5 unhinged Irish projects that never happened

Image: MetroLink

Words: Ellen Kenny

From Bono’s skyscraper to a Las Vegas Casino in Tipperary, Ireland is truly a country for the dreamers. 

MetroLink North is the nightmare that never ends. While the plan was first introduced in 2001, the government has only approved the planning application this week. The project is now expected to be completed by 2034 and will cost anywhere between 9.5 to 13 billion euros. 

We recommend a bit of healthy scepticism around this plan. Countless governments before this one have promised the railway to the airport, and countless governments have failed to live up to their promises.

Since MetroLink in 2001, Ireland has built up a reputation for failed plans. We’ve ranked the most unhinged failed development plans of the 2000s, and we’re now reconsidering the value and sanity of An Bord Pleanála.


White-water rafting in Dublin

The most recently scrapped plan, and the wounds are still fresh. 

Many will remember Dublin City Council’s 2019 proposal to build a white-water rafting centre on George’s Dock. 

For some reason, this 25 million euro facility was seen as “elitist” by most people. Are you saying you don’t want to go kayaking beside the IFSC?

These plans were scrapped by the Council in December 2021, dashing the dreams of many councillors. Though also likely preventing many stupid accidents. 


U2 Tower

This wasn’t going to be a regular skyscraper. It was going to be Bono’s skyscraper.

After the Dublin Docklands Development Authority bought U2’s old recording studio at the Grand Canal Docks, the band decided to get involved in revamping the area. By building the U2 tower.

It was set to be the tallest building in Ireland, 10 metres taller than the Spire. The plans included an egg-shaped recording studio for U2 at the very top. At least we could’ve kept them contained. 

The plans were first proposed in 2002, and estimated costs were between 55 and 100 million euros. 

Unfortunately, the 2008 financial crisis shelved the project completely. And Bono still runs free without his egg-shaped prison. 


Hong Kong tycoon’s city between Dublin and Belfast

Ireland sees a lot of foreign investment, but this one takes the cake. 

Ivan Ko, owner of an international boating company, approached the Irish government in 2019. He wanted to develop a 50 square kilometre site between Dublin and Belfast to build his own city from scratch.

The proposed city, aptly Nextpolis, was envisaged to host 50,000 emigrants from Hong Kong. The proposal included amenities such as pedestrian-only zones, community gardens, and self-driving cars. So basically, heaven in Ireland. 

Unfortunately, Irish immigration policies squashed Ko’s utopian plans. He is now currently planning a Nextpolis in the UK, because we can never have nice things. 


€460 million casino in Tipperary

Counties beyond the Pale are always trying to prove themselves to attract tourists. They don’t always, however, try to recreate Las Vegas in Munster.

In 2010, Irish millionaire Richard Quirke was granted permission by North Tipperary County Council to develop a Las Vegas-themed casino in his hometown. 

A now-deleted video details plans which include a 500-bedroom hotel, an equestrian centre, and a full-sized replica of the White House. That’s not to mention a car park with almost 6,000 spaces and a landing pad for helicopters.

While An Bord Pleanála approved the casino in 2011, locals immediately began protesting the development. The Gambling Control Bill 2013 also halted plans for building. While Quirke never outright shelved his casino, there have been no developments since 2013. 


Bertie Bowl

People hope that their politicians care about their legacy; that our nation’s leaders want to leave behind a better country than they found it. A country based on prosperity, equality and fraternity. 

Not Bertie Ahern. Bertie wanted to leave behind a stadium.

In the 90s, Fianna Fáil proposed a new national stadium in West Dublin. It would have held 65,000 seats and included amenities such as tennis courts and a golf academy.

While the government sold it as a new home for national pride, everyone else labelled it then-Taoiseach Bertie’s last vanity project. 

The government committed to backing the Bertie Bowl in 1999, but the staggering cost of one billion euro meant the idea was quickly scrapped. And planning costs amounted to 43 million euro for a stadium that never even happened.

On Bertie’s last day as Taoiseach in 2011, he was asked if he had any regrets. At the height of the recession with mass emigration and unemployment, Bertie listed the failed national stadium as one of his biggest regrets. 

In the words of one wise architectural God, when it comes to Irish development, there’s a lot of Room To Improve.