The Spectacle of the Spire: re-inventing Dublin’s O’Connell Street
Corcoran, Mary (2005) The Spectacle of the Spire: re-inventing Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Sociologie et Societes, Special Issue on "Le Spectacle Des Villes", XXXVII (1). pp. 69-86.
One of the defining features of the city of Dublin in recent years has been its diffusion into the surrounding hinterland, creating major outlying suburban communities some of which now qualify as “edge cities.” One consequence of this diffusion is a re-orientation of the citizenry away from the downtown. It’s hard to imagine now but in the 1940s and 1950s, O’Connell Street was the vibrant core of the city of Dublin replete with entertainment, restaurant, hotel, and business facilities. If we try to think of an iconic image from that period it has to be that of young men and women, sensibly belted against the wind and rain, waiting expectantly for their dates under Clerys’ clock. From the 1960s, O’Connell Street and its surrounding environs began to go into decline, as the commercial heart of the city migrated across the river to Grafton Street and Stephen’s Green. While the city centre’s main thoroughfare retained its status as the civic centre point —it is still the main route for all protest marches in the city - lax planning laws saw it increasingly colonised by burger joints,games arcades and pound shops. The sad decline of O’Connell street, served to exacerbate the Northside/Southside distinction already deeply ingrained in the city’s psyche.
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