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Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: The neighbours have visions of the Vico Road turning into Morbella

A visit to their rental in Terenure reveals how far the Stop the Build campaign is willing to go

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So – yeah, no – I’m in, like, the gorden, throwing the old Gilbert around with Brian, Johnny and Leo, except we can’t complete three passes without one of us dropping the ball and I’m wondering does it have anything to do with us living in Terenure now – as in, the general sense of failure that hangs over the place has somehow seeped into my children’s bones like arthritis.

Obviously, I’m giving out yords to them, going, “Goys, can we not cut out the unforced errors?” but deep down I know it’s not their fault. It’s their old dear’s. She should never have brought us here.

All of a sudden, speak of the devil, she steps out into the gorden.

“Oh my God,” she goes, “what are you doing out here? It’s lashing rain.”


I’m there, “Rugby isn’t a summer sport, Sorcha,” loving the way my voice sounds as I say it. “Never has been. Never will be.”

The boys take this as their cue to run inside for shelter. I’m just thinking, what am I raising here?

“Anyway,” she goes, “the Shottons are outside.”

I’m there, “The Shottons? What do they want?”

She’s like, “I don’t know yet – but they’ve just pulled up in their cor and I suspect they’re here to make trouble.”

Yeah, no, she’s talking about Gorvan and Andrea. They were once friends of ours but we had a massive falling-out after Sorcha decided to knock down our gaff and build aportments in its place. The neighbours have visions of the Vico Road being turned into, I don’t know, Morbella or one of those places.

No one likes living in Terenure. It’s a sort of purgatory where underachievers are sent to consider their poor career and life choices

We go back inside just as the doorbell rings.

“Boys,” Sorcha goes, “go upstairs. Your father and I have to talk to someone.”

She opens the door and the pair of them are standing there in the pelting rain. She’s like, “Gorvan, Andrea – come in!” even though I would have left them outside.

“So this is Dublin 6,” Gorvan goes, then he lets it just hang there in the air between us.

Sorcha’s there, “We like it,” on the big-time defensive, “don’t we, Ross?” but I say nothing. No one likes living in Terenure. It’s a sort of purgatory where underachievers are sent to consider their poor career and life choices. They know it and we know it.

“It’s nice to see you both,” Andrea goes. “You left Killiney in such a hurry – without saying goodbye to any of us.”

Sorcha’s there, “To be honest, Andrea, even though you were – oh my God – such good neighbours, there really wasn’t anything left to say. Once An Bord Pleanála gave us final permission to knock down the house, we didn’t really see any point in hanging around.”

Gorvan is looking around the gaff like we’ve just landed in it from, I don’t know, Mors. He goes, “What an imaginative use of space!”

It’s another way of saying you couldn’t swing a cat in the place. I worked as an estate agent, bear in mind.

“It’s perfect for our needs,” Sorcha goes. “As you know, I’m both a committed environmentalist and a member of Seanad Éireann who’s made speeches about Ireland’s accommodation crisis. I felt like a hypocrite heating that big house in Killiney just for the six of us.”

“And Honor,” Andrea goes, torgeting our weak spot, “she’s happy to live in ... Terenure, is she?”

Sorcha’s there, “She’s getting used to it – isn’t she, Ross?”

“She’s definitely having fewer nightmares,” I go.

Andrea’s like, “It’s funny, I’ve never lived in a – what are they called again? – a housing estate before. It looks like a lot of fun. Are there people living in all these other houses?”

It’s the exact same question my old dear asked my old man when he bought their first house in Sallynoggin.

Sorcha’s there, “Of course there are!” narrowing her eyes. She knows that Andrea is being a wagon.

“What, all the time?” the woman goes. “They’re not holiday homes or anything?”

Sorcha’s there, “No, people live in them. And the community spirit around here is amazing, isn’t it, Ross?”

“Apparently,” I go, because I honestly wouldn’t know. It wouldn’t be the kind of thing I’d knowingly seek out.

Gorvan changes the subject by going, “Anywaaay,” and I suspect we’re about to find out why they’re here. “You mentioned a moment ago that An Bord Pleanála had given you final permission to build those aportments. You do know that that doesn’t constitute the end of the matter, don’t you?”

Sorcha’s like, “Oh?”

“No, the Stop the Build pressure group – of which I am the chairperson, for my sins! – intends to go to the High Court to have Killiney and Dalkey’s zero-zero zoning status reinstated.”

“Well, that, of course, is your democratic right,” Sorcha goes, fake smiling him – the same way she used to when she was debating back in her Mount Anville days. But this isn’t some random Sally Ó Ceallaigh from Coláiste Íosagáin she’s locking horns with here. These are dangerous people to upset. You don’t end up with a pad like theirs without stepping on a lot of people’s backs on your way up Strathmore Road.

Andrea goes, “We have lots of very, very highly resourced people prepared to throw unlimited amounts of money at this ... issue. You can’t win, Sorcha. You can’t be allowed to win.”

Sorcha’s there, “Well, I have every faith in the planning process in this country.”

I automatically laugh. I shouldn’t, I know. It’s just I know the source of my old man’s wealth.

Andrea changes the angle of attack. She goes, “So you like it, do you? Terenure?”

I’m there, “I wouldn’t say like.”

But Sorcha ends up talking over me. She’s like, “There’s nothing wrong with it. It has a 3fe now and three Pilates studios. There’s even talk of a Donnybrook Fair by 2028.”

“Oh,” Andrea goes, “you think you’ll still be here by then, do you?”

Jesus, I think – I focking hope not.

Sorcha’s there, “Well, we’re just renting at the moment. This house belongs to my friend – as in, like, Amie with an ie? Her grandmother left it to her. We’re only here until we find something permanent.”

“Correction,” Gorvan goes, giving us both a big, shit-eating smile, “you’re only here for as long as we allow you to be.”

Sorcha’s there, “Excuse me?”

“We just bought the place,” the dude goes, “from this Amie with an ie person. Ten of us from Stop the Build. We’re your new landlords.”

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly was captain of the Castlerock College team that won the Leinster Schools Senior Cup in 1999. It’s rare that a day goes by when he doesn’t mention it