Protest held outside landmark James Joyce building in Dublin

Actors gathered to mark their opposition to plans to turn the ‘House of the Dead’ into a hotel.
Protest held outside landmark James Joyce building in Dublin

By Cate McCurry, PA

Actors and artists have held a protest outside a landmark building associated with James Joyce, over plans to turn it into a tourist hotel.

There were hopes that the ‘House of the Dead’ would be turned into a cultural shared space, however permission was granted by An Bord Pleanála for it to be turned into a 54-bed tourist hostel.

The property, at 15 Usher’s Island, is the setting for James Joyce’s famous short story The Dead, often acclaimed as one of the greatest short stories ever written.

It was originally owned by Joyce’s grand-aunts and is now a site of international cultural and literary significance.

House of the Dead protest
(standing left to right) Irish actors Donal O’Kelly, Marion O’Dwyer, Sinead Murphy, Rachael Dowling and Stephen Rea (front row left to right) Katie O’Kelly, Madi O’Carroll and Maria Hayden, protest outside 15 Usher’s Island. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Campaigners say it will be a huge loss to the cultural landscape of Dublin.

Actors involved in Tuesday’s protest included Oscar-nominee Stephen Rea and actors from the original John Huston film The Dead. Rachael Dowling and Maria Hayden also took part in the protest.

A letter from Academy Award-winner Anjelica Huston was also read out on the steps of the house.

Katie O’Kelly, a playwright and actor, said: “I think The Dead speaks for itself – the language in it is so beautiful.

“It’s a perfect snapshot of a Dublin at that time. I think it’s so sad to lose this building. The story has survived for 200 years.

“It’s going to be turned into a tourist hostel which I feel is like a metaphor for what is happening in this city.

“It is like the heart being ripped out to make way for a modern development.”

The building is like a microcosm of Irish life at the time at the turn of the 20th century

Ms Dowling said it was the first film she appeared in.

“I was very young and it was shot in California in a stage and the interior of this glorious house was beautifully recreated,” Ms Dowling added.

“It was lovingly and beautifully re-created. This site here is still with us, it’s not deconstructed. What we have is glorious icon.

“For anyone to come here, to the site of perhaps the greatest ever written story, it feels like a no-brainer to preserve it.”

Donal O’Kelly, playwright and actor, said: “This house has been very close to my heart ever since I read the story.

“It’s set in this very building. It’s like a microcosm of Irish life at the time at the turn of the 20th century.

“It would be a fantastic thing to preserve this. I would prefer this to be a public space where ideas could be expressed.”

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