Your Neighbourhood is a series of local area guides from TheJournal.ie, presented by KBC. We’re bringing you the best of city neighbourhoods combined with the latest property data.
AT THE TURN of the eighteenth century, most of the area that today makes up East and North Wall was under the Irish Sea – at least at high tide. A 1714 map shows the city petering out east of what is today O’Connell Bridge, and turning into the muddy Liffey Estuary.
During the 1700s, though, city engineers built large walls – North and East Wall, to be exact – to contain the Liffey and its outflow into the ocean. In the process, they reclaimed large parcels of land which today form part of the heart of inner-city Dublin.
People have lived here since it was, well, dry land – but most of today’s housing dates from the 1920s, when the Corporation started building in a big way.
In recent decades, of course, this traditionally industrial area has seen radical change. First the IFSC and then the various Docklands business developments have changed its face, both commercially and in terms of its population. (Newcomers, Turtle Bunbury notes, even have their own name here – they’ve been called ‘runner-ins’ since the 1930s).
Today East and North Walls are a blend of old inner-city Dublin with a growing community of the aforementioned runner-ins - all mixed up with the daytime comings and goings to and from the new buildings along the north docks, from the big offices of the IFSC to the Convention Centre and the 3Arena.
Take me there! OK, here you are facing the church of St Laurence O’Toole, where East Wall meets North Wall.
So what’s the big draw? This area is an old part of inner-city Dublin, with the heritage, character and active community to match. It’s about as close to the city centre as you can get without living on the top floor of Arnotts. And there are plenty of young families – both new arrivals, and those who grew up in the area themselves.
Like many inner-city areas, it has its problems, and there have been high-profile instances of crime. But residents would be quick to tell you that media coverage isn’t the full picture of the neighbourhood they know.
What do people love about it? The active community means there’s something for everyone, says Joe Mooney, a local historian in East Wall.
There is something for everybody within the area. From the youngest kids in the community creche, through the youth club and the recreation centre which cater for growing age groups and right up to the men’s sheds, ladies club, bingo nights – everybody is catered for. There’s even a senior citizens summer project, just so the youngsters don’t have all the fun.
Photographer Paul Kelly, who lives in North Wall and photographs its residents for the regular North Wall Series, also cites the community spirit.
We possess a unique pride-of-place and an indomitable humour. You can’t walk through North Wall without seeing something unusual – be it a lady dressed in nightgown and slippers feeding ‘Eddie the heron’ or a few lads careening down the road in a shopping cart. Even after 12 years I’m still a blow-in or ‘runner-in’, however once you become part of this community you are embraced and given respect. As a long-time resident said to me: ‘You may be a runner-in Paul, but your sons are born and bred!’
And… what do people NOT love about it? In common with other areas of Dublin, says Joe, rising prices have created problems in the housing market.
Ironically, one of the biggest drawbacks in recent years has been the area’s popularity . House prices have shot up out of all proportion and rents are prohibitive to anyone on an average wage these days. A lot of properties have been bought by investors for the rental market and are so expensive that you often find large groups living in them, particularly students and office workers, so there’s a lot of short to medium term tenancies. These are often really decent people but they know they’ll be moving on, so they don’t really want to invest their time in the community.
Meanwhile the area still hasn’t seen the investment it needs, says Paul – despite the great wealth that passes through it.
The financial services zone has created a disparity between rich and poor. We now have a situation where the wealthiest companies and businesses are living side-by-side with a community that in many ways has been left to fend for itself – notwithstanding the efforts of DCC and a myriad of voluntary and charitable services. Despite repeated governmental promises and efforts the area has still not been provided with the resources it requires.
What’s the story with house prices? There’s a lot of variation across the neighbourhoods. The average price in the North Wall area, close to the IFSC and the other new developments, is €387,856 according to Daft.ie. Across East Wall and North Strand, it falls to €303,114. (Daft doesn’t track prices for East Wall alone.)
How long will it take me to the city centre? Um, you’re pretty much IN the city centre. But it’s about half an hour’s walk from O’Connell Street to, say, St Joseph’s church in the heart of East Wall.
There are a number of DublinBikes stations along the docklands, but none in East Wall proper.
On public transport, meanwhile, the Luas runs through North Wall from end to end and will get you to Henry Street in ten minutes or so. Dublin Bus routes 151, 53 and 41x also serve the area.
Where should I get lunch? Most of the lunch options are clustered around the docks, catering to the daytime flood of office workers. But right on the western edge of East Wall (some would say it’s across the border in North Strand) is Da Mimmo, a small family-run Italian restaurant that’s quietly established a reputation as one of the best pizza places in the city.
Alternatives: On the same strip is Cloud Cafe, serving upscale brunches and pastries. Or there’s a host of options around the IFSC, from Musashi to Boojum and beyond.
And what’s my new local? Cusack’s is a popular spot on the North Strand road, with live events aplenty and strong GAA links.
Alternatives: The Seabank House, the main pub in East Wall, closed after a fire at the end of 2018 but is slated to reopen sometime towards the end of summer 2019. Or head to the docklands for pubs and wine bars aplenty, though you might find the atmosphere a bit lacking.
Schools and supermarkets? An Aldi and a Lidl are directly across from one another on the East Wall Road. There’s also a SuperValu a few minutes’ walk west on Talbot Street.
There are two primary schools: St Joseph’s (Catholic, mixed, 220 pupils) and St Laurence O’Toole’s National School (Catholic, mixed).
There are no post-primary schools in East or North Wall themselves, but several nearby.
OK, I’m sold. Give me one piece of trivia to impress a local. This used to be the place where the Flakes in 99s came from. Older residents will remember the Cadbury factory in East Wall, which turned out classic chocolate bars in the thousands until its closure in 1964.
In this article, former worker Pat Glynn recalls a time when the women hired to package the Flakes couldn’t wrap them quickly enough to satisfy demand. Factory bosses got a machine in, he says – but you could still tell the hand-wrapped ones by the twist on the end.
Do you live in East Wall or North Wall? Share your opinion in the comments.