Housing & Ideology

A symposium examining the cultural impact on an obedient city


The initial public event took place in February 2020, just before the world changed beyond recognition.

The programme for that event can be accessed here. Since then, with regard to housing very little has changed; brief flirtations with models of caring, cocooning and housing the most vulnerable in our society for public health purposes - showing other ways are possible - were swiftly disregarded and sidelined in the face of frenzied lobbying from the property sector and its allies in the media.

Instead, the city and the state have sought to implement unwanted co-housing models in the face of a socially distanced, global pandemic; this city, our capital city, has become unliveable for current and future generations. The public anger expressed in February’s election results has been swiftly disregarded, as the profit engine tramples all democratic, social and humanitarian imperatives once more.

The impetus to stage this event in Dublin City Hall followed an incident involving DCC and Waterways Ireland and their failed attempt to clear a tent along the canal. The tent: now an apparatus of blight, the thing that offends sensibilities, the used syringe for 2020. In its haste to eliminate this evidence of its failure, DCC employed a JCB to uproot the tent. No-one thought to check inside first, and inside was a man.

A poor, now broken, man.

The original introduction featured a sincere thank-you to Dublin City Council and its executive staff for their co-operation on the day, their support of the event and for providing funding towards sandwiches. This was, we dared to hope, evidence of the willingness to address shortcomings and participate in a new type of discourse.

This hope was sadly short-lived, as the subsequent correspondence below will illustrate. Instead, DCC sought to control the narrative, to portray itself as the victim of its own fatal shortcomings. Below you will find a transcript of the input from senior DCC staff on the day - you will also see the correspondence regarding their demand that we omit them from this webpage.

Please find here a collection of other expertise, experiences and creative steps towards how our cities can and should function. We hope they are instructive and a resource of significance to you. It is our wish to continue to add to this growing discourse, a discourse deemed oppositional, curious and outsider in both a wider media and state mandated manner. A discourse we hope will prove not to be evergreen, but will fade into naive insignificance, something to be looked back at fondly in the future as creating space for those myriad voices to get us all where we want to be and how we want to feel: included.

We remember the victims of the rampant state violence which constitutes housing policy in Dublin. The cold and the dead, those dying on our streets and Rachel Peavoy, who needlessly froze to death in her unheated flat and was slandered by those who killed her. Those now dead who walked by dormant and vacant buildings, shuttered up shops, and the blazing monuments to greed that line the docks of Dublin. Those now dead who would have passed WeWork buildings, proposed Fibonacci Squares and other sites of speculation and brass plate companies: tax frauds masquerading as tech utopias. Those murdered by the state and by transnational capital here in Dublin, city of the future, where the worst people on earth find their utopia and where citizens are the problem.

- - -

'The Obedience of the Citizens Produces a Happy City' - Dr Niamh Puirséil

Dr Niamh Puirséil is an independent historian who has written widely on Irish political and social history. A former editor of the labour history journal Saothar, her publications include a history of the Irish Labour Party and most recently, Kindling the Flame, 150 years of the Irish National Teachers Organisation. She lives in Dublin

- - -

'Fresh Paint on the Walls'- Avril Corroon

Fresh Paint on the Walls is a satirical take on the private rental market, gentrification, and the increasing difficulty of living in the neoliberal city. The voice-over narration theorises on the motives behind the capitalist and patriarchal landlord’s widespread use of magnolia-coloured paint in rental accommodation. By reviewing the current rental market through the landlord’s absurd habits, Fresh Paint on the Walls evinces the reality of the situation where housing is seen as a commodity rather than a social need.

- - -

'Dublin: Unevenness and the Entrepreneurial City' - Dr. Philip Lawton

Philip Lawton is an Assistant Professor in Geography at Trinity College Dublin. His research is interested in the intersections between the political economy of place, social space, and everyday experiences of cities. Recently, he has published work on gentrification, suburbanization, and the role of image-making in the transformation of contemporary cities. Ultimately, the research is driven by a desire to create more inclusive and socially sustainable cities.

- - -

‘Housing as a Human Right’ - Aisling Bruen in conversation with Take Back The City

Aisling Bruen is a Community Development Worker at ICON. She is also involved with the Dublin Central Housing Action Group and National Homeless & Housing Coalition. In conjunction with the group Empowering People in Care (EPIC), Bruen is organising a housing support group for care leavers. She hopes the group will provide a platform for young people to advocate for their housing needs.

Take Back the City Dublin is a network of 18 grassroots groups working together to take direct action against those who perpetuate the housing crisis.

- - -

'Distance From Stone'- Michelle Doyle

Distance From Stone is a visitor centre video about the history of heritage, stone and the city. Dublin in 2018 is a living museum and one whose obedient citizens have little control over. Taking pebbledash as a symbolic worship of stone and aspiration entirely unique to Ireland, the film negotiates in what way the city has made citizens obedient. Privatisation of resources and of history further distances the people who should be able to access them. Is the city an incinerator, which routinely burns heritage and turns it into a combustible gas?

- - -

‘Ballymun Regeneration and Class War' - Leona Cully

Leona Cully is a writer based in Dublin. Stories in Stinging Fly Anthology (2018) and The Stinging Fly magazine; New Planet Cabaret Anthology (New Island Books); Wild Word Magazine (Berlin); Penduline Press (U.S), Carve Magazine (U.S); short-listed for Fish Short Story Prize, 2013. Collaborated on Edges & Margins I and II exhibitions which combined story, film, visual art and music to explore issues around urban space.

- - -

'Presenting the Cultural Quarter'- Kerry Guinan

A response to the private development of the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter in Dublin by Dublin City Council and luxury real estate firm Kennedy Wilson.

- - -

'Who Designs the City for Whom?'- Ali Grehan & Dáithí Downey w/ Emmet Kirwan

"Regretfully, I must confirm that we cannot and do not agree to the use by you, Dublin Digital Radio (DDR) or any third party, of the recording you issued us and supplied from the DDR recording of your Housing and Ideology event in Dublin City Hall on 24th February 2020, for any purpose nor for all forms of online dissemination, archiving or storage, broadcast in whole or part, editing or publication in any form including print and digital media."
                                               - Dáithí Downey

Please find full transcript of the discussion here.

- - -

'Not By Bricks Alone'- Archie Cantwell

The story of the Fuzzy Belts, a public movement that swept its way to an entirely more hopeful future.

- - -

‘Support Apollo House: Framing Vacancy from the Grassroots’- Tommy Gavin

Tommy Gavin is an urban geographer based in the School of Geography in Trinity College Dublin, where he is a PhD candidate. As a member of the Irish Housing Network, Tommy was a spokesperson for the Home Sweet Home campaign during the occupation of Apollo House in 2016/2017.

- - -

'The 4th Act'- Bread &Circus

The 4th Act tells the story of the €1bn regeneration of Ballymun, a high-rise working-class community on the northside of Dublin, through the eyes of the community itself. Drawing on hundreds of hours of local and personal archive collated by Ballymun groups over the past four decades, the film explores themes of loss, community, hope and defiance as the residents of Ballymun watch their familiar landscape and way of living disappear.

- - -