Search icon


22nd May 2024

7 of the best chaotic Irish building projects that are peak Celtic Tiger


The problematic portal opened back up on North Earl this week, and although we’re glad to see at least one Dublin project come to fruition (unlike the ones below), it seems everyone is still scratching their heads trying to figure out why exactly we need it. Whether you’re a lover or a hater of the infamous Dublin portal, no one really seems to know who asked for it, where it came from, or why it exists. In a time when Dublin is struggling with several social and economic issues, this particular art installation threw most of us a curveball. 

All of the talk around the portal got us thinking; if questionable creative investments are being made now, what must it have been like when Ireland was in her quote-unquote boom time? So, what better way to celebrate the chaos-inducing portal reopening, than to look at some of the hopes and dreams various architects, developers and artists had for Dublin city during the Celtic Tiger (that were crushed pretty quickly)?

7. Cable car attraction over the Liffey A.K.A The Suas

We can all agree that the Spire doesn’t cut it as far as iconic landmarks go. New York gets the Statue of Liberty, Britain gets the London Eye, and France gets the Eiffel Tower. In 2006, developer Barry Boland tried to supply Ireland with its own recognisable attraction, by proposing the ‘Suas’. Set to be a cable car system set that would run from Heuston station to the docklands, he had dreams of the Suas becoming a tourist attraction along the Liffey remarkable enough to compete with the big names. His first proposal included building four towers along the river, two of which were supposed to be among the tallest structures in Ireland, reaching 80m tall. Each cable car would hold 25 people, costing €15 for a 20-minute trip.

They estimated the cost of the project to be €90 million, and over the years following Boland attempted to receive extra funding to speed things up. He asked and was eventually rejected by An Bord Pleanála to rule that the ‘Suas’ could qualify as strategic infrastructure. But he still did not let his determination to transform Dublin into the next cosmopolitan paradise die. In 2014, it was debated again by Dublin city councillors and was called an idea “worth pursuing” by Labour councillor Dermot Lacey, according to Fora.

Talks about the Suas have pretty much ended, but Boland still sees potential for his passion project. He told Fora that he argues it would have “a positive impact” on the Dublin skyline, and is anxiously awaiting their application for planning permission to be approved by the Dublin City Council. A spokesman for the council told Fora they haven’t received any planning application, which gets us worried we might never be lucky enough to experience seeing what Dublin city has to offer from a bird’s eye perspective (that might be a little too chaotic, actually). 

The concept for the Suas via Fora

6. The 130 metre tallest building in Ireland A.KA. ‘The U2 Tower’

When one thinks of the world-renowned Irish rock band ‘U2′, obviously the first thing one thinks of is the band’s architectural skills. At the end of the 90s, there was a push to regenerate many of the disused sites in the docklands by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA). U2 became involved when there was a compulsory purchase order on the band’s old recording studio at Grand Canal Dock — so naturally, the only option was to build a 130m ’tilted triangle’ skyscraper.

With 36 storeys, it would have been crowned the tallest storied building in Ireland and would have been 10m taller than the Spire. As if that wasn’t outrageous enough, an egg-shaped recording studio for U2 was also proposed to be suspended at the top of the tower, and an energy centre with wind turbines and a large solar pane was discussed. The tower would also have 34 social flats, and the rest would be dedicated to luxury accommodation.

The building firm Ballymore Properties, developer Paddy McKillen and U2 band members and their management were noted to construct and finance the tower. The estimated construction eventually climbed to €200 million. Unfortunately for U2, when the financial crash of 2008 struck Ireland, the U2 tower was demolished before even being built.

Concept for U2 Tower via Fora

5. 50 metre citygazing space A.K.A ‘The Park in the Sky’

The good ol’ Celtic Tiger era created a lot of high-aiming (literally) hopes for Dublin City. Among them featured an unconventional take on a classic green area, formed as part of a larger ‘Dublin Central’ scheme.

The 2008 scheme was set to create 100 shops and was supposed to attract high-end retailers like Prada and Armani. The developer Joe O’Reilly had wanted to transform O’Connell Street into something more reputable. The scheme would also build 100 apartments, an art gallery, an area dedicated to restaurants and an underground parking lot with around 1,000 spaces.

The star of the show though, was the ‘park in the sky’. A 12-storey, triangular building that would offer 40 apartments. The sky garden would feature on the triangle’s sloped roof, where people could gaze across inner city Dublin 50 metres in the air. The project was initially estimated to cost more than €1 billion, with the expectation of over 3,000 permanent jobs to be created. However, by the time it was granted planning permission in 2010, the project had already faced heavy revision – with the sky garden being completely wiped out. 

Concept for the Park in the Sky via Irish Independent

4. Stadium Ireland A.KA ‘The Bertie Bowl’

It seems like the Irish government has an almost impressive knack for supplying people with things they never asked for, or want. Such could be said for the iconic ‘Bertie Bowl’, a passion project for that year’s Taoiseach Bertie Ahern,a well-known sports fanatic. 

