I live in a very schizophrenic part of Dublin.
In the sense that it is northside inner city, meaning that it is a place of historic and cultural significance in Irish history, and also it is now the financial hub of the Irish banking industry.
It also means thats that in the year 2016, two very disparate worlds are living uneasily, side by side.
The area around Connolly Station used to be nicknamed ‘The Monto’ (after Montgomery Street). It was at one time the biggest red light district in Europe. Apparently at the end of the 19th century there were approximately 2000 prostitutes working in the area. This was due in large part to the close proximity of the Royal Barracks – now the National Museum or Collins Barracks. This was the 2nd largest British Army barrack in the Empire at the time. According to legend King Edward VII lost his virginity in the area, and never found it again.
The Monto was home to some of the vast tenement slums of Dublin and was a place of dire poverty and crime and misery for the longtime residents. The clientele of the ladies of the night came from all walks of life. It was a hotbed of IRA activity during the War of Independence which followed the 1916 Rising, whose centenary weekend is next month.
After independence in 1922, the Legion of Mary (God’s very own Irish catholic army) declared war on the Monto’s illicit economy, and within a few years it was no longer a red light district. Like all good catholic organisations the Legion of Mary took no further interest in the area after the war on immorality had been won, and the area sank into even worse poverty in the decades that followed.
My current abode is not quite in the Monto as it is slightly further out the river – about a ten minute walk away. In the 1960s some incredibly grim council estates were built along the river which in the 1980s, became notorious for heroin addiction and crime.
Then came the Celtic Tiger and successive governments decided that shiny new glass buildings to house banks, and multinationals, and multi-storey apartment complexes to home the bank workers were what the north inner city riverside needed. A financial centre like all good capitalist societies need.
The slum dwellers were removed, the council flats were sold to property developers who built shiny new buildings for the rich.So these days for a few blocks north of the riverside everything sparkles. Its smell of money, and sparkles with wealth.
However it is a fairly hollow facade; and the neglected, forgotten, abandoned inner city is still present, simply more hidden.
Talbot Street and Gardiner Street, and Sheriff Street, and Amiens Street are places that could badly use some cash and facilities- not for the banks – but for the people that live there. Talbot Street is a shopping street with plenty of 2euro shops and internet cafes and shabby buildings. It is also an open-air drug supermarket where trade in whatever drug takes your fancy takes place, in front of the police whose attitude is quite practical – if the drug trade is in 1 central area then it is easier to monitor.
There are 3 shop fronts on Talbot Street on my way to work, which clearly have some sort of arrangement with individual homeless people as the same people are asleep in the shop doorways as I go to work each day.
It is really disturbing to witness this
We’ve been bombarded by messages of the putative ‘recovery’ over the past few weeks.
Well maybe the recovery is being felt by the suited and booted, banker boys along the riverside. But a few streets up, the horrible sad reality of deep poverty and neglect and utter disregard for the most vulnerable people is evident everywhere.
I see it every day. Oh I know quite well that I am in a privileged position, and I’m happy to pay more tax to try to create opportunities for the 2016 residents of the old Monto.
Unfortunately I suspect that the only Monto whores that will be helped by next government will be the corporations in the big glass buildings along the river.
I hope I am wrong.