Colm Tóibín loses battle over Joyce's House of the Dead

An Bord Pleanála approving plans to convert the house at 15, Usher’s Island, Dublin 8 into a tourist hostel
Colm Tóibín loses battle over Joyce's House of the Dead

Gordon Deegan

Author Colm Tóibín has failed in his battle to prevent James Joyce’s ‘House of the Dead’ on Dublin’s quays from being turned into a 54-bed tourist hostel.

An Bord Pleanála has approved plans to convert the house at 15, Usher’s Island, Dublin 8 into a tourist hostel.

The address was once home to James Joyce’s grand aunts and the setting of Joyce’s best known short story, ‘The Dead’.

The building was also used as the location for the John Huston directed 1987 movie adaptation of book.

Last October, Dublin City Council granted planning permission to Fergus McCabe and Brian Stynes for the tourist hostel scheme.

Appeal

However,  Colm Tóibín lodged a joint appeal with John McCourt and three other parties also appealed the City Council decision to grant to An Bord Pleanala - An Taisce, Friends of Joyce Tower Society and Dermot Kelly.

Now, the appeals board has granted planning after board inspector in the case, Colin McBride recommended that planning be granted.

Mr McBride concluded that “the proposed use is acceptable and would ensure the ongoing active use of a protected structure of special interest”.

Mr McBride stated that a planned visitor centre for the address was never fully realised and remarked that the planned cultural use “failed to guarantee an ongoing active use and maintenance of the structure”.

Addressing objectors’ concerns over the intensification of use of the building, Mr McBride concluded that the planned use of a hostel would be no less intense than the use associated with a visitor centre.

Mr McBride stated that the best way to preserve a structure of architectural value is to provide it with an ongoing use in which it is occupied and maintained.

The inspector noted that the Architectural Impact Assessment refers to Joyce’s ‘The Dead’ and he stated that “the approved proposal does not alter the historic layout of the structure or remove any of the features specifically mentioned in the story”.

In his 26-page report, Mr McBride said he was satisfied that the level of intervention is reasonable and has adequate regard to the status of the protected structure.

Joyce relatives

As part of the Tóibín and McCourt appeal, it included a plea by two ‘blood descendants’ of James Joyce, Nicole and Sabrina Joyce to reverse the Council decision to grant planning permission.

The appeal also included Normal People author, Sally Rooney along with world renowned authors, Salman Rushdie, Richard Ford, Kevin Barry, Edna O’Brien and John Banville signing an objection against the proposal

The objection stated: “If this redevelopment is allowed to go ahead, it will disfigure one of the most famous settings in modern literature.”

The objection was backed by the signatures of 3,500 “concerned citizens” who have signed a petition calling on the appeals board to reverse the Council’s decision.

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