Having witnessed first hand in his work and for example in his friendship with Joyce (whose family lived at times in some very squalid abodes) the awful conditions of Dublin’s tenements, Dr Oliver St John Gogarty was moved in 1913 to write:
“Does a tenement only cease to be a tenement, when it becomes a tomb? The houses in Church Street, as elsewhere, have the saving attribute of killing only one generation or part of a generation … but what of the houses of Church Street, the houses of six and seven feet high, that cannot fall, but can only go on reeking forever. The houses in Kean’s Court – what of those? And what of those structures in Thunder’s Court, where one common privy bemerded beyond use, stands beside one common water supply which a corporation notice guards from waste.”
And later, in his play, Blight, Gogarty had his alter ego say the following:
“Dr. Tumulty: All your benevolent formulism only makes the position more and more hopeless. The less you spend on prevention the more you will pay for cure. Until the citizens of this city realise that their children should be brought up in the most beautiful and favourable surroundings the city can afford, and not in the most squalid, until this floundering Moloch of a Government realise that the must spend more money on education than on police, this city will continue to be the breeding-ground of disease, vice, hypocrisy and discontent. I leave you to erect your tripartite edifice over the children of the city of blight.”
The epigenetic impact of the famine?