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Recap: Inside Ireland's Financial Crisis
Recap: Inside Ireland's Financial Crisis
by Kevin Cardiff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.15

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Living for your country, 20 Feb. 2016
I have to admit that I have not yet read this book. But I have worked with Kevin over the years and have followed his extensive and honest testimony to the Banking Inquiry. I have also listened to his recent hour long radio interview with Ray D'Arcy on the book.

He made the point in that interview that it is rare for a civil servant to be able to write such an open account of such traumatic events but that the Banking Inquiry, where testimony was public and privileged and where written statements submitted were subsequently published, meant that much of what he had to say was already in the public arena. There was a formal aspect to all this testimony and submissions but the book has enabled him to give a much more personal, and at times informal, account of what went on.

One of the most significant aspects of his approach is his stress on the positive response of many in the public service and even in the banking sector once the crisis struck.

It is easy to snipe from the sidelines but hard to gainsay this testimony from an insider.

When I have read the book I will return here and modify/expand this review. But on the basis set out above, I expect it to be a riveting read.


Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense
Unapologetic: Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense
by Francis Spufford
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Holy Travelogue, 9 Jun. 2015
I read this book on the personal recommendation of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, Richard Clarke. He was aware that I am an unbeliever but figured I might get something out of it. He felt obliged to warn me that it did contain some fairly adult language.

Then I discovered that my favourite novelist, Vanora Bennett, was also reading it. So we agreed to swop notes.

I had never heard of Francis Spufford up to that point, so I approached the book with a (fairly) open mind.

Spufford's background is that he traveled the road from belief through unbelief and back and he is asking you here to accompany him on the return journey, but in the terms set out in the title of the book. This is to be an emotional and not a theological journey as such.

When engaging in any religious discussion I usually put my cards on the table at the beginning and say I am an unbeliever. I know that's a negative way of putting it, but I am beyond agnosticism and have not reached a stage of militant atheism, so I adopt as the nearest thing to a neutral term.

The response, particularly from devout believers, frequently irritates me: “So you've lost your faith?”. I am obliged to reply that NO, the faith lost me and I have no intention of putting in any particular effort to find it.

There are others, with a more nuanced understanding of things spiritual, like the Archbishop, who take me at my word and I take his recommendation, to read Spufford, in good faith so to speak. He thought I would find it an interesting book, which indeed I did.

I see it in the tradition of John Robinson's “Honest to God” which was a formative influence in its day. Or in the tradition of Seán Fagan's writings which make human sense with or without the God bits.

Anyway, my reactions to the book.

It gets off to a very encouraging start by listing virtually all the objections to belief and the church that currently do the rounds. Indeed it puts them much better than I could myself and manages to be quite entertaining along the way.

One of the things it does very well is to divest the narrative of a lot of spurious verbal baggage which can get in the way of a fresh approach to the material. Instead we have the enduring concept of HPtFtU - the human propensity to f**k things up. Sort of a synonym for Sin, one of those words we have to dispense with because it is so loaded.

At one stage he takes you on a sort of disembodied trip to open up your mind. You slowly filter out the surrounding images and sounds and this is how he describes the silence which is left when all the rest is filtered out: “It crackles like the empty grooves at the end of a vinyl record, when the song is over and all that's left to hear is the null track of the medium itself.” (Very evocative for the likes of myself who is from the vinyl era. Might not mean much to today's youngsters who are used to digital media where silence is stunningly silent.)

You can then enter a state of heightened awareness where you feels a personal presence in nature. He puts this down to our tendency to see things in the patterns around us and to personalise them. (I was reminded of my youth, the family kneeling around the coal fire, and each of us seeing our own fantasied images in the depth of the flames).

Suffering, of course, is the great problem for believers. If you don't believe in a God then suffering is random and is nobody's fault. But belief puts God present in some terrible places, for example the torture chamber, even if he is only maintaining the flow of electrons.

In the context of Original Sin he reminds us that in the conventional presentation Adam & Eve are presented as the circuit breaker which introduced suffering into the divine creation. But if that creation is evolutionary then suffering is a necessary and normal part of that evolution. Despite cutting through the sh*t, so to speak, he is left with the idea that suffering is nevertheless a mystery.

His take on the traders in the temple is an interesting one. I hadn't been aware that they were selling religious favours. My Roman Catholic school version was that it was a case of conventional raw commerce and thus an inappropriate activity for such a divine location. I suppose the raw commerce version should have been expected from a church which is busily trading in masses and indulgences to this very day.

