herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

Warning Chinatown arch plan could 'disrespect other cultures'

The Chinatown arch in Liverpool – there are calls for a similar one to be built here
The Chinatown arch in Liverpool – there are calls for a similar one to be built here

Calls to transform an area of Dublin city centre into an official Chinatown have met with some resistance.

A proposed arch entrance gate on Parnell Street should be changed to ensure it is more inclusive, local councillors say.

A petition to erect an arch similar to those in other capitals gathered more than 1,000 signatures this week.

Those leading the petition say the addition of a Chinese arch could be a boost for businesses in the area.

But some local representatives said the idea should be tweaked. Social Democrat Councillor Gary Gannon said a distinct Chinatown gate could "disrespect" the other cultures present on the north inner city street.

"I love how Parnell Street is now and all the cultures who live there," he said.

"But that's the issue - there are so many cultures there, not just Chinese. There's a wealth of Vietnamese and Afro-Caribbean businesses, and there's a Turkish business there as well," he added.

However, he welcomed the idea of a monument that referred to all the cultures in the area.

"The bigger [it is], the better," he said.

"I think we should mark the area, but to mark it with a Chinese gate only could be disrespectful to the other communities there," he added.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam said he was concerned that an arch would separate communities living in the city centre.

Border

"I wouldn't want to see a formal line or border to demarcate it from another part of the city," he said.

"I would be certainly willing to listen, but I wouldn't be in favour of a border separating it from the rest of town."

Mr McAdam added that he had lived in Toronto for a time and said the city's many multicultural communities had no need for gates or arches.

The cities of San Francisco, New York, London, Paris and Johannesburg all have arches at the entrances of their Chinatowns.

The gates, often referred to as 'Friendship Arches', often feature colourful inscriptions that link the Chinese community to the host city.

The petition first went live in May, and organisers hope that a gate could be in place in time for Chinese New Year in 2017.

It is estimated that there could be as many as 70,000 Chinese people living and working in the city.

James O'Brien, the petition's organiser, said it would be brought to Dublin City Council soon. He said that the campaign would be open to ideas from local businesses and the general public, and said the gate would be "all-round good" for the area.

"Nobody is going out there with a bucket and spade and cement," he told RTE Radio.

"We are not going to build an arch without people talking, and if there's a better idea out there, we'll take that," he added.

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