The North Inner City in the 21st Century

Changing times

The story of the north east inner city has, for the last three hundred years, been one of almost constant change and reinvention.

Socially and politically, the area has transformed repeatedly in response to wider economic developments – the latest of which has been technological innovation and the globalisation of the financial markets. These twin phenomena made possible the creation of the Irish Financial Services Centre across an area covering 27 acres on Dublin’s docklands in the last decade of the last century. Measured in terms of jobs and revenues to the Irish state, the IFSC delivered more than originally envisaged, but it has not been an unqualified success.

In the same way that that the IFSC has come to represent the city’s growing role in the globalised economy, it has also served to symbolise its deep social divides. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the shining steel of the IFSC and luxury private apartments for educated professionals that accompany them, coexist beside areas of deprivation notable for their low employment and education levels and their associated problems with crime and drugs.

Tenements in Summerhill being knocked down. 1980s

Tenements in Summerhill being knocked down, 1980s.

The Irish Financial Services Centre, pictured in 1992

The Irish Financial Services Centre, pictured in 1992. Courtesy of Dublin City Council.

Social division

Since the IFSC was built, local community groups maintain that a sort of ‘social apartheid’ has been allowed to develop in the north east inner city area. But if this very area holds a mirror to the deep inequalities in today’s Irish society, it equally reflects the increasing diversity of that society. Inward migration has been a feature of the recent Irish experience and areas of Dublin’s North Inner City are home to the highest percentage of people born abroad living in any part of Ireland.

However, the effect of these various developments – from inward migration to deepening social division – has led not the creation of a diverse ‘single’ community but to several ‘separate’ communities.

A rich & complex history

In 2017, a Government-backed plan was launched aimed at addressing concerns around social disadvantage and exclusion through a major public investment in sports clubs, community and drugs projects and other developments. The ambition for the plan is nothing less than ‘the long-term economic and social regeneration’ of the north east inner city area. The plan focuses on an area which is home to just over 17,000 people. It is an area with a relatively small geographic footprint but a rich and complex history.

Today, across the north east inner city, that history is visible in a range of local public memorials that recall the tragedies and atrocities that have left an imprint upon it – from the famine of the 19th century to the North Strand bombing of 1941 and the loyalist bombings of Dublin in 1974.  But that history is also recalled in the other ways, not least in the splendid wide streets laid out in the 18th century and in the buildings that shine a light on both the Irish struggle of independence and the failure of that independence to deliver to some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens.

Sherriff St protests

Sherriff St residents protesting against the Customs House Docks Development Authority’s failure to keep promises to improve conditions in the area. 1980s.

Do you have family memorabilia or stories about life in the North Inner City? We’d love to hear from you: