What's in a name?
Dublin, its self confidence fuelled by the roaring success of the Celtic Tiger, began to celebrate its otherness - the unique experience of simply being Dublin - and the 21st century city fathers, Dublin City Council, came to name bridges for men who loved, yet ultimately fled their native city - men of the pen.
Seán O’Casey was such a man, born (1880) and bred a northside docklander. By birth a Protestant, by discovery an idealist, a socialist, a rebel and idiosyncratic to boot - he always wore a turtle necked sweater, even to his wedding - O’Casey held a dramatic mirror up to his fellow citizens. In response they rioted in the theatres, then, with the inbred irony of Dubliners, applauded his artistic vision.
While living in Dublin and working variously as a labourer and a railway man amongst other things, he had joined the nationalist Irish Republican Brotherhood, the Irish Citizens army and was involved with the emerging Irish Transport and General Workers Union. His relationship with his native city was a tempestuous one though.
Dublin for him was - ‘in my youth hard times in the body, and in my manhood years a hard time in the spirit’.
Even when ensconced safely abroad, living by his pen, the arguments did not abate. “Drums of Father Ned”, selected for the Dublin Theatre Festival in 1958, was withdrawn by him following intimations of disapproval by the influential, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid. In this O’Casey was in the company of Samuel Beckett and James Joyce. The playwright banned production of his plays in the Irish Republic for the rest of his life.
Seán O’Casey wrote the lyricism of Dubliners onto the world stage, honing his dramatic skills by taking his own advice to ‘be out listening to everything, looking at everything and thinking it all out afterwards’. Dublin owed him a debt of gratitude and has now repaid it with this monument which brings O’Casey and the city of his birth into harmony.
Seán O’Casey died in 1964 in Torquay, England. His daughter, Shivaun, attended the opening ceremony of the bridge.
‘He drank to Life, to all it had been, to what it was, to what it would be. Hurrah!’