Tuesday, 2 February 2016
National Monuments: Motion [Private Members]
I am glad to contribute to this debate. To break it down into the detail of different parts is a learning experience about the history of individual buildings. I am glad to do that. As a former geography and maths teacher, I have had many encounters with history teachers. With history, it is very important to stick with the facts, which I will do tonight. For most of the last 100 years the only buildings on the Moore Street terrace that predated the Rising and held evidence of that insurrection languished in a sad state of disrepair and neglect. In March 2015, this Government stepped in and acquired the national monument at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street, immediately setting in train the process to secure, preserve and conserve what are arguably four of the most important buildings to bear witness to the making of this State.
To take Nos. 24 and 25 Moore Street, these buildings were newly constructed from the ground up in the last 20 years or so. Furthermore, these buildings are currently used as a cleansing depot by the city council and have no connection whatsoever with the Rising. Nos. 22 and 23 are entirely modern and perhaps only 15 or 20 years older than Nos. 24 and 25. Immediately next to the national monument are Nos. 18 and 19, which were in ruins at the time of the Rising. There is ample documentary evidence, including valuation records and Thom's Directory, Dublin electoral lists and contemporary witness statements, to corroborate that. Quite simply, what is there now was not there in 1916, and there were no compensation claims in respect of those two buildings. On the other side of the national monument is No. 13, which can be identified as a new build by just glancing up from Henry Street. It was completely rebuilt decades after the Rising. None of these houses has any evidence whatsoever of the presence of the rebels. They are modern inside and out and lack any fixtures, fittings, finishes, partitions, stairs or other original elements. By contrast, Nos. 14 to 17, which date from the late 18th century, are the only substantially intact houses in this terrace that predate 1916. They also have the physical evidence of the Rising in the form of the openings broken through by the rebels as they tunnelled their way up the street. There is a poignancy and rarity to this that this Government is determined to preserve for the public to see. The buildings retain significant 18th-century elements, including staircases, partitions, plasterwork, doors, floors, fittings and fixtures. The focus of all of the architect- and archaeologist-supervised works taking place at the moment is to preserve and conserve these houses of history for generations to come.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to get the breakdown of that specific piece of history. I take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the Minister, Deputy Heather Humphreys, in working out a commemoration programme for 2016 to commemorate 1916.
At an event I attended in Lifford recently to launch the 1916 commemoration programme, I met the wonderful Paddy Gillespie, who was born in 1916. He spoke at that event and I thought his contribution was more than inspiring. While I acknowledge bricks and mortar are important and are our physical link to the past, be that in the form of castles or buildings, in Paddy Gillespie we have a living link to 1916 and it made me think on how short is our history. As someone who was born in 1971 and who grew up as a teenager into the 1980s, I certainly thought 1916 was a distant memory. However, as one gets older, one begins to appreciate one's history and in this year of the commemoration, we have an opportunity to look back and reflect. From listening to esteemed historians in Ireland, I note they focus very much on the facts and they differ and disagree and try to stay as objective as possible on the subject. As politicians, Members sometimes mix ideology, politics and history and sometimes focus too much on emotion. I think back to my secondary school experience where we received a partial history, perhaps from a history teacher who was pro-Treaty or anti-Treaty. I believe we should use this opportunity in 2016 to look at our past objectively ag amharc ar ais ar gach duine a mhair, a mhaireann agus a mhairfidh. Tá deiseanna ann i mbliana, i 2016, ag amharc ar na rudaí atá déanta, ag amharc leis an chéad ghlúin eile agus ag amharc tríd an tír seo maidir leis an teanga Gaeilge, an chultúr agus an oidhreacht a choinneáil beo-----