Donnybrook Unfair


Aeriel view of Donnybrook, Dublin 4 looking toward the city centre

A traditional village, like Donnybrook, is not just a collection of shops and business that happen to be grouped together in the same location, writes NewsFour‘s Eoin Meegan, it is a community, an organic unit, and when you damage one part you affect all of it.

Eoin writes:

A spate of shop closures over the last few years in Donnybrook {Dublin 4] has given rise to some concern that the once-thriving village is in danger of turning into a ghost town, or worse, a signpost on the Stillorgan Dual Carriageway on the way to Wexford.

Numbered among the recent casualties is Donna the Florist, Dunnes butchers, Molloy’s fish shop, and Kiely’s pub.

While the flower shop is still trading, sadly it is due to close its doors for good shortly. Donna has been in Donnybrook for many years now, and always has a welcoming smile for everyone.

When NewsFour talked to her recently she said she was very sad to be closing and would really miss the people coming in for a chat. She told me she doesn’t have any immediate plans to open again.

Roy Fox had been something of an institution in Donnybrook, serving the people for eighty years. As well as the Mecca of fresh vegetables, it was known for its exotic herbs and spices, and superior pastas, imported from Europe and Asia.

Joanne Donnelly was the third and last generation of the family to work in the shop. Shortly after her grandparents Sheila and Frank began working there, romance blossomed and they fell in love.

The couple eventually bought the shop after Roy’s untimely death, with many happy years ensuing. Sadly, however, due to market pressures and being underpriced by the big supermarkets, the shop closed for good in December 2016.

Two purveyors of meat are also noticeable losses. Molloy’s fish shop, next door to Roy Fox’s, closed following the sudden death of owner, second-generation fishmonger Peter. The shop was known for its fresh fish, organic smoked salmon and Dublin Bay prawns. Peter’s wife Miriam carried on for a while, but it too eventually succumbed.

A similar fate befell Dunnes the butcher. As well as choice cuts of meat, they dry-aged their beef by a process of hanging it for four weeks in a special room. This allows natural enzymes in the meat to break down the muscle tissue, allowing for better texture and taste.

While the big stores may be convenient and able to offer lower prices, the local shops provide the soul of a town. When they begin to drop off, one by one, the town simply dies.

The closure of Kiely’s pub last year left a yawning chasm in the social life of the village. It was granted its first licence in 1739. Popular restaurant O’Connell’s also closed before Christmas. People miss chatting to Tom as he watered the plants outside. The lease on the premises is up for sale again and it’s hoped it will reopen soon.

Financial institutions have suffered too, with two banks and the post office closing in the past few years. For Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, it was probably due to the ever-growing trend in online banking, and the increasing move towards machine-operated banks. There is only one bank now remaining in Donnybrook.

Post office closures all around the country are causing a lot of controversy, with people saying it’s destroying local communities, and Donnybrook has been no exception to this. The post office was located at the rear of Donnybrook Fair and acted as a kind of impromptu meeting place for half the village, especially on Fridays.

A spokesperson for An Post said that they tried very hard to find a new location for the post office in Donnybrook, but with rising rental costs it proved impossible. In the end, they moved their existing customers to branches nearby, either Ranelagh, or the one in Ballsbridge or Baggot Street. He said they have no plans to move back to Donnybrook.

A proposed six-storey, 71-bedroom hotel adjacent to the fire station has been given the green light by an Bord Pleanála. Many locals object to this on the grounds that they maintain it is out of character with the area, and that the proposed building is too tall.

Certainly, it could be a boost to the hospitality industry, which counts as a positive, but on the other hand it would cater predominantly to passing trade, and its impact on local business and the life of the village would be negligible.

Donnybrook is a picturesque village only about a half-hour walk from the city. It is also well-served by an excellent bus route, and not far from the Luas (Ranelagh and Milltown) and DART (Sandymount and Lansdowne) services either.

It looks clean and well-kept, for which praise must go to the Donnybrook Tidy Towns Committee for the hard work and effort they put in, winning an award in the Tidy Towns last year.It has a unique character, and is steeped in history, going back to St Broc in the eighth century.

The people are warm and friendly, and traditionally there has always been a wide selection of businesses, from travel agents to furniture shops, to friendly local newsagents (remember Furlongs?) I even remember a shop selling headstones at one time!