Under the official title Stadium Ireland, the project was set to be a sports campus in Abbottstown sprawled across a 500-acre plot. With its long list of seriously hopeful features, the stadium was one of the more outrageous ideas born during the Celtic Tiger. It was initially imagined to have a 15,000-seat indoor arena, multiple sports halls, tennis courts, a sports science and medical centre, an aquatic centre with a 50m pool, a golf academy, a velodrome and offices for sports organisations. The key feature of the Bertie Bowl was its 65,000 all-seat stadium to replace Lansdowne Road ground, which was in a dilapidated state at the time.

The downfall of the Bertie Bowl is partially credited to its worrying cost estimates. Eventually racking up a cost estimate of €1 billion, people started wondering whether or not this was a necessity, seeing as Dublin already had Croke Park and although not up to scratch at the time, Landsdowne Road. The government started redeveloping Landsdowne Road instead, into what would become the Aviva Stadium, and the Bertie Bowl plan was parked in 2002.

In 2009, the National Sports Campus Development Authority began building a range of features on the former Bertie Bowl site, including a national horse sports arena and training facilities for a range of disciplines, both of which were included in the original plan.

Concept for Stadium Ireland A.K.A Bertie Bowl via RTE

3. Millenium Clock A.K.A The Chime in the Slime

The lead-up to the new millennium was a time full of mystery and opportunity, apprehension for what the new century might bring. Perhaps in an attempt to intensify these feelings, the Irish National Lottery thought outside the box when planning and commissioning what eventually became the Millennium Clock. Weighing six tonnes, worth £250,000, and placed just under the River Liffey’s surface, the clock’s illuminated numbers would shine up through the water and count down the seconds to the long-awaited year 2000. They also set up a kiosk on O’Connell Bridge where one could buy postcards showing the number of seconds left until the new millennium, which proved highly successful (actually way more successful than the actual clock).

It wasn’t long before the poor Millennium Clock ran into trouble. The timepiece had very little water resistance, couldn’t be seen from multiple perspectives and often displayed the wrong time. It also heavily struggled under the Liffey’s harsh water conditions, and eventually developed a green sludge exterior that left it unreadable, securing its infamous nickname The Chime in the Slime. Nine months after its unveiling, after the piss had been thoroughly taken out of it, the Irish National Lottery put the clock out of its humiliating misery and removed it from the river.

Millenium Clock via Reddit

2. ‘Las Vegas-style’ casino in Tipperary A.K.A Tipperary Venue

You may never have expected to see Las Vegas and Thurles end up in the same sentence, but who better to take such a big gamble than Dr. Quirkey himself? In October 2010, businessman Richard Quirke (owner of Dr Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium in Dublin) proposed the idea of a ‘Las Vegas-style’ style giant casino under the name of Tipperary Venue, planned to be located outside Thurles, co. Tipperary. 

The first draft for the casino was one of the most outlandish propositions we’ve seen so far, including an all-weather racecourse, greyhound tracks, an equestrian centre, a casino, a 500-bedroom hotel, a golf course on an 800-acre development and a car park with almost 6,000 spaces. Like the rest of Tipperary’s casinos, it also included a full-size replica of the White House and (casually) a landing pad for helicopters. It was estimated to cost about €460 million and would employ up to 2,000 people when finished. Similar to many of its Celtic Tiger siblings, the project faced obstacles early on in its life. Initially, local residents and the conservation body An Taisce voiced criticism towards the idea. Complaints varied from the level of traffic generated by the venue to noise, to carbon emissions, and An Taisce even cited a necessity to redirect “750m of river waters” according to a 2011 Journal article.

In 2011, the casino got the go-ahead after an appeal to An Bord Pleanála, but it was soon met with more trouble when the government announced new gambling laws in Ireland, one of which would block giant, resort-style casinos. Quirke was granted planning permission for a redesign of the project in 2013, that focused on the sporting aspect of the institution. Realistically, if our first draft of an institution included an entire White House and was reduced to a sporting facility, we wouldn’t be bothered either. 

Concept for Tipperary Venue via Irish Independent

1. White-water rafting site

We jump a good few years forward for this project, which evokes the same pity we felt for the poor Millennium Clock. In 2021, a proposal to revamp a Dublin docklands building into a white water rafting facility was presented to the Dublin City Council. Construction of the facility was estimated to cost €25 million, which immediately brought a lot of backlash (and jokes) from both politicians and the public.

The idea was managed by Owen Keegan, who is a veteran kayaker who competed 25 times in the Liffey Descent race. Unsurprisingly, when people discovered he had a personal interest in water sports, the slagging got worse for the white water rafting facility. Councillor Mannix Flynn even described it as a “grandiose vanity project” to the Irish Independent. Similarly to many of our projects, the facilities’ offers were hugely out of touch with the average Dubliner’s interests. His proposal included white water rapids, canoe and water polo, an elite slalom squad, and training facilities for emergency water rescue services.

The government refused to fund the project in 2021, and while the original idea expanded to a general water sports facility and then to a public lido in 2023, it never got off the ground, and things have been quiet since.

Concept for White Water Rafting facility via Irish Times

READ ON: 12 of the cheapest places for a pint in Dublin