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

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 901 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt] The discussion on this Bill gives us an opportunity to discuss the preservation of all the locations where Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army fought.

I commend RTE on its programme, "Ireland's Rising", in particular, the commemoration of 1916 outlined by the presenter, Mr. Ryan Tubridy. He said, on visiting Galway, that it was like going home for him. He met people who had connections with the Rising. I am glad that Galway County Council has a programme that involves consultation and partnership with the communities of the county, including community consultation and workshops in Tuam, Oughterard, Loughrea agus sa Cheathrú Rua. Galway is the county of birth of Éamonn Ceannt, who was from Ballymoe, and Connemara was the summer destination of Pádraig Pearse. One of the largest forces of Irish Volunteers mobilised and fought for Irish independence in County Galway and there was a lot of emphasis in "Ireland's Rising" on west Galway. There were traces of a freedom trail in west Galway, in particular around Ros Muc, where Pádraig Pearse had his school. Deputy Ó Cuív's freedom trail idea is something that could be replicated in every part of Ireland, in particular in Galway given its rich 1916 history.

I am disappointed that there has been very little reference to the buildings around Moore Street, both those the Government has already dealt with and others, on RTE radio and television and in the print media. The Moore Street traders have fought their cause for a long time. We saw reports on the role of the leaders in the print media and there was much reference to the GAA and its role in 1916 and afterwards and the Gaelic League and its role. The buildings, however, have gotten very little attention and I am glad Deputy Ó Cuív has brought the issue forward through this Bill and we are talking about not only the Moore Street buildings but buildings in other areas of Dublin and across Ireland.

A number of buildings in east Galway and other places were visited by Ryan Tubridy and mentioned in the programme. These included Killeeneen, Clarinbridge, Athenry, Moyode, Lime Park and Craughwell. Commemorations are planned in Moyode next April and at the Mellows monument in March. Easter Monday there will be a commemoration in Athenry and next May there will be one in Kilbeacanty. These are areas many tourists would like to visit and local authorities, relatives and other stakeholders should be involved.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Derek Keating): Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating Deputy Kitt has just a five minute allocation and Deputy Sean Fleming will have 15 minutes.

Deputy Michael P. Kitt: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt That is fine. I wish to say that I hope the descendants of the nearly 3,000 participants in the Rising will be central to any commemorations. I commend Senator Darragh O'Brien and Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív on introducing this Bill to the Dáil.

  In conclusion, the Easter Rising defined us as a country. It does not belong to any party but to the people of Ireland.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming I welcome the opportunity to speak on the 1916 Quarter Development Bill 2015. I thank my colleague, sitting here beside me, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, who is the chairman of the Fianna Fáil commemoration committee of the events of 1916, for producing this legislation for debate last night and tonight. I also acknowledge the work of my colleague, Senator Darragh O'Brien, for introducing it in the Seanad. More especially, I thank the Fianna Fáil group in Dublin local authorities who have worked together to bring the legislation forward. They did most of the work because they are most intimately involved. They represent Dublin city and the surrounding areas and they understand better than most the need for regeneration in the area.

Our Bill aims to redevelop the national monument at Moore Street and designate the surrounding areas an historic quarter. The 1916 Quarter Development Bill will establish an urban development company tasked with delivering urban regeneration in the area. Most people will be familiar with the tremendous work carried out in the Temple Bar area. If it can happen on one side of the Liffey, there is no reason the same cannot happen on the north side of the Liffey in the Moore Street and surrounding areas, including the GPO.

I want to thank, in particular, the Save 16 Moore Street committee and acknowledge their work and continual involvement. It is not today, yesterday, last year or the year before that those in the committee got involved. I can testify that they have been involved for at least a decade and should be supported in their work. They had a vision in this regard before people even realised we were coming up to the centenary celebrations.

The Bill is very detailed and I wish to deal with the specifics but I want to first put on the record the area it concerns. Some people are not quite sure when we talk about a quarter what exactly it means. Is it a quarter of the city, a little section or a quarter of a street? Schedule 1 to the Bill describes the 1916 quarter area as: "That part of Dublin 1 including the building known as the General Post Office, O’Connell Street, Dublin 1 and its auxiliary lanes adjacent to that building; the street known as Moore Street and auxiliary lanes adjacent to Moore Street; other buildings and locations and their auxiliary roads and lanes in the city of Dublin which were occupied by the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army during Easter week, 1916 as prescribed by the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht through statutory instrument."

We are not dealing with Moore Street alone. We are including the GPO, surrounding lanes, back streets and buildings in the area. Lest some people think we are just talking about four specific houses in Moore Street, it is much broader than that. This probably reflects the central difference between our approach and the Government's narrow, haphazard approach. When we were in government, we declared the area a national monument. I know the Government purchased the four houses having been pressurised to do so and we welcome that fact. However, the Government seems to be very narrowly focused and does not seem to see the bigger picture. I encourage it to do so.

Some people on the Government side mentioned here tonight that they agreed with the sentiments behind the Bill but not the principles enshrined in it. I have a direct question for the Minister of State, Deputy Ann Phelan. Does she agree with the principle of powers of compulsory purchase being vested in these companies? This is a very important proposal. If the Government does not agree with powers of compulsory purchase in this legislation, nothing will ever happen. Developers are there to make money. Shopping centres and developments are and have been proposed for the area. Shops do what shops do, which is sell whatever knick knack they feel will turn a buck.

If the Government is happy for that approach to continue, will it please say so? However, if it accepts the principle of having powers of compulsory purchase as provided for in this Bill, the Government should let it go to Committee Stage. On Committee Stage, all the difficulties and issues with the Bill people have mentioned can be teased out in detailed discussion. It can then come back to Report and Final Stages here in the Dáil. If the Government does not agree with the principles in the Bill, I hope it will be honest enough to say what it is proposing in its place because there is a clear and concrete proposal in this Bill.

It is fitting that the last Private Members' debate of the Dáil this year, before we enter 2016, should be devoted to the commemoration of 1916 in a meaningful way. It should not be the small effort proposed by the Government. The commemoration is bigger than that. There is probably a parallel between the approach being taken by some people in this regard and what happened in 1916. A small group of people were involved then and people said they did not have widespread support. Some 100 years on, there is a bit of that resonating through this debate and the comments of various people because the Government wants to narrow the focus.

I was very pleased, during the term of the last Oireachtas, from 2007 to 2011, to be Chairman of the environment committee.


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