Thursday, March 12, 2009


“Observers of human character, when they have turned their attention to Dublin, have isolated with remarkable unanimity the distinguished mark of its true-born citizen. It is this. Whatever his racial origins (and his roots could be many) whether Gaelic or Norman, Danish or English, Norseman or Jew or Huguenot, he will share with his fellow citizens a characteristic philosophy, the essence of which is a serene and fatalistic composure.” – from James Plunkett’s introduction to Ian Finlay and Mike Bunn’s DUBLIN.

Before our children came along, my wife was a flight attendant. Along the way, she has seen many places and made many friends. Among the people she’s met, however, no one can truly compare to her friend Gerri. Despite having lived in New York City since her late teens, Gerri is a Dubliner through and through, by which I mean that she possesses the attributes I always associate the Irish of Dublin: savvy, lyrical, tough, loving, resilient and overwhelmingly charming. Among the many books Gerri has sent our way is this amazing 1976 book of photographs by Ian Finlay and Mike Bunn titled, Dublin. These pictures capture a Dublin that is jarringly earthy, textured and moving.

Through perseverance and economic galvanization, Ireland became The Celtic Tiger. Once the melancholic, poetic underdog of Europe, her capital, Dublin became vibrant, sophisticated and materially successful. I visited Dublin twice, in 1995 and 2001. Like any Irish-American, I visited Ireland hoping to experience something of my own expectations. This is impossible, of course and completely at odds with what Ireland wants to become. The Ireland of my mechanization has moved on to the better things of its own dictates. In my own opinion (and God knows every Irishman has one), the Dublin of these pages is, for better or worse, no more.

Still, the current economic crisis is hitting Ireland hard and it now appears to be headed towards a potential unemployment rate that will exceed its peers and neighbors. There was once a time where Ireland’s unemployment rate was in the double digits. There’s a mood in these pages that could make a return.

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