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The Battle for The Cobblestone Pub: Revisited

The Battle for The Cobblestone Pub: Revisited
The Battle for The Cobblestone Pub: Revisited

Back in 2014, the inimitable and ground-breaking Dublin folk discombobulaters, Lankum, in their song Cold Old Fire prophetically sang of how they:

look for signs that Dublin’s heart’s still beating,
That concrete and glass and peelers and mass, they haven’t stopped the people from screaming.

When it came toward the latter half of 2021, some 7 years later, you could say that Lankum needed not to look for those signs anymore. On an early Saturday afternoon, arriving up at Smithfield Square, even the most optimistic of those intending to attend could not have imagined the vista that would greet them, as it did us when we emerged from the winding alleyway concealing the entrance to the Jameson Distillery.

With placards, loudhailers, musical instruments, cameras and other such paraphernalia, the thousands had assembled to make a stand. To send a message to the powers that be that we weren’t going to sit down and allow them to pave over one of our most beloved of Irish cultural institutes – The Cobblestone Pub.

Now, the story of the protests and planning battle that ensued when there was a proposed redevelopment of The Cobblestone in 2021 is, at this stage, a well-told story. The purpose of this particular blog post is not to add anything new to that narrative, but I had been looking through our archive of photos the other day and noticed that I had taken more photos of the initial protest than I initially thought.

So, on foot of that, I decided I’d put together a post for the website, just to briefly tell the story of the protest that I attended and just a brief timeline of the planning battle thereafter. But it’s all just a vehicle to share some of those images, which are a mix of digital and black-and-white film.

In October 2021 the news came in the form of a small piece of paper that had been affixed to the front of the pub. Some crowd called Marron Estates were applying for planning permission to hotelify The Cobblestone. It was to be built upon and the actual pub portion of the premises dissected into a fraction of its current guise.

Action was swift. A protest, the protest depicted in these images, was called for the very next Saturday, and despite the short notice and the fact that society hadn’t exactly returned to full, post-pandemic normalcy yet, the turnout was far in excess of what most had anticipated.

Being no stranger to the odd protest, before this, I can say with absolute certainty that this one felt very different. Perhaps it was because it wasn’t anything to do with the money in the protestors’ pockets, or because it had a ratio of one traditional musician to every 2 persons in attendance. But there was a great sense of camaraderie in the air amongst all that marched.

The protest started in Smithfield Square, where members of the Mulligan family (Tom Mulligan being the publican who holds the lease for the pub) and friends carried a coffin with RIP Dublin and RIP Culture daubed on either side. They took this from the pub and into the centre of the square. Some short speeches were delivered, and the procession began its slow and steady circuitous march toward Wood Quay, the main offices of Dublin City Council being the end point of the march.

From Smithfield, we emerged onto the quays from Lincoln Lane and made toward the Ha’penny Bridge, where we stopped shortly at Merchant’s Arch, which only the week prior, had been earmarked for destruction by hotel. It was during this stoppage that an American tourist’s curiosity got the better of her and she asked my partner and I what we were marching for. When we told her it was to keep a pub from closing, she seemed to leave with more questions than she had arrived to us with.

We shortly arrived at Wood Quay after that, where some tunes and dancing broke out near the entrance to the building. As the bulk of protestors arrived, a more structured gathering formed outside the building and around the steps up to it. Then some of the organisers, marchers and some of the Mulligan family made some further short, yet emotional, speeches. And then we all had a sing-song and a session. And went for a few pints afterwards. Naturally.

A deadline of early November was identified as that by which the public could submit objections to the request for planning permission. Another protest was to follow and a well-organised online campaign to advise people on how to submit objections seemed to be omnipresent online in the time leading up to the deadline.

When the deadline did pass, it was reported that a massive figure of almost 700 people had lodged an objection. Thankfully DCC listened to the weight of objection and opted to refuse the planning permission.

This was then to be appealed by Marron Estates in December of 2021 before them ultimately withdrawing that appeal in May of the following year.

While the future of the pub does remain somewhat unsure, we have collectively been breathing something of a sigh of relief since the withdrawal of that appeal. The whole saga does, however, remind us to be ever-presently grateful for the fantastic pubs that remain dotted around our city. The Cobblestone is still welcoming musicians in every night of the week and allowing them to ply their trade. So make no excuses for getting in there as soon as you can.

We’re embedding the full gallery of images we have from the protest, below. They’re in a Flickr album that you can scroll through using the arrows on the left and the right.

Could we also suggest, for a better and more fully rounded, telling of the story of the battle for The Cobblestone, that you check out this excellent documentary – Athbhaile -The Cobblestone. And also have a look at Luke McManus’ masterpiece: North Circular.

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