Poverty Lines

September 13, 2015 – Culture

Our city is acknowledged by its residents to be a city of two halves, with the Liffey acting as a dividing line, both physically and metaphysically, between North and South Dublin. These two halves have very specific connotations attached to them, as any Dubliner worth their salt will tell you.

South Dublin is posh, pretentious and proper to a fault. It is Ross O’Carroll-Kelly and watching The Rugby and renovating the house to include an atrium and sun-room, because it’s always sunny on the Southside, obviously.

North Dublin is down-rent, dole-oriented and dangerous. It is trackies and tins of Tennents and ten terraced houses crammed onto one tiny street, littered with takeaway wrappers and betting slips.

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Of course, that’s not true at all. These are stereotypes which, despite how ludicrously overblown they might be, a surprising amount of people actually buy into. The truth, as is usually the case, is much more nuanced and complex.

Tallaght, Rialto and Inchicore are all areas of Southside Dublin with high levels of crime, and low levels of Lamborghinis, while Malahide and Howth, which lie well to the North of the Liffey, are typically considered to be posh areas.

I have a friend who had her purse robbed recently, walking home after a night out. I asked where she lived and she told me Portobello. “But that’s such a nice area!” I replied. She levelled me with a look that let me know how naive she though I was being, and when I thought about it I realised she was right.

Portobello, widely recognised as a well-off area, is no more than a stone’s throw away from areas such as The Coombe and Clanbrassil street which are perceived by many to be “rough” parts of Dublin.

Begin at one side of south-circular road and you’re in an affluent area, inhabited by well to do young professionals and families, but once you reach the other end it’s a completely different world.

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On one end of Clonliffe road lies Drumcondra, a leafy little nook of Dublin filled with teaching colleges and labyrinths of family homes and quaint little bistros, while on the other is Ballybough, and area with a reputation, imagined or otherwise, which is a far cry from the Hallowed halls of All Hallows college.

Dichotomies such as these exist not only directly adjacent to each other, but even within areas themselves. Stoneybatter, for example, is a stalwart of old Dublin with a deeply-rooted working-class tradition, which in recent years has become a haven for newly minted hipsters.

One area where this contrast is particularly pronounced is in Dublin’s Irish financial services district, or IFSC. The IFSC technically encompasses streets such as Amiens St and Sheriff st, very definitions of D1, with largely blue-collar populations and histories of high-crime rates. Today, thanks to Dermot Desmond and his conception and development of the IFSC, they are said to be part of what is essentially a tax haven for fat cats and financiers.

Trendy restaurants, wine bars and hotels abound around custom house square, while mere metres down the road doughty Dubs drink in pubs it’s unlikely any of the suits would dream of setting foot in if you paid them double their six figure salary.

Herein lies the beautiful and unexpected asymmetry of our fair city. A mishmash of old and new, posh and pov. A town where your home can be the birthplace of George Bernard Shaw, or a straight up dumping ground for syringes, or a yuppie’s wet-dream. Or even all three.

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Words: Megan Naughton


The photos for this piece were provided by George Voronov, as part of a series he is doing on poverty lines, and the proximity of poverty and wealth. These photos focus specifically on Dun Laoghaire. He expanded on his reasons for doing this in a chat we had:

Apologies if this comes off as wanky but personally, the crux of the project for me was trying to capture the social/class dichotomy that’s present in these areas (specifically Dun Laoghaire in this first case). So, to do that, I’ve focused on trying to present as many contrasts as possible within the series both visual (the type of light in different pockets of the same place, amount of saturation, shadows and highlights, differences in texture etc.) but also to complement them with appropriate objects/scenes in order to convey a contrast in atmospheres within the environment.

I decided to have them all be based in Dun Laoghaire and specifically the East Pier. Essentially this was done for two reasons. Firstly, I thought sticking with one area for this article would be beneficial in keeping the photos cohesive. Secondly, I think Dun Laoghaire is a really interesting place from which to explore the themes of the piece. It trades on its reputation as this kind of quaint sea-side village but once you go past the manicured sea-front you get exposed to a town that’s basically been stagnant and economically deprived for years now. Parts of the village have quite a surreal haunted quality about them, like they’ve been forgotten about, and that’s what I really tried to get at with the photos.

The pier itself is a totally fascinating manifestation of the duality between wealth and its absence. One side is made from a polished granite and is home to many dog-walking middle class families. The other side of the pier is made from this horrible brown concrete and is a prime meeting spot for DL’s many junkies. Moreover, because of the pier’s orientation, the ‘posh’ side gets hit with golden evening light whereas the forgotten side remains in the shadows.

We’ve published work from George’s Moto series in three parts, here, here, and here.