They didn’t respond to our attempts to contact them — perhaps dissuaded by some of the hostile and xenophobic responses to the suggestion online.
But the pitch is still there.
“Parnell Street is where the greatest concentration of the Chinese community in Dublin lives and works,” the petition reads.
“The street offers so much, there are Asian shops, restaurants, cultural centres, businesses and communities. Despite all of this we haven’t made the most of it, it is time to fully recognise our Chinatown and give it the boost it needs,” it says.
Google Maps classifies Parnell Street as Chinatown. Should we make it official with an arch?
So far, only 48 people have signed the petition and some of the reactions on the Facebook page to the idea have been aggressively xenophobic and even threatening.
The goal, in the petition, of having a gateway to the city’s Chinatown by the 2017 Chinese New Year Festival looks distant.
These gates, or paifangs, or friendship arches, can be seen around the world marking the entrances to areas where Chinese migrants have found support networks, and opened businesses.
Often, they are grand and gold and red, designed in a traditional Chinese architectural style with inscriptions in Chinese — but not always.
In recent years, Chinese communities in New York have continued to push for these gateways to be constructed around the city’s Chinatowns, as the New York Times has reported.
So why not here? Or would that be unfair to others who live and work in the neighbourhood? Would a gateway be marking Parnell Street as a ghetto?
The petition doesn’t say how an archway would be financed. Perhaps it wold be by Dublin City Council or through contributions from local businesses that feel it might do the area some good.
On Parnell Street, the Chinese presence is evident. There are clusters of Chinese restaurants, specialising in barbecue or noodles.
But there is also a Vietnamese restaurant, a Korean bar, a kebab shop, a chipper and a Brazilian restaurant. There are plenty of Asian supermarkets as well, and even a Asian spa and massage centre.
Down the road in one of the hairdressers, Tony Wong says he loves the idea of an arch. A lucky golden Chinese cat flashes a paw on the desk in front of him.
An archway would give the street a boost, he says, and bring more Irish shoppers into the area. Tourists too might be drawn down the street.
“Chinese people come to Ireland for holidays,” he says. “They can come to this street for Chinese restaurants.”
Patrick O’Mara said he also thought an archway would be a real help to the area.
But there are also loads of Brazilian and Vietnamese shops and shoppers, too, said O’Mara, who has worked on the street for two years.
“Something multicultural might be better,” he says. “Maybe a statue or something.”
It might be better to call the street Asiatown rather than Chinatown, he said. (Although it’s unclear what the Brazilians might think of that.)
Fianna Fáil councillor Paul McAuliffe said the neighbourhood could definitely benefit from some care.
“I think there’s definitely room to improve the public realm and I wouldn’t have any issue with having landmarks or public sculptures that recognise ethnicity in an area,” said McAuliffe, who is head of the council’s Economic Development and Enterprise Strategic Policy Committee.
“But I’m not sure that having gates that gate off an area of the city is the right way of doing that,” he says. “I think we need less gates in society.”
The idea for a gateway to mark Parnell Street as Dublin’s official Chinatown has floated around for years, he said. He recalls former Fine Gael Lord Mayor Gerry Breen mentioning it in his inauguration speech back in 2011.
McAuliffe wold be quicker to support the provision of public art in the area. But if there was a full economic development plan for the area to go with the development of an archway, he’d be happy to go along with it.