The new Ireland and its booming metropolis-Europe's capital for six monthsby John O'Farrell / August 20, 1996 / Leave a comment
The weekend that turned June into July was a busy one in Dublin. Tina Turner bawled her lungs out, gay activists paraded through O’Connell Street, football fans having supported Germany against England switched allegiance to the Czechs for the final, drummers drummed Ireland into the EU presidency, President Robinson f?ted President Havel at Dublin Castle, and assassinated crime journalist Veronica Guerin was buried.
“I want to be a president who will speak less and work more. To be a president who will not only look out of the windows of his airplane but who will always be present among his fellow citizens and listen to them well,” wrote Havel in January 1990. When he flew into Dublin airport, he would have seen, looking out of the window, the neat, tree-lined residential suburbs hugging the coast from Killiney to Howth; then the ranks of the northside’s private and public housing estates; then the seven towers of Ballymon, each named after an executed signatory to the 1916 proclamation of the Irish republic; finally, before the airport runway, the little airport church, from where Veronica Guerin’s body would be removed on the following, Saturday, morning.
To visit Dublin these days is to visit a booming metropolis, with rising house prices, an assertive cultural life with confident and well-educated young consumers and citizens. The boosters are working overtime to position the republic as a truly free state; liberal in outlook, easy on the eye and good for business. Mary Robinson is genuflected to as a statesman worthy of any European democracy and is being touted as the next secretary general of the UN. She is revered by English republicans as a template for a replacement for the Windsor dynasty, balancing the dignity of her office with being among her fellow citizens, listening to them well.
Temple Bar, Dublin’s “cultural quarter,” has been transformed from rotting warehouses to a chi-chi left bank wonderland of art, apartments and cool commerce. Multinational corporations are queueing up to open shop. Almost everyone encountered exudes that ring of confidence that dare not be contradicted, the belief that the rising tide, 30 years after Sean Lemass promised, is finally lifting all boats.
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eighty years is a long time. Germany was divided for 40 years and is still struggling to reconcile the different perceptions of life, even language, which evolved in the two states. Partition in Ireland…