The Ballymun Towers or Ballymun Flats were built from 1966 to 1969 and were hailed as the way forward for housing in Ireland but very soon, the government realised their grand scheme wasn’t all it had promised. Seven 15 storey towers were built in Ballymun in North Dublin and named after the leaders of the 1916 rising; Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Sean MacDermott, Eamonn Ceannt, Thomas Clarke, James Connolly and Joseph Plunkett. Social problems meant the towers became no-go areas and were practically abandoned before they began to be demolished in 2004. Only 1 remains. The Ballymun Towers were a beacon for Ireland’s future in the 1960s but are widely seen as a residential experiment which went wrong as a result of so many people living in such a confined space.
The regeneration of Ballymun was once Europe’s biggest regeneration project and while a large part of the project was undertaken such as the demolition of the towers, the new main street and shopping facilities such as Ireland’s only IKEA store, the economic downturn in Ireland put the brakes on the Ballymun regeneration project in the short-term. It is hoped that the original plans, and indeed new ones, will be completed in the future.
The following piece was written by secondary school students in Dublin about the towers.
In the 1960s planners and architects thought that the best way to house many people very quickly was to build high towers with as many flats in them as possible so between 1966 and 1969 Ballymun Towers were built on the outskirts of the city. There were seven of them. Each was fifteen storeys tall and there were ninety flats to each tower and six to each floor. That’s an awful lot of flats. Apart from the towers the government also built some smaller blocks of flats and some houses in the area.
When the first families moved into their new flats in 1966, they were delighted. They had a couple of bedrooms, running hot water, central heating, flush toilets and lifts, luxuries they had never had before. All went well at first, but soon they also discovered that they had nowhere to shop, the lifts kept breaking down, the heating could not be lowered and the promised public swimming pool, meeting places and play areas were never built because the government had run out of money. Ballymun seemed to be miles away from the city centre.
People were unhappy and those who could afford to move did. During the 1980s things got worse: many people had no jobs and there were problems with stolen cars and drugs. Many of the flats stood empty because nobody wanted to live in Ballymun any more.
Eventually it was decided that Ballymun needed a complete renewal but this time Dublin City Council who ran the place wanted to do the planning together with the people living in Ballymun. There were many meetings and discussions and a new plan was drawn up. The towers were to be knocked down and new houses and much smaller apartment blocks were to be built as well as all the facilities which had been planned but never happened in the 1960s.
In 2004 Pearse Tower was the first of the seven towers to be pulled down. Lots of families have moved into their new homes which they had helped to design and now for the first time have a front and a back garden where the children can play.
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Category: Ghost Town