Independent Media Centre Ireland

"The half a rood of rock" - how we value public space.

category international | environment | news report author Thursday October 05, 2006 20:45author by iosaf .:. ipsiphi

Paddy Kavanagh's sonnet "epic" is familiar to most Irish readers, it's wonderful description of an argument of land ownership in the late 1930's in Ireland as 2 farmers (one stripped to the waist) argue over a "half a rood of rock". These days throughout Europe neither men nor women seem to bother stripping to the waist to lay their claims on barren soil anymore - but the issue of public space & how to reclaim it has in recent years taken on a great collective importance. Thus in Ireland we've seen the initiatives of the Dolphins Barn garden & more recently the Darmouth Square project. This evening I'm going to tell you all about the Forat de Vergonya" : A site of just over a hectare (quite a few roods) which many years ago was designated by Barcelona 's council, Catalonia's government & the EU as a future site for a rubber tyre pre-recycling storage plant complete with hotel. (creative urban use no?)
the half rood of rock belongs to one of the most diverse communities in europe. just like dolphins barn. just like any space reclaimed in dublin
the half rood of rock belongs to one of the most diverse communities in europe. just like dolphins barn. just like any space reclaimed in dublin

For the last 3 days the community of Casc Antic in the central "old city" of Barcelona have faced an invasion of riot police, helicopters, national TV, Spanish state TV & private security guards. ("fingers are being broken"). This happens to be my local community & I like almost every other citizen regularised or not, indiginous or migrant from "far far away land" am proud of the Forat de Vergonya" . The area was abandoned by the municipal authority as a brown soil site & the neighbours built with their own hands, (many stripped to the waist) not only a garden but a playground. This was an achievement because though our "barri" ( neighbourhood) after waiting 11 years now boasts an award winning market & has seen property prices quintiple in 4 years, & boasts some of the most sophisticated restaurants & artisan boutiques in southern Europe...... we never had a playground........................ & no-one has built us one since.

I'll admit I've gone way past enjoying playgrounds personally. I'm not the type to hang out salivating on an improvised bench observing the young of a "multi-ethnic" community where more than 80 languages are spoken & more than 6 religious groups freely & peacfully worship side by side. But I want that playground to stay. The name of the space "forat de vergonya" means "the hole of shame". Yes, it was and still is a shame that a council which speculated publically owned space to capitalise on a switch to a tourist based economy could not provide one of its most diverse & civil neighbourhoods a playground.

We are all very proud of the hole of shame. & we're holding onto it. & if it comes down to it that someone who never came to our Barri pays a Bulldozer to destroy it - it will be opened again. & that happens everywhere.

& that is the essential & universal truth of our class conscience, our neighbourhoods, our culture, our generation - whether we find ourselves building a playground & garden with our own hands in Barcelona, Dublin, Oaxaca, Netherlands or wherever it is they fancy building a hotel.

I remember when & how this fight occured a few years ago as well. the council attempted to set up a "negotiation table" (just like the Federal government of Mexico is doing for Oaxaca). The police and choppers & TV came & the building contractors put a big wall around the "forat" & within a night each & every brick had been taken down & the good people of Casc Antic had to start all over again - planting their trees & flowers & building their playground. inch by inch - kilogram by kilogram - rood by hald damned rood..... uprooted tree by uprooted tree.

This story is currently the main feature on Barcelona Indymedia (c/f )

Comments (10 of 10)

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author by iosaf says jayzhuspublication date Thu Oct 05, 2006 21:09author address author phone

I've just come back to the relative safety of the internet cafe (my home connection isn't working & I'm limping around with a broken toe) simply because 9 riot cop vans have just gone down the street & angry young people have just barricaded the access routes to the centre of the city with bins. It's only 21h00 over here - and I'm 3 "barrio"s (neighbourhoods) away from the Forat. about 2km. (=The city is upset.)
the Helicopters are flying in bigger arcs -

we're in for plastic bullets tonight.

The last time we had those was paddy's day. I'm still awaiting the reply from the municipal state to my request under FOI for the number of palstic bullets they fired that night.

oh well....................................
!" solidarity! with the Bellanaboy people! take care of yourselves.... invest in industrial worker gloves & a crash helmet. "

author by Park-dweller.publication date Thu Oct 05, 2006 22:02author address author phone

Public space=Chillout/talk/information/community
= democratic rights +freedom

Capitalist zoning= no public meeting places- conspicious consumption outlets=nowhere to
sit in a city, to read and think


*it's not just about cash*.

