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The Dublin Portal: There’s no room for pretenders in Dublin and, like New York, it refuses to be sanitised

Since the invention of cameras, people have been acting badly in front of them and this project was never going to be the exception

Last week the Dublin-New York Portal was put to sleep like a beloved, ailing pet that had a good but ultimately short life. Originally conceived as a public art installation offering a dual-way 24/7 livestream between New York and Dublin, the project quickly devolved into something quite different – giving the public a handy way to flip each other off transatlantically.

Since the invention of cameras, people have been acting badly in front of them and this project was never going to be the exception. We had a good few days of people at the start flashing their dangly bits at the camera, drunken antics, people shoving white powder up their noses and making insensitive jokes about terrorism. And that was just on the Dublin side. It wasn’t long before the portal shut down with American and Irish news outlets citing “lewd behaviour” as the reason Mum and Dad had taken our new favourite toy away from us while we think about what we’ve done.

They’ve given it back to us. But we will only be allowed screen time from 11am to 9pm on the Dublin side and any attempts to shove an offending image against the camera will cause the screen to blur for both sides.

This is a shame because in Ireland the original portal antics gifted us a solid week of the kind of ritualistic head-shaking at ourselves we know and love. It let us indulge in our favourite fetish – self-flagellation over the state of this country. This one really got the message boards, media and WhatsApp group chats in a lather because it combined our two natural states – shame and caring too much about what others think of us. We’ve shown ourselves up in front of the fancy American cousins and we should be mortified.

“Dublin, you’ve disgraced yourself again,” thundered Joe Duffy, the nation’s favourite emotional dominatrix.

The portal shutdown revealed some of our uglier attitudes bubbling away unchecked. For a country that pretends it doesn’t have a class system, Ireland sure loves a bit of constant, unconscious classicism. The term “scumbags” was thrown around a lot to describe who had “wrecked” the portal for everyone on O’Connell Street. In other English-speaking countries anyone can be a “scumbag” because the insult is defined by their behaviour. But in Ireland it seems to exclusively mean “people who look working class,” “have an accent less posh than mine” or indeed “someone wearing a tracksuit”. I have never seen the insult levelled at rugby players going feral on a big night out. That’s “horseplay”.

“This would have never happened if we put the portal in Cork/South Dubin/Galway,” claimed some little brown-nosers who definitely reminded their teacher to check the class’ homework when they were younger.

There’s no room for pretenders in Dublin and, like New York, it refuses to be sanitised

Dublin’s O’Connell Street is the country’s version of the spare room: crammed full of stuff that’s been shoved in there that we don’t want to deal with and we don’t want to guests to see. Like a lot of large capital cities, it suffers from drug use, poverty, a housing crisis and crime, but pretending those issues aren’t there isn’t going to make them disappear. It’s time to stop engaging in middle-class hand-wringing and trying to deflect shame on to others “for the holy show you made of us to the Americans”.

The reality is people have been getting their arses out in front of cameras since their invention. The portal showed us Dublin’s classic sense of irreverence. The “Zoom of Doom” joined the “Hags with the Bags” and “Tart with the Cart” as beloved artworks with nicknames. That’s how you really become a local in this city.

Dublin city centre is the slightly mad uncle at a wedding, the one people feel ashamed of in front of their workmates, but who is also the kind of wildcard guest who is the heart and soul of the event. He’s the first up to dance and the last one to leave the residents’ bar after giving you the number of a man who does dodgy TV boxes. He’s solid gold and you never want him to change.

There’s no room for pretenders in Dublin and, like New York, it refuses to be sanitised.This means perhaps the cities were more suited to the project more than we might think. People who expected us to hold hands across the portal while playing acoustic guitars have clearly never been to either city.

Benediktas Gylys, the project’s founder, said “Portals are an invitation to meet people above borders and differences and to experience our world as it really is”. And that is humans baring their bums to cameras when given the chance.

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