Dublin, emerging from the ashes

Since leaving Ireland 13 years ago, I’ve gone home every Christmas. Each time there is a sense of strangeness, and estrangement – returning to a landscape that is familiar but has altered somehow.

The most dramatic developments began when I lived in London, during the years running up to 2007. I’d return to find that places where I might have shopped with my mother as a treat had become astronomically expensive and unaffordable. Tiny, cute cafes I had loved to visit shut down overnight. From my frugal ex-patriot perspective everyone seemed to be hysterically putting their wealth on show. And yes, that was the boom.

More recently, things have been much quieter. You can actually get a seat in a pub on New Year’s eve, whereas during the boom years you would have had to book (and pay) to ensure your spot. There’s still a frenzy of pre-Christmas activity but it all seems a bit more muted, and – to this ex pat – more pleasant.

I took a stroll through Dublin with a friend to take a look at what had changed, wondering what sort of evidence I would see of urban decline. Instead, he said he would show me some of the vestiges of the boom, the white elephants and lavishly appointed architectural monstrosities that reveal a huge amount of ambition married with an unfortunate lack of taste. I photographed some of the city’s old beauties, which luckily survived, along with the new and often unfinished or unoccupied structures. (Click on the images to see the caption).

And by the way, people we spoke to agreed with the consensus: things are starting to look up.

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