On a recent Monday evening, at the corner of Thomas Street and Saint Augustine Street in the Liberties, a few people queue up in front of an AIB cash machine outside a Boojum burrito bar.
For the past few months, people who live and work nearby have been noticing a high-pitched screeching noise coming from this area, sometimes late into the night. Its source is a mystery.
It broadcasts out across a small plaza, only about 30 steps outside the old city wall, which is marked on the ground by a change in brickwork during the day, and strips of yellow lights at night.
Right now, there’s no screeching, just the thrum of an air-ventilation unit on the wall, the noise of the passing rush-hour traffic, and the occasional seagull, or car horn, that squawks above the noise.
At Boojum, the front doors are closed. Inside, the music is on. Supervisor Tamara Beasley stands at the back of the shop, assembling burritos for customers.
She takes a break and walks outside to point to the wall at the side of the restaurant and next to the ATM machine. That’s where she goes for her break when it’s sunny outside, but she can’t sit there when the sound is going.
Some customers have asked what it is, and some of the tenants in the apartments upstairs have come down into the restaurant to complain, says Beasley.
“We’ve tried to tell them it’s nothing to do with us,” she says. “It’s nothing in store in Boojum. All our operations are in store. We’ve checked it out.”
It’s not on all the time, either. “If I was coming in at 9 in the morning, it’s not on then. It’s on in the evening though, like around 4,” says Beaseley. It’s often still going after staff close up shop at 10pm, as they leave at about 11pm.
Beasley says she’s noticed it over the past month or two, but others who work nearby say they’ve noticed it for longer.
“It’s been particularly loud for the last four months, and it’s definitely a screechy sound,” says Claire Morrison, who works in a shop nearby. She says the sound isn’t noticeable inside the shop but can be heard out on the street.
“It can be very, very loud sometimes” and not others, she says. “I think it’s because sometimes you just drown these things out.”
Tara Kelly, who also works in Boojum, says she’s noticed it on weekend nights especially.
The city’s noise levels have been on the rise in recent years, according to figures released by Dublin City Council’s Ambient Sound Monitoring Network. Noise has been linked to an array of public health issues, from depression to cardiovascular disease.
On Monday, no one seemed to know what this intrusive noise is or where it’s coming from.
A spokesperson for An Garda Síochána said they hadn’t gotten any complaints about the noise.
Could it be a mosquito alarm near the ATM − a device that gives off a shrill ring, and is often used to prevent young people from hanging around?
A spokesperson for AIB said that no, they haven’t installed one of those, and they haven’t gotten any complaints about the mystery noise, either.
A Dublin City Council spokesperson said its Air Quality Monitoring and Noise Control Unit monitor environmental noise and enforcement of noise control legislation. People can complain to the council at firstname.lastname@example.org, they said. “And this will be investigated by one of our Environmental Health Officers.”
“It’s disconcerting,” says Beasley. “It gets very loud.”