Imelda May: Dublin's culture is being 'stolen, robbed and plundered'

The singer says the balance between protecting culture and progress is being lost
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.31 5 Nov 2021

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Imelda May: Dublin's culture i...

Imelda May: Dublin's culture is being 'stolen, robbed and plundered'

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

16.31 5 Nov 2021

Share this article

Singer Imelda May says the cultural heart of Dublin needs to be protected, as it is being lost in the name of progress.

It comes as more than 400 protesters gathered in Smithfield last weekend over the planned development of hotels at the Cobblestone pub and at Merchant's Arch in Temple Bar.

While Trinity College has announced the closure of its Science Gallery, and Chapters Bookstore on Parnell Street is shutting up shop after nearly 40 years.


Imelda told Newstalk Breakfast progress needs to be balanced with protections.

"Absolutely, like everybody else walking around Dublin, wondering what's happening as you're watching hotel after hotel being built.

"It's really worrying that the culture is been forgotten about, or not been guarded as much as it should be".

She says a changing city is simply part of life, but that is not what's happening.

"You can always go by the people of a city; we know in Dublin we see it changing all the time.

"Change happens, and that's normal, but the people of the city know the heart of the city - and know it's been stolen and robbed and plundered.

"And that's what feels like is happening now; it's so many really important parts of our culture as a city - and as a country.

"So many people visit, for instance, the Cobblestone is one of those places.

"People aren't fighting for a pub to save the Cobblestone, they're fighting for a hub of Irish music and tradtional sessions."

'People need to be listened to'

She says the Smithfield pub has seen generations taught Irish music.

"It's been going for years down there in the Cobblestone, people learn down there, they sit and pass the knowledge on.

"So it's not the loss of a pub, it's the loss of a whole community that's down there."

And she says the public need to be listened to.

"As Seán Watmore says in his poem 'There'll be no heart left of the city, merely the echo of its beating'.

"And that feels like what's happening right now.

"If the people are taking to the streets and protesting, then they need to be listened to.

"The heart of the city is being ripped out and people can feel it happening, and so it needs to be protected.

"It needs somebody to be the guardian and keeper of it and have balance.

"When there's progress, there also needs to be balance - and the balance is being lost, and that's what people are fighting about".

"What will all the tourists be going to see if all the locals are gone?" she asks.

Imelda May: Dublin's culture is being 'stolen, robbed and plundered'

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While Tánaiste Leo Varadkar earlier told Newstalk planning permission for a hotel at the Cobblestone pub should be refused.

He said: "If I ever have visitors in town and they want to hear some trad music, I'd either take them to the Cobblestone or Dame Tavern. It's an authentic spot.

"Certainly my view in terms of what’s being proposed there… with the hotel essentially enveloping the Cobblestone… I think Dublin City Council should refuse that application.

"I don’t say that lightly, by the way - I'm a former tourism minister, and I don't have an ideological objection to tourists coming to the city.

"The question you have to ask yourself is in a world that's becoming increasingly homogenised… why do people come to Dublin? They come to see what's unique and distinctive."

Main image: Imelda May performs at The Cornbury Music Festival, England in July 2017. Picture Andy Trevaskis Alamy Stock Photo

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