St Stephens Green is next on the agenda- 3 year closure for Bertie's mates to put
an over-priced metro in place. Darthmouth Square update; O Gara claims to own
all the ground rent so he can stop auctions and demand money with menaces, btw: he
doesn't kid, the residents of another square in Rathmines have been 'talking'
about how much he has elicited from families of bereaved older residents and
new families looking for mews space in the big back gardens.

author by n.i.m.b.y. auld fellah iosafpublication date Thu Oct 05, 2006 23:49author address author phone

I've finally made it home to my "barrio". Some of the forat de vergonya has been damaged with some of the trees uprooted, & a trench dug. There's one solitary police van. On my walk home I only saw one broken window (the door of the culture institute museum) and a little bit of graffiti along the lines of "don't touch the hole of shame!". I've realised that having a broken toe & thus needing a walking stick this last week of "European Union mobility" has brought out an elderly personality type...... jayzhus riot cops........jayzhus the students from the new faculty of philosophy opened last week are moving the bins into the centre of the street............jayzhus helicopters..........jayzhus rubber bullets!!! When in fact perhaps - - - factually - - - nothing so dramatic & news-worthy really occured. But shuffling along with my little stick I did think so for a while I wondered ought I even attempt to brave the barricades to make it home. Until I sort of remembered a line from George Orwell upon his arrival in Catalonia to fight the fascists in the 1930's. Oh yes, feeling mobility impaired, I can't face running from cops, dodging philosophy students burning bins or remember correctly what Orwell wrote.., I'll paraphrase it :- " I felt I had found Spain in workers' revolution but had only found myself in the most revolutionary circle or corner ". Hmmmm I thought, I knew the location of, wherefore of, & when & how & why of the "forat de vergonya"
:- but how many of the 2 million people in this city did?

Orwell's realisation at how small his vision of Spain's war as seen from Catalonia came long after he had written " It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the Anarchists; every wall was scrawled with the hammer and sickle and with the initials of the revolutionary parties; almost every church had been gutted and its images burnt. Churches here and there were being systematically demolished by gangs of workmen. Every shop and cafe had an inscription saying that it had been collectivized; even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-walkers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared".

Coz as I shambled home a hobbling I saw the city had not really noticed the Forat de Vergonya "hole of shame" nor its brilliance & autonomy. The whores call their customers love, The churches image is well burnt & when those philosophy students work their shifts as barristas they look me in the eye.
- & tourists go on being tourists.... looking for hotels not playgrounds.
& tomorrow our "barrio" hosts a 2 day "medieval street market" festival with costumes and goods to remind us of how wonderfully peasants lived once upon a time.

I'm so sorry to disappoint people who hoped for a proper factual accurate account of a riot.

But Let's think about our "public space" stories whether in Barcelona or Ireland :-

Dartmouth Square in Dublin :-

"Public space R.I.P"
"A Tale of Two Public Spaces: Dartmouth and Churchlane"
"Residents reclaim Dartmouth Square"

Dolphins Barn community Garden :-

"Dolphin's Barn community garden under threat"
"dolphins barn community garden birthday party on good friday"

a palestinian take on the walking stick effect. (cartoon by Oumaiya Joha)
a palestinian take on the walking stick effect. (cartoon by Oumaiya Joha)

author by iosafpublication date Fri Oct 06, 2006 20:06author address author phone

“Epic” a sonnet by Patrick Kavanagh 1904 - 1967

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided: who owned
that half rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”
& old Mc Cabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel———————
“Here is the march along these iron stones”
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was most important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind
He said : I made the Illiad from such
A local row, Gods make their own importance.

(* Paddy Kavanagh was born on the anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1904, in the townland of Mucker in Inniskeen parish, Co. Monaghan. He forms part of our national Irish corpus of poetry which transcends half a life lived in rural Ireland &half a life in "urban" Ireland to communicate the realities of life for the Irish in the 20th century. He died in 1967 on the 30th of December. Upon his death the Irish government froze his body using an elementary cyrogenic technology & then surrounded his corpse in a bronze cast (Hans Solo of Star Wars style) . The suspended animation of the poet may be seen by tourists & Irish citizens alike on a bench at the Baggot Street bridge of the Grand Canal, where it is believed he coined the word stilly . It's probably about time to point out we're not honouring his memory properly with just a bronze statue on a seat or compulsory school-childhood study of his poems. NOT A BIT OF IT! We all need to quote Paddy Kavanagh more, remember the poem "Epic" (as re-produced above) & use the word "stilly" more.

