#rabbleEye: Uncommon Land

In #rabble3, Culture, Politics, Print Editionby Eilis Murphy9 Comments

Photo by William Hederman.

Who owns the streets you walk on? Eilis murphy finds that the assumption they are public is, a false one.

Urban “regeneration” schemes can result in streets that appear to be public but are in fact owned by property developers, corporations and NAMA. These areas are policed by private security, who forbid busking, begging, skateboarding and even photography. To experience this first-hand, take the Luas to Tallaght, step off the tram and walk a few metres into the glass-and-concrete ghost town that is Tallaght Cross. It’s a “regenerated” zone: pedestrianised streets between new and mostly empty buildings. You can spend your money in Marks & Spencer, the Lidl or the cafe, but if you take out a camera on the street, security guards instantly accost you to tell you photography is forbidden.

The explanation they give is that the streets are “private”. They were owned by property developers, but now that most of Tallaght Cross has passed into NAMA, the streets essentially belong to the proverbial people. Yet those people cannot take photographs in the street, even though an array of CCTV cameras record their every move.

Late last year, a group of artists organised a photo flash mob in Tallaght as a means of highlighting this absurdity. The flash mob was an intervention into the politics of the space, a way of confronting this tightly controlled, privately policed twilight zone. On cue, the flash mobbers whipped out their cameras and started shooting gleefully in the forbidden zone. The security guards confronted them immediately, but either because of the size of the group or due to some confusion, they suggested that the group had “special permission” to photograph. Nevertheless, they shadowed the flash photographers closely as they photo-blitzed these previously uncaptured buildings.

Curious to know what laws are behind this ban, the artists wrote to the security firm guarding this area. The manager replied that asking members of the public not to take photos “is not part of our assignment instructions and the security staff member may have been over zealous in his duties on the day and did so on his own initiative.” The group says this is nonsense: aside from the day of the flash mob, every time they tried to use a camera in Tallaght Cross, all security guards insisted that photography is “strictly forbidden” and badgered them until they put their cameras away.

Tallaght Cross is just one of many invisibly bordered zones in Dublin: you don’t know you’re in one until you try to snap a shot.

Find out more at http://uncommonland.wordpress.com


  1. Tallaght Cross sounds like a challenge 🙂

  2. Apparently there are parts of the IFSC that are similar, the only difference being that there are actual businesses there.

  3. In fact during previous elections, the Socialist Party was banned from putting up posters in Tyrellstown, a huge residential area in Blanchardstown as all the ‘public’ roads in the estates belonged to the developer.

  4. Most of the IFSC is private property like this too. The only ‘public’ streets are Commons St and Guild St (in the original IFSC area). Friends of mine have been prevented from taking photos here by security guards.

  5. I was down at the Grand Canal Theatre one night taking photographs when I had a (very nice) security man come out to me (not in a gay way) asking what I was up to and what were the photographs intended for. He explained to me how some of the streets around the theatre were own by the Dublin Docklands and therefore private property. I was one the aptly named Misery Hill (street).

    I had to assure the security man that the images weren’t going to be used for commercial purposes and it was just for myself. I was not insured to be on this property which led me to question what would happen if I WAS involved in a accident myself or hit by a car (in which the conversation got a bit shady).

    I think we should be given a better understanding of this area and our legal rights should anything happen to us. In front of this theatre is a VERY busy area.

  6. “You know, when I was in Paris, seeing Linter for the first time, I was standing at the top of some steps in the courtyard where Linter’s place was, and I looked across it and there was a little notice on the wall saying it was forbidden to take photographs of the courtyard without the man’s permission. [..] They want to own the light!”
    ― Iain Banks, The State of the Art

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