The Liberties under pressure

The gentrification of The Liberties is unmissable, but working-class locals are still facing the same old problems – including a drug crisis that cannot be hidden with trendy cafés and street art.

The Liberties have long been a site for creative Dubliners young and old: the National College of Art and Design has been on Thomas Street for decades, and BIMM has added music on Francis Street in more recent years. With the area now being filled with trendy cafés, restaurants and tattoo shops, it is a magnet area for young Dubliners and tourists to hang out.

Trading stalls on Thomas Street. Photo: Molly Quinn

“The reason our communities are so strong is really because of the struggles we share.”  

Bridget Brady

The area is visually exciting, with plenty of street art, parks, attractive architecture and markets, including of course the famous Liberty Market on Meath Street. 

Street stalls are also still to be found Thomas Street and Meath Street. Long known and loved local traders still provide the same quality of produce, which is why generations of loyal customers continue the tradition of shopping on Meath Street and Thomas Street.

While the Liberties is a unique and energetic area, Dublin’s drug crisis is increasingly visible in Dublin 8.

“You can’t forget the reason our community is so strong is really because of the struggles we share,” says Bridget Brady, who grew up in Oliver Bond Flats.

“Growing up in working class areas you witness and have to process many painful experiences someone who isn’t from the inner city wouldn’t understand.”

Liberty Market advertised on Meath Street. Photo: Molly Quinn

Any amount of aesthetically pleasing coffee shops and lively students does not change the struggles Liberty locals have had for years and continue to face today.

It is a working-class area, with lots of council flats and other social housing. Liberty locals who have grown up here have experienced the area change in many ways, but the same deep-rooted issues have remained.

“Dublin’s drug crisis is the worst I’ve seen it,” Brady says. “Children growing up in the same flat complex I did are seeing drug dealing happening on their doorsteps on their way to school, and it’s just not right.”

Meanwhile, the Liberties seems to be changing into an area that’s not really for the people who have grown up here, but for incoming middle-class people with money.   

“The truth of it is when you really look around the Liberties, or any inner-city Dublin area, addiction is everywhere. It’s great to see the area have new businesses, as it creates job opportunities and keeps the area young, but it’s difficult for me to see these trendy cafes arriving for the yuppies while the real community’s crises are ignored.

“Old Dublin is not the same as it was – it breaks my heart, but that’s the way it is and times do change.”

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