From 'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’ by Turtle Bunbury (MPG, 2008).
One of the greatest boosts for the northside was the establishment of the National College of Ireland on Mayor Square. The success of this project can be attributed to the formidable Joyce O’Connor, President of the NCI from 1990 to 2007. In 1997, she approached Lar Bradshaw, chairman of the newly-established Dublin Docklands Development Authority, with a bold plan. She requested that a sizeable chunk of the 12-acre plot bequeathed to the Authority by CHDDA be set aside for a ‘campus without walls’. Its specific aim was to extend 3rd level education to people from every type of socio-economic background. Bradshaw was instantly sold on the idea because, money aside, the core of O’Connor’s plan was fundamentally a perfect fit with the Authority’s ideals for revolutionizing the educational opportunities within the Docklands. To locate the National College of Ireland within the Docklands would go a long way to injecting a renewed sense of soul into the area. Following considerable and sometimes-heated debate, the Authority endorsed O’Connor’s radical plan in October 1998 and began a program of fund-raising to secure tax breaks and help build the new college.
The NCI was not strictly a new college. It was a relocation and rebranding of an older college in Sandyford, originally founded by Jesuits in the wake of World War Two. This had always been a ‘workers college’, offering education to workers and employees, increasing their awareness of social rights and obligations, and to develop leadership. By 1966, nearly 1,300 students from union and management backgrounds were learning together at the National College of Industrial Relations. By the 1990s there were 36 different academic programs and diplomas running and over 4,440 students.
Sited on two acres of former warehouse space, the new NCI comprises a 50,000 ft sq, 5-story, state of the art campus, complete with modern lecture halls, a hi-tech library, a gym, a canteen and 53 residential apartments. It officially opened on 9th Sept 2002, the first day of the new academic year, when Professor O’Connor and businessman Denis O’Brien led the students into the college. There are now 5,000 full and part-time students and over 130 full-time and 220 part-time staff. The current President, Dr. Paul Mooney, is the first former student to lead the college. Other graduates can be found from the Kings Inn to PricewaterhouseCooper.