Writing this article while Dublin City is in its prime season feels a bit hypocritical because of how beautiful it has looked recently with autumnal leaves scattered all over its generally dark and muggy streets.
There’s a romanticism to this city, for definite. It’s found in the twilight shimmering of lights in rain puddles, the buildings and cars glistening under streetlights. The pubs are once again crowded and ambiently cosy and buskers are back on the streets serenading crowds of people visiting the capital.
It’s a shame that despite this culture that makes Dublin, Dublin; so many of us want to emigrate. So many of us grow up here, go out with our friends in the nooks and crannies of this city, from nights out on South William Street and Harcourt Street to coffees and food in Stephen’s Green.
The older we get, it seems that more and more of the city’s culture is being eroded. We see this with more and more hotels popping up around the city, the cranes and scaffolding becoming a permanent part of Dublin’s (very flat) skyline and cityscape and our cosy pubs being replaced by Wetherspoons.
Having lived abroad for six months as part of an Erasmus exchange, coming back to Dublin opened my eyes to what the city lacks. I was exhausted pre-pandemic having to commute 3 hours on a round-trip journey to UCD, from working part-time and not being able to afford a place closer to college because of the housing crisis.
I lived in the heart of Scandinavia, Stockholm, Sweden. Where transport is cheap and well-connected by rail, metro, tram and bus but furthermore, where there are designated and safe cycle and scooter lanes. The standard of living I experienced was so high that it felt like a luxury to me while it was a norm for Stockholm’s inhabitants. The city preserved its cafe and bar culture while also catering to tourists and its corporate and financial centre.
Stockholm is not an exception, however, almost every other capital city in Europe is the same. Even more so, the cost of education is nowhere near as cheap as it is in the rest of the European Union. Forbes magazine ranks Ireland as the thirteenth most expensive country in the world to study in and Ireland is the most expensive country in terms of university fees in the European Union.
It’s no shock that in 2018, a record of 12,500 young people aged 15-24 emigrated. Since 2018, rent rates have in no doubt increased while there has been a less than substantial increase in real wages paid to young people starting in graduate jobs. With pressures like this, as well as not being able to enjoy an independent life in our early twenties, what is there left for young people in Dublin?
Constantly we are criticised by government officials and national media for wanting adequate housing, for socialising, for being young and wanting a future in this country. Constantly, we are reminded that Dublin’s future is being designed for its tourists and for its corporations.
When Dublin’s youth emigrates, so will its culture and the life we breathe into the city. Take away the little culture we have, and we are left with old buildings that have the potential to be beautiful but have been long neglected by the City Council. We’re left with a flat, dull city that pales in comparison to its modern-day European equivalents.
Eavan Boland describes in her poem ‘Unheroic’ that she knows her country by looking “into the patient face of the unhealed”. That’s what I think Dublin is. It’s waiting for change, for progress, for life to happen to it and it is unhealed from the rich history of struggles it houses.
I don’t mean to say Dublin is a terrible city to live in. It’s not. But living in a city with untapped potential, that is getting drearier and drearier by the day, is terrible.
What the city needs is a robust transport system to make it more accessible, so as to not remove the relatively small city centre from its natural spots of beauty. It needs to make this transport cheaper for people to use, to remove the cars from its roads and give the city its fresh air back.
It needs to invest in making this city livable again and not just a place to commute to for work.
The young people living here deserve it. They deserve to be able to see a future in the city they grew up in, rather than counting down the days until they emigrate in search of something bigger and more fulfilling in their early twenties.
Mahnoor Choudhry, Co-Editor