While a new hotel may have its merits, it can hardly replace the small local trader. Here, whether it be the local butcher, grocer or newsagent, you went in almost for the social aspect as much as anything else.

You knew the shop owner by name, and more than likely he knew yours. You chatted about the local gossip, maybe to ask after someone who was in Vincent’s, or reminisce on old times.

There was a tangible intimacy here that cannot be replaced by the sterile supermarkets, no matter how convenient, or how clever they are at luring us in with ever-decreasing prices.

It’s particularly worrying when it comes to products like meat. The big supermarkets aren’t employing butchers, and even when they say their meat is produced in Ireland it doesn’t mean it is Irish beef or pork.

In time, these trades will be lost, like the dry-ageing technique mentioned above, and when they’re gone we won’t be able to get them back. It’s not just a question of a few shops closing, but a whole community that goes into decline.

Let’s hope this trend of closures can be reversed and before long we see Donnybrook as the vibrant village and thriving little community and it once was.

Is Donnybrook becoming a ghost town? (Eoin Meegan, NewsFour)

Pic: Kelly Walsh

70 thoughts on “Donnybrook Unfair

  1. b

    all this talk of it being a thriving community is just lip service, the community has deserted the village and its shops

    use it or lose it, businesses are not providing an altruistic service

    1. Rob_G

      This is true; I mean, it’s sad and all, but the blame lies squarely with the people of donnybrook

  2. Chris

    The Donnybrook bubble- oh woe is us that we don’t have a florist anymore! Come check out the liberties and how marauding gangs of kids can make your life a misery and you might appreciated your well kept salubrious suburb a bit more.

      1. Andrew

        I live near the Liberties and pass through eta on my bike twice a day. Chris is NOT talking crap, I can assure you.
        Having said that, people should have to feel ‘grateful’ to live in a well kept, low crime area. It should be the norm.
        I’d echo b’s points above. The locals in donnybrook could well afford to keep businesses open, they are choosing not to. Of course rising rents is a factor as the property gravy train continues with little regard to what happens the real economy as a result.
        Also Donnybrook is unaffordable for anyone in the demographic that actually spends money.

        1. Anomanomanom

          Both of You are talking crap. I’ve lived in the liberties all my life and “roving gangs” even teen gangs is just not true.

          1. millie st murderlark

            You’re more likey to see a gang of kids taking a horse for a walk, something I have seen up there on more than one occasion and it made me smile.

          2. Andrew

            Ah it is true though. People who live in an area tend not to like it being slagged off and ignore the truth. It is the truth though. Roving gangs is the least of it actually.

          3. Anomanomanom

            I’ve noticed this lately, because the liberties is becoming to expensive for the people who use to say “oh I wouldn’t live there” and now they cant live there they all slag it off. You’re either delusional or just out and out lying.

          4. Andrew

            but I’m not lying. I have already told you I am in the liberties every single day. have been for years. I think maybe you just don’t know what is going on around you. Your tone leaves a lot to be desired to be honest.
            Why would I have delusions about something like this?
            You’ll kindly refrain from accusing me of being a liar.
            Thank you.

          5. Anomanomanom

            No you live near and pass through it. Your clearly making stuff up because roving gangs of kids is just not a problem in the liberties. If you call friends hanging out together a roving gang then maybe thats what you see. But I grew up here and still live here and roving gangs just dont happen. And thats a fact.

          6. Andrew

            Would you go on out of that!
            Why would I make it up? What’s the matter with you? If anyone is delusional it is you. You can’t bring yourself to admit where you grew up and still live, has serious problems. There ARE gangs of youths roaming about, on bikes mostly. Assaulting and robbing people and running drugs for the criminal drug dealers who were alos born and bred in the liberties. Now that IS a fact.
            I suppose there’s no drug problem either?
            You’re a bit of a joker to be fair. Are you worried about your property value? Is that it?
            You’d be better off getting out of denial.

  3. dhod

    1. O’Connell’s premises is back in action. it’s the Donnybrook and run by Oliver dunne
    2. if the businesses are strong enough the people will come. Look at some of the thriving small businesses 5 minutes away in Ranelagh village

    1. ZeligIsJaded

      How are people supposed to get from Donnybrook to Ranelagh?

