Doors of Ireland Print Poster
Mixed media illustration
In the years after independence in 1922, independent Ireland had little sympathy for Georgian Dublin, viewing it as a symbol of British rule and of the unionist identity that was alien to Irish identity. By this time, many of the gentry who had lived in them had moved elsewhere; some to the wealthy Victorian suburbs of Rathmines and Rathgar, Killiney and Ballsbridge, where Victorian residences were built on larger plots of land, allowing for gardens, rather than the lack of space of the Georgian eras. Those that had not moved in many cases had by the early twentieth century sold their mansions in Dublin. The abolition of the Dublin Castle administration and the Lord Lieutenant in 1922 saw an end to Dublin’s traditional “Social Season” of masked balls, drawing rooms and court functions in the Castle. Many of the aristocratic families lost their heirs in the First World War, their homes in the country to IRA burnings (during the Irish War of Independence) and their townhouses to the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Daisy, the Countess of Fingall, in her regularly republished memoirs Seventy Years Young, wrote in the 1920s of the disappearance of that world and of her change from a big townhouse in Dublin, full of servants to a small flat with one maid. By the 1920s and certainly by the 1930s, many of the previous homes in Merrion Square had become business addresses of companies, with only Fitzwilliam Square of all the five squares having any residents. (Curiously, in the 1990s, new wealthy businessmen such as Sir Tony O’Reilly and Dermot Desmond began returning to live in former offices they had bought and converted back into homes.) By the 1930s, plans were discussed in Éamon de Valera’s government to demolish all of Merrion Square, perhaps the most intact of the five squares, on the basis that the houses were “old fashioned” and “un-national”. These plans were put on hold in 1939 due to the outbreak of World War II and a lack of capital and investment and had been essentially forgotten about by 1945.