The potential for turning James Joyce’s ‘House of the Dead’ on Ushers island in Dublin into a youth hostel has prompted fears from the arts community here and has now begun to spread internationally.
Yesterday’s Observer in London had a major feature looking at the wider issue of Dublin’s rush to turn historic and culturally significant locations into tourism stop gaps to house the people who ironically come to soak up that very cultural infrastructure.
They quoted novelist Paula McGrath who said last week that ‘These endless hostels and hotels are symptoms of a whiskey and leprechaun version of Ireland which ignores climate change and the need to appeal to locals as well as those arriving shamrock-eyed via long haul flights.”
The house in question at 15 Ushers Island was sold out of receivership in 2017 at a price of just over €500,000.
Because it was merely owned by relatives of Joyce and believed to be an inspiration for ‘The Dead’ short story in Dubliners, it was not deemed at the time to be significant enough for the state to buy and renovate.
Now at a time of homelessness planning permission is being sought to turn it into a hostel. If that is for social purposes then it is hard to argue against. The impression from the arts community though is that it is merely to create more bed spaces for tourists.
Dublin City Council recognises the challenge it faces. Councillors recently voted on a motion to halt new hotel development to prevent the increasing erosion of cultural life and space.
Whether that actually filters through to a halt on hotels with which the capital remains poorly served is open to question.
But at least the debate is being held, even if it does come into sharpest focus when people from outside our own bubble start to talk about it. Joyce himself would have appreciated that.
Here is the article.