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Dublin: 16 °C Monday 25 June, 2018
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Is Dublin really a kip?

Joe Duffy needs to get out more in Dublin if he thinks it’s a kip, writes Aaron McKenna.

Aaron McKenna

DUBLIN CITY HAS had a varied September. At the start of the month it was named as one of the friendliest cities in the world by Yahoo! Travel, and by the end it was labelled “an unadulterated kip” by native son Joe Duffy.

The city took a kick with the Web Summit announcing it’s to move to Portugal, with some of its detractors taking this as further sign of a city in decline.

For all the naysayers Dublin is, I can say objectively as well as sentimentally, one of the great cities in the world in which to live and to visit. It is not great with a capital G, like a London, Beijing or a New York; with their vast sprawl and role at the centre of big countries. It’s not great like a Rome or a Berlin, where you trip over recent and ancient history on every street corner.

But as locals we too often cannot see the trees from the forest and identify all that is brilliant about the place.

shutterstock_111481523 Source: Shutterstock/Patricia Hofmeester

Objectively we know it to be a great city, partially because almost as many people visit Dublin yearly as live in the entire country. We have a world class reputation that is confirmed time and again in surveys of tourist sentiment, lists of top destinations and attractions. Again just in this September, the Guinness Storehouse was named as Europe’s leading tourist attraction by the World Travel Awards.

“Unadulterated kip”

We might scoff at these achievements, or pass remarks about our reputation as boozers, but these accomplishments are both a reflection of the esteem this “unadulterated kip” is held in; and a spur to more people to come and spend time in it.

It’s good to visit, but is it good to live in? I’d say the living in Dublin is among the easiest in the world, comparing like for like around relative incomes. I’ve spent a lot of time in metropolises like London, Atlanta and Los Angeles, and they are the most deeply impersonal places you can imagine.

As locals we complain, rightly, about numerous things around transport and the like. But in actual fact, we live in a right-sized city where it is possible, even on sometimes patchy public transport, to get from one end of it to the other in a reasonable amount of time.

From the very centre of the city, you are no more than an hour away from deep countryside or scenic mountains. Every day you take a walk anywhere in the city, there is a high probability of running into someone you know. These things add up to a lot when you sit down and take stock.

shutterstock_276262805 Source: Shutterstock/Rainprel

Dublin character 

Dublin is a foodie’s paradise and a place with more venues of character to meet up than many cities several times its size. Its size and the character of what’s in it make the city one of the most sociable on the planet. I would contend that you can have more relaxed fun per euro spent in Dublin than in most other places I can think of, so long as you avoid the rip-off that is Temple Bar.

We also need to contextualise the news stories we hear against the fact that crime statistics are quite low by international standards. There are black spots and there needs to be more policing of iconic places like O’Connell Street, but objectively again the city has an internationally low murder rate, low assault rate, and crimes on the streets against vulnerable people like children are relatively uncommon.

That’s not to say it’s a paradise, but would you let teenagers off for a day into town by themselves in somewhere like Budapest or Bratislava, Boston or Bangkok? Dublin is not a city that promotes a constant sense of alertness you will find in places that are very big or the naturally frenetic and even chaotic cities of the world.

Dublin has its troubles 

Dublin has its troubles. We’re not investing enough into public transport projects, even though we are seeing improvements now like Luas Cross City take shape. There aren’t enough police. There are too many drug users in certain spots. The property market is too heated.

These are all, incidentally, problems I’ve heard in every city I’ve ever visited. That doesn’t mean that they can be ignored, but again to label a place “an unadulterated kip” requires a certain context about problems and their commonality to all cities.

Dublin’s grand old shops, like Clery’s and Peats Electronics to name two called out by Joe Duffy, have been suffering over recent years. But that is not a phenomenon unknown to cities with large suburbs. Shoppers are moving out of cities around the globe and heading to the Dundrum’s and Blanchardstown’s of this world where parking is plentiful and cheap, and the stores are concentrated.

shutterstock_50055025 Source: Shutterstock/Eireann

The shops are being replaced in Dublin by a vibrant socialising scene that is really in a class of its own in Europe. It is difficult to design routes through the city centre that wouldn’t take you past various classes of venues with a decent crowd of a weekend, and in many cases weekday, night.

There is an inevitable lag in seeing shops move out and socialising or education or cultural venues move in. But it has been happening across the city to date, and we will see it too in places like Cleary’s.

The minute the Web Summit announced they were off abroad, we had folks clamouring over one another with potential replacements. Anyone familiar with the world of tech summits will tell you that they always grow and grow till they seem unwieldy, a charge levelled at the Web Summit already; and then they collapse under their own weight.

Replacing it with smaller events was likely going to happen anyway, and as with great cafes and restaurants replacing formerly great shops the free market has kicked into gear the minute the announcement was made.

It’s all about the people 

That brings me to the people. It’s people who set up great restaurants where shops used to be. It’s people who pioneer great events. It’s the people who busk on Grafton Street. It’s people who make the tourist spots, who give folks a friendly welcome and create great venues. It’s the Irish, the Dubs, the people moved up from the country, the Brazilians, the Brits, the Italians and everyone else in this vastly internationalised place who make it so interesting.

Dublin isn’t an unadulterated kip. It has bits that are kippish. It had them in the past. Just the other day I was at the edge of Grand Canal Dock, in a place that used to be a no-go area; looking across the river just up from the Convention Centre where now there are warehouses and building sites. Soon there will be towers and new offices and apartments and even a bridge to get between one regenerated site and another.

It’s a beautiful city, with a bright future. Let’s focus more on what we should be doing to achieve that, than going off on self-indulgent rants and talking it down.

Read: Imagine living in a 20’ x 10’ room, your belongings are in one cupboard and you don’t know if you’ll be there a year or a decade>

Read: ‘It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it’>

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