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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 Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming] We were invited by the Save 16 Moore Street committee to see the site. I met a number of my colleagues at the Spire. We then crossed to the General Post Office and were brought on a guided tour. We walked the streets and back lanes of the area, were shown bullet marks in walls and given the full history and background of what happened at various points along the way. We were shown where the various leaders came and went, where lookout posts were stationed and so forth. It was a tremendously educational day. We were finally brought to Moore Street and those of us who would not have been on that street on a regular basis were genuinely disappointed to see the state of the buildings. We were shocked. I was mortified when I looked at the facades of some of the shops on the street and thought to myself that no self respecting capital city in the world would allow buildings of such historic significance to fall into such disrepair. I am delighted the site was declared a national monument subsequently. I would also like to thank the aforementioned committee which provided us with a video showing how the redeveloped site would look.

It has been suggested that there were up to 3,000 participants in the Easter Rising but I do not know the exact number. There has been much favourable coverage and treatment of the events of 1916. I was particularly impressed by the work of Joe Duffy which made the events very human and brought them home to ordinary people. Importantly, it showed the levels of poverty that existed at the time. Joe Duffy, in his book and his work on RTE, concentrated specifically on the children who died, some of whom were shot accidentally or caught in the crossfire. It was a very human story and revealed the real horror of what happened in Easter week in 1916.

We must acknowledge that these are the buildings that the leaders of the Rising ended up in and No. 16 was the building from which they surrendered. Subsequently, many of them were executed but that was not the end of it. In fact, that was the beginning. By any standards, the Easter Rising, notwithstanding the execution of the leaders, was an outstanding success and the proof of that is that 100 years on we are here in our national Parliament discussing how to commemorate it. The 1918 general election gave a democratic mandate to the Rising, which it did not have in advance. The people of Ireland voted accordingly when they got an opportunity, which must be recognised.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the Laois connection with the 1916 Rising. Most Members who have spoken already have been keen to emphasise that it did not all happen in Dublin and that there was involvement from other counties. I have been in this House for quite some time but have said only once before that a significant event of the Rising took place in Laois in an area known as Clonad, just outside Portlaoise, on Easter Sunday. It happened on what would be known as the old Portlaoise to Abbeyleix road or the main Dublin to Cork road until it was bypassed recently. In the run-up to Easter week, a group of Volunteers were given orders by Pádraig Pearse to go to the railway line outside Portlaoise and take up the tracks. The purpose of this exercise was to prevent British military reinforcements being sent from Waterford to Dublin to put down the Rising. The aim was to derail any train that used the route. The Volunteers headed out very early on Sunday morning and hid out in the woods for the day. They did not know about the countermanding order because they did not see the daily newspapers that day. They proceeded to do their business on Sunday night and took up the railway tracks. The railway company became aware that an incident had occurred and sent out a train with several employees to check the line. That train was derailed when it reached the spot. A ruckus ensued and several shots were fired by the Volunteers. Many people in Laois would maintain, with justification, that these were the first shots of the 1916 Rising, fired as part of the effort to prevent reinforcements travelling from Waterford to Dublin to put down the Rising. That event was an outstanding success and I mention it because the officer in command was my uncle, Eamon Fleming, who was accompanied by another uncle of mine, Patrick Fleming. The group of Volunteers included about 16 men and three women. Thus there is a direct link between myself and the events of 1916.

Approximately ten years ago a 1916 commemoration committee was established in County Laois and it has erected a substantial monument at the site in question to commemorate that event. The names of all of those involved are engraved on the monument, as are the words of the Proclamation. I was fortunate to be asked to chair that committee in recent times and have been happy to do so. However, it is the other committee members who have done all of the work. The biggest project undertaken by the committee this year was the production of a film to commemorate and re-enact the events that happened at Clonad on Easter weekend, 1916. The film is called "Mother" because most of the Volunteers were single young men and women in their early 20s whose mothers were fearful for them as they went out on that fateful day. During the course of this summer filming took place at a number of locations where the event was re-enacted and the local community was heavily involved. The film crew and actors involved were put up in people's private houses throughout the county. There was tremendous good spirit shown by all of those involved. The film will be ready in early 2016. I must also thank all of those who were involved in the voluntary fund raising efforts and Laois County Council for the grant it provided to the project. The council, like many other local authorities, has a substantial programme of events planned for 2016.

I wanted to put the involvement of Laois on the record of the House. Members from other counties will do the same and it is right that the people of Ireland be made aware that the events were well spread out. I wanted to emphasise, in particular, my own family history. It is not something about which I blow my trumpet too often but it would be wrong to let this occasion pass without acknowledging the role played by members of my family.

I must stress that No. 16 Moore Street was the last headquarters of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic during the 1916 Rising. The Volunteers moved through various back lanes and side streets to get to that building from which they ultimately surrendered. The loss of their lives through execution was not in vain, however. It brought forward our independence and now, 100 years on, we are celebrating their great work. As a true Irishman I must say that I hope to see the complete reunification of the 32 counties of Ireland by peaceful means in my lifetime.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith I am delighted to have the opportunity to make a short contribution to this debate. As my colleague Deputy Fleming has said, it is appropriate that we are discussing this Bill on the eve of 2016. This is the last Private Members' Bill to be put before the Dáil in this session. I compliment Deputy Ó Cuív on the work he has done in preparing the Bill in consultation with the many interested parties and groups who have worked for many years to build an awareness and to generate a momentum behind properly commemorating those people who did so much to give us the freedom we enjoy.

Last night, in a very wide-ranging and illuminating contribution, Deputy Ó Cuív spoke about the fact that the events of 1916 happened in an era when the British Empire dominated the world. A small group of people took a stand at that time, emboldening public opinion in favour of the establishment of an independent nation.

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