There is little doubt that the building which houses this famed Dublin public house is over two hundred years old. In 1854 the registered licence holder was John Dunne and in 1886 the pub was sold to the O’Donohoe family and was named the International Bar. Since then the pub has retained it’s original Victorian decor which includes a wonderfully ornate hand-carved mahogany one-piece reredos. The carvings are of the river gods of Ireland and match in perfectly with the oak barrels and brass taps where once whiskey, porter and wine were poured liberally into thirsty drinkers glasses.
The International justifiably lays claim to being a true Dublin Joycean pub. The greatest writer the world has seen ensured he mentioned the International in his seminal work on Dublin, Ulysses.
Opposite Ruggy O’Donohoe’s Master Patrick Aloysius Dignam, pawing the pound and a half of Mangan’s, late Fehrenbach’s, porksteaks he had been sent for, went along warm Wicklow street dawdling.
Joyce mentioned the pub as Ruggy O’Donohoe’s as there was a tradition in Dublin to refer to the pub not by it’s name but by that of the licence holder. It is no small boast the owners ot the International Bar are the same O’Donohoe family who took over in the 1880′s making it Dublin’s oldest family owned bar.
Over the years the International has played host to a vast array of litarary and political characters. From Michael Collins to Brendan Behan, JP Donleavy to Paddy Kavanagh, poets, dreamers, musicians and even the occasional artist such as Harry Kernoff have enjoyed the convivial atmosphere of Wicklow Street’s only pub.
Perhaps the famed ballad group the Dubliners may never have been formed if it were not for the fortuitous meeting that chanced to happen when Ronnie Drew bumped into the great Luke Kelly in The International Bar. It was the early Sixties and Luke had just returned from working in England. There was a ballad revival and traditional Irish music and song was about to enter a great period and The International was amongst the Dublin pubs which hosted great sessions.
There is a fine mosaic of the family crest on the floor of the front entrance. It also contains the initials of the family name, OD. Take time to examine the ceiling and enquire at the bar as to what material it ‘s made of. You’ll be some what surprised…
The pink granite bar is highly polished and is offset by the brass rail foot-rest. There are three levels to the house. The basement usually attracts a younger crowd who like to play the video jukebox but on week nights there are jazz or poetry and singer songwriter nights held here. The ground floor is usually set aside for quiet drinking and conversation but at the drop of a hat a traditional session can explode into life. Upstairs is the Comedy venue…
Since the first night of The Comedy Cellar in 1988, when a bunch of chancers prevailed on Anne O’Donohoe to allow them to try this comedy lark in the upstairs room at the International Bar, comedy has gone from strength to strength here. Comedians past and present who have started here or played gigs here reads like a whose who of comedy: Ardal O’Hanlon, Barry Murphy, Kevin Gildea, Dermot Carmody, Des Bishop, Tommy Tiernan, Dylan Moran, Ian Coppinger, Andrew Maxwell, Joe Rooney, Paul Tylak, Dara O’Briain, Andrew Stanley, PJ Gallagher, Neil Delamere and many many more have all started here or played here.