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As with Diaspora and An Taisce’s role in the National Gallery Millennium Wing debacle (this thread, this week), Graham Hickey is engaging in revisionism in relation to the Irish Georgian Society’s role in this development. What’s going on with the champions of conservation?

In case anyone is unclear about what happened, Frank McDonald’s The Construction of Dublin sets the record straight on p326:

“Assuming that it could get rid of a surviving 18th-century building on the site, the gallery did not specify that it should be retained in its brief for an international architectural competition in 1996 for the project… Having awarded the commission to Benson & Forsyth, architects of the much-acclaimed Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, the gallery ran into serious flak from An Taisce and the Irish Georgian Society, which were outraged that a premier national cultural institution would demolish a Georgian house with a rare Regency ballrooom…”

The ballroom, in case you are wondering, is that lumpen yoke, marooned in the winter garden restaurant. Who now thinks it was worth the fuss? Is it that realisation that is at the root of the current revisionism? Were the conservationists’ objections ever meant? Frank hints at the answer in his account, which continues:

“They [An Taisce, IGS] were as stunned as the gallery when An Bord Pleanala upheld their appeal in January 1998, overturning Dublin Corporation’s decision on the avowedly conservationist grounds that the replacement of these worthy, unlisted structures with a modern building would materially contravene its policy of protecting the area’s architectural and civic design character. Having recovered from from their shock, the gallery and its architects submitted a revised scheme, retaining No. 5 South Leinster Street in its entirety, and this sailed through the planning process without a single objection.”

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