Appropriating public space

An interesting article on public photography in the Irish Times raises questions about public space in Ireland. The article’s focus is photography: can you take photos in public places, and what exactly is a public place? Despite giving the appearance of public space, with its streets and squaresDocklands and its free cultural events, the IFSC in Dublin is described as ‘private property’. According to its management company, you need a permit to take a photograph there, and you should inform the company if you are taking photographs in any other parts of the Docklands. This is despite the fact that the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, which controls the area, was set up by the Oireachtas and is under the control of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The company that operates Luas also wants you to apply for a permit to take photographs on or of the Luas: this suggests that public transport is in fact not a public space. The existence and nature of public space is coming under increasing threat in contemporary Ireland. Out-of-town private shopping malls have replaced public town centres, rights of way are being closed, there are restrictions on activities in public space. Taking photographs in spaces that seem to be public is one way of testing the growing extent and territorial claims of private space.

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