His chapter on Jesus tells the story in summary and in every day language. It is very clear, understandable and highly entertaining. It has also a lot of great material for sermons (if there are any padres reading this, please note).

He gives a lot of prominence to the incarnation – the idea of the creator becoming a creature in his own creation. A sort of holy Moebius Knot in the fabric. This really sets the cat among the pigeons and shocks the mental processes into a state where they may be more receptive to some of the more unbelievable stuff to follow.

Grace, he holds, is forgiveness we can't earn. But then he goes on to ignore the necessity for true remorse and a firm purpose of amendment as conditions necessary for receiving that forgiveness. He would not be unusual in this. Other denominations often comment on, and sometimes one feels that they secretly envy, the Roman Catholic confessional where self-important divine mediators sprinkle forgiveness around like confetti at a wedding, ignoring the conditionality that might make it a tad less popular and thereby indirectly diminish that church's income stream.

He comments, in passing, on the holy ecstasies of some of the saints, comparing them to experiences produced by illnesses which in modern times might be labelled anorexia, self-mutilation etc. A deep insight indeed.

He skirts around the “Real Presence”, in what I would call Protestant mode, and doesn't hit the Roman Catholic specifics, so I can't really have a go at him on that one.

There is a lot of smoke and mirrors along the way during which some sort of God gets stitched into the narrative, and he begins to lose the run of himself towards the end of the book where the writing veers in the direction of a devotional tract. God has been found, so let's just put the foot on the accelerator and drive off into the sunset.

Anyway, I found this to be a very entertaining book, very well written and quite provocative. It is full of resonances for me of my former beliefs, but expressed here in more down to earth, intelligible and colourful terms. The street language, about which the Archbishop was so careful to warn me, is in no way gratuitous and helps to set the journey in the real world.

This book is unlikely to change your beliefs but it is an experience in itself and I recommend reading it regardless of where you are coming from. Do not fear. You are unlikely to be kidnapped along the way and will most likely arrive home safely.

[The asterisks are not my idea, but are necessary for the review to pass editorial scrutiny on this site.]


Sworn to Silence
Sworn to Silence
by Brendan Boland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Standing Back, 5 April 2015
This review is from: Sworn to Silence (Paperback)
The first book I ever read written by someone who had been sexually abused by a priest was Colm O'Gorman's "Beyond Belief". I had always intended to do a review of it on this site but the experience of reading it was so intense that I see I never really got round to it. All I'll say in the context of this review is do read it. It is amazing, disturbing and an enormous tribute to Colm O'Gorman for coming through what he did and actually making a life for himself.

Brendan Boland's book tells of similar abuse by a priest, the notorious Brendan Smyth. It is a tribute to Brendan Boland's ultimate resilience that he also appears to have come out the other end as a functioning human being.

It is impossible to exaggerate what happened to these two children. That they survived the experience, and its follow up, is no accident. It is a tribute to their inner strength and to those who supported them.

"Sworn to Secrecy" should really be the final nail in the coffin of the Roman Catholic Church, depriving it of any moral authority what so ever. It highlights, yet again, that the church's first priority is its own survival in all and any circumstances. It illustrates the ultimate abuse of power by an institution that claimed authority over not only the physical lives of others, but their mental and spiritual well being.

In a very pithy image in his summing up, Brendan Boland, says:

“My faith has gone. Entirely. That is my faith in the Catholic institution. I still have a deep sense of God and even prayer, but I have no belief in the structures of the Catholic Church that I was brought up with. Martina [his wife] feels the same. This is no indictment of individual priests, or nuns, or any religious, but I have come to believe that God isn't a manager; he's not the boss man presiding over an earthly organisation of clerical bureaucrats.”

And that, in effect, is what the Roman Catholic Church has become. Or maybe it was always like that but we just didn't notice or have the ability to stand back and see it for what was. The revelations of abuse have changed all that and prompted and empowered people to do a root and branch review of this pillar of their youth.

I have not read the various reports on clerical abuse which have been published over the last number of years. The scale of what was going on is just too hard to absorb. But books like this one bring the problem down to a size that one can relate to, while at the same time revealing the vast scale of the problem and the devastation it wreaked on so many lives.

Despite the harrowing story in this book, there are also some good guys in there, so don't despair.

The style of writing is simple and direct. Some of the time it seems almost matter of fact but the horror and anger creeps up on you and by the time you get to the end you are in no doubt where you stand.


