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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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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald] We are urging that the national monument be more broadly cast and more inclusive. If the Minister of State believed what he said about commemorating the Rising but, more importantly, about underpinning and reaffirming those values as the ones on which we will build a republic - we do not yet live in one, by the way - he would understand the concept of monument much more broadly than the very narrow and mean definition with which he is running.

The Minister of State seems to misunderstand that part of Dublin which Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and I happen to represent; it is included in our Dáil constituency. He has no appreciation of the sensitivity the area deserves. It is clearly lost on him that there has been massive uncertainty and speculation about all of these issues, which is a matter of public concern. It is not a hobbyhorse for a limited number of parliamentarians or a narrow section of society.

One really would have thought that we had learned a few hard lessons from the destruction of our Viking heritage at Wood Quay or the demolition of the outstanding Georgian facades on St. Stephen's Green which were wanton acts of destruction. It was vandalism, pure and simple. We know that now, but at the time when these things were done, people stood up and defended them in the same monotone going-through-the-motions way the Minister of State has adopted and explained the value of modernity and modernisation and so on. We should have learned the lesson that we should protect that which is precious. We should have learned the lesson that if, on the one hand, we are to extol the virtues of the Rising and the women and men who led and fought at the time, we should actually respect the heritage, including the built heritage and geography of where these historic events took place.

It beggars belief that a proposal for a 1916 quarter and a revolutionary quarter would be mired in controversy. The arguments over the preservation of this battlefield site date back beyond the term of the Government. Previous Governments were equally guilty of allowing uncertainty to fester and this area of national and international significance to fall into disrepair, ruin and decay. It is dereliction de facto. Sinn Féin has been consistent throughout this process in arguing strongly that we should protect this revolutionary site. We have repeatedly raised the issue and our concerns about the preservation of the battlefield site at Dublin City Council and Oireachtas level. Serious questions remain unanswered, particularly about the dealings management at Dublin City Council has had with the developers originally involved in what was to be the development of the site. I am sure the Minister of State is aware of these controversies. The existing site and plans could only be said to have been pulled together by dubious means. The process has been scandal ridden from the very start.

The original proposal was for a huge shopping centre. Imagine it as a legacy to the women and men of 1916, as an edifice to honour the Republic. It was, of course, made all the more distasteful against the background of dubious dealings I have mentioned. The proposal for a giant shopping centre was originally put forward by the developer Joe O’Reilly’s company, Chartered Land. Later, a block of properties owned by his company became part of NAMA’s loan portfolio, appropriately enough called Project Jewel. The properties included sites between O’Connell Street and Moore Street and the area involved covered much of the 1916 battlefield site. Excluded from the portfolio is a small terrace section on Moore Street, the site of the last headquarters of the 1916 leaders. This portfolio of properties has now been sold to the English-based company, Hammerson, in partnership with Allianz. We, in Sinn Féin, have written to Hammerson requesting a meeting. We have made it aware of our concerns about the use it may make of some of the properties it has acquired and which are of significant national importance. Although not open to a meeting, it has acknowledged the historical significance of the sites it has acquired in Project Jewel that include areas around Moore Street.

While the future of Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street has been safeguarded by the Government, all else remains at risk. It is hard for me to grasp that the Minister of State would commend this approach as though it were some great achievement. It is minimalism taken to the nth degree. I go so far as to say it shows marked disrespect for Dublin's north inner city, the Rising, its leaders and the values of the Republic.

Let us consider some of what is in jeopardy. The location of the first council of war by the rebels as they fled the GPO was No. 10 Moore Street. What about Nos. 20 and 21 Moore Street? They also hold great historical significance because at this location the surrender order was accepted after consultation with Tom Clarke, Seán Mac Diarmada, Joseph Plunkett and Michael Collins. Why would the Government jeopardise this? As we draw towards the conclusion of 2015 and look to the centenary, how on earth could any Minister with an ounce of cop-on or half an ounce of self-respect stand in this Chamber and say this is an acceptable way to proceed? It is not. The Minister of State still has an opportunity to do the right thing and preserve our history before it is lost to developers.

The Minister of State mentioned economic development. I have a natural interest in the economic development and vibrancy of the north inner city of Dublin, as do all Dubliners and people across the country. I ask the Minister of State to imagine the battlefield preserved and being developed appropriately as a magnet in the heart of rebel Dublin for visitors and Irish people. That would be the right thing to do. I urge the Government to take that course of action with all haste.

Deputy Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy Almost 100 years ago, Dublin and the entire island of Ireland were in a state of desperation. Unemployment was rampant. There was a massive rate of child mortality and swelling slums were rife. The only option many people had was to be shipped off to the killing fields of Europe to spill their blood for their imperialist oppressor. Out of this despair and destitution, arrived the men and women of 1916 who offered Irish people an alternative vision. They offered a republic that would guarantee equal rights and equal opportunities for all its citizens and declared its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally. The hope and vision they offered to Ireland, to strike for her freedom, are as true today as they were 100 years ago. Ireland today is searching for hope in turbulent economic times. Similar to the conditions in which the men and women of 1916 found themselves, we are at the whim of foreign rulers and foreign markets. There is no finer example of courage and determination than the one the men and women of 1916 set.

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