About this Collection

The Wood Quay protests of 1978 and 1979 were not explicitly left-wing, however in the materials used to promote the protests and occupation there was an appeal to trade unionists and others. Individuals later prominent in the Labour Party and other groups were involved.

This collection brings together documents related to the campaign. Many thanks to the family of Leo Swan for forwarding these documents to the Left Archive.

The root of the dispute was the discovery of a Viking settlement site and part of the medieval city walls on the River Liffey on land owned by Dublin Corporation in front of Christ Church Cathedral. A decision was taken to locate the Corporations new offices on this site.

Between 1974 and 1981 a series of archaeological excavations were conducted there. On foot of them a campaign to reverse the decision to site the offices there was initiated. In September 1978 a protest march attracted 20,000 people. The campaign sought to combat the development ‘on the streets and in the media, in the Courts and Council Chamber, and even on the site of Wood Quay itself’. Despite the protests and an occupation (dubbed Operation Sitric) of the site, however, the new Civic Offices were eventually built. The winning design by Sam Stephenson for the Offices was never completed in full. It was later amended by the addition of a new building which partially masked the Stephenson design.

The collection includes background documents on the site from An Taisce and Friends of Medieval Dublin. Also included is an editorial from Hibernia magazine from 1977 outlining some political aspects of the situation.

One feature of the protests which is of particular interest is the targeting by the campaign of candidates for local elections – including city councillors. There was, from these documents, a very clear effort to identify potential allies as well as those hostile to the campaign and to apply political pressure to them.

Wood Quay is an Election Issue

A publication entitled City Views which was issued early in 1979 and published ‘in associating with the Living City Group’ included information on those who had voted for and against preservation the site. The contents though are considerably more wide-ranging and include information on Corporation redevelopment in Summerhill, transportation plans in Dublin, Art for the People and City Centre Hospitals. The publication is scathing about plans for ‘meeting the basic needs of the area’ in terms of housing. It also contains some useful statistics from a survey by the Prisoners Rights Organisation.

Two further documents list candidates for Local Elections in the Dublin Area in June 1979 – the month the site was occupied – and indicates those who are known to be either favourable or not to the campaigns goals. Also included is a postcard issued during the local election that shows those who can be voted for and against. As can be seen at that stage the list of the former was yet to be formulated.

Another publication, “Wood Quay Occupation News”, outlines the events of the occupation of the site.

For those interested in this particular topic, Come Here to Me! has a series of posts . There is also a Wood Quay collection in the RTÉ Archives .



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