Wandering down Moore Street the morning after hoodlums rammed Garda cars in Cherry Orchard, I chanced upon a glimpse of Dublin in the rarified ol’ times. There, guitar in hand, surrounded by a phalanx of smiling Gardaí, was actor Phelim Drew, Ronnie’s son, some white-shirted pompous prat who looked like he was out of RTÉ central casting, a clutch of photographers, some ebony skinned New Irish, and Phyllis, the token five-for-a-euro wrapping paper stall holder.
The occasion was to launch the Corpo’s new plans for a Moore Street market, modelled, no doubt at great expense and after a great many junkets for those in the loop, on similar markets in Paris, Accra, Lagos and Rome.
The idea would be that Phyllis and friends would, subject to more discriminatory legislation being imposed against them, continue to sell their bits and bobs and the New Irish would sell their fake wigs, face paint and whatever else they can turn a buck at. All very nice if you live near Simon Harris and Simon Donnelly in Greystones, and never venture near the war zone that is central Dublin, but not too good for me.
For the truth is, I have a dog in this fight. I buy a lot of vegetables and spices from the Moore Street stalls, which I ferment to maximise its nutritional value. Whenever I buy too much, I put the extra in vegetable stews and thus maintain my five and more a day rule.
If it had been up to me, the Moore Street traders would have been supported, and not just at election time by Bertie Ahern, Christy Burke, Tony Gregory and Mary Lou McDonald. And, though these yobs making Phyllis and her mates to sing Molly Malone and other street songs would have been condescending thirty and more years ago, it is infinitely more condescending now when they have all but been wiped out.
This is not to criticise the New Irish, who are supplying us with their essential skills of hair braiding and face painting, but to ask what sort of Ireland we want and whether Simon Harris, Simon Donnelly and their Greystones chums are the best folk to decide how, where and with whom we should live and work.
Although Mary Lou McDonald and her Cherry Orchard chums want to milk Moore Street’s 1916 historical significance for their own opportunistic reasons, if they ever happen to actually visit it, they should see that life has moved on and New Irish shops are flourishing there, whilst the Old Irish, like Phyllis, are going, and going with a vengeance.
I am somewhat like Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, with a foot in both the Old and New Irish camps. Whereas I buy my fresh fruit and vegetables from the stalls of the Old Irish, I buy my dried goods from the shops of the New Irish, whose business models give them unrivalled advantages in those lines. It is not so much the New Irish I object to as it is to the likes of Simon Harris, Simon Donnelly and their People Before Profit chums, who are destroying civil society in front of our eyes and replacing it with hair braiders, face painters, panhandlers and car rammers.
If there is to be a place for these artisans at the heart of Dublin’s commercial centre, then surely the small proprietors of South William Street also deserve to be, if not supported, at least left alone to ply their trade. For, when I pop into the Asian market in Drury Street to buy my rice, I cannot help but notice that those small proprietors had armies of young drinkers, drug takers, bottle throwers and urinators visited upon them night after night during the Harris/Donnelly/McDonald on again off again Covid lockdown.
People Before Profit have, at least, put their cards on the table and fair play to them. Whether it is ISIS murdering Japanese people and stabbing Irish people in Dundalk, whether it is George Nkencho trying to murder Gardaí in Clonee, or whether it is their “community” ramming Garda cars in Cherry Orchard, People Before Profit’s bosses are consistent as to who the goodies are and who the baddies are, who the white hats and the black hats are, if you will.
All that leads to the question as to what is the true agenda going on here? Why have they consistently conspired to cleanse Moore Street, Francis Street and similar streets of traders, who sold basic food items at very competitive prices since Fenian times? Just what is the agenda of replacing the kindly devils we know in Moore Street, Francis Street and South William Street with the devils we don’t know and would prefer not to ever know, no matter what part of Cherry Orchard, Accra or Lagos they might hail from?