Re: Re: Dun Laoghaire Baths
Here’s Kevin Myers utterly moronic contribution to the debate. From the man who called the Carrickmines campaign “a diseased exercise in ancestor-worship”. Preserve our heritage … but only the bits Mr Myers like.
The DÃºn Laoghaire seafront is one of the best-loved features of the entire island of Ireland, and for many reasons, says Kevin Myers
Its setting has been carved by nature, with the Wicklow hills behind it, before it St George’s Channel, and beyond that, and visible on good days, the mountains of Wales, cousins to the Wicklow hills to which they were once joined.
But it was the hand of 19th century man which really made DÃºn Laoghaire what it is, with the railway line from the centre of Dublin, and the creation of the port by the great Scots engineer John Rennie: and perhaps it is in his honour that the adjoining Scotsman’s Bay is so named. With the arrival of the ferries and the rail connection with Dublin, an elegant Regency and Victorian waterfront was built, with a brace of mile-long piers stretching out into the bay.
Two churches were built to grace the town’s skyline, and from one of them the Angelus bell used to sound each evening to welcome returning ship-borne emigrants and visitors. The ferries no longer arrive shortly after six as once they did, and only those who have slid across the bay in the evening light and heard the bells tolling across the shimmering waters can know the bewitching melancholy they aroused in the hearts of those coming home to Ireland upon the brimming tide.
DÃºn Laoghaire is one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. It is beautiful to see from the sea and beautiful to see from the shore, and at times it can rival the Bay of Naples or Capri in its enchantment. So it is quite simply past all belief that DÃºn Laoghaire Council plans to dump a 5.5 acre apartment complex on land which for the most part – some four acres – is to be claimed from the sea in Scotsman’s Bay. And in contrast to the modest, two and three storey roofline which characterises most of the waterfront, the complex will, with a glass tower, reach 10 storeys high.
Moreover, it will not be set back from the sea, but will be an intrusion into it: where there are now waters, there will be an apartment block rising like Croke Park, adjoining the spit of land where the derelict baths now are. Indeed, it has been a desire to make something of the old baths which became the starting point for the entire wretched project.
But if it was simply a desire to put the baths to some fresh and profitable use, why not open a shopping mall, or a heliport, or an office block, or put the Bertie Bowl there? Why not place the national incinerator in Scotsman’s Bay, or perhaps our first nuclear power station? If a disregard for the waterfront is to be a defining feature of any development of the old baths, why halt at half measures? Why not let Michael O’Leary build his own transatlantic air terminal there? On the other hand, there could of course be some modest, low-cost development of the baths: they could be turned into a maritime park, which would be appropriate to the scale and the nature of the town. For DÃºn Laoghaire is primarily a residential suburb, which has no separate existence independent of the metropolis. It is not an industrial city like Bilbao, which was visited by a delegation of DÃºn Laoghaire councillors, and which apparently has become the inspiration for the Scotsman’s Bay project.
This is rather like councillors from Belmullet visiting Venice for a few tips on how to build a Lido, or representatives from Birr travelling to Florence to plan the future of their town. But we do not live in such a world. Apples are not the role models for turnips: oranges do not aspire to be teapots; DÃºn Laoghaire wastes its time, and squanders its seafront jewels, attempting to emulate Bilbao.
To be sure, turning the old baths into a park will not net the council as much money as the 180 view-blocking apartments, which will probably sell for about â‚¬1 million each. But then, keeping the Book of Kells does not earn Trinity College Dublin as much money as it would get from selling it: we could dispatch the President to Blanchardstown and sell the Ãras to a Texan, thereby turning a tidy penny. Moreover, Merrion Square is a terrible waste of precious city-centre space: why not knock down those unproductive Georgian buildings, and give planning permission for 40-storey offices and flats complexes, alongside the even taller Leinster Towers, where the old DÃ¡il used to sit in that ghastly old Leinster House?
There is a bespoke and accusatory sneer for those who want to protect what already exists, and who wish that developers would leave well enough alone. It is that they are reactionaries who are opposed to change. So be it. For was the founder of architectural conservationism, John Betjeman, not so abused when he campaigned to save the famous St Pancras Arch? Were not the opponents of the Dublin Corporation scheme to turn the Grand and Royal Canals into motorways similarly traduced? Are defenders of the modest and the quaint against the garish and the new not invariably so ridiculed? The truth is that DÃºn Laoghaire is not some exotic Iberian city set on a Mediterranean shore, but a largely British seafront town set on the Irish Sea. If the DÃºn Laoghaire flats-complex project goes ahead, and Scotsman’s Bay becomes Scotsman’s Plaza, then the curse of both John Rennie, and of future generations, will pursue the perpetrators down the years to come.