That Seanad Éireann welcomes the designation of Dublin by the EC as European City of Culture for 1991.
I would like to thank the Leader of the House for deciding to take this motion this evening. It would be fair to say that this House has always given special attention to the cultural affairs of our nation so, in that respect, it is probably timely that we should take this motion this evening. The motion is non-contentious in nature and I hope that the debate will be constructive. I felt I sensed a negative approach on the Order of Business today when this matter was mentioned so I would appeal to Senators not to be negative about the motion. As I said, it is not supposed to be contentious and I would appeal to Senators not to highlight our national inferior complex which seems to involve giving out about everything and anything and generally being negative about all sorts of things. In short, I would love the debate to be positive.
Firstly, I would like to outline why Dublin is worthy of the title of European City of Culture. Dublin is a beautiful city in European terms, nobody can deny that, and it is, in fact, oozing with culture. Dublin as a city over 1,000 years old had a fine history and culture. We can boast a wide variety of influences: Irish, Scandinavian, Norman and British, to name but a few. The writer H.B. Morton once wrote, and I quote: "The three great feminine capitals are Paris, Vienna and Dublin. The first two have all the lure of woman and the last has all her charm and spite". Vincent Caprani wrote that Dublin is not to be flirted with or taken too lightly. Dublin is a mature beauty, all right, maybe a teeny bit on the spiteful side, but certainly charming with thepersona of a mother. This woman, however, has altered in looks and character with the passage of time and so for better or worse Dublin is th European City of Culture in 1991.
We have a lot to celebrate this year. Dublin is the city of James Joyce, the city of Oscar Wilde, of J.M. Synge, of Brendan Behan and of Seán O'Casey, to name but a few. Dublin is also a city that can claim three Nobel Prize winners for literature. We are a university city, with TCD celebrating 400 years of history this year. We have a fine architectural heritage to display and some of the most noted libraries and museums in the world.
Dublin is a modern city with a large, young population. It has a great literary and cultural tradition. It is a city of music and rock, with stars like Sinead O'Connor and U2, now known throughout the world. The famous Dubliner, Christy Brown, was the inspiration for the Oscar winning film "My Left Foot". Above all, however, Dublin is intimate. It is human and it is friendly. We do not take over-selves seriously in Dublin. This can be seen in the 600 pubs throughout the city. Our pub culture is world renowned and it is highlighted by a ready, dry wit to demolish any pretention that anybody may have. What I am saying simply is that Dublin is a true European capital and city of culture.
I now propose to deal with the whole question of the rejuvenation of the capital city. A lot of rejuvenation has taken place over the last two or three years. As Dublin enters the nineties we have every reason to be confident. After several decades of gloom and decay, the conditions are now right for the opening up of a new era of progress and development. There is now a widespread feeling of confidence and optimism in our capital city, brought about in no small way as a result of the Millennium celebrations in 1988.
There has been a restoration of civic pride by Dubliners in Dublin. Something has emerged in the city, a feeling that at last things are improving, a feeling that we are at last getting our act together. Business is good and for the first time in a long time success is not a dirty word and success can be celebrated. There are many reasons for this. Dublin Corporation has also contributed to this. Their improvements in the physical environment of the city is one factor. Streets are being pedestrianised. There has been a comprehensive programme of repaving and public lighting improvements. I would draw the attention of the House to O'Connell Street, for example. You all recall the condition of O'Connell Street two or three years ago. That has now changed.
Derelict sites are being cleared. New parks are being developed. Georgian style public lighting has been installed in key areas of the city. Government financial incentives have also helped and have brought about a dramatic rise in investment in centre city areas, for example, the Liffey Quays and the Custom House docks area. The financial incentives have also brought about investment in areas outside Dublin, places like Tallaght, and so on. All this is good I am sure you will agree. However, we should fully utilise and maximise these achievements and build on them for the future.
I would now like to examine past cities of culture and to see what they have achieved. The concept, of course, was the idea of the Greek Minister for Culture, Melina Mercouri. The concept of designation and the concept of the European City of Culture is in fact a very nebulous one. The first city of culture was, of course, Athens, and their celebrations were very low key. Florence came next and they, too, did nothing particularly special in 1986. Berlin concentrated on methods of bringing about urban renewal; their emphasis was on the whole question of urban rejuvenation and urban renewal. Paris was another European city of culture and they simply linked their designation with the bicentennial celebrations of the French Revolution. Glasgow had the title last year, and I had the honour to attend the opening ceremony of the Glasgow year in March 1990. They made their celebrations part of a long term strategy. Their long term strategy was, and still is, to improve their once undoubted poor image and they utilised 1990 to contribute to that and to bring about an improvement in the city's image. It would be fair to say that they are indeed making great strides in that regard, given that their neighbour is Edinburgh. So we come to Dublin and what should Dublin achieve. What should our objectives be?
