Tuesday, 2 February 2016
National Monuments: Motion [Private Members]
Sinn Féin claims it wants Moore Street protected, yet the party opposed the previous 2014 plan which would have allowed for the site to be restored. Most recently the party encouraged and supported the people who occupied the site, delaying the important restoration works and jeopardising our chances of being able to allow access to the site during the centenary.
The Government is the only one that has taken the worthwhile and meaningful measures to save and protect this national monument and to honour the people who were there in 1916. As Minister, I secured Government approval last year to acquire Nos. 14 to 17 for the people. That demonstrated the Government's commitment to acknowledge and mark the historical importance of the site in a positive and substantive way and to safeguard the long-term future of this historical landmark. Conservation work commenced on the site in early November, paving the way for the preservation and restoration of these buildings to their 1916 state. It will be a real and fitting tribute to the 1916 leaders and it is a very important piece of the Ireland 2016 centenary programme.
People will be able to step back in time to experience the building as it was when the 1916 leaders held their last council of war there. Visitors will be able to see the rooms the leaders were in and to view the passages they broke through. It will be a powerful addition to the many major projects being developed as part of the commemorations. The work will not recreate or re-imagine these buildings. It will return them to their 1916 state and allow them to speak for themselves.
There has been a lot of misinformation about the nature of the works being carried out on the national monument and, accordingly, I will set the record straight. Conservationists and heritage experts - Lissadell Construction - are carrying out painstaking restorative work to ensure the building is restored to its condition at the time of the Rising. This work is being overseen by a steering committee, which includes representatives from my Department, Dublin City Council, the Office of Public Works, OPW, the National Archives and the National Museum of Ireland. Indeed, the former Dublin City Council conservation officer is the conservation architect on site daily.
Last Monday, following calls from Sinn Féin for an independent inspection of the works, the works at the national monument were inspected by a planning team from Dublin City Council, including the city archaeologist at the request of the National Monuments Service. These officials from Dublin City Council are entirely independent from my Department. They have raised absolutely no issues with the work that is under way. Their independent report is available for all to see on my Department's website.
Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street were first declared a national monument in 2007. That means it has taken eight years to get to this point where restoration works are finally under way. If Sinn Féin gets its way, arguments on the future of Moore Street will continue for years to come. Nothing will be done and the national monument will continue to fall into disrepair. I want to see the works which are already under way continue in order that we can stabilise, underpin and conserve the final headquarters of the 1916 leaders for future generations to enjoy and visit. It will be somewhere that the public can visit, of which they can be proud and that will tell the story of 1916 to people from all over the world. The works will return the houses to their 1916 state, for which there is ample witness and anecdotal, physical and documentary evidence. The website of the 1916 Relatives Association states that it is not party to the High Court proceedings. John Connolly, grandson of James and son of Roddy, both of whom were in the GPO, has written to me to urge me to continue with the Moore Street plans.
I wish to address claims from Sinn Féin and others that the rest of the Moore Street terrace is of historical significance. Let us take Nos. 24 and 25 Moore Street. Those buildings were newly constructed from scratch in the past 20 years or so. They were not there in 1906, in 1916, in 1926 or even in 1986. Furthermore, the buildings are currently used as a cleansing depot by the city council and have no connection whatsoever with the Rising. They were constructed in the mid-1990s, and yet Sinn Féin claims they are associated with the 1916 Rising.
Sinn Féin also claim that Nos. 22 and 23 Moore Street should be preserved. They are entirely modern and perhaps only 15 or 20 years older than Nos. 24 and 25.
That is evident from even the most cursory observation.
Immediately next to the national monument are Nos. 18 and 19, which were in ruins at the time of the Rising. This is proven by documentary evidence, including valuation records, Thom's Directory, Dublin electoral lists and contemporary witness statements. Quite simply, what is there now was not there in 1916.