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While it's by far the largest city in Ireland, Dublin's not huge.  It's about the same size as Adelaide. Yet Dublin punches well above Adelaide in many ways.  It's the Republic's administrative, financial, intellectual and IT centre and has doubled in population since the 1960's in part due to immigration attracted by these industries. Non-Irish born now make up around 20% of the City's population. 

At the beginning of the 21st century Dublin experienced a technology led boom and then boasted the second highest average salaries in the world, with prices to match.  Unemployment fell from 20% in the late 1980’s to 4% in 2007  The economy reached a peak during the period between 1997-2007; and was ranked with the 'Asian Tiger' economies as the: 'Celtic Tiger'  Ireland moved from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to one of the richest in only a matter of years. Membership of the EU provided markets and low taxes attracted investors. Free higher education to EU citizens and full employment attracted immigrants.

Since then job creation has fallen back and people talk of a recession. Yet this is not obvious in the streets or the suburbs, where there are many large, well-kept houses comparable to London's 'stockbroker belt'. The infamous slums, it appears, are gone.

We traversed a good deal of the inner city on foot, our path almost always taking us across the iconic Ha'penny Bridge over the river Liffey and through the now trendy streets of Temple Bar. The bridge gains its name from the toll pedestrians were once charged to take this shortcut. 


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Ha'penny Bridge over the river Liffey and the now trendy streets of Temple Bar
Counting cranes can be used as an indicator of current economic development - if so Dublin seems to be in good shape


Thanks to the combined schools songbook, when at Thornleigh Primary School in the 1950's, and regular radio broadcasts of the Fort Street School Choir to sing along with, linked to the PA, I was aware of Dublin, and perhaps because of teacher commentary, the Irish potato famine, from a young age.

All together now:

In Dublin's fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through the streets broad and narrow
Crying "cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh"
She died of a fever
And sure, so one could save her
And that was the end of sweet Molly Malone
Now her ghost wheels her barrow
Through the streets broad and narrow
Crying "cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh"


Shades of Waltzing Matilda: "...and his ghost can be heard as you pass by that billabong".


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The ghost of Molly Malone remains - captured in bronze in Dublin's fair city. Some here seem to take this literally
Like the jinn trapped within Aladdin's lamp, they attempt to release Molly's ghost by dint of frotteurism

†From the French: frotteur - a floor-polisher - a
fetish involving sexualised rubbing first identified by the German psychiatrist Krafft-Ebing.


As mentioned above Dublin is an ancient city founded by Vikings, then Christians and Normans. Yet it's long been a place of higher learning and culture.

Dublin has boasted a University among the most prestigious in the English (previously Latin) speaking world. Since it was established by Elizabeth I in 1592, as The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin Dublin's University has had equivalent academic and legal status to the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.

Today it's known more simply as Trinity College, the alma mater of many famous and successful people, including several Nobel Laureates. 


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Trinity College - Dublin
Protected no doubt by the single unarmed man who was unwilling to remove himself from the photo


Among the one time students were: Samuel Beckett; Edmund Burke; William Congreve; Oliver Goldsmith; Jonathan Swift; and Oscar Wilde. So it's one of the principal places of interest in the City.  Many other famous Dubliners did not attend because, although the University has not prohibited Catholics since the mid-18th century, until 1970 the Catholic Church in Ireland forbade its adherents from attending this hotbed of sceptical and heretical thought.  Not that this prevented Dubliners who did not attend like: G Bernard Shaw and James Joyce from expressing even more heretical opinions, doubting the existence of a deity altogether. 

No doubt hundreds of years of scarifying religious disputes, accompanied by regular outbreaks of violence, had a bearing on this very Irish brand of scepticism.

We wandered around the surprisingly open and leafy campus sorry not to be admitted to one of the most famous libraries in the world, having resisted the temptation to join the queue to see The Book of Kells that is on display here. For those of you who don't know what we missed The Book of Kells is a medieval translation of the four Christian Gospels into Latin.  It's on several hundred folios consisting of heavily illustrated velum (calf skin) and is now bound into four volumes. It's the vast, life's work of English and Irish monks from around 800 Anno Domini (in the year of Our Lord).  For all Christians it's equivalent to the Dead Sea Scrolls and for Protestants reflects the 'primitive purity' of the Christian religion, before it was corrupted by Rome. So it's very precious to all Christians.

In addition to Trinity College Dublin is the home of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) established 1941 by Erwin Schrödinger winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics (1933) and one of the fathers of Quantum Mechanics. He is best known in popular culture for his 'Schrödinger's cat thought experiment'. He was invited to Ireland by the Irish PM, Éamon de Valera, having outlived his welcome in several other Universities for being an outspoken atheist and for his scandalous private life: a ménage à trois. Éamon de Valera spent some time in Kilmainham Gaol (below) and his cell is identified there, among those of other notable people in the struggle for independence. The invitation is interesting as de Valera was a conservative, opposed to divorce and contraception and, while supporting religious freedom, favouring Roman Catholicism. 

Other points of interest are Dublin Castle which provides historical context to the Norman Invasion and Protestant Ascendancy (see the history above...) and has foundations incorporating parts of the original city wall and moat.


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Dublin Castle


Also within easy walking distance is Christ Church Cathedral, that has been the seat of the principal Church of Ireland Bishopric (Protestant) since the reformation and thus is claimed by Rome, while the acting seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, St Mary's, is known as a 'pro-cathedral'.  There's an interesting museum adjacent to this ancient building again tracing the city's origins and convoluted and sometimes bloody religious turmoil.


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Christ Church Cathedral
As in traditional churches of all denominations in, now quite secular, Ireland - more gawkers than prayers


Having now 'done' the Cathedral I needed some spiritual uplift of a more secular kind I sought out the National Galley of Ireland where I discovered some very interesting works while Wendy explored the shopping area - not my cup of tea.


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At the National Galley of Ireland - there is an interesting resonance with contemporary Australian artists


One excursion to the suburbs was to the Avis depot where we would collect our car for the remainder of the trip. This was conveniently close to Kilmainham Gaol and we also had the option of the Guinness Storehouse in our remaining hours in Dublin.  We opted for the Gaol, as I'm quite familiar with Guinness having sampled it, for comparison, in some dozen countries and many times on this trip, while Wendy abhors it.



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Kilmainham Gaol - the cell half way up the spiral stairs is that once occupied by Éamon de Valera (see above)


Kilmainham Gaol operated from 1796 to 1924 and is now a museum memorialising martyrs executed in the struggle for independence from Britain (see the history above...).  But it is also where the more fortunate Irish Convicts were held awaiting transportation to Australia, where good behaviour and reformed character earned many land and independence and sometimes wealth.  Some, like Mrs Kelly, would raise their Australian born son to: hate authority; despise the law; and be hanged (see the history above...).

As we left Dublin we drove through a few more suburbs and again were impressed by the apparently high living standards of the residents and, unlike many other places we've been, there is no apparent decline in wealth once in the rural hinterland.  We surmised that the rural economy remains strong here.




# Michael 2020-08-28 06:06
This article is brilliant. I've learnt a lot from reading about these travels
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