Campaign for College Green

The old Irish Parliament on College Green would be the ideal location for a central Dublin Lending Library, a ceremonial hall for meetings of a Dublin regional assembly and a venue for small plays, concerts and exhibitions. When the LUAS is extended we have the option to create a public space in the centre of our city in College Green – a plaza to host markets, open air concerts and visitors providing a cultural space for Dubliners, Irish people and tourists from around the world.

Many people have raised in recent years the idea of returning Grattan’s Parliament to the people. I have raised it with the CEO of Bank of Ireland at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, discussed it with Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan and yesterday in the Dáil I tabled a topical issue debate on the need to examine the potential of a building swap between Bank of Ireland and the Central bank on Dame Street when they move to a new headquarters in the Docklands.

The edited text of my speech is below:

We need to put in place a process to examine and encourage the potential of a building swap between the Bank of Ireland on College Green with the Central Bank on Dame St. This should be facilitated by the State.

College Green has the potential to become one of our finest public spaces. It was previously known as Hoggen Green and thought to be the burial ground for some of the Viking Kings of Dublin.

It most recently played host to historic speeches from US President’s Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

It is flanked by our oldest University, Trinity College and classic buildings running into Dame St. The building now occupied by Bank of Ireland was Ireland’s first parliament.

The world’s first purpose built two chamber Parliament, it was built in the 18th Century, with the foundation stone laid in 1729. The Irish Parliament sat there until the Act of Union. After that is served as a military garrison and art gallery for some time until it was bought by Bank of Ireland. It is time we returned it to a public use.

It is known by all, and a principal visiting spot for thousands of tourists and visitors from across Ireland and world.

Bank of Ireland now uses it as their principal branch. I know discussions have been held with the Bank about taking ownership of the Building for the State but having reduced our shareholding to only 15% it leaves us with less influence to pursue that.

But we still have the power of the public on our side. It is an idea embraced by many that is capturing the public imagination.

I know Bank of Ireland is attached to the building for historic reasons, it is their busiest branch and they feel there is a lack of a suitable replacement in the city centre.

However, the decision of the Central Bank to move to the Docklands to the unfinished Anglo headquarters will open up the potential for a building swap.

If Bank of Ireland were to take over the impressive, Sam Stephenson designed modernist building currently occupied by the Central Bank it would provide them with a headquarters that is suitable for use both as office and as a central branch to service both Trinity and the rest of their customers.

We should actively seek this building for the State and I would ask that you work with the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Tourism, Dublin City Council and other stakeholders to make this happen.

It is the ideal building to house the Central Dublin lending Library currently located in the ILAC centre, it would be an excellent performance space for theatre and musical groups and also has the potential to house a future regional assembly for Dublin following local Government reform retuning it to its democratic roots.

We know the LUAS extension will flank the Parliament and Trinity College, opening up a new civic space on College Green. This is a once in a generation create a public piazza to serve as a cultural and tourism hub for Dublin.

The Temple Bar Company’s aspiring plans to reinvigorate the 28 acre area with 20 key objectives would match ambitious plans to create a public space on College Green tied into our arts, cultural and literary past by hosting our city library in the current Banking Halls.

Ceremonial sittings of a Dublin regional assembly could be hosted in the old House of Lords, capturing the imagination of Dubliner’s to engage in their local democracy.

Visiting musicians whether from Connemara or Beijing could perform for the public on the Green or in the Building.

Seasonal markets, tours and concerts could all take place outside the Building in a reinvigorated public space.

We need to seize on this opportunity and bring this historic building, such a part of the history of our nation back into public ownership.

There is no shortage of ideas as to what we could do with it.

However I think most are agreed that it would be better if it wasn’t a bank.