      AND carry back flowers!

      Be reasonable!

    2. Andyourpointiswhatexactly?

      Oh dear. O’Connell’s closing down is probably my fault. We had a big family do there a few years ago and I forgot to include a tip when paying. I meant to go back and never did. Ah well. Such is life.
      Twas very nice though. He’s the less polished O’Connell.

  4. Lilly

    The real mystery is how Khans survives. O’Connells has reopened under new management, Donnybrook gourmet pub or similar. Kielys had become a kip.

  5. Owen C

    “As well as the Mecca of fresh vegetables, it was known for its exotic herbs and spices, and superior pastas, imported from Europe and Asia”

    Presumably the post office also allowed people to hear of dispatches from the colonies as well. Was this thing written in the 1800’s?

    1. Tony

      It’s from that old book Miichael Portillo reads on his Great Train Journeys. Also, if you were on the ‘Stillorgan Dual Carriageway on the way to Wexford’ there would be no signpost because the Mecca of fresh vegetables would be behind you.

    1. Mezcal

      … this. And this: unfettered and unregulated expansion by Lidl and Aldi has been killing rural Ireland for years, it’s now affecting the major cities.

    2. Rob_G

      How is a building that D’OB hasn’t even built yet responsible for a decline in Donnybrook that has apparently been going on for years…

      1. Johnny

        Oh it will attract shifty,yank businessman and dodgy as fook FG pols,ruins the ambiance.He flipped this Donnybrook site after doing a dodgy,back room deal with UCD,on which they refuse release details,He single handily has ruined what was once one Dublin’s most pleasant,charming and delightful villages.

        Ps-he also lives there,nothing like s**ting on your own doorstep,then again his greatest attribute is his utter lack of shame.

        1. Rob_G

          This article also seems to refer to a development that hasn’t been completed yet… Remind me again why its DOB’s fault people don’t go to the butcher shop any more(?)

          1. Lilly

            Denis owns the shops beside the fire station with the Marbella vibe – DeMilo hair, jewellers, interiors. The elderly woman in the interiors shop is a wagon, I have no idea how she pays the rent unless she’s related to him.

          2. Johnny

            Is Ireland’s pound shop WeWork still ripping people off?

            Rob-it’s complicated but given that you view hotels as a positive in delightful tree lined,walkable villages,where do I start.Speculative land development specifically hoarding then flipping sites ‘purchased’ or was it some funky swap with UCD,is bad for the village.Its profit extraction with no value add,no creativity no flair no nothing,just maxing sites for a few more bucks by driving up the actual price to the eventual builder.With increased land cost they will have ‘max’ out the site.

          3. Rob_G

            I don’t really understand the point you are making; sure, it would be perhaps better for the village (and Dublin, in general) if apartments were built instead of a hotel, but hotel guests would still stop into local pubs, restaurants, and coffeeshops. As would the people that would move into the apartments from your 2nd link.

            And while this might not cure all of D’brook’s woes, it would be a start.

          4. Johnny

            -the land hoarding and flipping by Denis O’Brien has contributed to its current state,the future looks great can’t wait.
            -pity these sites were hoarded and not developed on for a decade.
            -if FG has introduced taxes on speculation in land the village may be different !

          5. Rob_G

            Honest question – DOB is a capitalist, do you not think if would have liked to build something on it 10 years’ ago and been making money on it ever since; do you not think that there were maybe external factors at play?

          6. johnny

            -he’s a big hot mess, capitalist my a**,he wastes most his time cutting ribbons and kissing sick babies, to atone.
            -i’d actually like him if he said ok lads bend over your about get fooked agin,this time I’m not using vaseline,now where’s my broadband contract or else…..
            -its the buying of the flowers after that annoys me,you guys are in a abusive relationship with him you need a intervention:)

          7. johnny

            Rob-do you not think I and many other Donnybrook/Ballsbridge residents tried find out about that really funky UCD land swap ?
            How can i comment when a university that is basically supported by the state,enters into dodgy backroom deals with highly controversial off shore businessmen, involving prime land,naming rights and cash, then they quite simply refuses divulge the details on the deal ?

