In my rambles around Dublin Bay North, that salient bordered by the Malahide Road, the sea and the coast road back to Fairview, I have come across two homes, one opposite Sutton Marina and one on the Baldoyle Road, both named after Charles Kickham’s famous fictional townland of Knocknagow. And, just as Kickham’s Homes of Tipperary have very important tales of hearth, home and dreams to tell, so too do all the homes of that Marino Camino jewel.
Moving up the Malahide Road, we come in turn to Marino, Donnycarney, Artane, Coolock, Darndale, Balgriffin, Kinsealy and, finally, Malahide. Marino’s fine houses were Cumann na nGaedheal’s first and finest effort to clear Dublin’s notorious slums and houses were allocated to upwardly mobile couples with large families.
Fianna Fáil solidified its place as Ireland’s major party by spreading the butter more widely, by building more houses for more people in places like Donnycarney, Kimmage, Cabra and, later, Artane, Coolock and many other of the vast housing estates that pepper Dublin Bay North and much of the rest of urban Dublin as well.
Working through St Vincent’s GAA club, and its feeder schools of St Joseph’s CBS and O’Connell’s CBS, this area gave birth to the Dubs’ brand of the 1950s, and, through Kevin Heffo Heffernan and many other locals, carried it through to the great money spinner it is today. Locals like Barney McKenna and John Sheehan helped modernise this Homes of Tipperary motif through the Dubliners, even though Marino’s Mount Temple School gave birth to U2 and Clontarf gave us Philipp Donnelly, aka the Clontarf Cowboy, by way of competition.
Dublin Bay North made its mark through the GAA and through upwardly mobile locals like the Donnycarney accountant, politician and champion GAA player Charlie Haughey, whose brother Jock was, with Kinsealy natives Ollie and Cyril Freaney, one of the original super Dubs.
Despite the hardships, the unemployment and the emigration, a new confidence, a new swagger, epitomised in part by the Dubs and by the Dubliners and under written by near-free education and the social discipline of the nuns and Christian Brothers gave the grafters a new found swagger the tenements’ seemingly inescapable poverty had previously denied them.
Dublin was not Carnaby Street, and nor was it Kilburn or Cricklewood, but it was okay. You could watch the Dubs, listen to the Dubliners, dance in the Stardust and know that you too, in time, would have your little house on what was once Dublin Bay North’s prairie.
Those days are gone, and so too are almost all their trappings. Whereas the Irish Government pimped us out as “the young Europeans” in the 1970s and 1980s, now we are being pimped as a bunch of old fogeys, our legs failing us and needing to pay African and Asian immigrants to bring us for walkies.
Though much has obviously changed, changed utterly, in between when Heffo’s Army was on the march and when the media spied on the Dubs’ early morning training camp by standing on Ollie Freaney’s Balgriffin grave, one of the most noticeable transformations is in the housing stock, which now serves different stakeholders than those who actually live in them.
Gone is the pride and joy of moving into Finglas palaces. And gone too is the policy of supplying such palaces as they are simply too expensive to give away under our new paradigm of vulture funds take all. Houses in Darndale are priced out of reach of most and so too, for those patriotic politicians on the average industrial wage, are the houses and apartments that surround Balgriffin and Clongriffin for mile after very ugly mile.
That is, of course, unless our over-paid politicians have one of Blackadder’s cunning plans to rescue those who stupidly vote for them from the life-long property mess they have landed those unfortunates into.
When the Killester Demesne was built, at the same time as Marino, there were such plans for the hundreds of former British Army servicemen who returned from the war to end all wars, to what they were promised would be a land fit for heroes.
These ex-Tommies, who had unemployment rates ten times than their English equivalents, were helped to build their own Demesne houses (with potable water, an incredible luxury) and their former officers started an omnibus service run for and by them along the Howth Road into their menial jobs at Bank of Ireland, Trinity, the Guinness Brewery and the other great institutions who hired ‘our boys’ in as big numbers as they could.
Though they didn’t have GAA fields, the Demesne’s denizens did have a fine hall and field for their annual Poppy Day commemorations. Life was okay.
Killester’s Demesne may not have been paradise, but it was a damned sight better than the Somme or the slums of inner city Dublin. It still is and property prices reflect that.
Or at least they used to. If we forget that the huge lead pipes pumping Wicklow’s water into Killester and beyond will soon disintegrate to give Dublin Bay North its own Lough Neagh, and that sewage is a much bigger problem in the Howth peninsula that it was when the Jameson whiskey dynasty complained about it in the nineteenth century, the property rental dynamic has reverted to the rack-renting model that pertained at the time of Knocknagow’s Mat the Thrasher, Fr Matt and poor Norah Lahy.
Those young Irish, who can hang in, must pay the criminally high rents our artificially skewed market demands. The days of owning a gaffe in Finglas or Darndale are gone. Wild West renting, democratised rack-renting, is back in vogue. Kickham’s vision is dead. So too are famous pubs like Kiely’s of Donnybrook, which will be a pioneer in co-living, the new buzzword for a glorified slum.
The property market nightmare unfolding in front of us must be tackled root and branch, and not just with the excellent local initiatives of Killester, Marino and Donnycarney, but more with Simms’ architectural miracles of St Audoen’s House, Chancery Place flats, Oliver Bond flats, Thorncastle Street Flats, Henrietta House, Countess Markievicz House and Pearse House.
Though much must be done, the World Economic Forum’s zeitgeist says otherwise. Just as America’s unconscionable vultures now see the so-called trailer trash as rich pickings, so also is Ireland marching boldly back into the sewer with nothing but Xbox, Uber meals, lines of coke and the Metaverse to sedate us in these, our own Opium Wars which are being waged in the Knocknagows of all of Ireland and far beyond.
The answer, in the abstract, intellectual level, is easy and is one that was tried, however imperfectly and with few resources, bar the legions of overworked nuns and Christian Brothers and sundry other skivvies, by previous Cumann na nGaedheal and earlier Fianna Fáil regimes.
On the concrete, practical level, things are different for aspiring Irish home owners, just as they are for Canadian truckers, which have not only the Red Sox fascism of the Trudeau regime to deal with but have GoFundMe’s shenanigans on their case as well.
Whether we are talking about the Homes of Tipperary, or the rampaging Dubs of GAA land, there are certain things such as leadership, resources, bases, platforms and objectives that are needed to propel things forward. All of them seem to have dissipated, and we are like a group of ants, rather than like a colony of ants.
Until we can nurture patriotic leaders like Parnell and Davitt, give them the human and other resources they need to marshal and rally our bases and broadcast them on our real-world platforms to achieve our simplest, common objectives, we will achieve nothing much more than an ability to hoover up lines of coke and knock back slabs of foreign beer before some poker-faced immigrant takes us for our walkies around our ugly, concrete jungles.
Granted, it is a depressing thought but so too is the life plan Klaus Schwab’s World Economic Forum and their local enforcers have laid out for us.