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1916 Quarter Development Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 901 No. 1

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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív] They will do so just as they now queue outside Kilmainham Gaol, which was saved by a voluntary committee in the 1960s. I was often there in the 1960s when they were doing it and it is now one of the treasured and iconic sites belonging to the State, where one must queue to get in. The GPO, its interpretive centre and Moore Street - with the traders on that street part of the scene - will become one of the "must visit" places on a tour of Dublin. People will come to spend hours there if we have the courage to act.

I recommend the Bill to the House. I hope we will not divide on it because I do not want a division. Nobody wants that. In putting forward the Bill, Fianna Fáil is hoping we will endorse a decision that the Government can take to preserve these sites and ensure they remain for posterity, so the physical legacy of 1916 can be preserved. These are places where, for example, The O'Rahilly wrote his last letter to his wife and where the surrender note was written.

I always think that one of the very great decisions of the Rising was the decision to call it off in order to save civilian lives. That becomes an even greater decision when one realises that those who signed the surrender note knew they were signing their own death warrants. They did not glory in slaughter and they wanted to preserve civilian lives. Therefore, the place where that incredibly brave decision was taken should never be destroyed and it should be preserved for posterity.

Deputy John Browne: Information on John Browne Zoom on John Browne I welcome the opportunity to say a few words on the Bill put forward by my colleague, Deputy Ó Cuív. We are all aware of the importance of 1916 and its commemoration next year. Deputy Ó Cuív has been to the forefront in our party in ensuring that we are leading this commemoration by establishing the commemoration committee, or Coiste 1916, which is chaired by the Deputy. He has been doing tremendous work in ensuring that the celebrations next year will come to the fore and the descendants of the people involved in 1916 can have a place of honour and pride in the those commemorations.

This Bill deals with the Moore Street area and I will come back to that in a few minutes. I wish to reflect on the connection between 1916 and my county and town of Enniscorthy, each year the local authority and community of which have been to the fore in celebrating on Easter Monday for probably 50 or 60 years. There is mass in the cathedral and people march to the market square in order to lay wreaths at the monument. It is important that such actions are recognised. The national celebrations next year will be significant but generations of people in Enniscorthy have kept the commemorations to the fore, recognising the important role played by Enniscorthy as one of the few towns outside Dublin that supported Pearse and his comrades in the 1916 Rising.

In March 1916, Pádraig Pearse visited Enniscorthy for the commemoration of Robert Emmet, the republican leader hanged for his rising of 1803. In public, in the Athenaeum Theatre, Pearse delivered what Paul Galligan remembered as an "impressive" lecture on Emmet. The Enniscorthy battalion provided a guard of honour. Such rallies, like the funeral of O'Donovan Rossa in Dublin in 1915, allowed the Volunteers to openly flout the authority of the British state. John O'Reilly from Enniscorthy remembered, "We had the buildings under armed guard that night and were prepared to resist any interference from the RIC or other authorities." In private, Pearse told Volunteer officers such as Séamus Doyle that the orders for an armed uprising would come soon. In Enniscorthy, the Athenaeum was made the republican headquarters, over which flew the green, white and orange tricolour flag. We have heard much about the tricolour first being flown in Waterford but people from Enniscorthy and Wexford in general would contend that they flew the tricolour flag at the same time as Waterford. History has since shown that this may have been the case.

As I mentioned, Enniscorthy has been to the forefront in celebrating every Easter Monday. In 1994 or 1995, it was not popular to invite a person from Sinn Féin to events but the then chairman of Enniscorthy Urban Council invited Mr. Martin McGuinness to the celebrations. It was not very popular, as I stated, and some people resigned, while ex-Army personnel left the function when Mr. McGuinness arrived. We in Enniscorthy maintain that we sowed the first seeds of what was to become the Good Friday Agreement by accepting Mr. McGuinness into the fold on that occasion. We had Comóradh Éirí Amach na Cásca for years, with descendants of those who took part in the 1916 Rising being involved through the years in keeping the celebration going. We now have the 1916 committee, which will prepare the celebrations for Enniscorthy and Wexford in general next year. Books have been written recently by Professor Henry Goff, who wrote a history of 1916, and Mr. Bernard Browne, son of a former Fine Gael councillor, the late John Browne. The book is on the poetry and literature of 1916 from Wexford. It is important to recognise that the celebrations must go on outside Dublin as well. Some recognition has been given to towns like Enniscorthy, Ashbourne and Galway. Last Sunday, we saw the commemoration to Liam Mellows in Castletown, Wexford, another Volunteer of that era.

Many relatives of leaders of 1916 are to the fore now in the preparations in my hometown. They are seeking to represent families at the celebrations in Dublin. Some have received invitations but others have not. It is important to invite as many people from rural Ireland as possible whose relatives were involved with 1916 to the celebrations in Dublin. It is not just a Dublin event and the role of the families and descendants should be recognised. Enniscorthy will participate in the laying of wreaths at the same time as Dublin, Ashbourne and Deputy Ó Cuív's county of Galway. It is important that wreaths should be laid simultaneously across the four areas. That would recognise the importance of rurally based 1916 commemorations.

Tonight's debate is about Moore Street and the historic buildings there, including No. 16 Moore Street, the last headquarters of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic during the 1916 Easter Rising. Volunteers broke into the houses on Moore Street, tunnelled their way through the terrace and took up new positions in each house, making No. 16 the headquarters.

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