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Iconic Eyesores

Author Leah Carri

dispatches4DUBLIN – Dublin City Councilor Dermot Lacey is striding along the rain-whipped Great South Wall in Ringsend, a rundown industrial area close to the city’s port. Towering above him are the Poolbeg smokestacks, a pair of candy-striped power-plant chimneys that have dominated the skyline here for four decades.

While few would describe these 680-foot-tall beasts as attractive, they do have a presence. “They’re the last thing you see leaving Dublin,” says Lacey, “and the first thing you see coming back.” And their visibility doesn’t end there: U2 used them as a backdrop in the music video for their 1984 hit “Pride,” and last year they appeared in an Armani ad.
Since being decommissioned

in 2010, though, the chimneys have had little practical value, and there have been calls for their demolition. Appalled by the prospect, Lacey launched a campaign to save
the stacks, which quickly gained popular support.

“You couldn’t get rid of them. No way,” says Deirdre, a local woman in her 30s, who is braving today’s inclement weather for her regular brisk walk along the wall. “It’s the stripes,” she adds

“They look a bit like the Cat in the Hat, from Dr. Seuss. If it wasn’t for those stripes, I don’t think anyone would care.”

Earlier this year, the stacks got a reprieve, which Lacey sees as a victory for local culture. “Many stories have been lived out in the shadow of these chimneys,” he says. “They evoke a lot of memories, good and bad.” When asked how Dubliners might respond if the Poolbeg plant were to be built today, Lacey emits a rueful laugh. “Oh, I have no doubt that people would object,” he says, “probably including myself.”

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