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Where Have 40,000 Dublin Port Workers Gone?

9th September 2015
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Why do the people of Dublin seem to know so little about the place of the docks in the history of Liffeyside and how their role was once the heart-and-soul of Dublin Port, its shipping and its commerce? Credit: Photo: courtesy of Dublin Dock Workers Preservation Society Collection

“We were invited into schools in the North Wall and while all the children had grandparents who were dockers, not one of them knew what a docker was, because all of that tradition is gone….”

Amidst the current controversy over where Dublin Port and Dun Laoghaire Harbour will dump what they intend to dredge up in their plans to provide deeper access channels for the larger cruise ships which they both covet and which business they are fighting for, that comment, made to me on the edge of Dublin Bay by a man dedicated to preserving the maritime traditions of the port, should give cause for thought about where all the commercial development has taken the communities which once bounded in Dublin Port and lived from the jobs it provided.
Alan Martin of the Dublin Dock Workers’ Preservation Society was speaking to me, as we sat on the edge of Dublin Bay, for the current edition of my maritime programme, THIS ISLAND NATION. We could hear the sound of seagulls wheeling in the sky, the rumble of noise emanating from the docks, ships passed in and out, as we talked and he had a reality check for me. He told me that 40,000 jobs have gone from the capital’s port since the time when dock labour sustained viable communities.
“Why do the people of Dublin seem to know so little about the place of the docks in the history of Liffeyside and how their role was once the heart-and-soul of Dublin Port, its shipping and its commerce?”
There are many voluntary organisations doing great work in the marine sphere, without whom much of the maritime culture, history and tradition would be lost. The Dublin Port and Dock Workers’ Preservation Society, set up to preserve the history of Dublin Port, is definitely one such. The interview Alan Martin gave me is revealing. They have encountered many obstacles in their self-imposed task.
He surprised me with his revelations about the extent of the maritime-associated jobs that have been lost and the port-side communities which have suffered in the drive towards modernity. He made strong points about how Dublin’s marine traditions can be preserved and turned into a modern, vibrant, beneficial culture for the benefit of the city.
This offers a bridge from the past to the future, effectively a conveyance of pride in past experience to benefit modern life. Other port communities could, with benefit, replicate the commitment of the Dublin Dock Workers’ Preservation Society.
It was an interview I enjoyed doing and I think you will enjoy listening to. I am fortunate to work as a marine journalist and to meet exceptional people in the ports and maritime communities. So it is good to report in this programme, a positive attitude amongst young people in coastal areas, many of whom are joining the lifeboat service. Also featured in this edition of the programme is the delight of a coastal town when it gets a new lifeboat, as I found in Youghal in East Cork.

OLDEST SEA SCORPION IMAGE YALE UNIVERSITY
And there is always something interesting and unusual about the sea to report, such as the 467 million years old sea scorpion (above) found in a river in Iowa in the USA.

Click HERE to listen to the programme.

Published in Island Nation
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