Launch of a new book that shaped Georgian Dublin

An tArdmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh will launch a new book titled ‘Exercise of Authority’ written by Finnian O‘Cionnaith, in the Oak Room, Mansion House, Dawson Street, on Wednesday 10th February 2016 at 6pm.  This book tells the story of the formative years of the Georgian Paving Board who were responsible for paving, cleansing and lighting of 18th century Dublin, from the viewpoint of one of its most important officers, surveyor Thomas Owen.    

‘Exercise of Authority’ is the second in a new series of books issued by Dublin City Council which explores the engineering history and heritage of Dublin city. This richly-illustrated book is essential for a complete understanding of Georgian Dublin. The legacy of the Paving Board can still be seen today in the antique setts and granite kerbstones which can be found in Dublin’s historic core.

According to An tArdmhéara Críona Ní Dhálaigh,”This book is an impressive study of the Paving Board who tackled problems in 18th century Dublin which are very similar to those experienced by Dubliners today.  I commend the author Finnian O’Cionnaith for his splendid writing and rigorous research and Dublin City Council Public Libraries on their choice of publication.  Bainfidh daoine an-taitneamh as an leabhar speisialta seo.”  

Speaking at the launch, author Finnian O’Cionnaith said, “This book is the combined story of an organisation tasked with improving the largest city in eighteenth-century Ireland and its impact on the daily lives, concerns and finances of Georgian Dubliners. Whether you were rich or poor, noble or destitute, if you lived in Dublin during this time, you felt the impact of the Paving Board … I would very much like to express my warmest thanks to Dublin City Council for their encouragement and support with this book.”




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 Paperback cost -€17.95 available online at

Published by Four Court Press


Notes to the Editor


History of the Paving Board

From the 1770s to the mid-nineteenth century the commissioners for paving the streets of Dublin, commonly known as the Paving Board were responsible for the paving, lighting and cleansing of the capital. Granted sweeping powers by the Irish parliament, including the right to levy taxes, this organisation tackled problems still familiar to modern Dubliners such as traffic congestion, street paving, road works, waste removal, public lighting and anti-social behaviour. They attempted to stamp Georgian conformity and order on a city trying to shake its medieval image and move into the modern world. Prior to its foundation, the maintenance of Dublin's streets was a haphazard affair with the city's patchwork of diverse and divergent parishes bearing responsibility for services within their borders.  The Paving Board took this misbalanced system and placed the city under one hierarchical organisation capable, in theory, of helping the rapidly growing city cope with the changes it encountered.

None of this came easily – Dubliners – then as now – objected to new taxes, leading to a public riot in 1784 quelled by the miltia, and a stand-off with Arthur Guinness when he objected to the Board’s activities.


The Author

Finnian O’Cionnaith is a practising cartographer, currently operating in an international role, with a keen interest in historical surveying techniques and applications.  Awarded a PhD by Maynooth University in 2011, ‘Exercise of authority’ is his second book on the topic of mapping in Georgian Dublin and is released as part of the history of Dublin engineering series by Dublin City Council.



The first book in the series is ‘The Bridges of Dublin’ by Annette Black and Michael Barry, published in December 2015.