Tuesday, 2 February 2016
National Monuments: Motion [Private Members]
I acknowledge that this Government more than any other has been proactive on this issue. It is still hard to believe that successive Governments from the 1920s ignored the significance of Moore Street. Between them, the local authority and eventually the developer, Chartered Land, it appears that a campaign of deliberate neglect and dereliction of this very significant area was pursued. It is significant historically, but also culturally and socially with its street trading tradition.
When Chartered Land came into NAMA, why did the Government not ask for the whole area, the streets and the surrounding lanes, to be treated in the same way as Nos. 14-17 Moore Street? NAMA guidelines allow properties to be taken out if there are "legitimate reasons" in the public interest. Given that Westport House was withdrawn from NAMA, I do not see why this whole area was not treated in that way. To include only Nos. 14-17 Moore Street does an injustice to the other events that occurred on Moore Street, events that occurred on the street and on the lanes involving ordinary men and women, Cumann na mBan, the Volunteers and the Citizen Army, but also incidents that involved citizens of Dublin.
The street has been in existence since before the Famine. It was a residential district in the mid-18th century and there are fabrics of that time on some of the buildings. I understand it was to be the northside equivalent of Molesworth Street for Luke Gardiner who, I suppose, could be considered a very early property developer. The quarter has a special place in the heart of Dubliners. I know from the Save Moore Street from Demolition group, which is out every Saturday, that it has garnered more than 30,000 signatures. Last Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of people turned out to show their support for what we see as the historical area of Moore Street and to save the entire terrace.
I listened earlier to the Minister and I know what she is saying about some of those buildings but so many events happened along that street that we need to preserve it. There should never have been a need for an occupation but the way the work began did not inspire confidence that the history of the houses and the area would be respected. If it had been handled differently there might not have been an occupation. At this point, the Minister is going to preserve Nos. 14-17 Moore Street. I met the official from the Minister's Department and I have no doubt that the work will be done meticulously and respectfully, but that first day set things off on a very bad footing. There was no confidence that the architectural conservationist was there to oversee the work right from the beginning.
It also appears at this point that a shopping centre will be built right beside Nos. 14-17 Moore Street. I and others believe this is inappropriate. Mistakes were made but let us not make any more because once something is destroyed, it is gone forever. We have lost so many historic buildings already. What is required is a different vision for a historical, cultural quarter that would link the GPO with Moore Street up to Parnell Square to Richmond Barracks and Kilmainham Gaol and also linking with streets such as North Great George's Street, Mountjoy Square and further up Collins Barracks and Arbour Hill because the northside of the city has been so neglected. The potential is there for that quarter. It does mean standing up to a developer syndrome but it can be done if there is a different vision for that area. Has the State purchased Nos. 13 and 18 Moore Street also or what is the arrangement for those buildings? Has there been a change of use for Nos. 13 and 18 Moore Street?
On Leaders' Questions last Tuesday, I quoted the Shaffrey report which states that block exactly matches the terrace into which the majority of the GPO garrison escaped and that the events of the 1916 Rising happened throughout the entire street and adjacent lanes. A quote from the Venice Charter is that a historic monument is not only a single architectural work, but also the setting. That is what we are missing when we talk only about Nos. 14-17 Moore Street. What others and I are talking about is the sense that when one comes down Moore Street that so much happened there, that one is walking on the cobblestones that the men and women of the garrison walked along. A planning application has been submitted for a hotel and there is some little concession to the archaeological conservationist that the cobblestones will be retained. This is what we are doing to this area. The area includes the street trading tradition. I heard what the Minister said earlier, but they are hanging on by the threads. I looked at photographs of Moore Street 20 to 30 years ago. It was a very different street then and the street traders were able to make a living. They do not need more supermarkets going in on top of them. There are already five in the immediate area.
In the past few years I have been told by the Government, and the same tonight, that this is a matter for Dublin City Council. We attended a meeting in the City Hall last week with Dublin City Council and it said it is a matter for the Minister. I am calling for a meeting of all the stakeholders - the Minister, the Department, the National Monument Service, the Office of Public Works, Dublin City Council, the relatives and the concerned people. An independent chair is necessary in order that we can get to the bottom of this issue before it is too late.