I sat down with Pat Liddy and we had a chat about all things Dublin. Pat knows Dublin because he is Dublin. We sit down in the bustling Cafe Nero on O' Connell Street and I began by asking him what the best thing about Dublin is.
'It can't be just one thing, it's a whole lot of things coming together making it a unique city and I only realised how unique Dublin is when I started going abroad while working with Aer Lingus that I saw the opportunity to show the world that we are a people apart, we are a city apart from anywhere else but we were destroying it by neglect or by active development which was not sympathetic to the legacy of the city so I set about trying to do something about that. Bearing in mind that Dublin is a low rise city and in terms of accessibility the city centre is unique in Europe, you can walk to a lot of places, cities unlike Paris and Rome while also full of heritage and history it takes time to traverse them. In my later years I have tried to show off our city to the world. In the 80s and early 90s tourism was very small compared to what it is today and especially Dublin would have been seen as a the place you landed in on your way west or even south and that had to be changed. What could we show them? What was the product? They were two questions I asked myself. Besides Trinity College, Dublin Castle and Christchurch Cathedral, which is relatively small compred to other cathedrals in Europe but it's the depth of stories and heritage attached to these sites that make these spots unique. And that's what people started to like. Also over the years we may have given out the wrong message, 'We'd like to find a cosy pub and have a Guinness is the most popular thing tourists say but in reality we are a European capital city and a cosy pub at the weekends is near non existant. Once Dublin recieved traction in terms of tourism, I think the latest figures are just around the 6 million mark which is a huge for a city this size. The messages we have been giving out include a visit to the Guinness brewery and Trinity but they are now at capacity and we need a back up. A back up like The Docklands with proper development of the area that will be sustainable for years to come with more cafes and also with the use of barges in the area for living and for showcasing artists too. While we have a lot there at the moment there is scope to develop it more and to develop it right'.
We have had a chat about the best things in Dublin, now can I ask you about the worst things about Dublin? We won't dwell too much on them though!
'There are a lot of aggravating things about Dublin, there is a lack of public toilets, public seating, there are so many unfortunates on the streets that there isn't enough active work being carried out for them and they can greatly interfere with tourists by looking for money for hostels etc. A lack of policing in the city too, we need more Gaurds on the streets of Dublin. Another issue I have found is the lack of leadership when it comes to the civics of the city. There isn't one person with responsibilty, it's a whole load of them, it takes too long to get things done. There needs to be a 'grabbing the bull by the horns' type of scenario'
Dubliners. What makes us a people unique?
'We now have the new Dubliners and the traditional Dubliners and when a visitor comes here they want the Irish Dubliner, and when you at the huge variation of the Dublin accent, this is language, our language, unique to us and it is to be treasured. For instance the Dublin way of saying hello is 'Howya'. That comes acrss as a warm greeting to someone and us Dubliners often overlook that. Over all if you were to ask a Dubliner about the city they would be very proud of the place. Quirks and all.
In terms of the development of Dublin. Where do you see it going in the next 15 to 20 years?
'A city is it's people. you have to encourage people not only to work but to live in the city. again, referring to O' Connell Street, our main street in the city, there is nobody living on it. All those empty upper floors on shops in the street should and need to be used either for working offices or even better residential use. There are still so many derelict sites in the city, one down at the far end of O' Connell Street looks terrible as it is. It's one of the quirky things about Dublin that you can develop a block and the block next to it can see no benefit from that development. Joined up thinking is what's needed. Take Abbey Street, the three of them, lower, upper and middle Abbey Street; they aren't great and I suspect it is down to absentee landlords. The future is that we have to make these landlords look after the heritage of these buildings through guidance and education. We need to allow a bit of high rise, not in the city centre though and the reason for that is that with high rise we would be a dark city. We need the light!! It can't be development for the sake of development, it needs to be proper and sustained with all the services that must come with apartments, shops and the recreation, balanced living with families and the like'.
Moore Street Pat. It has been in the news for a few years now. Where are you on the issue?
'I would keep the laneway and keep the shape of the laneway and the street itself and the facades of the origianl buildings and especially keep the interiors of the building where the rebels where held up, there is only about 5 buildings there still. The rest were destrroyed and redeveloped over the years and you have to mark points in our history like 1916 which are important. The plaque on the wall marking where The O'Rahilly was shot is the saddest looking thing you can imagine, we put up these plaques and say 'aren't we great' then we walk away from them for years, it's a shame really'.
Pat Liddy tours. talk to me. Sell yourself!
'I don't need much encouragement, it's www.walkingtours.ie and we are constantly changing, moving and growing, I am always looking for new ideas to get people to move away from the standard tour, we want to get people to Georgian Dublin, The Docklands, St Michans. We organise architecture tours, we can have up to 700 people on the Dublin City Council tours, well organised. We give a high level of training to our guides, our tours tend to be smaller so it's a bit more personal. We give an entertaining and educational tour, we want you to come away saying 'i never knew that before' We have this passion to try and tell the story of Dublin.
A Big thank you to Pat for his time in making this interview,
The full 22 minute interview can be found here on our Soundcloud page.
Pat is an author of many books on Dublin, here are my two favourites and are available here