            “Another luxury apartment looks set to hit Dublin 4 as Purleigh Holdings, an offshore company associated with Denis O’Brien, has submitted a planning application to redevelop a site in Donnybrook’s Greenfield Park. In 2010 it was reported that the 1.35 hectare Greenfield site was swapped with UCD for land beside the university’s Belgrove student residences and a reported €12.5 million in cash.”

            “After leaving the site untouched for years, O’Brien’s decision to develop comes just in time for the revival of Dublin 4’s booming luxury apartment market”

            Did the over paid tenured profs at the Smurfit/O’Brien MBA program,tasked with producing irelands best and brightest run a pencil over it-who approved it-the veterinary college…who knows its a state secret!


  6. Col

    I would imagine as rents and house prices become unreachable, there are fewer and fewer young families in areas like this?
    With that, demand for shops and services will reduce. And I would imagine Eoin Meegan is opposed to any and all new housing developments in the area as he wants to protect those unreachable house prices.

    1. Liam Deliverance

      I don’t think think there is a shortage of residents or indeed footfall, I can only guess that property costs are the underlying reason for all of this, in Donnybrook and across the city.

  7. Rob_G

    I would have thought that, with more and more well-heeled young professional couples moving into an area, there would be increased demand for more boojee shops and services like cocktail bars and sushi shops; though at the expense of things like banks and post offices that such types of person would be less interested in.

    1. class wario

      I would be surprised if the area was attracting many young professional types, or at least enough to offset the issues there. it’s an expensive area to rent or buy in. it would seem a lot of the people living and operating businesses there have been there for a long time.

      1. Rob_G

        Could be. Well, TIL that DOB seems toe be building 90 apartments in Donnybrook – I presume they will be rented out, and young professional couples will be only people able to afford the rent. These type of people are the demographic that like going to cafés and restaurants, so once they move in, they will start spending money and The Market will sort everything out, like it usually does.

    2. Col

      Good points, but I think the area isn’t attracting young professional couples because many of the houses are occupied by just one or two elderly owners.

      1. Rob_G

        My impressions of the place would lead me to believe the same thing. But, not to be insensitive, the passage of time will mean that some of the properties will come up for sale, be bought by the more well-off couples or, more likely, developers who will turn them into apartments, and the area may well get a new lease of life. It’s so close to town, Ranelagh, Rathmines & to the docklands that it would be amazing if the same thing didn’t happen there, too.

  8. Custo

    Try living in Inchicore. It didn’t even have an atm, never mind a fish shop.

    Tonnes of chippers though.

  9. Leo Clements

    I lived in a student flat near Donnybrook a good few years back, and it was easily the least “community centred” place I’ve ever stayed in my life, not to mention the big feck off N11 running through the middle of it. Awful place to live.

    Priciest Spar in Ireland too, I’d wager.

  10. Dr.Fart MD

    used to work in donnybrook and this ‘community’ vibe Eoin talks about was not present. Never once got a feeling of there being a community. With the price of property/rent I imagine the majority of people living there are wealthy and elderly, the generation who threw future generations under the bus by tanking the economy and destroying the environment, I can’t see them caring about the welfar of local business when they can get their goods for cheaper from the big supermarkets. I wager this is what has happened to the shops in the area.

    1. johnny

      Hey leave the folks out it,certain people have never nor would they set food in a ‘supermarket’,they look down on people who had buy their own furniture,never mind groceries, oh and they have house accounts, the groceries are delivered :)
      A stroll in Herbert Park on a nice spring morning or a run is hard to beat,especially if you encounter some friends and neighbors.

  11. RT

    Worked in Donnybrook village for past 4.5 years and can attest to 90% of what the writer has said. He’s avoided the elephant in the room in that the overpriced Donnybrook Fair supermarket likely took a lot of trade from the smaller businesses from the area – it has a butchers, seafood counter, deli, extensive fruit, veg and flowers selection.

    I don’t lament the PO closure. Surly staff, lunchtime closure for 1h15 each day (WTF?!) and a stamp machine that was permanently out of order, meaning the one thing I went to the PO for I had to rely on its opening hours. Thankfully you can buy stamps at the DF tills now. Kiely’s was no great loss, it had been going downhill for years and I largely avoided it in favour of Arthur Mayne’s down the street – despite it being a Cork import. How McCloskey’s pub survives is beyond me!, it’s like a time warp in there!

