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Colm Tóibín, An Taisce and others launch appeal against converting James Joyce's House of the Dead into tourist hostel

Dublin City Council granted permission last month for the house at 15 Usher’s Island, Dublin 8 to be redeveloped into a hostel.

AUTHORS COLM TÓIBÍN and John McCourt, and heritage charity An Taisce are among those appealing Dublin City Council’s decision to allow James Joyce’s ‘The Dead House’ to be turned into a 56-bed hostel. 

The Council granted permission last month for the house at 15 Usher’s Island, Dublin 8 to be redeveloped into a hostel after its planning section concluded that the proposed change of use to a tourist hostel “will be the best way to secure its long-term conservation”. 

The house at 15 Usher’s Island was once home to members of James Joyce’s family and was the setting of The Dead, Joyce’s best-known short story.

The Council’s decision has now been appealed to An Bord Pleanála by An Taisce, McCourt and Tóibín, the chair of Friends of Joyce Tower Dr Seamus Cannon and architect Charles Hulgraine.

Last year, then-Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan rejected suggestions she should intervene to “save” 15 Usher’s Quay after 100 prominent writers and artists signed a letter calling on her to protect the house. 

Among the signatories of the letter were Anne Enright, Sally Rooney, John Banville, Salman Rushdie, Richard Ford, Edna O’Brien and Ian McEwan, who called for the house to be preserved for literary purposes. 

A number of objections were lodged before the Council granted permission last month. 

The Department of Heritage lodged an objection claiming that the proposal “will undermine, diminish, and devalue a site of universal cultural heritage, importance and part of the UNESCO City of Literature designation”.

However, the planning report recommending permission stated that “the building is capable of being converted into the new use and any harmful extensions or modifications have been removed from the scheme”. 

The Council stated that the plan would allow for the refurbishment, conservation, repair and extension to an existing Protected Structure.

Appealing Dublin City Council’s decision, authors Tóibín and McCourt state that not enough consideration has been given about how the development will impact upon the historic structure. 

“As we approach the centenary of Ulysses in 2022, an event which will offer Dublin a unique opportunity in terms of cultural tourism and promotion, we believe that saving 15 Usher’s Island, this unique piece of our national heritage, is an urgent priority,” they said. 

An Taisce said in its appeal that the height and design of the development “would be seriously injurious to the historic Liffey Quays” and “the provision of a further large hotel in Dublin city centre is very questionable at this time in view of the evaporation of the tourist market”.

An Bord Pleanála is due to decide on the case by March. 

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