The power of the cobblestone demonstration is a harbinger of what is to come


Hundreds of people marched from Smithfield in Dublin to the steps of Dublin City Council office on the Liffey Quays on Saturday to protest the proposed erasure of the character from The Cobblestone pub, a cultural giant who even considering Because of its importance, value and status in Irish music, community and culture are not immune, or in any way protected, from the toxic cultural nihilism in which our capital is currently simmering. It is proposed that a hotel be built on it, demolishing its concert hall.

How many times do we have to shout about what’s going on in Dublin? The same words resonate in different places, the same themes on the same stages which are repeated over and over. Again and again. Ignorant neoliberalism and thick land speculation are metastasizing around the city, numbing buildings and streets and enveloping the place in homogeneity.

And then, all of a sudden, beauty. For a while on Saturday afternoon, the Gardaí, caught completely off guard that people would deign to even show up for something close to their hearts, were forced to close a section of the platforms to traffic, so crowded was the crowd. big. On the steps of the council building, an area of ​​Viking Dublin that was razed because half a millennium of life – perhaps the city’s first inhabited area – was less important than the administrative offices, a session was held . The musicians sat down and played. Other musicians held a banner, a brilliant caricature of a figure personifying capitalist greed being engulfed in the city itself.

Demonstrators march towards Dublin City Council offices to protest a proposal to build a 114-room hotel around the Cobblestone pub in Smithfield, Dublin. Photography: Dara Mac Donail

One of those musicians was John Francis Flynn, whose extraordinary album I Would Not Live Always brings you to a halt. He does this because although unique and totally in and with his own voice, the depths he probes are those of history, culture, cadence, notes mapped through the ages, documenting the territory. of who we are. Yet the deep well from which his record draws is being hijacked. It is first and foremost the artist’s habitat that is threatened. People should have listened then, because now that’s the whole place.

“Tipping point”

“It’s the tipping point, don’t you think? Remarked a protester, monitoring the scene and the fact that so many people could be mobilized in such a short time. People are now protesting the literal removal of texture and grain, spirit and meaning, culture and community. So yes, this is a tipping point. If the guts of a thousand people can show up on spec and shut down a street, can you imagine what the housing protests will look like when they unite?

“The Cobblestone is not just a pub. It is a center of music, it is a center of culture … an essential part of the city ‘

A woman explained how she and her community of traveling singers and musicians tried to find homes for their music in 15 venues in Dublin before The Cobblestone welcomed them. “The Cobblestone is not just a pub,” she said from the council steps. “It’s not just a place, it’s a music center, it’s a cultural center, it’s a community center, it’s an essential part of the city.” Everyone roars. Joe Higgins played the whistle. Ruth Coppinger walked through the crowd. People remember who shows up. A bunch of guys carried a “RIP Culture” smeared coffin. Someone held up a sign: No to culture vultures.

When the protest touched down on the docks from its assembly point in Smithfield Square, where uglier office development is underway – one on the site of Block T, the recession-era artists building – Casting new shadows on the streets, the numbers stunned traffic. The protesters themselves had to call Garda stations to ask for help. The road was closed and the warden, when they arrived, looked puzzled about them. One of them spent most of the time leaning against the council building, his arms crossed, seeming to enjoy the music. Ye Vagabonds was there, the Mary Wallopers too.

The gentrification of the company

Threatening a cultural institution is obviously completely ugly. Yet it is the culmination of how the city was conceived, and it is the consequence of a toxic and regressive ideology emanating from the decade in power of Fine Gael, where land speculation and destructive dependence and chaotic for profit crush everything in its path. That’s why housing is what it is, a crisis by design, and that’s why the gentrification of brainless businesses is out of control.

Musicians play on the steps of Dublin City Council offices to protest against the plans for a hotel next to the Cobblestone pub.  Photography: Dara Mac Donail

Musicians play on the steps of Dublin City Council offices to protest against the plans for a hotel next to the Cobblestone pub. Photography: Dara Mac Donail

Someone has to take over the city. If where we live matters, the government must step in now, ban the development of hotels, ban the development of luxury student blocks, protect cultural amenities and give people a right to housing. If it requires a constitutional change, well, do it. The only reason successive governments will not propose a referendum on the right to housing is because they know it will pass. So who do they serve? What interests are defended here?

Small moments matter. Saturday’s protest did not take over the city, but its power and significance cannot be ignored. There will be days in the next two years when the government dreams of foreclosure, a time when people would not be able to leave their homes – if they had any – to protest. It’s over for now. So get ready. Everything is going to change, and it will happen, as always, at street level, in the little moments now, and in the big ones to come.

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