Bill Lehane

In defence of Dublin’s Temple Bar

In recent weeks, the Irish media has been all a flutter about international condemnation of its capital’s cultural quarter as an irrredeemable drinking den full of boozy, sloshy stag pits with all the artistic nous of a wet empty crisp bag in a pub urinal.

More sensibly, the Irish netizenry – aka anyone with eyes, fingers and a keyboard – has reacted with jaded fatalism. ‘We could have told you that a decade ago’ would be a fair summation of the online response.

What Ireland needs is a serious dose of perspective. First of all, let’s not mobilise our national newspapers, tourism agencies and miscellaneous government bodies at the drop of what is after all, a fairly mediocre, probably poorly-paid blog entry over at The Huffington Post. And even at that the author – to his credit – does not do a hatchet job on Dublin but makes clear that you can go pretty much anywhere else in the city for a rich authentic experience, so it’s not exactly a case of US new media driving tourists away in droves.

I think Temple Bar is a fantastic place despite its flaws. Who cares if there are numerous sub-par bars in the area? (One could argue that if you discounted everything in Ireland that was sub-par there wouldn’t be much left, but that’s another matter entirely.) Just because there are a number of tourist traps does not mean the whole area must be written off.

For the detractors, a potted guide to some of the benefits of the neighbourhood:

  • The Irish Film Institute, home to decades of quality cinema-going
  • The Gallery of Photography, a free and fabulous little collection that on last visit had some wonderful black and white photos of Dublin
  • Fish and chips at Leo Burdocks
  • Cheap paperbacks at weekends at the book market on Temple Bar Square
  • Tasty international food at the Temple Bar food market
  • World-beating Guinness (yes, alcohol-related, but culturally justified) at The Palace Bar
  • Cool record shops for music, posters and other stuff
  • Great restaurants, including delicious Irish, Italian, American, Spanish and Thai among many others

It seems as if many people are caught between some purist ideal of what a ‘cultural quarter’ might equate to and the well-pubbed but nonetheless quite arty and cultural reality of the area, and this has been true for some time.

Let’s just embrace the duality of Temple Bar as a cultural space and a nightlife district.  Anyone who despairs at the area should realise it would take a long time to find horror stories on the internet about Temple Bar, because visitors and locals alike are having a good time and perhaps we should leave it at that.

 

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