Build it up, knock it down. Build it up again. Dublin Selected *276


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Housing and homelessness are hot topics now not just in our tiny Dublin bubble, but wordwide. In a week when Berlin introduced a rent cap (we are so, so jealous), The New York Times also did an incredible exposé of the so-called ‘three-quarter houses’ being run by opportunistic crooks in New York.

Taking advantage of their tenants’ poor mental and physical states, the men who run this stopgap measure for the most vulnerable in society, prey on their wards by getting kickbacks from programmes they attend, and encourage their tenants to relapse so that they go back into treatment, and the kickbacks begin again. In some cases, they may also be investors in the treatment programme, so it’s pretty corrupt.

In Ireland, we recently outlawed bedsits, and while that sounds progressive, immediately a safety net for vulnerable people was removed. Either the bedsits currently sit uninhabited, or one must presume, they are still being rented, but unregulated and possibly even sketchier now than they were when they were legal.

The news that 1000 new homes are being built in Phibsborough is wonderful, but we do need extensive programmes of social housing to be rolled out, replete with the schools, shops, social hubs that is necessary for them to thrive. Many homeless aren’t living on the streets, but in B’n’Bs with their young families – people are actually living Jacqueline Wilson-esque realities. With so many people displaced, 1000 homes will not even come close to making a dent in the narrative.

Social housing has never really been in vogue in Ireland, but it’s always worth remembering that Le Corb innovated social housing in Marseilles, and that the Barbican in London were council flats, yeah, for doctors and teachers, but still, you paid your rent to the council. The design of both allowed them to function as communities, and safe places to be.

Who’s inside the steeple with the people, Kate or Michael?

Come Here to Me: Dublin Songs & Stories

Now will you give us a story or will you…

A Boy Called Nedd

Nedd's going through a tough time at the moment.

O Brother Where Art Thou? with Live Music

"Woo! Hot Damn, son! I believe you did sell your…

Lost in Translation + Karaoke

Oishii desu...

Guns and Hoses

Firefighters in heated times.

Girls Names

Emily, Sophie, Emma, Grace, Lily, Mia...

Fashion Funds Nepal

Indulge yourself for a good cause.

Alan Carr

Ending a four night stint in the Olympia, the endearing…

Fortune's Wheel

"Do you remember that time that lioness got loose?"

Wooden Ships

The Douglas Hyde presents a collection of orts, scraps, and…


Bridesmaid with a license to kill.

Le Trio Joubran

The musical stylings of an oud trio hailing from Nazareth.

Samuel Laurence Cunnane

Witnessed moments from across the world.


Glitching out in Rua Red.

The Woollen Mills

Having a footfall of about 30,000 people a day with…


Kimchi, The Hop House or The Shakespeare wears many different…


Standing on the side of a hill, chatting to Goat.


A conversation with Icelandic rising star, Ásgeir.

With its festive wrap of red and green, Charles Byrne’s music shop has played first fiddle to the sounds of the city on Lower Stephen’s Street for over a century. We met up with Charles, his wife Maria and their daughter Geraldine to tell us about the store they run and love.

Photo: Des Moriarty

On the origins of the place  

Before the music shop was here, it was in my father’s mother’s family and there was a barber shop here. The music shop more or less married into the building and moved here. My great-grandfather mainly did pianos and harps and harpsichords. He repaired a piano for the Science and Art institute in 1901 which became the National Museum later on. My dad specialised in strings when he took over.

On the changing nature of the neighbourhood

The street is improving again. We knew all the big shops like Pim’s, White’s and Cassidy’s. What’s lovely now is there are so many small quirky shops and boutiques. There’s more character in the area again.

On changing trends in music

15 years ago we’d import two ukuleles from Germany. It is the single most popular breakthrough instrument we have ever sold. It is incredibly, light and versatile. You can play anything on it. There’s a huge social aspect to it. The other thing we’re seeing become of the amount of immigration into the country is the kids growing up here bringing a new ear and sound to traditional music. There’s a fresh outlook.

Before you did classical or traditional. Now there’s a cross-pollination and when you add in new sounds and attitudes, there’s something really quite exciting happening out there with immense talent mixing it up. It’s regenerated music and there’s a grass-roots feel to it.

On running the shop

You have to love it because you have to work really hard to make a living out of it. If you are selling a quality product, you have to put a lot of effort into it and work really hard to sell it. There’s no quick buck to be made. You can sell something cheap and cheerful or something beautiful and well made. The rewards do outweigh it. You make so many friends and love what you’re doing.

On being awe-struck by customers

I (Geraldine) must admit to being awe-struck of John Sheahan of the Dubliners. He was in getting a bow once and played for my young son Fiachra.

On Maria (83) and Charles (84) coming in every day

Maria: It’s part of our lives. I’ve been working since I was 19 and married into this business 51 years. We enjoy it but we also enjoy life.

Charles Byrne Music Instruments shop is on 22 Stephen Street Lower, Dublin 2. Phone: 01-4871773


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