Tuesday, 2 February 2016
National Monuments: Motion [Private Members]
Can anyone in this Chamber imagine going as a tourist to a country or city with a rich cultural and social history without seeking out and enjoying its museums, galleries, heritage sites and landmarks associated with its history? Could one imagine arriving in a city like Dublin and seeking out a place like Moore Street to visit a shopping mall rather than a battlefield site? Shopping malls are ten a penny. A battlefield site, protected, preserved and developed as a restoration project, would not just be a fitting tribute to those who fought and died in the 1916 Easter Rising. It could and would be a Mecca, not just for tourists, scholars and historians, but for every person, citizen or visitor, who sought a deeper understanding of the events leading to the 1916 Rebellion, as well as the heroic actions of the volunteers who fought and the many who died for Irish freedom during it.
Why has this battlefield site not been designated as a national monument of historical significance? Why has the National Asset Management Agency, NAMA, which acquired the site from the developer, Joe O'Reilly, been permitted to sell it to retail developers, Hammerson, in a sale so aptly called Project Jewel? Why have successive Governments and Dublin City Council's planning department failed to recognise that some buildings and some streets, with their echoes of history, are simply too precious to be handed to the speculators, the profiteers and privateers? If we are serious about commemorating the 1916 Rebellion, if we are genuine about passing our history and culture on to the next generations and if we sincerely wish to honour the actions of the 1916 leaders, we would rescind the ministerial order allowing for the demolition of Nos. 13, 18 and 19 Moore Street. Instead, we would work with the many others working on this to develop a commemorative centre as part of a rejuvenated historical quarter that would be enjoyed and availed of by this generation and future generations of citizens and visitors to Dublin and to Ireland. Anything less than that would be official and State-sponsored cultural and historical vandalism.
I find it unusual speaking tonight because I wonder if what I say here makes any difference at all. I recall at the opening meeting of the 31st Dáil, the Taoiseach said there would be a new and better way of governance with the Government working with the Opposition, listening to Opposition Members, to ensure there would be better legislation and policy choices. I must have been a little bit politically naive because I hoped to believe and I believed I could hope. Unfortunately, within one month normal Dáil procedures, intolerances and refusal to engage constructively were dished out in spadefuls. I do not think I could be accused of cynicism in feeling that this debate is entirely without meaning. If the Taoiseach is going to the Park tomorrow afternoon - all the speculation is that he will - then this debate, like Moore Street itself, will be dropped again, unfinished without even a vote on our motion.
Given that I will not be standing for re-election, this is probably my last time to address the Chamber. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will understand how I feel. It has been a privilege to represent the people of Sligo and Leitrim. It is often frustrating when one speaks but does not appear to get through. However, I have made many good friends in all parties. I also want to thank all the Oireachtas staff for their unfailing courtesy and support. I wish the Leas-Cheann Comhairle all the best. I hope he will not be too lonely when I go because, hopefully, the Chamber will see not one but two Sinn Féin representatives for the new constituency of Sligo-Leitrim, west Cavan and south Donegal.