Friday 15 December 2017

ESB has no right to take chimneys away from us...

You might as well blast the Sugarloaf to rubble as take down my twin chimneys. They are the major landmarks in the my life, along with Howth glittering over the bay like Atlantis.

I have a distinct memory of driving along the Strand Road in Sandymount with my father as a small child and seeing the first of the twin chimneys being erected. It must have been 1971.

Knowing my dad I'd say he was cursing it, saying "How could they do this to my beautiful strand?"

But they went ahead and erected another chimney beside the first and when they did they changed the landscape of my childhood for good.

By chance they created a landmark, which has all the qualities which appeal to human beings for reasons they can't explain.

Councillor Dermot Lacey tried unsuccessfully to get the chimneys listed for preservation as part of our industrial heritage in 2010 and this week he'll make another attempt.

I hope he succeeds. Remember the Eiffel Tower was an industrial project built as the entrance arch to the World's Fair in 1889 and scheduled for demolition shortly afterwards.


But the people of Paris knew a good thing when they saw it. Let's take a lesson from Paris and preserve our chimneys.

The Twin Chimneys were designed and engineered and built by industrial artists and unlike traditional art, they had a use. I don't think that means they're worthless.

Thankfully the use for which they were built no longer exists. Making electricity by burning oil and coal and pumping toxic smoke into the atmosphere should be history. But we should study our history to do better in the future.

We should use the grand industrial halls which are part of the Poolbeg building as an exhibition space to explore the history of energy production.

From the mills on the Dodder through Ardnacrusha and the peat-fired stations to the Carnsore protests to renewable power and climate change.

The production of energy has been one of the biggest challenges facing us as a nation since the industrial revolution, and yet almost none of us understands what happens when we turn on a light.

We could have a big scientific and industrial museum under the chimneys, a cross between W5 in Belfast and the Tate Modern in London, which was built in an old power station.

The entire Poolbeg peninsula should be reclaimed for the people of Dublin, as was put forward in a plan when the Tiger was roaring. The area has beaches, a wildlife zone, culture, history, and is the perfect recreation zone for the massive business centre which the Liffey docklands have become.

It just isn't right that it should be used for nothing but storing oil and recycling metal and the plan for an incinerator must be shelved.

The atrocious decision taken last week by Irish Water not to upgrade the sewage treatment plant in the area just shows Dublin City Council should have retained control of the plant.

The ESB owes us one or two considering they destroyed Fitzwilliam Street to build offices they now want to tear down around the same time as they were building the towers. Sponsoring the Twin Chimneys museum would be the least they could do.

But ultimate responsibility should rest with the people of Dublin, through Dublin City Council. They are our chimneys. Take them away from us at your peril.


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