Wednesday 26 October 2016

'I still miss the flats' - the end draws near for last of Ballymun towers

Lisa Matthews, the last tenant to leave the Oliver Plunkett tower of Ballymun flats revisits the area as they are being demolished
Lisa Matthews, the last tenant to leave the Oliver Plunkett tower of Ballymun flats revisits the area as they are being demolished
Paul Breen
Leah Kearney and Elizabeth Kearney
Patrick Molloy, Ballymun resident talk about missing the flats.

In the coming months, the last of the famous Ballymun towers will be demolished as part of a rejuvenation project that began in 2004.

Built in the 1960s, the 36 flats - including the seven landmark residential towers - will soon become a part of Dublin folklore.

Over the years, the flats were the subject of much negative press. But many of Ballymun's residents will be sorry to see the last of them disappear.

"It will be a sad, sad day when the last tower is gone," one resident said.

"I used to live on the 5th floor and had a view of the entire city and the mountains behind it. There'd be storm happening on one end and the sun would be beaming down on the other.

READ MORE: Last resident sad to leave after lifetime of happiness

"You'd pay through the nose for a view like that these days," she said as she watched a crane eat away at her old home.

READ MORE: Photos from times past to be displayed

Many Ballymun locals told me that even though they loved their new homes and their gardens, they missed their neighbours and old times. They reminisced about the golden age of the flats, which even now is fading into memory.

Paul Breen

Paul Breen.jpg  

“I moved into the flats in 1967. Back then, Ballymun was in the middle of nowhere, but the flats were wonderful. The people who lived in them took such pride in them and they were like little castles. Once you squatted in one, it was yours.

“The lifts never worked though, so people would just throw things out of the windows. You’d see all sorts flying out, like washing machines and stuff. The trick was never to walk directly underneath them.

“I remember when there was a milk shortage in 1974, the women got together and put shopping trollies along the road and hijacked the milk truck.

“There’d be great parties here back then too. They’d take up several floors, sometimes until the cops came. It was some craic.”


Rosemary Gean Olohan

“They never looked great on the outside, but the flats were lovely inside. They were so spacious. Nowadays everywhere is so pokey and small. I lived here between 1981 and 1985.

“I’m originally from Blackrock, so I was friendly with people from outside the local community.

“There was a lady from Cork on the second floor I was friendly with and a lady from the Aran Islands on the fourth floor.

“We were in our 20s when we lived here and whenever someone had a 21st there would be a big party and everyone would be invited. 

“People wouldn’t think it, but we had much more money in the 80s and we could afford to travel down the country at the weekends. You couldn’t do that now. It would be way too expensive.”


Leah Kearney

Leah Kearney.jpg
Leah Kearney and Elizabeth Kearney

“I miss the flats, too. I was born and raised there. The houses are all weird looking. They’re all different to each other.

“The seven towers were named after the seven leaders of the 1916 rising, so I don’t understand why they don’t keep the names on the streets. The street we live on now is called Poppintree Crescent. What kind of name is that?

“You used to have one token for the electricity. Now you have 10. Life has gotten so expensive. You can’t afford it anymore.

“The day the Joseph Plunkett goes will be a sad day. I lived with my mam on the fifth floor in a two-bedroom flat. The lifts never worked. You’d often get stuck in them. My gran (Elizabeth Kearney, above)got stuck in them loads of times.

“People used to take turns cleaning the stairs, you know. I think the place is a bit sad-looking now without the flats and the shopping centre. They keep saying that they’ll build a new one, but there’s no sign of it yet.”

Brian McCloskey

“It’s eight years since I was evacuated. I remember all the kids played together on the streets while the mothers sat at the side and chatted. The flats had mosaics on them back then. People don’t know that little fact.

“There was a lovely sense of community about the place. I remember the people used to do a lot of sport. There was always something on. It’s different now. Once the last flat goes, that’ll be the end of it.

“Ballymun is a great spot. It’s as good a place as any. I do like living in the house now, don’t get me wrong.”


Mark Pepper

“The best time in the flats was in the 1980s. We’ll never get those days back.

“We had hot water and heating 24/7. You could take your jeans out ringing wet and put them on the floor and they’d be dry in an hour.

“In the 80s, a lot of single mothers lived there, so there was a bit of a fatherless society here for a while. But the women were great.

“Once the flats were torn down, everyone drifted apart. The place lost its soul.

“They took my flat down eight years ago and I still miss it.”


Elizabeth Kearney

“I lived in the corner flat in the Joseph Plunkett tower. It was a three-bed, and I loved it from the minute I walked into it in 1976. I lived there for nearly 40 years, until I had to move out last year. It broke my heart.

“You can see my lovely wallpaper from the street. I had a nice purple colour in the living room. It wasn’t changed for 15 years. The whole flat even went on fire in 1993, but we survived.

“It was safe around here. I never saw any drugs, I heard about them though. I’ll be gutted when they explode the place.

“I still have the key. It was home. I get a tear in my eye every time I think about it. I know women they’d be crying for years after they moved out. I had seven children and they lived in the flats and their children lived in the flats.

“I think if you’re young, the houses are great, but if you’re older, you don’t need to move. I think I’m the oldest person on the street now.”


Patrick Molloy

Patrick Molloy.jpg  

“I lived in the flats between 1978 and 1983. When I moved here the World Cup in Argentina was on. Argentina won and I remember the atmosphere in the pubs. I can still hear the people shouting and roaring.

“There were great pubs at the time. Quite fancy. The Penthouse used to have cabaret every night and people came from far and wide.

“I remember when the Pope came to visit everyone stood on the balconies to wave at him flying by in his plane. It was such a big deal back then.

“Can you imagine that now? Everyone was so excited. It was an amazing atmosphere.

“When I moved here, people living in the flats were waiting to be housed elsewhere. If, say, you wanted to move to Cabra and you were living with your parents and you had one child, then you’d have to wait longer.

“You could speed up the process if you had another child. It was like a points system. Basically, you’d get more points the more children you had.

“Back when I was living here there was a swimming pool, but that’s gone too now. Of course, there’s progress, but sometimes things go backwards too.”

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