Remember when whether you lived on the Northside or the Southside of Dublin was a really big deal? Like, practically life-or-death? No? Well then either you’re not originally from around these parts, or you moved around in circles that never saw you encountering anyone from the other side of the Liffey. God forbid.
So how deep did this, this rivalry we could call it, go? Well, think of it like this – there are those who would refuse to go to Dunne’s Stores in the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre if they hadn’t got the slippers they were after in Dunne’s Stores over in the Ilac.
We’re talking garlic-to-a-vampire type of aversion here. The side of the Liffey on which you grew up was sacred. When you met someone you fancied in a pub or club, once upon a time, the first thing you wanted to know was not their name, but whether the number that came after “Dublin” in their postal address was odd or even. That’s not to say many great marriages haven’t resulted from the binding together of two people raised on opposite sides of the water, but sometimes the U.N. did need to get involved, to work out a peace treaty between the families first.
There used to be ways to tell quickly where you hailed from. One of these was footwear. Was the person in question sporting deck shoes or Nike Air Max? Or you could ask one simple question: Were they born in Holles Street or the Rotunda? Or did they know “The Snapper” script off by heart?
But that was all then, I think. Because in the last decade or so, the waters have muddied (and that’s not a slight against the Liffey). This was down, in a large part, to the property boom of the 2000’s. People, especially people from the Southside, found themselves priced out of sight of a home in the area they had always envisaged for themselves. Not wanting to go so far south that they would be on the other side of the Dublin Mountains, they started dipping their toe into the Northside. This became more accepted as time went by and realities set in. And sure with the advent of the M50, they hardly even noticed when they were crossing the water anymore.
With the explosion of interest in fitness and running, Southsiders even started donning those Air Max, while teenage girls across on the Northside rowed in with their southern counterparts and made deck shoes standard with their secondary school uniforms.
Today it’s not simply about north and south either. The boom, and urban sprawl, opened up a whole new side of the capital to Dubliners. The West. I remember Lucan being a place we used to go for a drive once in a while when we were kids. Now it’s a town I go right past every night on my way home, to a place that doesn’t just lie another 5 miles further to the west, but is in another county altogether.
The Westside (which if you want to be fussy, has its own north and south sides) is the neutral zone for Dubliners. Out there, especially right around the border in the Celbridges, Rathcooles, Saggarts, Leixlips and Maynooths of this world, Northsiders and Southsiders now live in harmony.
Our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even some of our more militant childhood friends may still want to keep up the idea that there exists a great divide here, and never the twain shall meet, but I’m not sure that strip of water that splits this city is the Grand Canyon we Dubliners once saw it to be.