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G.B. Shaw's Dublin birthplace now belongs to the people...but it won't be open to the public much

It’s estimated it will cost €140,000 to refurbish and will be completed by 2021.

Capture 33 Synge Street, Dublin Source: GoogleMaps

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has taken ownership of Irish Nobel Prize-winning author George Bernard Shaw’s birthplace and plans to turn it into a writer-in-residence space. 

The house at 33 Synge Street in Dublin 8 has been unoccupied since 2012. It’s estimated it will cost €140,000 to refurbish and will be completed by 2021. 

Shaw’s birthplace first opened as a museum in 1993 and was run by Dublin Tourism, which amalgamated with Fáilte Ireland in 2012.

The museum was decorated in 1860s style and cost €6 entry. 

Visitor numbers were low and the museum only opened to the public from mid-July to late August in its last four years. 

Since 2016, Dublin City Council has been in discussions with Fáilte Ireland in an attempt to take ownership of the building. The house was transferred into Council ownership shortly before Christmas. 

Shaw was born in July 1856 at Synge Street and left Dublin in 1876.

In 1925, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature for his work “marked by both idealism and humanity, its stimulating satire often being infused with a singular poetic beauty”. 

Best-known for his wit, political commentary and dramas like Man and Superman, Pygmalion and Major Barbara, he died in 1950 aged 94. 

shaw George Bernard Shaw Source: Nobel Foundation

The Council aims to complete works on 33 Synge Street by early 2021.

Independent Councillor Vincent Jackson argues that Shaw’s birthplace should remain open permanently to the public and visitors.

“I hope the house is not tied up with an artist living in it,” he said. “It’s a great house and it shows eloquently the life of G.B.Shaw.”

He said at least “a portion” of it should remain open. “It’s really not an addition to the cultural life of the City otherwise,” said Jackson. 

Labour Councillor Mary Freehill, who proposed Dublin City Council taking over Shaw’s birthplace, said 33 Synge Street is “not sustainable” to use as a full-time museum. 

“The idea is to let it out to writers for a short period of time,” said Freehill. “It doesn’t really facilitate itself to large groups of people.”

“It’s a jewel for us to have. [We should] let the world know that George Bernard Shaw…was an Irishman,” she said, adding Shaw’s birthplace could “put Dublin on the literary map more so than it already is.”

A Council spokesperson said that it plans for artist residencies to run for six-month periods and that the building will be open to the public for special events.

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