion of the property bubble. The new office of Mayor of Dublin is to give some coordination to a strategy for the city, but this generally good idea is made almost worthless by circumscribing the powers of the mayor and refusing him or her any budget. What we need to do is to decide whether we want a centralised system of government with all power and control emanating from central government offices, or whether we want to devolve power to local areas. International experience on the whole suggests that the latter, if properly monitored, is desirable as a way of regenerating towns and cities and brining decision-making closer to the people affected by it.
It is time for us to decide whether we want this, and if we do, to put real local government in place. Starting in Dublin.
Yesterday afternoon I was driving in Dublin city centre for the first time since the new 30 km/h speed limit was imposed. You couldn’t help being aware of it, as electronic billboards had been shouting at us about the new city centre limits for a while. So as I entered Dame Street (my first 30 km/h location), I put my foot gently on the brake, and settled down for a quiet ride.
A quiet ride? Like hell! The elderly lady ahead of me was working on the principle that if 30 km/h is good, 20 is probably better, and as she was crawling along she was clearly annoying other drivers to the point of fury, and so all around we had a clanking of car horns, and one idiot behind the wheel of a 10-year-old BMW overtook her (and me) with oncoming traffic, doing 60 or 70 I reckoned. As for the law, I could see no Garda (police) presence anywhere, and I felt vaguely cheated that nobody officially noted my heroic serenity in the face of all that excitement. And my law-abiding nature.
I could not credibly complain about the 30 km/h speed limit. After all, one of my early acts as President of DCU was to impose a campus-wide speed limit of 20 mph (i.e. 30 km/h), and every so often if I am feeling really officious I’ll make a point of stopping a boy racer going at 60 and telling him he’ll be barred from the campus if he does it again. It’s always a ‘he’, by the way. And yet, as I travelled along Dame Street I couldn’t help wondering whether this new speed limit was doing any good. Before I reached the end of the street I had also seen a car stall, with the driver clearly not practiced at combining the correct gear and acceleration with the new speed limit. And there was all that ongoing aggression.
Also, if that’s supposed to be a genuine speed limit (as distinct from a policy stroke), you had better police it rigorously. There was no sign of that yesterday. And we could, as a nation, probably do with some compulsory remedial tuition, learning for example thad a steady speed of 30 km/h in city traffic actually gets you there faster. Though to be fair, I’m not sure I believe that, but I think we should pass it round as dogma anyway.