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Merry and bright Beloved Christmas sign returned to Grafton Street after controversial removal

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The Nollaig Shona sign

The Nollaig Shona sign

The Nollaig Shona sign

A beloved Christmas sign has made a welcome return to Dublin’s Grafton street in the lead up to the festive season following a furore over its removal last year.

And here’s the photographic evidence that a new version of the nostalgic ‘Nollaig Shona Duit” Christmas sign and lights are back with pride of place at the northern entrance to Grafton Street.

The sign, along with other festive lights on the city’s poshest shopping street, will remain dim until an official lighting up ceremony in a fortnight.

The ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’ sign was last year sidelined to the entrance to Wicklow street from Grafton street and was controversially replaced by the sterile ‘Welcome to Grafton Quarter’.

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The new sign

The new sign

The new sign

At the time, Dublin Town, the business organisation responsible for installing the city’s Christmas lights, defended the replacement of the lights at the top of Grafton Street.

The new branding proved unpopular with the public, hundreds of social media users and other city business groups, while Dublin City Council chief executive Owen Keegan said he would prefer the Irish-language sign (meaning Happy Christmas to you) to be reinstated.

Dublin Town, originally called Dublin City Business Improvement District, was set up 13 years ago to promote the city and supplement council services through additional cleaning, graffiti removal, floral planting, as well as the Christmas lights.

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The controversial 'Grafton Quarter' sign

The controversial 'Grafton Quarter' sign

The controversial 'Grafton Quarter' sign

After last year’s controversy they announced several weeks ago that the Nollaig Shona Duit sign “will be transferred to Grafton Street”.

A spokesperson for Dublin Town previously said that businesses around the area were in favour of the ‘Grafton Quarter’ Christmas lights and noted that in 2014 Dublin City Council published a report titled ‘Grafton Street Quarter’ ahead of public realm improvements.

Emails released under Freedom of Information, however, show that DCC Chief Executive Owen Keegan replied to one Dubliner who was “annoyed” about the controversial sign saying that DCC will be “pursuing” the matter with Dublin Town.

“Oceans of change” are happening across Dublin at the moment, wrote one man, who took his daughter to see the Christmas lights on Grafton Street only to be “let down” by the new sign.

Keegan replied: “My understanding is that the change in sign was done without the agreement or support of the City Council.

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“On pursuing the matter we were advised that the ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’ sign was no longer functioning and could not be erected this year,” said Keegan.

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The much-loved sign is back

The much-loved sign is back

The much-loved sign is back

“The City Council’s preference is that a ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’ sign be erected at this location next year and we will be pursuing this matter with Dublin Town.”

After the ‘Grafton Quarter’ sign was lit, Local Councillors called for the sign to be removed.

Labour Councillor Rebecca Moynihan previously: “You don’t need to put in lights that it’s ‘The Grafton Quarter’ because it’s not. It’s well-known to Dubliners as Grafton Street. There’s no such thing as ‘Grafton Quarter’.”

In recent years, attempts to re-name or re-brand parts of Dublin City have come in for criticism.

In 2006, Dublin City Council revealed a €2.6 billion plan for Dublin’s Liberties – a cultural and commercial quarter set to be re-branded SoHo or ‘South of Heuston Street’.

In 2016, a marketing campaign, website and social-media profiles were launched coining a new moniker for Dublin’s South Inner City – “SOBO” or South of Beckett O’Casey.

After a barrage of social media complaints about the ‘Grafton Quarter’ sign, a number of people took the time to personally write to Dublin City Council to express their opinion.

“I’d like to complain and show my displeasure…that a monstrosity of a thing that has no Christmas feel to it,” replaced the old ‘Nollaig Shona Duit’ sign, one member of the public said in an email on November 17 last year.

“‘Grafton Quarter’ has no Christmas feeling to it and has nothing to do with Dublin’s Grafton Street of old,” they said. “Whoever made the decision to do this obviously never consulted the people.”

Another person wrote they were “disgusted” with the new sign and called on Dublin City Council to “intervene” while one person complained about the Irish language being dropped from Dublin’s Christmas lights.

“It has no place in our capital city,” another wrote, adding “it has to go” while a visitor to the city said they were “beyond disappointed” with the new wording.

A spokesperson for Dublin Town argued last year: “The Christmas shopping season is a crucial time of year for all businesses in Ireland and our Christmas lights this year are aimed at showing people that there is more than just Grafton Street itself to enjoy, with many shops, restaurants and pubs in the surrounding streets to visit also.

“We believe that it is important to promote the entire district including Grafton Street and its surrounding streets during the Christmas period.

“This year’s lights were rejuvenated given that bulbs have a limited lifespan,” they said.

“It is important to note that there is (sic) still Irish language lights on display and that we will review all Christmas lighting and signage, as we do each year for 2020 and beyond.

“Where additional Irish language signage is commissioned, we will ensure that the wording on the display is grammatically correct. The correct wording should read ‘Nollaig Shona Daoibh’ to reflect that it is plural.”

A plebiscite of businesses is held every five years to determine if Dublin Town should continue.

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