Dublin City representations

The neoliberal, entrepreneurial creation of new urban imaginaries

IN THE NAME OF CAPITAL - Following entry to the European Economic Community in 1973, the Irish economy underwent major restructuring as a result of intensified competition from abroad. The state became increasingly and more overtly orientated towards opening up new outlets for capital investment and profitmaking, marking a movement towards laissez faire principles as market forces were given freer rein. The state also engendered a change in the very way in which the public sector operated, from one which had been highly bureaucratic to one whose operations became increasingly entrepreneurial and facilitative of the requirements of capital. Light-touch planning control and the entrepreneurialism exhibited by the authority facilitated the rapidity of the development process in the Custom House docks.

The idea that a culture of light regulation would encourage economic growth, create employment and boost government revenue was an ideology that became firmly embedded in government thinking. The loosening of financial regulations from the late 1980s permitted Irish institutions to borrow freely on global money markets and lend loosely with few controls to Irish clients. However, the Irish government’s faith in the neoliberal agenda of ‘light-touch’ regulation of financial institutions gradually led to a virtual absence of state interference. The lax regulation of the banking sector led to increasingly reckless lending policies, which were eventually to prove disastrous for the Irish economy, for Irish citizens and for the financial sector itself, as MacLaran and Kelly clearly show in their book Neoliberal Urban Policy and the Transformation of the City (Palgrave, 2014).

Nowhere has the transformation of Dublin’s inner city been so dramatic as in the docklands.

The opening up of the inner-basin area of the Grand Canal Dock for development was facilitated by the completion in 2001 of a new station at Barrow Street on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) rail line. In contrast, the opening in 2007 of the north-side Docklands station for a commuter line serving the western suburbs came too late to have much impact on the demand for office development there, as did the extension of the light rail (Luas) Red Line to the Point Village.

The docklands proved attractive, especially for occupiers with requirements for larger office space. Although the larger deals exceeding 3,000 sq m of space were dominated by legal and financial operations, the south docklands has become an increasingly favoured location for the Information Technology and Communications sector, particularly on Barrow Street. Here, Google initially (2004), took up 6,188 sq m in the Gasworks building, followed by a further 3,671 sq m at Grand Mill Plaza and 1,951 sq m at Grand Mill Quay (both in 2010)and the purchase in 2011 of Montevetro (19,843 sq m), one of the ten largest stand-alone office buildings in Dublin.

The key principles of neoliberalisation have involved the freeing up of capital controls facilitating the unfettered movement of capital across space, the application of market solutions to public goods and a re-articulated role for the state focused on guaranteeing the value of money while vesting private-sector actors with greater ‘freedom’ to innovate and act (read more on Kelly 2014 cited above).

Successive waves of entrepreneurial urban agendas have consolidated large-scale urban redevelopment projects, booming local housing markets and the gentrification of space as central pillars of urban policy. For many urban dwellers, these policies have intensified housing pressures and everyday experiences of displacement, affordability problems and coping mechanisms.

Major transformations occurred in Dublin city can play an important role in changing perceptions of urban space and create the conditions for new urban imaginaries to emerge. Former industrial and working class areas are presented as innovative, exciting, creative, and safe places to visit, live and consume in.

All these sort of representations are dominated by powerful discourses that employ urban forms, histories, myths, local culture and rituals as central narratives of regeneration/gentrification processes.

The challenge is to leave no one or no territory behind and for this we must seriously incorporate the "Right to the City" approach, which connects human rights and allows for better implementation of the Agenda 2030 Declaration/Sustainable Development goal dedicated to cities and human settlements,

a city for all, in terms of equal use and enjoyment of cities and human settlements, seeking to promote integration and ensure that all inhabitants, both of present and future generations, without discrimination of any kind, can create cities and human settlements that are just, safe, healthy, accessible, affordable, resilient and sustainable. The city of care.