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Ghost Town – Whats Next For St Theresas Gardens?

St Theresas Gardens flat complex, Dublin 8

St Theresa’s Gardens, six double blocks of three story balconies, have been opened since the early part of the 1950’s and at that time it was considered to be very plush and very comfortable.

When I say the word plush, I mean it had its own supply of hot and cold water, its own loo and it was a step up from the living conditions that some tenants had to put up with. In those Tenement buildings a large family would have to share one room, while maybe ten families share just the one toilet with its cold tap. So could you just imagine one’s feeling of joy to be given a two or three bedroomed flat in the 50’s with all mod cons and the best thing was probably its privacy.

Sadly today, some 50 to 60 years later, these flat complexes will be knocked down and housing and apartments will replace them. At the moment the City Council is knocking down some of the houses that used to be in the first two set of flats. All that’s left there now are two hills of mud, which some of the very few local children left, are using for their bikes and playing on them. The next stage of the project is to knock down two sets of the flats then consolidate them into two units for the tenants who are still living there. If all is well over the next ten years, then finally all of the flats will be removed and rebuilt.

As a kid I remember living in these flats. This was well before the drugs came in to the area. It was a very safe area, all of the neighbors looked out for each other and if 1 neighbor needed some milk or tea leaves, as it was used back then, it wouldn’t be a problem. I do remember as a young child when a death took hold in the flats. 2 elderly women who used to wear head scarves used to go around the flats and knock on all the doors and do a collection and give it to the grieving family. Now, many years later, I think it was a lovely gesture and I think if we had that same system in place now, wouldn’t it be wonderful?

Recently in early March and early April of this year I headed back up to the flats armed with my camera and a pen to see for myself what was happening. I went up to the old block and despite most of the flats seemed to be blocked up, it still looked and felt the same, but at the same time it felt smaller. I met up with an old neighbor who could recall my family quite well. Her name is Margaret Ennis who went on to tell me that she and other tenants who are living there at the moment feel they are been left in the dark about the future of this flat complex. Some think half of the flats will be knocked down, whilst others think it will be the whole lot. As I mentioned above, the overall plan is to have it all down within the next 10 or so years, depending on the cash flow situation. On both occasions when I visited the flats, tenants were moving out – 1 family was going to Ballyfermot the other unknown.

Another local woman, Lorraine Dunne, who has lived in the flats since 1991, feels also let down by the council. Since she first took up resident in the flats she has been moved around 3 times within the same block. Her latest move sees he living in a ground-floor flat. Since she moved in she has become a victim to the local gangs who have repeatedly smashed down her front door and broke some windows, and according to Lorraine, she has now also had problems with mice and rats, along with severe medical complaints – the very reason why she was given a flat on the ground level. But this move to ground level has also given an advantage to the group of people who – according to Lorraine – are now watching her come and go. Now when she is in at home she no longer feels safe, she dreads it now. She also says that she hasn’t a clue what’s happening to her, or to her flat, although she did go on to say she would like to be re-housed in the South of the City, say in the Dublin 8 area, or may be across the Liffey. Margaret Ennis wants to stay in the area because her children are grown up and are now settled around her. She has no intentions of leaving the area and going out to say Clondalkin or Ballyfermot, as many of other people did one family being mine. When all of those sprawling housing estates were built in the late 70’s early 80’s our family moved out to what was known as Co Dublin then, which now is Clondalkin.

So is this the end for St Theresa’s Gardens? To the locals like Margaret Ennis and Lorraine Dunne both have different views about this. Margaret has spent many a years here, she grew up in the family’s old flat, got married and then had children, and reared them in these flats. She has seen many different changes including the pre- decimal in 1972 when out went the 10 Shilling note, and in came the 100 new pennies to the pound. In the late 70’s and early 80’s Margaret also saw radical negative changes. The drug era had taken St Theresa’s Gardens and so many other flat complex’s and brought it to its knees. Margaret would have grown up with some of the drug victims who could all be dead by now. Another change was the Euro currency. Yes there were many changes – some good, some not to good – but that’s all part of life says Margaret.

Today in St Theresa’s Gardens its like a ghost town. There are no lights on in that middle block. Margaret points over to the block. “It’s really like a ghost town not a sinner to be seen, I don’t like walking past it now at night, not 1 light seems to be switched on at all, not one at all…” she tails off and just for the moment looks sad.

For info on this project you can phone the City Council on 01-222-7322. This is a direct number especially for issues related to St Theresa’s Gardens.

IMAGES: St Theresas Gardens, Dublin 8, 2013 – image credit: Alan Finn/

One Response

  1. Eddiey Conroy says:

    My family were one of the first to move into the flats at No 9. We left there in 154-55 and moved to Leicester. I remember the flats as a children’s paradise where one could play. We were very territorial, the blue blocks against the red block and all of us against Maryland and Dolphins Barn. I remember some of the families who lived close to our 2 bedroomed flat. There was the Green’s, Shamus Gray and his brothers who lived on the top floor. “Jocko” Halpin whose father died in the bedroom, he was crippled and I believe an ex footballer. The Sullivans whom we could hear in our flat as the walls were thin. I remember many more and indeed whom I played with by the old laundry which had been pulled down. The Gypsies also used to camp up by the old laundry and we played with their kids until we fell out for a while we calling them gipos and they calling us flatnoses. We used to swin in the canal I think by the South Circular Road and at the iron bridge at the Maryland flats.

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