Women of the Irish Revolution 1913-1923: A Photographic History
Women of the Irish Revolution 1913-1923: A Photographic History
by Liz Gillis
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lost dimension, 15 Feb. 2015
A really excellent book and a powerful testimony to the legions of women who took part in the struggle, most of whom have either been forgotten or never recognised.

The profusion of photos, many never seen publicly before, really brings the story to light and underpins the personal nature of the commentary and the many sacrifices made in the cause.

The wide choice of women from all walks of life and all parts of the country brings a freshness to the commentary.

Something which struck me, and for which I will no doubt be pilloried by some sections, is that we are used to seeing pictures of some of the more well known women in their older age. Family photos of younger and attractive women make the narrative all the more powerful and tragic.

A great contribution by Liz Gillis to the literature on this period of our history.


Conduct Unbecoming: A Memoir
Conduct Unbecoming: A Memoir
by Desmond O'Malley
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.62

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doing the State some service., 13 Feb. 2015
Dessie O'Malley came from good Fianna Fáil stock and he eventually became a Government minister at a crucial time in the nation's history. That was in 1970 when the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Jack Lynch, sacked two of his ministers (Finance & Agriculture) for illegal gun running and a third (Justice) for being drunk in charge and not informing him of what had been going on.

Dessie stepped into the justice portfolio, the first of many. He remained a member of parliament (TD) until 2002 when he retired from active politics. His political career was a turbulent one, particularly after Charlie Haughey, the sacked finance minister referred to above, became Taoiseach and Dessie opted to serve in his cabinet, to keep an eye on him, so to speak.

He was eventually thrown out of Fianna Fáil by Haughey and he set up a new party, the Progressive Democrats, with a manifesto of reform throughout the political system and a firm purpose of being parliament's conscience, and that of the Government when the party finally entered coalition with Fianna Fáil.

So Dessie has been there and his take on events is always very worthwhile. So what about this book?

One of my main reasons for reading the book was to see how Dessie dealt with his time on the Board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London (2003-2006).

I had been the first Irish board member (1991-2) and was desk officer in the Irish administration for a number of those who followed me on to the board.

I have to say I was disappointed with this section of the book. I had hoped for some analysis of how the bank was getting on and how Irish membership was contributing to this. The section was very short, some two pages, and it skimmed the surface. I learned that Dessie had not been much bothered by the then occupant of my desk in Dublin and so he was able to do his own thing. He mentions one project which he opposed as he saw it simply as a very wealthy Russian oligarch trying to get the Bank's good name on his CV. He mentions another project which involved a huge investment but doesn't give us his views on it. Overall, he gives the impression that the Bank is not a lot of use as the countries concerned did not live up to the high minded ideals which the Bank was designed to support. I would certainly like to have seen a much more expanded and reasoned view.

In general, the book itself has got mixed reviews.

It has been described as “hard hitting” and “pulling no punches” and it certainly is that. Dessie's predecessor as Minister for Justice, Mickey Moran, is not spared. His fondness for alcohol meant that he either wasn't with it, or didn't have the courage to keep his Taoiseach informed of an unfolding gun running plot by some of his fellow ministers. That same fondness of the Bishop of Limerick, Jeremiah Newman, who slagged Dessie all over the place, is not swept under the carpet either. And the toxicity of Charlie Haughey, disgraced gun runner, former minister (Justice, Agriculture, Finance) and then party leader and Taoiseach, rises out of the pages. And this despite Dessie giving him his due for his good qualities. He is critical of Charlie McCreevy, who came to oppose Haughey and was later Finance Minister under Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. I think he sees McCreevy as a bit of a messer. Certainly the appalling decision to decentralise an enormous hunk of the Civil Service all at once was McCreevy's responsibility even if it was not entirely his idea in the first place. That particular decision is not referred to in the book but it does bear out some of Dessie's remarks..

The book has equally been described as a missed opportunity to shed more light on Irish political history in which Dessie played a fairly central role and it has been criticised for being weak on some of the facts. I don't remember the controversies in sufficient detail to pick out the weak bits, but Dessie is certainly wrong, for example, in describing himself as a Director on the EBRD board. He was an Alternate Director and board member. The Danes held the Directorship during his period at the Bank.