As I said already, the concept of a European City of Culture is a very nebulous one. There are no set rules as to what such a year involves. The EC have not laid down strict guidelines on what should be done when a city is fortunate enough to be designated European City of Culture. The first point that should be made in this regard is that Dublin is in reality a cultural city. It has a rich culture. I say that following my comparisons with the other cities that have had this title. We do not need to create an image. We have a rich culture. We have the goods, so to speak, so we are not in the business of image-making. I would suggest, therefore, that the year should be one of celebration and should be reflective. We should celebrate what we have and then build on our artistic achievements. The year must be a catalyst for new cultural endeavours. We should celebrate the year in our own way and in our own style. I would like to highlight that.
We Irish have a distinctive style. We have a distinctive flavour and we do things in our way. This, for example, was seen when we conducted the EC Presidency in this country and in many other international events, the Eurovision Song Contest, and so forth. We do things well and we have a good reputation throughout Europe. It is worth highlighting why 1991 is an appropriate year for Dublin to be European City of Culture. For the record, there are several anniversaries being celebrated this year. TCD is celebrating its fourth centenary. We have the 200th anniversary of the death of Mozart. We have the 200th anniversary of the opening of the Custom House. 1991 involves the 50th anniversary of the death of James Joyce. We also have the 800th anniversary of the opening of St. Patrick's Cathedral and last, but by no means least, we have the anniversary of Charles Stuart Parnell's death. It is interesting to mention as an aside that the current Lord Mayor of Dublin, Michael Donnelly, has commemorated in particular this anniversary of Parnell's death by resurrecting an old portrait of Parnell and installing it in the Mansion House, in perfect splendour. All these anniversaries should, of course, be celebrated.
It should also be mentioned that 1991 involves celebrations in Limerick and Belfast. Belfast are in the business of image-making this year and have brought forward a programme of events to celebrate the year. Limerick, of course, is celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Treaty. The first thing we should do in this House tonight is send good wishes to those two cities. I hope that this year will bring us closer to those cities, given our common interests, and also improve relations between North and South. Above all, however, we should have the objective of strengthening our European cultural identity. We call ourselves the young Europeans and 1991 can be seen as an important link between our EC Presidency last year and the completion of the Single European Market next year. The year should make us more Europeorientated and bring us into contact with the cultures of Europe while highlighting our cultural identity. This year will open up Dublin and Ireland to the cultures of Europe and this is to be welcomed.
There are also economic objectives. Bord Fáilte and Dublin Tourism are very anxious to attract a large number of visitors to our city. That will be realised, particularly around the time of Bloomsday which, of course, is now a big international event, as I am sure Senator Norris realises. We need also to provide entertainment for our citizens. We need to enjoy ourselves. We want to sample the best that Europe has to offer in the way of theatre and all forms of art. We look forward to many cultural visits to the city during the year. It is important also that we would simply enjoy ourselves this year.
There are many more material objectives which we should look at. Already we have had the opening of the Civic Gallery of Modern Art. We look forward to the opening of the Writers' Museum in Parnell Square and also the Irish Museum of Modern Art in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. All these are very welcome developments. Later on, in May, we will have the formal launching of the restored Custom House. Of course, Gandon and the Custom House are synonymous with Dublin. That too, will allow us time to reflect and celebrate our architectural heritage.
It would also be very important this year to develop a Community arts programme. Dublin is not just a centre city but is made up of many communities in places like Coolock, Darndale, Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Finglas and so on. It is made up of many neighbourhood communities and they, too, have to celebrate the year and come forward with community arts. That is anoother nebulous concept but I believe that the company involved in promoting the year will give that a priority and encourage the promotion of the arts in the communities where it needs to be encouraged.
There will also be physical improvements to the city this year. There are plans for the making of a modern street in the Liberties area and we should also look at what is happening in the Temple Bar area. I feel very happy about what is happening in relation to the Temple Bar. When I was Lord Mayor of Dublin, and I know we have one of my predecessors here — Senator Hederman — I set up a special Temple Bar Development Committee. It was chaired by the Lord Mayor and made recommendations to the Government and those recommendations have now been acted upon. Two property development companies have been established. One is being formally launched tomorrow by the Taoiseach and it would be fair to say that incentives are promised in the future and further legislation is also promised.
This will be one of the major achievements for 1991, the creation of our own real left bank in Dublin. It is happening and 1991 has been the catalyst for that development. We can see how the year can bring about a reflection of what we have achieved and act as a catalyst to decide what we can achieve for the future.