The town that almost was: What became of an ambitious urban development near Dublin?

Work began on the Clongriffin development at the Celtic Tiger's peak. Then Ireland's economy crashed. Photographer Dragana Jurisic captures the gleaming, empty train station intended to serve a town that never got built

To get to the Clongriffin commuter rail station from the North Dublin coast, head down Willie Nolan Road, up through the valley of the Mayne River, where Danish Vikings once moored their longboats.

At the Donaghmede Roundabout, take the third exit and head north past the tidied remains of the medieval Grange Abbey, whose rubble was used to fill in its many goldfish ponds, thus transforming fields that had been grazed for 10 centuries into shy-faced 1960s tract housing, and head down The Hole In The Wall Road.

Just before you get to the estate first envisioned by ex-IRA hunger striker-turned-developer Tom McFeely, Priory Hall, whose residents have since been evacuated with no relief from mortgage payments by the city council due to unsafe conditions – the properties being, counter-intuitively, both flood-prone and highly flammable – hang a right. (If you reach Tir na N-Óg, you've gone too far.)

On your left will be Father Collins Park, whose €20m renovation outfitted it with amphitheatre, skate park, a water recycling system to feed the wetlands and five wind turbines to power it all. Follow this road until you reach the end of the 200-yard green wire fence behind which tarmac laneways meander through wetlands like the footprint of a civilisation that never existed.

Then take a quick jog left and right by the glass tower of Clongriffin's shopping centre, with its ground-floor banners promising that restaurants, florists, daycare centres and grocery stores are all COMING SOON. You'll know you've arrived when you see the powerless electric sign hung 20 feet up the tower wishing you a Merry Christmas.

Clongriffin was dubbed thus, about a decade ago, by one of its architects, who took the Irish for 'meadow' and tacked on the griffin from a neighbouring district, Balgriffin. The latter area, too, was a semi-rural outpost until the Celtic Tiger gifted it the Belmayne estate for more housing development. During Ireland's supposed boom period it was known only by an ostentatious marketing wall featuring staged images of giant middle-class families laughing maniacally, frozen in the act of drinking from glasses large enough to hold half a gallon of merlot.

The Dart (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) station, built to the highest standards, stands empty (Dragana Jurisic) The Dart (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) station, built to the highest standards, stands empty (Dragana Jurisic)
Years later, the wall was finally taken down, revealing, approximately, a half-formed thought in a whirlpool of mud. Clongriffin lies in a similar state of partial dormancy bordering on paralysis, a state not exactly conducive to a healthy community morale. A taxi driver who was asked for directions advised against going there at all, particularly after dark. Not that daylight is always sufficient protection in Clongriffin – ask the Real IRA leader who a year ago was assassinated just after 3pm in front of his home, less than a minute's walk from the train station.

In the full light of a warm, breezy autumn noon, however, standing in Father Collins Park, one can't help but want to be positive. The industrious hum of the turbines fills the air. A child throws himself on to the recycled-rubber surface of the carefully designed playground. The sun bouncing off a preserved patch of wetlands shows its water to be clear and inviting. All these things make the better angels of our nature want to imagine that the developers, the city planners, the architects and all the rest of them – McFeely excluded, one assumes – wished only to establish a happy, fulsome environment for the gathering hordes to live.

Whatever the intentions, that has not been the result. The apartments encircling the park are a quarter occupied at best. Those that are habitable at all have already begun to lose the sheen of newness, and it's difficult to imagine the rest of them filling up in the near future. The Dart (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) station itself, built to the highest standards, is empty on that same autumn day, though in operation on a commuter train line from the city to the suburbs. Outside, people, many of them eastern European, push prams, going somewhere or other.

Clongriffin was named by one of its architects, who took the Irish for 'meadow' and tacked on the griffin from a neighbouring district, Balgriffin (Dragana Jurisic) Clongriffin was named by one of its architects, who took the Irish for 'meadow' and tacked on the griffin from a neighbouring district, Balgriffin (Dragana Jurisic)
Buses wait but no one boards. A note in the window of the tenantless main hall that reads 'No Skateboarding or Cycling in this Area' seems more a lament than a ban. In the ticket hall, a glass wall gives a view beyond the railway on to marshland stacked with crates of paving stones. The only sound comes from a poster flapping in the breeze. The poster, part of a safety campaign, shows a silhouetted grim reaper hovering over a section of railway under the phrase 'Keep off the Line', and along the reaper's scythe someone has written the word 'Death' in blue marker. A train pulls into the station. No one gets on or off. It waits for a moment and then, after a few warning beeps, departs.

These beeps, dissolving into the air, sound like a death knell for poor Clongriffin – but perhaps there's room for a second act. Gannon Homes, the estate agents responsible for the vicinity of the station, have been approved by Dublin City Council to build a 60,000 square foot Islamic Cultural Centre there, complete with three-storey domed mosque (Ireland's biggest), a project that will cost an estimated €40m.

Whether this be folly piled on folly or inspired piece of last-minute transformation is not yet clear, but it appears that for Clongriffin, we're not yet at the end of the storyline.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

£20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee Teacher - Maths

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organization is the larges...

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - School Playground Designer

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor