The horrifying ‘hotelification’ of Dublin city

By Shay Galon

Merchant’s Arch, Temple Bar. Photo Credits: Shay Galon

Irish public strive to save Temple Bar’s Merchant’s Arch from new hotel proposals.  

Currently over 50,000 people have signed the Save Merchant’s Arch online petition objecting An Bord Pleanála’s approval for a new hotel at Merchant’s Arch in Temple Bar.

The proposed plan of demolishing the 2-storey building over the basement and several retail units along the laneway was granted.

A vintage clothing boutique, a shoe store and a record shop are some of the independent vintage retailers that would be replaced by a new hotel and restaurant.

Ian Lumley, head of advocacy at An Taisce, stated that, “our issue with Merchant’s Arch is that the development is overscaled and inappropriate in character for the area”.

“An Taisce has great concerns about the ongoing destruction of the city’s culture and the “hotelification” of Dublin by schemes such as what is proposed for the Cobblestone, and the elimination of several small shops in the narrow laneway Merchants Arch, destroying its sense of place, for another hotel.”

Photo Credits: Shay Galon

Some of those who signed the online petition were also candid about their concerns about losing Dublin’s rich heritage, tradition, and culture. The approved scheme “is a crude, architecturally-illiterately monument to greed… and would irreversibly change the much-loved social and cultural asset that is the Cobblestone music venue and pub”.

Not only is the laneway that connects the Ha’penny Bridge to Temple Bar filled with small independent shops, local buskers can also be found in the laneway adding character and music to the city centre, providing entertainment to those who walk by.

Edel Leahy, the creator of the online petition stresses that “Merchant’s Arch is beautiful, full of character and should be left alone… it’s part of the very essence of Dublin.”

News of the proposed development have also led to the public spilling to the streets to protest the reversal of the decisions made.

Several public bodies have taken to social media to voice their opinions.

“It’s like they won’t rest until we have a completely homogenised city centre just for tourists,” said Claire Byrne, Green Party councillor.

An Bord Pleanála’s own inspector refused the planning permission on the basis that it would, “seriously injure the visual amenities of the area and be contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area”.

The loss of the small independent traders would “damage the diversity and uniqueness” of the passageway, the inspector wrote.The online petition Save Merchant’s Arch has been tossed around all social media platforms in attempt to raise awareness and to gain support to retain the historic Dublin arch.

“The city is being commodified for international capital investment… creating a free-for-all development mania,” An Taisce reveals.

“At this stage, much damage has already been done and sadly more is yet to come unless urgent changes are brought about.”

Regardless of the council’s inspector’s recommendations, An Bord Pleanála’s decided to undergo the plans anyway.

Another iconic Dublin place that is being turned into a hotel is the Cobblestone Pub in Smithfield. This will involve demolition of the backroom venue, the smoking area, and the rooms upstairs where music and Irish language classes were held, leaving only the main bar swallowed up by a 9 story hotel essentially turning the leftovers into a residents bar.

On October 9, hundreds have marched from the pub in Smithfield to the front steps of Dublin City Council. The pub has been an epicentre for Irish culture as it encourages traditional Irish music to be played as well as the Irish language to be spoken and taught in the upstairs of the pub. The online petition Save the Cobblestone! has almost reached its goal of 35,000 signatures.

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