Only a few doors down from Conradh na Gaeilge, on the godforsaken street that plays home to Copper Face Jacks, there is a small plaque one could easily overlook. It commemorates Edward Carson, the father of Irish loyalism, a barrister commemorated on the walls of unionist estates in the north as the founder of the Ulster Volunteer Force, and a complex Dubliner to say the least.
Of course, we should not forget Carson himself was a keen Gaeilgoir. When coupled with his ability as a hurler, praised in the Irish Sportsman journal of his time, it is apparent Carson represents a great diversity of Irishness.
It’s a great irony that only two doors up from the father of Irish unionisms historic home is 6 Harcourt Street, famous for being the office of Sinn Féin in the time of Griffith, and indeed the location of the offices of The Irish Bulletin paper, produced by the Department of Propaganda during the Irish War of Independence.
The house at 4 Harcourt Street had been the subject of great controversy in the early 1990s, over the risk of demolition to the historic site. Coupled with being the birthplace of Carson, the house was also home to playwright George Fitzmaurice. Despite its historic importance, number 4 sat bricked up for a period of many years and was entangled in a development controversy.
An Taisce barrister Benedict O Floinn told a planning appeal that a demolition of the home of Carson would be seen as a “calculated insult” to the unionist community, and noted that Carson was a figure of the “utmost importance” in Irish history. Dublin hotelier Noel O’Callaghan had sought permission to demolish number 4, and the house next to it, for construction of a large office block.
When O’Callaghan was given the green light for his £15m project in 1996, the retention and refurbishment of Carson’s house was part of the deal. This was to be deemed a victory in a city where for a period Georgian houses appeared to be treated with disdain in relation to construction and development!
We previously featured Carson in a post on Dublin Mean Time , and he is a truly fascinating character in Irish political history. Thankfully his plaque is stuck to a Georgian House, and not an office block.
Have a look at it next time you’re going to Copper Face Jacks.