I was very interested in his material on the Beef Tribunal which reported on some very serious scandals in the beef industry and the relationship between the Government and the country's main beef producer. It was in the course of this tribunal's hearings that Albert Reynolds, formerly industry minister in charge of export credits but then Taoiseach, accused Dessie of perjuring himself in his evidence to the tribunal. Dessie puts up a robust defence in the book and Albert does not come well out of it. In a more general context, Dessie says that Albert was not fit to be Taoiseach and also casts doubts on his suitability as a minister. He has nothing but contempt for some of the crop Haughey brought into Government with him in his comback from disgrace. He mentions Pee Flynn, who is a creep, and Ray Burke, who is another, and Bertie Ahern, who turned out to be yet another.

The Beef Tribunal did unearth, or report on, a lot of skullduggery but it was slow to apportion blame. Albert Reynolds claimed it exonerated him and (coincidentally?) made its chairman Chief Justice within weeks of the report being published.

Dessie is also very critical of Pat Cox, who, when he didn't succeed Dessie as leader of the Progressive Democrats party (PD), took off for Europe, where, Dessie admits, he made a fine career for himself. As Dessie observes, Pat made the right choice in terms of his own ambitions but he did leave the new leader, Mary Harney, in some difficulties. Also leaving the PDs at that time was Martin Cullen, who in “an act of blatant opportunism left the party to join Fianna Fáil to advance his own career”.

I won't spoil the rest of it for you, in case you choose to read it. To be fair, if you are interested in Irish politics from the end of the 1960s to the present day, you may well enjoy this book. Most of the facts you will know already. The book will add Dessie's perspective.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 15, 2015 8:09 AM GMT


An Education: How an outsider became an insider - and learned what really goes on in Irish government
An Education: How an outsider became an insider - and learned what really goes on in Irish government
by John Walshe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars The Mighty Quinn, 31 Dec. 2014
I have to admit that the reason I read this book was not out of interest in the education sector, nor in the workings of government, nor in John Walshe's transition from poacher to gamekeeper.

I read it to see how Ruairi Quinn dealt with his brief and to see were there any mentions of Brigid McManus.

To start with Brigid: she was Secretary General of the Department of Education during the first part of Walshe's period there and he describes her as "one of the brightest people he ever met". I worked with Brigid in the Department of Finance and am not in the least surprised at where she ended up. Walshe notes at one point that they couldn't find anyone in the Department to read an EU document in French which they had got their hands on. That puzzled me as Brigid is an Énarque with fluent (including administrative) French. It was only when I looked at the dates that it made sense. Brigid had retired the previous month. I am surprised, though, that there was apparently nobody in the Department of Foreign Affairs who could read it either. I remember a time when you needed French to read some of the stuff the EU Commission was producing in English. That was when we first joined the EEC (EU) and there were not many native English speakers in the translation service, so what we got were transliterations from the French.

Then there was Ruairi: he was my minister when I was in the Department of Finance and he seems to come well out of his brief in Education though he was not there long enough to see most of his initiatives through. I found him very approachable and practical in Finance and he comes likewise out of this account. It was a bit ironic that he ended up revamping FÁS, after all its travails, into SOLAS, having been involved all those years ago as Minister for Labour in setting up FÁS in the first place. And the naming of SOLAS and its bullying acquisition of the domain name from TCD makes interesting reading. I note the reference to FÁS as the government's swiss army knife, a description I always thought so apt, but one which also explained its demise. It was pressed into service by government for a wide variety of tasks as it had both a local presence thoughout the country and a significant degree of discretion in its operations. It eventually got too diffuse and was responding to too wide a range of conflicting political signals. Let's hope that the time doesn't come when SOLAS too will need a fada over its "A" (and its "O").

There are some interesting little bits of drama in the book, such as when the Roman Catholic Church apologised to the Taoiseach when he attacked some bishops at a meeting over the remarks of Fr. Brian McKevitt, the obdurate pre-conciliar editor of the redtop ALIVE, who compared the Taoiseach to King Herod and queried where he would spend eternity. I'd have given anything to have been a fly on the wall at that encounter.

The issue of Roman Catholic patronage of primary schools and their divesting in favour of the state was on the agenda during this period. The vast majority of the state's primary schools were under the patronage of, and owned by, the church and this had been jealously guarded by them over the years. The state paid teachers' salaries and gave capital grants to these schools but effective ownership and control remained with the church. I remember a picture in Paul Blanshard's 1950s book on the Irish Catholic Church where a large banner in a protest march read "Don't nationalise the national schools". Hard for a foreigner to get the message first time round. Anyway, the first school to go under the hammer was Basin Lane CBS, where my uncle went to school. Walshe sees the outcome as a victory for the state despite some kicking of the can down the road. I must say I found his reasoning hard to follow.

