The Georgian guardians
It has become something of a truism to say that Ireland and her citizens are today utterly changed from what they used to be. But nothing better brings home the reality of this observation than an examination of our recent past. It is, for example, astonishing to discover that when two private individuals, Desmond and Mariga Guinness, officially established the Irish Georgian Society on February 21st, 1958 (50 years ago on Thursday), the nation’s heritage of 18th-century architecture was viewed by most of her citizens with at best indifference, at worst overt hostility. The incident that spurred the Guinnesses into action serves to illustrate just how bad the plight of our Georgian heritage then was. In July 1957, the demolition of two superb 18th-century houses on Kildare Place, a small piazza adjacent to the Dáil, received authorisation from the government, which owned both buildings. No 2 Kildare Place had been designed by Richard Castle and executed after his death in 1751 by John Ensor; its equally distinguished neighbour was of a slightly later date.