On the other side of reality - the Forat de Vergonya wasn't a scene to
confrontation between old or young men on sticks today. According to reports on Barcelona Indymedia - it is difficult to number the arrests from last night. ( We might presume that many philosophy students from the new faculty building & their bins were not known to or generally thought to be a part of the "Forat d Vergonya" assembly or community). But needless to say there will be the usual concentration in solidarity with prisoners at the magistrates tomorrow morning.

My foot is getting better as well. Thanks for asking. I'll be off the stick soon. It takes ages to see a nurse. The bus doors are very high up.
Young people don't show any patience. Motorists don't allow me time to cross the road. The drugs don't work. I'm not cranky at all things are just more difficult for me at the moment. It would be lovely if you held that door open for me........ some day we will mostly all be old-
Public Space projects in Dublin

Dartmouth Square in Dublin :-

"Public space R.I.P"
"A Tale of Two Public Spaces: Dartmouth and Churchlane"
"Residents reclaim Dartmouth Square"

Dolphins Barn community Garden :-

"Dolphin's Barn community garden under threat"
"dolphins barn community garden birthday party on good friday"

author by iosafpublication date Sat Oct 07, 2006 18:58author address author phone

Today's edition of "La Vanguardia" the commercial newspaper read by most Barcelonans led with the headline "Urban war!", 4 photos of the "riot" that scared Iosaf on his walking stick, & reflects on how "professional troublemakers have done it again".... & how this happened for Paddy's day..... & the community of the "Forat de Vergonya" reject such shite which led to 2 arrests and one injured police officer.

Oh well....

I find extremely distasteful the ocassional attempts by the police & municipal authority to blame burnt bins and broken windows on "200 anti-system professionals" who apparantly come into Bcn from far away. hmmmmm. maybe they're Basques? hmmmmmm. maybe they're from clichy sous bois? hmmmmmm could be disadvantaged teenagers from Moss-side on a fact finding mission?

& coz I know such stuff touches many issues, & a filagree web of political & social interests & further knowing that my english words on these matters because of the policy of "tri-lingualism" bounce off this site and others to the Bcn newspapers - - -

I'd like to ask yet again that if the authorities are so sure there are 200 anti-system professionals visiting our city & upseting our local rows with their pitch-forked claims - then why don't we get a list of names published?

Lastly I note that "ground rent" is an issue in many disputed public space redevelopment projects in urban Europe. It is a factor for the Dartmouth Square community of Dublin 4. We have mostly it seems stopped talking about this feudal right. But as a "good citizen" of the neighbourhood "infilitrated" by these 200 professionals, & as one who values occupied space in that "barrio" & as one who these last days have seen the government sponsered "medieval street market" :-
I've learnt a few things. Our distant ancestors who agreed to pay a tithe to church & ground rent to the local lord (just like the owning family of "La Vanguardia") apparantly subsisted on organic honey, delicate mushrooms, over-priced beer & when the lights went out of an evening dedicated themselves to weaving yoga mats valued at 65eu.

= Let's stop Ground Rent. It is ridiculously anachronistic that I may organic honey but when I'm in a spot my local feudal lord won't come to my asistance on his fine horse waving heavy arms.
Ground Rent is set at 2% of every property sale in Spain. In the UK it sometimes reaches 5%. I'm sure we'd all be interested to look at home much our feudal dominions of Ireland are worth.

Public Space projects in Dublin

Dartmouth Square in Dublin :-

"Public space R.I.P"
"A Tale of Two Public Spaces: Dartmouth and Churchlane"
"Residents reclaim Dartmouth Square"

Dolphins Barn community Garden :-

"Dolphin's Barn community garden under threat"
"dolphins barn community garden birthday party on good friday"

author by Bolloxpublication date Sat Oct 07, 2006 22:17author address author phone

Dartmouth is in Dublin 6 (btw).

He owns ground rent or ,as rumour has it is fronting for a property company
and extracting large sums of money from the people he 'deals' with.

The issue there is how come one man owns the ground rent in some very expensive
neighbourhoods-and how he accquired it.

When he made a media statement last week to the effect of, he 'had a surprise'
for the residents of Dartmouth - the ones who want a park area, kids area, seating
place for local clinic /hospital patients, I can assure you that he was not joking.

How to deal with it:

1. If he does attempt to extract cash, (he works by phone, rarely by letter)
log all dates and times of communications. Use a tape-recorder, if poss.

