‘It appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back’

Plans to surround the Cobblestone pub in Smithfield with yet another Dublin hotel have prompted outrage among musicians and activists – who argue that the destruction of the city’s cultural heritage has gone too far already.

Dublin City Council (DCC) is considering a developer’s plan to close and renovate the Cobblestone pub and the buildings around it to create a new hotel.  

The plans, filed by a company called Marron Estates, supposedly allow part of the current pub to continue in the nine-storey hotel – but few people believe it can be anything like the same place.

The musical mecca, located on North King Street along Smithfield Square, has been a platform for many famous Irish trad musicians over the years, many of whom took to social media to express their anger at the plans.  

“The Cobblestone is far more than just a pub,” trad singer John Francis Flynn told The Liberty. “It is the centre for Irish music and culture in the city.” 

“I have countless fond memories of the Cobblestone,” recalled Flynn. “It has made me who I am today as a professional musician and it really has just been an amazing place for my development.” 

Historic buildings in Dublin are set to be demolished and replaced by a number of hotels. Photo: Lucy Harris.

Councillor Janice Boylan Sinn Fein’s North West inner city representative, spoke to the Liberty following the announcement. Originally from the Smithfield area, she has been campaigning against the closure of the cultural hub.  

The TD reminisced about Smithfield when she was growing up: “The trucks would come and there was a weighing station with a market and farmers would come up with their horses and sheep.”  

This traditional communal area was somewhat pushed to the side with the development of chains such as the Maldron Hotel, Fresh Market and several apartment blocks.  

The iconic Cobblestone pub only arrived late in the 20th century, but it prevailed throughout this gentrification and remained as a reminder of “old Dublin”.  

“They were really passionate about this and it wasn’t just locals to the area.”

Janice Boylan sinn fein’s north west inner city representative

“The people were straight onto us politicians,” Boylan said. “They were really passionate and animated about this and it wasn’t just locals to the area. There were also a number of people from outside the constituency who reached out about this.”  

Plans for the renovation include keeping the exterior of the pub intact while redoing the back area and interior, essentially turning it into a residents bar.  

Protesters said the developers were using the Cobblestone’s name while simultaneously destroying the historical and cultural aspect of the Smithfield tavern.  

Sinéad Kennedy, a musician who has played at the Cobblestone, said that the ‘function room’ venue at the back was particularly important.

Kennedy said the Cobblestone “couldn’t continue to function without it” due to the range of cultural activities that occur there – such as concerts, music lessons, fundraisers and dancing workshops.  

It was announced just a few days before this that a number of units along Merchants Arch in Temple Bar are also set to be demolished and replaced by a new hotel.  

In response to these announcements hundreds of people marched from Smithfield through the city towards Dublin City Council offices on October 9th.  

“It seems completely absurd to me to try and attract tourists by levelling the places that they might like to visit,” said Kennedy. “It appears to be the straw that broke the camel’s back in that regard and that is why I think so many people came out on the street at such short notice last weekend.”  

Artwork by- @sineadok (Sinéad Kennedy) 

Protestors carried a coffin through town as a symbol of the death of Dublin culture, according to an article by the Irish Times.  

Their chants were echoed throughout the city and included phrases such as, “homes not hotels” and “culture not vultures”.  

“There is a serious need for development in the area because people are sick of looking at the dereliction,” Boylan said. “What the people want known is that a hotel is not what is needed in this area.”  

“There is a serious need for development in the area because people are sick of looking at the dereliction”

Janice Boylan, SInn fein north west inner city representative

Protesters are calling out for affordable housing to be built for the many who desperately need it.  

A report from the Department of Housing in September 2021 showed over 4,000 adults in Dublin are homeless.   

Another suggestion of what to do with the derelict buildings that surround the Cobblestone include expansion.  

“Those buildings are a great example of 18th century buildings in Dublin,” Flynn said. “It could be an idea to restore them, or potentially expand The Cobblestone into a sort of broader cultural centre.”  

Online petitions have been set up by individuals who feel that the Cobblestone and Merchants Arch are imperative to the cultural history of Dublin city.  

As of October 11th 31,111 people had signed the petition with more people getting involved everyday.  

The petition also encourages those who can afford it (€20) to register a formal objection with DCC in the hopes that they will hear their specific reasons for blocking the closure of what many people are labelling as the heart of musical culture in Dublin.   

“Make art. Make music. Make noise,” Kennedy said. “Be sure that your voice is heard.”