Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
The Government decided to acquire the national monument at 14–17 Moore Street because of its historic association with the events of Easter 1916. The decision demonstrates and acknowledges the historical importance of the site in a clear and substantive way and ensures that the long-term future of this historical landmark will be preserved and safeguarded. Bringing the monument into public ownership also allows for the development of a 1916 commemorative centre on the site.
The legal steps to bring the national monument into my ownership as Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have been completed. My Department has also concluded a tendering process for the scheme of conservation works initiated when the property was under lien by National Asset Management Agency in order to get construction work under way as speedily as possible and prevent further deterioration to the fabric of the national monument buildings. This conservation work has commenced and will be completed during 2016, the centenary year.
Provision has been made in the contract to facilitate managed public access to the monument for some centenary events. I met the 1916 relatives following my announcement on 10 November 2015 that work was about to get under way. They were given a detailed briefing by the project team and I will continue to keep the relatives and other interested parties informed about the project as it progresses.
I thank the Minister for her update. 2016 is almost upon us and this is a very important issue. The Minister will acknowledge that this question has been raised on Priority Questions since the start of the last Dáil. We have called for a long time for the protection of 14-17 Moore Street, but we also advocated for the retention of the surrounding area as we feel it is of great significance and national importance as a key battlefield site in the 1916 Rising.
The people of Ireland have a vision, which we all share. Would the Government not agree that if 14-17 Moore Street and the surrounding areas were developed as an historic battlefield site it would be a major tourist attraction, bring significant economic value to the city of Dublin and encourage repeat visitors? Perhaps the Minister could give us an update on how much of the project will be completed in time for the centenary.
As Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, my responsibility relates to the national monument, which comprises 14-17 Moore Street. The historical significance of 16 Moore street as the final headquarters of the 1916 Rising and the location of the last council of war was the determining factor in the decision to make the preservation order in 2007. Nos. 14, 15 and 17 Moore Street were included in the preservation order to enhance and preserve the amenity and setting of 16 Moore Street.
Collectively, 14-17 Moore Street represent the most significant, original, complete, discrete and continuous section of substantially intact pre-1916 buildings on the street, most of the remainder being post-1916. Unlike adjacent properties, these buildings also retain significant and extensive internal 18th-century elements, including staircases, partitions, plasterwork, doors, floors, fittings and fixtures. The forms and profiles of the 18th-century buildings also survive. Most important, we also have physical evidence of the presence of the insurgents in the form of the openings that were broken through party walls in the houses.
I thank the Minister for her response. We in Sinn Féin and many others across the State feel that, due to the historic nature and importance of the site, it may be beneficial to reconsider its development with the inclusion of the entire battlefield site. Many sites of these nature, in a national historic sense, exist right across Europe. Has the Minister investigated any similar models and examined the benefits they provide to their respective cities?
We have written to Hammerson plc about the acquisition of Project Jewel. Has the Minister had any contact or correspondence with it or does she have any plans to meet it? Perhaps she could make a statement on the matter.
Anything outside of that is a matter for Dublin City Council. The Deputy mentioned other buildings and said that perhaps the entire terrace should be saved. Different proposals are coming forward. I understand how passionate a number of groups feel about the Moore Street area, but the reality is that most of the other buildings on the street have been extensively altered since 1916 and retain little of the historical fabric and character of the time. A number of buildings date from after 1916. This issue has been ongoing for a number of years.
Of course I would like to see the wider street developed, and I know Dublin City Council is progressing plans in this regard, but I must re-emphasise that my responsibility is for the national monument and I am happy to be able to say today that work is getting under way to preserve the national monument and develop a commemorative centre at the site, which will be a great visitor attraction on Dublin's historic trail. The improvements and development at the GPO are anticipated to attract 300 visitors and it will be a natural progression for them to go to Moore Street and visit the new interpretive centre. I hope there will be limited access to the buildings for Easter 2016. They will not be finished but I would like to see some access. I expect they will be finished by 2016. I know people will be anxious to visit the buildings because they are very important.