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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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  10 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív] Is le brón atá mé ag seasamh anseo anocht de bharr nár ghlac an Rialtas leis an moladh seo. I am very disappointed with the Government's response on two levels. First, it sought to deflect the Bill on technicalities and, second, there was a lack of interest shown by the Government parties, with only a handful of Deputies speaking. On both nights the Government did not use its allocated-----

Deputy Ann Phelan: Information on Ann Phelan Zoom on Ann Phelan When I was here on Monday, there was nobody else here to deal with very important legislation.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Derek Keating): Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating I ask the Minister of State to please speak through the Chair.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I presume I will be allowed the extra time. I would have thought that if the Government was going to knock the Bill on technicalities, it would have brought forward an alternative way of achieving the same result. If it had indicated it was holding back the Bill on technicalities, claiming there might be constitutional issues and that it would find another way, I would have withdrawn the Bill and not push the issue to a vote. It has used technicalities to defeat the principle behind it.

  I admire the Save Moore Street Committee, the work it has done and particularly the efforts of Mr. James Connolly Heron who has a direct family connection. Some of the arguments I have heard are quite extraordinary. When speaking about the changes to the buildings, I thought of Warsaw, which was flattened during the Second World War, but its centre was rebuilt from the plans because the people wanted the pre-war city to be rebuilt rather than building a modern city that would have been completely different. It is important to say the National Museum of Ireland, in correspondence with the then Minister, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, stated:

The proposed retail development will significantly impoverish the historical and cultural significance of the 1916 national monument. The national monument exists within an historic battlefield.

Therefore, all this talk about the national monument has been put at naught by our institutions. The National Museum of Ireland continued:

Outside the national monument there are original buildings and the street fabric that is monumental in form, historic in character and national in importance. Any consideration of the national monument at 14-17 Moore Street must, in particular, take account of the route between the GPO and Moore Street in order to maintain the link in a meaningful way, given the extent of the surviving street plan and buildings, especially along Henry Place.

The National Museum of Ireland is not a partisan party but the professional in this area. Its correspondence continues, "A formal process should be undertaken by the National Monuments Service to assess the status of the survivals and to consider whether they are part of the same monument at Nos. 14-17 Moore Street or constitute separate national monuments". It is important to note that the White House on Henry Place was occupied and held by Michael Collins and that 10 Moore Street was the point of entry and the place where the rebels held the Council of War and the leaders slept overnight. At 20-21 Moore Street the volunteers gathered and reluctantly agreed to accept a surrender order after addresses by Thomas Clarke, Michael Collins, Joseph Plunkett and Seán Mac Diarmada. One of the best quotes on the importance of Moore Street was made in Dáil Éireann:

This is a confined area but it contains the lanes of history ... The area from the GPO to the Rotunda is very compact. There is an opportunity, if handled properly, to make available a multilingual explanation to people from all over the world in order that they can see the circumstances and locations where one of the first independent states was recognised in the early part of the 20th century ... This needs to be looked at afresh ... The lanes are still there as is some of the original brickwork, etc., to enable a more comprehensive explanation and analysis of what went on ... we have an opportunity to get it right before anything happens which might impact severely on it.

I say "Bravo", as these are the words of the Taoiseach in Dáil Éireann on Tuesday, 12 April 2011. It is fair to recognise that the former Minister, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, accepted the proposition that relatives of the signatories to the 1916 Proclamation would be appointed trustees of the national monument. It is fair to say it would be much better if they were appointed trustees to the whole battlefield site that was Moore Street.

  There are many other assessments that indicate the importance of the entire streetscape. The Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, has stated the determining factor in preserving 16 Moore Street was its historical significance, but we have questions to ask. Is 10 Moore Street a house of historical significance? Is the White House which was occupied by Michael Collins of historical significance? Are 20 and 21 of historical significance? There can only be one answer to these questions. Although the list is too long to read in full, I have details of locations where the 1916 Rising took place that have been destroyed by the vicissitudes of history. They include South Dublin Union, Jacob's, the Ballast Office, the Metropole, Liberty Hall, Fr. Mathew Park, Boland's Mills, Clanwilliam House, Carisbrook House, the Abbey Theatre, the Fianna hall, the Foresters hall, Marrowbone Lane, the Mendicity Institute, North King's Street, O'Rahilly Parade, Roe's distillery, Watkins' brewery, Tom Clarke's shop and York Street. These important locations are no more and cannot be saved.

  Does the Government think it is too big a step, financially, to save the rest of the street? At the end of the day, where there is a will, there is a way. Yesterday the Minister made a big play about the local authority, but we need to put a few facts on the line. A local authority is very confined in what it can do in a compulsory purchase order. It can have one for housing and roads, but it does not have the power to make such an order for cultural and historic purposes. Therefore, throwing the issue back to the local authority is wrong. The sole power to make a compulsory purchase order for cultural and historical purposes lies with the State.

  I have a question for the Government and I hope it will answer it publicly during the Christmas period. Has the State put a cost on the compulsory purchase of the rest of Moore Street and adjacent lanes? Is it willing to state publicly the valuation in order that the Irish people can make a decision on whether the street and lanes should be saved for posterity? It is one of the best preserved urban battlefield sites in Europe, if not the best.

  I am reminded of the poem by Pearse when there is talk of money. He wrote:

Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool;

A fool that hath loved his folly,

Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses or their quiet homes.

We all know how that poem continues in a very prophetic way. He asked a rhetorical question in writing, "O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?" I stood back in the initial stages when we discussed the 1916 Rising as I was afraid people would make an allegation that I was doing it only because of family connections with the Rising.

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