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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 Michael Colreavy: Information on Michael Colreavy Zoom on Michael Colreavy] For the past 100 years we have drawn inspiration from their heroism and as we are now in these difficult times we should still draw inspiration from them into the future, yet, a Government in this country would even consider not securing the Moore Street battlefield site. The buildings are not just bricks and mortar; the area is a symbol of why we exist as a country and as a people. The environs of Moore Street make up a very important part of our story as a nation because from that block with its small rooms and lanes emerged this Parliament. Every person who stands and speaks in this Chamber owes allegiance to those who occupied the environs of Moore Street. Future generations will condemn any politician or Government that would allow the vandalisation of this precious monument.

Seán Mac Diarmada came from north Leitrim. His cottage is preserved as it was when he was alive. The vandalisation that will be visited on the Moore Street area is as bad as what Seán Mac Diarmada would see if he were alive today and looking out his window. He would see the beautiful rolling hills and drumlins but in 20 years' time he would perhaps see fracking wells. Imagine that. How would he feel if we were to vandalise that beautiful area for the benefit of the very few? If the men and women of 1916, who showed such courage and leadership, came back, what would they say about the vandalisation of that area of Moore Street? We must stop the penny-pinching. One can get shopping malls a hundred a dime in any country in the world but there is one and only one battlefield site in the centre of Dublin. It should be there for the next century and the next thousand years. We should do the right thing by it.

Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan: Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan We know the central role of the GPO from the reading of the Proclamation until the evacuation on the Thursday. That evacuation went out of the GPO into Henry Street, Moore Street, Moore Lane and the surrounding areas. Every step and few yards on that route tells a story of the various men and women involved – the Volunteers, the Citizen Army, the IRB and Cumann na mBan – who fought and defended so many places on that route until they dug their way through No. 10 Moore Street into Nos. 14 to 17. While Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street have been designated as a national monument it is the opinion of many historians, relatives, supporters and many others that the whole area is a battlefield site of immense historical and cultural significance and it deserves so much more than it is being given.

While Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street will be preserved as a national monument, that will be accompanied by the total obliteration of the laneways of history. I do not understand this disregard for places of historical significance in that all we want to do is knock them down. We lost so much of Viking Dublin, Tara, the Mendicity Institution and we very nearly lost Kilmainham Gaol. Are we now going to lose another area of great historical significance and for what – another shopping mall, another shopping centre in an area surrounded by shops and shopping centres when we see shops such as Clerys and Boyers being closed?

When I asked for the independent comprehensive assessment on the site the Minister refused, saying an assessment had been carried out. Who was it done by? It was the same developer who wants to knock down the whole area and would have knocked down Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street if he had the opportunity. It is the same developer who allowed the whole site, including Nos. 14 to 17, fall into dereliction and disrepair. The Minister also said in her reply that there had been detailed consideration and appraisal of all the relevant factors. I find that incredible because all the relevant factors have not been taken into consideration. If they were, we would be treating the whole area with much more respect in acknowledgement of all that had gone on, not just in Nos. 14 to 17 but on the surrounding streets and laneways.

The Myles battlefield report identified the whole area as a monument and acknowledged what happened on that journey, where so many people were killed. We have O’Brien’s Mineral Water building in Henry Place, which was occupied by the Volunteers. The White House was occupied and held by Michael Collins. No. 10 was where the first council of war was held and there was an overnight stay. The Bottling Store was occupied. Hanlon's – Nos. 20 to 21 – was where the surrender order was accepted by the Volunteers. O’Rahilly Parade is that most moving place where a letter was written from The O’Rahilly to his wife. How could we possibly say that a comprehensive assessment was carried out when all of that is being ignored? That area is the link between the GPO, Kilmainham Gaol and Richmond Barracks.

There is a need now for a more innovative, dignified, respectful vision for the area. There is potential for a historical cultural quarter with appropriate small businesses or arts centres in the area, and above all of that, housing because there was a time when people lived in Moore Street. That type of development very much complements the historic street trading tradition because a massive shopping centre with discount supermarkets is going to bring an end to the traders and the stall holders who are already struggling. The Taoiseach’s response to me on Leaders’ Questions was that the decade of centenary commemorative events must be inclusive, sensitive and appropriate. It is not sensitive and it is not appropriate to surround Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street in this most inappropriate way, by being dwarfed by a shopping centre. Permission has been granted for a hotel on Moore Lane, which means we are going to lose O’Rahilly Parade for what will be a service entrance to the hotel. Where is the appropriateness and the sensitivity in that?

I have been asking questions repeatedly of the Minister and I am not getting answers. Who valued Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street at €4 million? Why was it valued at that amount? Surely €4 million would have bought the whole terrace? Were the buildings purchased by a CPO under a State order? If so, why could the whole area not have been purchased in that way? Who has costed the restoration at €5 million? A contractor has been named for Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. I have made inquiries but I have still not received an answer about when the project went out to tender, how many tenders were received and who, why and how the particular contractor was chosen. The irony of ironies is that it is the ministerial consent order of the Chartered Land team that had in its plan the destruction of the entire area is being adopted.

Dr. Pat Wallace said that any consent should be mindful of the national historical importance of the whole Moore Street area. Seamus Lyham said the national monument exists within a historic battlefield. When the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy Jan O’Sullivan, was Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government she said there are specific guidelines in regard to developments that affect a protected structure or an architectural conservation area. The Imperial War Museum said the area is the only city-based 20th century battlefield site in all of Europe to survive and that is under threat now.

Dr. Wallace said that once one allows the destruction of buildings and their neighbourhood ambience, one cannot bring them back. We cannot bring them back if we allow them to be destroyed. It is okay if the Government does not wish to accept the Fianna Fáil Bill but could it come up with something that would respect the entire area for its historical significance because that would be fitting, dignified and respectful?

Debate adjourned.

  The Dáil adjourned at 10 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 16 December 2015.

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