An early decision in Ruairi's and Walshe's tenure was to let a film crew into the Department to make a fly-on-the-wall documentary. That seems to have worked very well. It would not have been a new experience for Ruairi who did the same thing during his Irish EU Presidency in the 1990s. It made people very nervous then, including EU officials, but proved to be a great success and a useful educational tool for future Irish presidencies.

I have the impression from the book that Walshe was very impressed with many of the civil servants he dealt with. When Ruairi was leaving the Department of Finance in 1997 he made a point of praising the quality the civil servants he had dealt with there. It makes a welcome change from the usual knee-jerk knocking of civil servants.

So, if you found any of the above interesting, you'll probably enjoy the book. And if you didn't know what goes on behind the scenes in government it will open your eyes a bit.

It doesn't tell you everything, it is somewhat unstructured and jumps around a bit, but the book's title is, after all, "An Education" and as we know that is an ongoing process.


The Taste of Dreams: An Obsession with Russia and Caviar
The Taste of Dreams: An Obsession with Russia and Caviar
Price: £2.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very readable obsession, 23 Nov. 2014
I knew it. The girl in "The White Russian" and in "Midnight in St. Petersburg" is Vanora herself.

It's partly why, after reading those two books, I wanted to read the real story of her time in Russia.

The other reason was that, while she was in Russia watching the new nomenclatura stake their claim to the fruits of the people's labour, I was looking down the other end of the EBRD telescope from London and Dublin, watching capitalism and "democracy" take over from the centrally planned economy and the culture of widespread surveillance. Two very different perceptions of the same phenomenon - the micro and the macro.

The book might have been titled "A Sturgeon's View of the Fall of Communism" but it wouldn't have had the same romantic ring to it and it wouldn't have evoked the deep symbolism of caviar for Russians down the ages.

Another gripping read.

That's the order I read these books in. They were actually written the other way round.

I remember my French teacher once telling the class that the arabs came on holiday to Ireland for the rain. I thought, jaysus these guys must be off their heads. Here we are praying for sun the whole year round (unless you're a farmer) and here are these eejits chasing the rain. It finally dawned on me that you're always looking for what you haven't got and the bit of variety in life is essential.

However, when it comes to reporting from war zones, be they military or economic, you can get too much of a good thing. So, wisely in my view, Vanora finally pulled out of the vortex and settled for a more staid, but nonetheless rewarding, life in London.

This book is about the vortex. It whizzes along at breakneck speed, dragging you with it. You learn all about living on the edge in an environment that echoes the Russian revolution but going the other way.

In the midst of all the hubris "everyone was having a flutter with fate". Some won and others lost heavily. The smart guys were in there creaming it while the proles were even worse off than under the Soviets.

I remember a former senior EBRD official explaining to me at the time that while, unfortunately, all was then chaos, the oligarchs, who had snaffled all the wealth, would eventually develop an interest in law and order if only to protect their ill-gotten gains. Then would dawn the age of Aquarius.

The book is very interesting on the dollar bubble. Reminded me a bit of the celtic tiger. People living the high life like there was no tomorrow in the dollar zone while the ordinary folk struggled in rouble zone. The author tells it like it was and is very frank in her account of her own full participation in life in the dollar zone where the rouble folk were ignored. Fortunately for her it was a passing phase and she had returned to earth before she returned to London.

The story ends with her starting out on a new quest to trace her own family connections with Russia.

The book is a great read and I think I read the three books in the right order.

Check out my reviews of the other two on this site.


Midnight in St Petersburg
Midnight in St Petersburg
by Vanora Bennett
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars You were there, 23 Oct. 2014
This is the second of Vanora Bennett's books that I have read and it lives up to the expectations generated by the first, “The White Russian”, which I have reviewed on this site.

Like the first, it starts with a lone girl on a train journey into a new world that will change her life. The twists and turns of the plot suck you in and all the while you are getting a backdrop view of one of the momentous moments in modern history, the Russian revolution(s) of 1917.

It is a view through the eyes of real people with whom you start to identify. There is something very personal about the writing that makes these people so real. The “Afterword” at the end of the book hints at the secret. Many of them are based on real people, people with whom the author has had a real personal involvement.

