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Deeply Divided Dublin

Dublin is a beautiful European capital city, but is there an ancient and bitter rivalry lurking below the surface waiting to erupt in a merciless slagging?

Those outside of Ireland can be forgiven for thinking that the deepest, bitterest divisions on this island have to do with the partition of the North.  When people around the world think of cultural clashes and stereotypes that persist generation after generation in Ireland, they tend to think of Nationalists and Loyalists in Northern Ireland.  And fair enough, that’s what gets all the attention.  But those of us here have a different perspective.

Courtesy of Flickr user William Murphy
Courtesy of Flickr user William Murphy

The border in the North is manmade.  In contrast, the River Liffey is a natural border marking the territory of two profoundly and irreconcilably different peoples with their own distinct history, culture and dialects.  Clearly, Mother Nature put it there for a reason.  It is worth noting that no one has even dared attempt a peace agreement between Dublin’s Northsiders and Southsiders.

But, a visitor might argue, there’s only one GAA team for County Dublin; everyone knows sports are a great unifying force, and they must all be rooting for the same team.  That line of thinking shows just how little those outside this island understand the situation.  Northsiders and Southsiders don’t even play the same sports!  Northsiders play GAA because they love their country and don’t like snobby foreign games.  Southsiders play rugby because they are worldly and sophisticated rather than pig ignorant.

Dubliners, North and South

 

Courtesy of flickr user William Murphy
Courtesy of flickr user William Murphy

A look at the two pedestrian shopping streets in Dublin is revealing.  On the north, we have Henry Street, which is famous for street sellers shouting the price of the fruit they sell as they have for generations.  You’ll find a huge range of shops here, including some that are pricey enough, but area is famous for discount shops.

Courtesy of flickr user William Murphy
Courtesy of flickr user William Murphy

Recently, Moore Street, which intersects Henry Street, has become known for its international shops and you can now find African and Asian food staples here.  Moore Street is also the spot famous for the 1916 surrender.  The Illac Shopping centre here is home to Dublin’s Central Library, which sometimes has good displays about moments in Irish history.

Courtesy of flickr user Tobias Abel
Courtesy of flickr user Tobias Abel

Across the Liffey, we have Grafton Street offering a different sort of charm.  The shops are more upscale.  This is the best spot in Dublin to find buskers of all sorts – musicians playing any and everything, human statues, magic and dance acts.  At the end of the street is St. Stephen’s Green, a beautiful park with a duck pond, playground, sensory garden and delightful flowers.  The green played an important role in the 1916 Uprising, as did the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland’s building across the street.

Courtesy of flickr user Sebastian Dooris
Courtesy of flickr user Sebastian Dooris

To sum up, on the north side you have a down to earth mix of people jostling together, okay pushing and shoving a bit, with great bargains and an occasion sighting of a pony pulling a cart, while on the south side you have air kisses and music, and alright, some hard to resist shops and a higher chance of spotting Ireland’s next great band before they get their big break.

The slagging and jokes reflect the stereotypes.  How does a Southsider get a job? She asks daddy for one.  What do you call a Northsider in a suit? The defendant.  How does a Southsider get a day off work?  She asks daddy for one. What do you call four Northsiders in a limo?  U2.

Courtesy of flickr user Peter Mooney
Courtesy of flickr user Peter Mooney

 

But there is one thing that both Northsiders and Southsiders enjoy, and that’s a good joke about the tractor driving culchies out in the countryside beyond the M50.

 

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