    With eye-watering property prices and rents in the area, not to mention the existing age profile of the area, it’s hardly attracting the type of young professionals in significant numbers who would be inclined to support local businesses and new enterprises, and I’m not just talking brunch establishments. This is a shame, as its proximity to town, superb bus links and being walking distance from both Dart and Luas means it’s possible to have a car-free life in Donnybrook for the most part for such young professionals. D4 NIMBY-ism would likely kill off any proposed developments anyway.

  12. class wario

    in fairness, it seems one of these closures is due to somebody dying and another is due to the owners ‘retiring’

  13. Janet, I ate my avatar

    The Dublin Penny Journalasked their readers in 1833 “have you ever seen the Donnybrook Fair, that far famed spot for drollery and drunkenness, for courting and cudgeling, for gambling and gymnastics, for frolicking and fighting.” Maybe the most colourful account described it as “a perfect prodigy of moral horrors – a concentration of disgrace upon, not Ireland alone, but civilised Europe.”

  14. Goodnight Ireland

    The writer is obviously of an older generation you can tell this as he thinks the post office is a great meeting place despite the fact that their hours only suit the unemployed or pensioners.

    People vote with their wallets mostly, although convenience is a factor too. Do I want to pay for a hardware shop charging twice what you would pay in an industrial estate? Probably not. To take the example of Ranelagh, and also Rathmines in recent times, these places will end up having a lot of cafes/restaurants which are good for meeting people too.

    Lastly the people of ranelagh are no more “warm and friendly” than anywhere else.

    1. class wario

      Was unemployed for about 2 weeks a few years back and claimed for unemployment benefit as a result. Had totally forgotten how awkward post offices are for, well, everybody bar those you mentioned when trying to get there to actually get the benefit once I’d subsequently started in a new role.

      Agree with the rest but Rathmines is a bit of a funny place, really. Has a lot of traffic going through it and has a lot of renters squeezed into every nook and cranny but seems to have new cafes/restaurants opening and closing every few months. Not sure there’s much of an appetite for places like that there despite the activity. It’s basically a gateway to the city centre proper.

    2. Spaghetti Hoop

      Agreed. What meeting place is a post office queue? An Post don’t even offer an efficient service to its customers – the ones remaining which I have had the displeasure of using are a hive of local derogatory gossip and death reports.

      Besides that, if a village is not supported by the majority of its residents then it will suffer. The opposite is happening in my village of Chapelizod. It has a large young apartment-dwelling population plus Park visitors who are keeping the newly re-vamped bars, bistros and cafes alive. God bless it.

  15. edalicious

    Lads, the massive, busy road, ploughed right through the middle of the village, means Donnybrook will never be the lovely quaint little village we’d all like it to be. I don’t see any alternative either, unfortunately, given the amount of nimbyism around projects like Metrolink and BusConnects. Donnybrook is a sacrificial lamb to our love of cars.

  16. Rugbyfan

    Ah Donnybrook, after a match and a few scoops we’d head to Longs for a few then on to Kiely’s then over to Eddies for a bit of grub!
    Nevdr much a village feel to it. Always a couple of rows of shops with a main road running through it.

    1. Rob_G

      “No parking”

      “You’re stuck somewhere along the route to get there”

      – I think there might be some sort of link between those two statements, don’t you?

  17. $hifty

    I’m a big fan of shopping local, especially in the butchers and fruit/veg shops, where possible. But the vast majority of them shut their doors before the bulk of people leave work. Are people supposed to go home at lunch time to get a few sausages? Whats the point, when i can call into Supervalu on the way home?

    Plus, I can’t imagine this kind of article being penned about a less affluent area such as, lets say, the general decline of Ballybough or Harmonstown?

    1. AngryArb

      Agreed, always find it very surprising when these local shops have 9-5 type hours. They’d be better off opening 6-9am and 5-8pm everyday I often think. Most of customers with disposable income generally working office type 9-5 hours. Making generalisations clearly but..

      1. deluded

        yeah, every business has its busy times
        Split shifts are a curse though.
        A lot of shops could run 10-7 imo (from a brief stint plying tat on one our capital’s prime thoroughfares).

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