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Monuments, power and contested space— the iconography of Sackville Street (O'Connell Street) before independence (1922)

Yvonne Whelan


This paper explores the iconography of Dublin's central thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, formerly Sackville Street, as it evolved in the decades before Independence. Theoretically informed by recent developments in the fields of cultural and historical geography, it makes use of metaphors such as the city as text and the iconography of landscape. The paper focuses in particular on the role of public statuary in articulating issues of cultural and political identity in a city of contested space. The monuments erected on this street during the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries capture in microcosm broader trends in public statuary whereby monuments were erected to express loyalty to Empire on the one hand and opposition to such imperial rule on the other. It is argued that these public statues provide the geographer with an important lens through which to explore the processes at work in shaping the city and which give tangible expression to often competing ideologies. A following paper will chart the iconography of O'Connell Street in the decades after 1922.

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