Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Metro North and that infamous divide of north and south dublin

So, the Metro North isn't going ahead then. There are pros and cons to this turn around by the government, but you can't really say that this is unexpected. We're beyond broke. Building a tunnel from Stephen's Green to Swords wouldn't exactly be cheap.

Socialist Party TD Claire Daly thinks that it is a travesty that it is not going ahead. On Prime Time a couple of weeks ago she described this project as badly needed and achievable. 

I don't know about one of those two assertions. It would be nice to have it. But it doesn't seem like it'll be achievable 'cause, again, we're broke.

Swords has grown exponentially over the last while into a sprawling suburban behemoth. Many people commute to the city from the town. Daly described it and the surrounding area as having the fastest growing population in Europe. 

Hailing from Swords, I have spent an inordinate portion of my life since I was eighteen on a Dublin CIE Bus going to and from the city to Swords. In my slightly biased opinion, I think the Metro North would be great. All those hours, sitting on a bus, nearly two hours a day, five days a week at least. I could have sorted out Ireland's financial troubles in that time! Maybe.

Daly really comes into here own when she finds something to fight against, a point to oppose completely and utterly, a point of emotional resonance. On Prime Time, just before the end of the debate over the Metro North, in a master stroke, she framed the debate as one stemming from an age old rivalry that every Dubliner is well aware of. 

She brought up the Luas and the Dart and other improvements in rail travel and asked the question: Why has it all happened on the Southside of the Liffey? When Tom Manning said the project was unfeasible, Daly retorted by saying that he was from the Southside, and he would say that. Miriam O'Callaghan, smirking smugly at the direction the debate had taken, called a halt to the proceedings. The Northside Southside debate would have to take place at a later date.

Daly has a point. In general, the Southside is less dilapidated, safer, with better public transport. The houses are nicer and the public buildings well kept. There seems to be less litter and less scumbaggery. There are exceptions to the rule, but there does seem to be generally a more pleasant atmosphere than on the Northside. 

If you get a map, and look at where the Dart goes, it does service the Northside, but only the "nice" parts, such as Howth and Malahide. These towns share much with some of the nicer parts of the Southside. Being seaside towns, they are full of expensive houses and nice views. Bastions of the Southside on the Northside then. Is it really a coincidence that the Dart bypasses the likes of Ballymun and Finglas and Swords even in favour of these towns?

Is there a conspiracy against the Northside? Is the scrapping of the Metro North just another manifestation of this fact? Are we being kept down, trodden on by the Southside's expensive leather boot? 

Maybe Roddy Doyle sums up the situation on the Nothside best in his novel The Commitments. Manager Jimmy wants his band to play soul music. Soul music came from a marginalised group in America in the 50s and 60s, which he links back to the Irish experience, but  ultimately to the Northside experience.

"Do you not get it, lads? The Irish are the blacks of Europe. And Dubliners are the blacks of Ireland. And the Northside Dubliners are the blacks of Dublin. So say it once, say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud."

There might just be something to that!

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