Dáil debates

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

National Monuments: Motion [Private Members]


7:55 pm

Photo of Sandra McLellanSandra McLellan (Cork East, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I find myself somewhat amazed that I am once again speaking on the issue of Moore Street, the surrounding areas, the history, the last outpost, the people's Republic, cast aside with scant regard of what the area means to the people of Dublin and the island as a whole. This is an injustice that highlights the Government's attitude towards the history and the formation of this nation. Maybe it is ashamed.

If nothing else, the Government has been consistent on this one. For many years, the families and relatives of the leaders of 1916 have fought endlessly in the hope that their dreams would come to fruition this year - dreams of seeing the memorials of their relatives, as fallen heroes commemorated for taking on the might of the British Empire, being remembered and respected. The reward for their hard work is a demolition site - a turnover of history, an eradication of heritage.

This is the destruction of the very bricks and mortar that hold stories of passion, bravery and equality based on a need for freedom and for a sovereign state. We in this House have spoken, the media have spoken, the people have spoken, all at length and with a longing, but yet still the silence remains deafening.

As demonstrated by the occupation that took place a few weeks ago and the legal battle that is currently making its way through the courts - it is down for consideration again on 9 February - the public will is undeniable. Their calls continue to fall to the wayside and remain unheard, which is a national disgrace. It is disrespectful to those who gave us the freedom that we take for granted today. They planted the seeds for a fair and just Ireland. That is what they envisaged. How this has played out is surely as insulting as it gets to the memories of those who fought and died to strive for an Ireland no longer oppressed.

I, along with many of my colleagues, have pressed this issue with the Minister for quite some time. Questions and Topical Issues have been raised repeatedly. We have also debated it during Private Members' business on many occasions. It has done nothing. It has gone nowhere. The people have been stonewalled. We are consistently told the matter is one for Dublin City Council. We have faced a constant revolving door with insufficient answers as to where responsibility lies. The Minister has repeatedly absolved herself of responsibility for anything outside of 14-17 Moore Street ever since this issue arose, but it is time the Minister took a stand and listened to the will of the people.

The State has purchased 14-17 Moore Street, which is very welcome. However, merely to see that as a means to an end is just not good enough. The voice of the people of Dublin and the wider community, as well as those outside of the city and abroad, must be listened to. The Government has done the bare minimum required in an attempt to walk around this stumbling block, but it will simply not suffice.

The potential of the Moore Street site, alongside the surrounding areas, is limitless. We in Sinn Féin have consistently called for the preservation of the buildings, laneways and surrounding areas, as they are of substantial historic and national significance. The preservation and restoration of the entire terrace would enable it to be transformed into an historic quarter and battlefield site. This could have endless possibilities and would draw huge interest from tourists throughout the world.

These proposals should be seriously considered due to the potential economic and social benefits to Dublin and the surrounding area. Yet they are quickly dismissed, as they may raise some concerns among protected investors. As the Minister is aware, the National Museum described this site as the most important historic site in modern Irish history. The proposals to turn parts of this site into a shopping centre can only be described as ludicrous - history consumed by a consumerist metropolis.

I suppose it is to be expected. This Government, right up until its dying moments, has followed in the footsteps of those that have gone before it, using that age-old mantra that the markets will decide. It has once again favoured the developers, those who will line their pockets at the expense of picking the pockets of our heritage. All this is happening under the watchful eye of the Government.

As I said before, heritage cannot be rebuilt. Is this the legacy the Minister wishes to be remembered for? Does she wish to be remembered for allowing our heritage to be pulled from under our feet? Bricks and mortar, once destroyed, cannot be pieced back together like a cultural jigsaw. Once it is gone, it is final. I ask those who have influence, for one last time, to stand up and take ownership, and listen to the will of those who put them in office in the first place.

Back in July 2015, I warned the Government of the difficulties it faced if it were to sell on the NAMA portfolio of Project Jewel. I stated that any continuing uncertainty regarding the future of the historic area is totally unacceptable to the relatives of the founding fathers of our nation as we approach the centenary of the Rising. I said that to sell it off to private investors, who would have little regard for the significance of Moore Street and the surrounding areas beyond its commercial potential, is unacceptable and an affront to Ireland's people and history.

Within this motion we have called on the Government to support the retention of this site. The Minister has the power to intervene in this instance. We need a vision and administrative leadership to come to the fore and to work with Dublin City Council in a productive and proactive manner. This needs to be done in a way that acknowledges the bravery of the people who fought and died for this State, a fitting way to remember them, as opposed to sending in the builders and the bulldozers - a stroke of redaction across the history books.

We shall continue to voice our concerns and discontent on this issue with both the Government, be it incumbent or new, and Hammerson, the owner of the NAMA portfolio which was held in the area. The pressure needs to be applied.

It is fantastic to see the people on the ground having organised an occupation as well as the many other groups who have been working on this. We organised a protest on Sunday last and the turnout was fantastic. Those who are leading the occupations and legal proceedings are to be commended on the way they spoke with such passion and heart that cannot be curtailed or oppressed. They have our continued support and I thank them for their efforts. We shall persevere with this issue and fight until the issue is resolved in a satisfactory way. The mobilisation of the people brought on the rebellion of 1916. People are mobilising again. They, like the leaders of 1916, realise that the opportunity has presented itself for fairness and justice to prevail.

As one of my final points, I wish to raise something that is hardly ever mentioned. We must protect the traders and small businesses in the area. They should have been front and centre in regard to concerns over the planning process from the outset. They have been trading there for generations and have brought authenticity to the area. Has the impact of a shopping centre been analysed in a way that looks at the effects on those who already work in the area, given that this is a government that actively supports jobs? Are there not credible concerns that these people would have to close their doors to the public? They, as citizens, also deserve and demand the Government's recognition and support.

I ask Members to consider what is at stake. They should take a step back and take a minute to process it. They should think of how it would sound to future generations to say, "Here is where the rebels lay, the last outpost before their surrender - here in this shopping centre."

We, the Irish people, are a proud and patriotic bunch. Rather than the children of tomorrow looking back at these times with disdain and disgust at how their history has been neglected, we should support this motion. Would it not be a fitting way to bow out?

With the year that is in it, I believe it would be quite apt. Although there may be one or two reasons to destroy this site to allow investors to swoop in like vultures and feast on the remnants, alternatively, there are 1,000 reasons for it not to. History and heritage can, of course, be rewritten, something some may pursue. It cannot, however, be rebuilt once these buildings and their legacy are demolished.


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