2. Keep in touch with others in the community who have experienced his methods
these tend to find each other and compare notes.

3. There were quite a few TD's and councillors at the party, give them the details.

4. He works within the law, so theres really not much that can be done -except
info-sharing and publicity.

Now the question really is, how many ground-rent landlords and or property
companies are acting in Dublin/Barcelona in their own interests- because
it is perverse that people can hold communities to ransom out of their
own selfish interests.

Politicos who attended the party in Dartmouth: Dermot Lacey (Lab), John Gormley (Green)
Eamon Ryam (Green), Chris Andrews (FF)
notable exceptions:
Michael Mc Dowell (PD) and Jim O Callaghan (FF)

An Taisce were represented too.

author by iosafpublication date Sat Oct 07, 2006 23:50author address author phone

The "Paddy's day" card which made 3 pages of the local newspaper by which some of the issues of the concerned community were given scant reporting is of course a reference to night of March 17th 2006 when a spanish state competition to "reclaim knacker drinking" met with very serious police brutality in Barcelona alone.

Oh yes.

Over here the "powers that be" have just pushed for Sunday newspaper coverage of their proposals for the long promised "re-development" of the site which is the "Forat de vergonya" . They promise a playground, many roods {almost hectares} of soft earth, trees, & public toilet cubicles at 20 cents every 4 minutes & prosperity ( of course for they always promise prosperity). They have stopped talking about the hotel, but the used tyre-pre-re-cycling depot is still part of it. Is it not interesting how the issue was presented though? Rather than publicise a diverse zone of the city without a "soft earth" play area they chose to link the protest to the "nameless 200 trouble experts".


There are more "public space dispute" locations in Ireland than either Dartmouth Square or Dolphins Barn's Garden.
Just as there are more of such filagree-web-fine-woven political & social issues in any city. But thankfully for the good citizen there are not as of yet enough philosophy students on call to bring every one of these cases to the front page.

I wonder why we haven't yet seen standards set by our civilised occidental world on how many kids a neighbourhood needs to have before a playground is built..,

author by 10,000 doorstepperspublication date Mon Oct 09, 2006 20:03author address author phone

It would be funny , if it were not not so idiotic.

His lil yellow van is still on-site. Jesus I hope no-one gets it on Halloween!

The courts today, ruled that he can only park two of his
cars in the square.
two of his cars.

No playground.
Dirty Old vans.

This is permanent.
The traffic guys can impound any vehicle that is not registered to O Gara or his company.
Now- if the kind benfactor would produce a playground and move his vehicles.
everyone would be happy.
Cars are dangerous things to playing children.
He would not want a hefty insurance claim if some poor kid got hurt, given that
the park properly belongs to the dwellers of the flats, the attendees at the eye and ear, the clinic, the square residents and the people of Dublin?

author by .:.publication date Thu Nov 23, 2006 22:24author address author phone

the "forat de vergonya" has still not been closed by the authorities. After the showdown and shock arrival of the 200 "troublemakers" complete with paint launching bazooka - the cops & media just sort of got bored.

Meanwhile the tripartite government was re-elected on November 1, & the EU housing summit is still on hold. Not that any of you noticed, no Irish minister was going to attend, because Ireland doesn't need a housing policy. You're all happy enough as it is.

I've a feeling that the "forat de vergonya" team will be working with media (both alternative & commercial) to move public opinion on the issues of urbanisation which have recently arised from the illegal eviction of CSOA Makabra the former circus school of Barcelona last Monday 20/11/06). I've a feeling that will be happening tomorrow actually. This will be quite p-o-l-i-t-i-c-a-l-l-y astute because issue of migration, integration, & Catalan national adhesion as well as your usual cultural stuff come into both Forat & Makabra cases. żAmazing what anarcho-syndicalist assemblies can achieve when they don't go rioting straight off isn't it?

(c /f )

author by dunkpublication date Mon Feb 09, 2009 13:17author email fuspey at yahoo dot co dot ukauthor address author phone

The community now have an urban garden, its small, but its growing. It was donated by the council. The people there like it a lot, theres a film about the violence some years back, theres plans to screen the film some evenign in the garden

their blog;

Up the other end of town, is a great new garden, in Gracia, my barrio (neighbourhood) its really nice
previous article about that:

The transition movement is taking off here in BCN, some people from the gardens are involved in that: +

Food still growing in the 2000 year old city of Barcelona
Food still growing in the 2000 year old city of Barcelona

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