Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

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

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 901 No. 1

First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paudie Coffey: Information on Paudie Coffey Zoom on Paudie Coffey]  The primary aim of the Bill is to establish two new limited companies to be known as 1916 quarter renewal limited and 1916 quarter properties limited, both financed by the State to approve respectively the use of existing or proposed buildings and premises in the Moore Street area and to act as a development company to oversee the development of the area for approved 1916-related activities and uses, including commercial developments. The Bill further proposes that the development company would have functions for the compulsory acquisition of land in the Moore Street area and the Minister for Finance would have a power to guarantee borrowings by 1916 quarter properties limited. However, while appreciating the constructive motivations behind the Bill, and genuinely wanting to acknowledge this and that the Moore Street area is of significant historical importance in the gaining of Irish independence and the formation of the State, I cannot accept it.

The role of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is primarily concerned with the protection and conservation of the national monument comprising Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. That Minister has no role in planning and development in the wider Moore Street area, which is under the remit of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in conjunction with the relevant local planning authority or other designated development authority. Indeed, there could be a conflict of roles where on the one hand, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is charged with safeguarding our built heritage, notably the national monument comprising Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street, and on the other hand, would be supporting development that could also potentially adversely impact the national monument and other historic buildings or fabric in the Moore Street area.

Following a Government decision of 31 March 2015, Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street were acquired by the State during the summer after other initiatives to save the buildings had not proved successful. The Government's decision to purchase and preserve these buildings recognises their historical importance for our nation and will ensure that the long-term future of this landmark will be protected and safeguarded. Bringing them into public ownership also allows for the development of a 1916 commemorative centre on the site. The Government has since awarded a contract for a comprehensive scheme of conservation works on the national monument buildings. The works have already commenced and will be completed during the 2016 centenary year. The restoration will reveal the period architectural detail, the living conditions and above all, the imprint of the insurgency. The primary focus of the work is to show the buildings as they were during the 1916 Rising, allowing them to illuminate that critical and important chapter in our history. The new commemorative centre will act as a lasting tribute to the 1916 leaders, allowing people to step back in time to the dramatic final moments of the Rising. Coupled with the new visitor centre being developed in the GPO, which will be just a few minutes' walk away, the Moore Street commemorative centre will be a fitting and permanent tribute to the Easter Rising and its leaders who played a very important role in gaining our national independence and indeed influenced and inspired other countries along a similar path.

I note that the proposed Bill is aimed at controlling development of the area surrounding the national monument site, which lands are in private ownership and which are the subject of legitimate planning permission for specific development works. It would be inappropriate for me or any other authority to interfere in that process. When it comes to urban development and regeneration, I, as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government have primacy and the Department is already active with various initiatives that beneficially affect the Moore Street area. The proposed Bill would only serve to complicate rather than streamline the various measures in place. For example, in 2012, the Government published "Putting People First - An Action Programme for Effective Local Government". At its core, this programme proposes the local government system be the primary vehicle for overall economic and community development at local level, including the regeneration aspects of that brief. That action programme more widely sets out an overall vision for local government to be the principal vehicle of governance and public service at local level leading economic, social and community development, delivering efficient and good value services, and representing citizens and local communities effectively and accountably. Consistent with this overall vision, Government policy is to build on the local government process and not to establish separate or parallel public bodies or organisations distinct from the local government system unless, in exceptional circumstances, the need for this is clearly demonstrated.

Moreover, the model for the establishment of the proposed special development vehicles is based on previous such vehicles for example, Temple Bar Properties and Dublin Docklands Authority, which are currently being disbanded. The establishment of further State bodies of this nature is contrary to the Government's policy to create efficiencies in the delivery of public services and savings in expenditure. Regeneration initiatives of this nature have now moved on to a new phase that build on enhanced local authority capability in this area rather than setting up new bodies to undertake similar actions. Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended, Dublin City Council, as both local government and planning consent authority, is the most appropriate entity to manage the continuing development of this important inner city area of Dublin. Already, sections of Moore Street and the auxiliary lanes are within the O'Connell Street architectural conservation area, designated in July 2001, and the O'Connell Street area of special planning control adopted by Dublin City Council in September 2009.

The main objectives of the Bill are unclear in terms of compliance with the current Dublin City development plan process and objectives for the inner city area of Dublin City. A development approach such as that proposed in the Bill could be impractical given the variety of private, commercial and publicly-owned properties within its remit, and the process involved in setting up the supporting statutory provisions could be difficult. Furthermore, the size of the area in question and its variety of property types does not on a practical level, lend itself to the type of development model envisaged. Indeed, management of a national monument is best developed, managed and promoted as a specific proposal in tandem with Dublin City Council and other key stakeholders. These mechanisms operate within the wider policy framework of the Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017, which is under review and was recently put out to public consultation.

It remains open to the city council to prepare a statutory local area plan for the area under the provisions of the Planning and Development Act 2010. Dublin City Council would be the relevant authority to oversee implementation of such a plan. Therefore, an extensive array of planning policies and actions has been put in place for which the city council is the relevant statutory implementation body. Taking into account that the local government, planning policy and development consent, and conservation policy and implementation issues pertaining to this area have already been broadly settled, it is unclear what additional clarity or impetus over and above the role of Dublin City Council, could be brought to the need for the regeneration of this area. I have full confidence in the city council's ability to manage the area using the policy already settled and the measures already in place. Government policy and my policy as Minister of State for the Environment, Community and Local Government is to build on the local government process and not to establish separate or parallel public bodies or organisations distinct from the local government system.

There is, however, a much wider dimension to this and there was a context for it during the previous administration's tenure. That Government commissioned the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programme, more commonly known as an bord snip nua, to examine, among other things, the rationalisation of State agencies with a view to saving money in the delivery of services. Those same principles apply today.

On a technical note, section 13 of the Bill proposes that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht would act as guarantor on moneys owed by the new development company. Under Article 17.2 of the Constitution the inclusion of such a financial clause in the Bill, without the support of the Government, would be unconstitutional and therefore cannot be enacted. I am also at a loss as to why the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is given the primary role in this Bill as her role has nothing to do with planning and development. I suspect that it is in some way to do with the Minister's role in the national monument at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street which has been acquired for the State by her Department.

No. 16 Moore Street is where the decision to surrender was made by the leaders of the 1916 Rising. Nos. 14-17 Moore Street were declared a national monument in 2007 as the most authentic and complete examples of surviving pre-1916 Moore Street buildings associated with the Rising. The monument buildings have been privately owned as part of a property portfolio for the proposed Dublin central development site extending over Moore Street, Henry Street and O'Connell Street.


Last Updated: 09/03/2020 13:35:25 First Page Previous Page Page of 92 Next Page Last Page