Protests over hostel plan for Joyce's House of the Dead
The development of a 56-bed hostel on the site of James Joyce's setting for The Dead on Dublin's quays will diminish the fabric, layout and character of the building, it has been claimed.
Dublin city councillor Deirdre Conroy told the council the plan for the overhaul of the protected structure that was once home to Joyce's grand-aunts as well as being the setting for his best-known short story "is not remotely viable for such a significant protected structure".
Fergus McCabe and Brian Stynes lodged plans to change the use of the former visitor centre at 15 Usher's Island to a tourist hostel.
In a formal objection, Ms Conroy states: "As the property is such a significant cultural and architectural element of Dublin's heritage, based on its Georgian architecture and its residential use by James Joyce's family and the literary genius in his work The Dead, it is not considered appropriate for this change of use."
The Fianna Fail councillor, who is an architectural conservation specialist, added: "Restoration for cultural purpose, as a public and tourist attraction, is of more significance."
The proposal has generated a backlash from the arts community, with 99 prominent Irish and international writers, artists and academics writing a letter calling on Culture Minister Josepha Madigan and Dublin City Council to save the house due to its literary importance.
The signatories include Colm Toibin, Anne Enright, John Banville, Sally Rooney, Edna O'Brien and Salman Rushdie.
The letter stated: "In the decades since Joyce's death, too many of the places that are rendered immortal in his writing have been lost to the city. Let us not repeat this mistake today."
However, an Architectural Heritage Assessment (AHA) lodged with the contentious plan states that the proposal "provides a sustainable new future for an important historic building".
That is according to the AHA author, conservation architect Duncan McLaren, who states that from a conservation perspective the proposals "are considered to be acceptable in principle on the grounds that it will facilitate an appropriate sustainable use for the redundant building".
Employed by the applicants to draw up the AHA, Mr McLaren found the interventions proposed "protect all original surviving decorative plasterwork, joinery and other original historical features".
He also found that the development "is expected to have a positive impact in providing a sustainable new future for an important historic building that is significant for its architectural character, and also its cultural and artistic significance both in fact and as depicted in writing, drama and painting".
Mr McLaren also stated that the impact of the proposal on the fabric and the visual character of the building is considered to be moderate to low and acceptable in terms of architectural conservation.
A decision will be made on the application next month.