The writing is clear and to the point. I was going to say unvarnished but that would be the wrong word. It is crafted and mercifully lacks the bells and whistles and long descriptive passages that become irritants and which you skip over in a lot of other authors' works.

It is very atmospheric. I was at a book launch in the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin yesterday and I had occasion to stand just inside the main doorway waiting for the arrival of two guests from England. People were arriving in droves and sort of sailing down the corridor in little individual clouds of self-importance. Because I was in the middle of reading this book I got the uncanny feeling that they were mostly White Russians beyond their sell-by date. That's the power of the atmosphere created in this book.

A great read. You won't want to put it down.

My next stop will be the more directly autobiographical “The Taste of Dreams”.


The White Russian
The White Russian
by Vanora Bennett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet sadness, 9 Oct. 2014
This review is from: The White Russian (Hardcover)
Once more I have to declare an interest.

I had just been interviewed remotely by this lovely fun-loving lady who, as far as I was concerned worked for a bank. Then I suddenly found out she was not only a famous novelist, had some non-fiction books to her credit, had been a war correspondent but was also a violin maker.

I couldn't wait to read one of her books.

So, on the off-chance I dropped in to my local Dublin suburban library to see if they might just have one, and, lo and behold, they had three of them, including her latest.

I got out all three and have just finished the first one: The White Russian.

It is a beautiful read and the sweet sadness of the characters lingers with you long after you've put it down. The story is completely absorbing and God help anyone who interrupts your reading of it. Short of an earthquake you'll probably read it in one go, and when you get to the end you'll still have that cup of coffee you made at page 1 untouched and gone stone cold.

Some of my reactions are probably personal. I enjoyed being interviewed by this serious but fun loving lady and so was predisposed to like what she wrote. I am chasing up my family history at present and so the loss of many of the characters' roots resonated with me. The White Russian refugee community had strong resonances in the current age of refugees - from the disgraceful treatment of "direct provision" asylum seekers in Ireland to the vast refugee camps of those fleeing war zones around the world. The hints of Evie's family background, bathed in the blood money of earlier colonial expansions and living out a life of stifling conformity, was very real and made you want to take deep breaths. The looming threat of WWII in an age when we are on the brink of WWIII was subtly in the background all the while. This all played havoc with my emotions as I rapidly turned the pages.

And the sex is good.

The writing is simple, but crafted, and unobtrusive. The story is full of warmth, honesty and vulnerability. I am left with a lingering sadness for what might have been and the characters stay with me, like a new family, to haunt my dreams.

Great writing.

Read it.


Lost Dublin
Lost Dublin
by Frederick O'Dwyer
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars An inventory of lost family jewels, 19 Jun. 2014
This review is from: Lost Dublin (Paperback)
This is not a chronology, nor is it a novel. But for anyone with an interest in Dublin city it is a revelation. It is a record, item by item, of much of what has been lost to “progress” over the last 200-300 years.

It is thorough and has many photos published for the first time. As Frederick is an architect, it concentrates on buildings of architectural significance, interest, or merit which have fallen by the wayside, or just plain been pulled down.

Many of them represented isolated cases:they were falling down; the space was needed for road widening, the buildings had become too small for purpose and were often replaced by other worthy buildings. And this happened on and off over the centuries covered in the book.

But what really got to me was the scale of the wanton destruction of our built heritage around the 1960s. Fine buildings or streetscapes fell to the developer's bulldozer and the brown envelope. Mind you, Frederick doesn't mention the brown envelope. It is not really within his remit and the extent of it only became widely known in the years since the book was published.

If you think the hubris and excesses of the Celtic Tiger were a once off aberration you only have to read this book to see the precedent of the 1960s. At the first smell of economic development, money and “modernisation”, the old gave way to the shoddy new and lots of people thought it was great. After decades in the pits, we were now catching up with the rest of the world. Office blocks were breeding like rabbits. Ouch.

Anyway, in your more reflective moments, you can read WB Yeats's view on Nelson's Pillar and see the post-1916 restored Liberty Hall before the unions lost the run of themselves and built Dublin's first skyscraper, still, unfortunately in place. You can see the view you would have had of the Custom House if the Loopline Bridge had not been built. And I'm sure you'll have your own favourites from this treasure trove of riches.

Reading the book had me vacillating between fascinated interest and red misted anger.

Don't be put off by the cover which doesn't do the book justice.

Just read it. It's a journey worth the effort.


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