Tuesday, 2 February 2016
National Monuments: Motion [Private Members]
“That Dáil Éireann:
recognises that the people of Ireland, the Irish diaspora and friends of Ireland everywhere, are looking forward to this significant centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, a pivotal event in our history;
acknowledges the dedication of the concerned relatives of the 1916 leaders, and those who have supported their campaign over many years, to save – thus far – Moore Street and the laneways of history which were the last outpost or the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Army of the Irish Republic in 1916 from demolition by developers;
recognises the significant public support across the island of Ireland and the diaspora for the full preservation of the national monument and the development of the surrounding General Post Office (GPO)-Moore Street area into an historic revolutionary quarter and battlefield site; condemns this Government for its outright refusal while holding office, to use the legislative powers at its disposal to designate as a national monument the GPO-Moore Street area of historical and national importance, which should become of social, cultural and economic benefit to Dublin and the rest of Ireland; and calls on the Government to:
— immediately rescind the ministerial order that allows for the demolition of numbers 13, 18 and 19 Moore Street;
— work with Dublin City Council, 1916 relatives and all relevant stakeholders to implement an urban framework plan for the area bounded by Moore Street, Parnell Street and Henry Street that will retain 10-25 Moore Street;
— meet with and work through the Dublin City Council Moore Street Forum and the Moore Street Advisory Committee to achieve this;
— develop a commemorative centre as part of a wider scheme for the regeneration of this historic quarter;
— rejuvenate street and market trading; and
— designate the GPO-Moore Street area as a national monument, to be preserved and developed under the protection of the State as a 1916 historic revolutionary quarter.”
It is probably appropriate in what might be the last debate here under the tutelage of this Leas-Cheann Comhairle, that we move this motion. One hundred years ago, Dublin quaked and trembled under the bullets and shells of an empire as ordinary Irish men and women, risked life, limb, death and incarceration, not only to free Ireland from foreign rule but to build a nation of equals, an Ireland to be proud of, a country to be defined by the high ideals of the Proclamation. Their powerful actions, which shook the foundations of an empire, have echoed down the century. The goals and ideals of the men and women of 1916 and the ideals of the proclamation, have been an inspiration to generations but they have also been and proved a compelling critique of the failures of this nation to live up to those ideals.
How little this Government thinks of these women and men and what they went through. We can look at 1916 through the mists of time, even through rose-tinted glasses and romanticise their struggle. How easy it is to forget how real it was for them, how real their suffering and the despair for them facing into an uncertain future, and then the horror of the drawn-out executions of their comrades. They thought not of themselves. Their actions were entirely unselfish. Today it is the actions of ordinary, unselfish people who fight to preserve their legacy. It was people power that saved Kilmainham Gaol for the nation. It was not any government that saved that national edifice. A dedicated group of citizens saved this historical building for the nation. It seems that it rests once again with people power, to repeat history and to save for the nation and for future generations the 1916 historic revolutionary quarter of the GPO and Moore Street area.
This area should rightfully be designated a national monument, preserved and developed under the protection of the State. It should not be left to the vagaries of developers and speculators whose only interest is in the profit margin. How can we leave our heritage to profiteers? This has been done before. Previous wanton acts of destruction caused by bad developments, poor and even corrupt planning decisions, led to the destruction of the Viking site at Wood Quay. This Government is repeating the mistakes of the past. We can look back now and see that the destruction of Wood Quay amounted to a criminal act of vandalism. People at the time fought the good fight to preserve the site and realised its significance to our national heritage but they lost that battle, more is the pity. We as a nation have lost a significant site of importance to our national heritage and we will never get it back, because as the advertisement says, "Once it's gone, it's gone".
We are in a time of significant national and European anniversaries and nations across Europe are putting great time and resources into preserving what remains of their national heritage yet in Dublin the revolutionary quarter, an area of tremendous significance, which the National Museum described as the most important historic site in modern Irish history remains the object of uncertainty and speculation 15 years after its importance was first highlighted.
The original proposal for the area around Moore Street was for a huge shopping centre. What a memorial that would be to the men and women of 1916, what a comment on how their legacy is viewed, a commemorative shopping mall. This is the proposal that persists, that this Government supports. It is shocking is that government after government has allowed this area of national significance to fall into disrepair, ruin and decay. Uncertainty over the site and dubious dealings have been the battle cry at this historic battlefield site. It is with some arrogance that decisions about this area have been made that fly in the face of the enormous public support for the preservation of this historical quarter. The developments that have been proposed would effectively obliterate many of Dublin's revolutionary landmarks. We in Sinn Féin have consistently called for the preservation of the buildings, laneways and surrounding areas. We recognise the area as a battlefield site of substantial historical as well as national significance.
The Government has taken a minimalist approach, safeguarding only 14 to 17 Moore Street. Other sites remain at risk, for example, 10 Moore Street, location of the first council of war held by the rebels as they fled the GPO. Numbers 20 and 21 Moore Street hold great historical significance too because it was at these locations that the surrender order was accepted by the Volunteers. The entire Moore Street terrace needs to be protected, preserved and restored. Our proposal to develop a historical quarter, will also be of considerable benefit to Dublin, both economically and socially. Apart from doing the right thing and preserving our history before it is lost to developers, the preservation of the revolutionary quarter would be of significant economic value to the city of Dublin. If the Moore Street terrace and the surrounding areas were developed as a historic battlefield site, it would have the potential to become a major tourist attraction, particularly for the Irish diaspora as well as for those interested in history.
The north inner city of Dublin, which I represent in this Dáil, is crying out for economic development. We should not forget the street-trading tradition that goes back generations. Street traders make a real contribution to the life and vibrancy of the north inner city, nowhere more so than on Moore Street. The relatives of the 1916 leaders and we in Sinn Féin are fearful that the very questionable planning permissions, which would allow the demolition of the entire terrace, apart from numbers 14 to 17, are still in place. It is yet the intention of this Government that this area would be engulfed by a giant shopping mall.
We bring our motion this evening because the threat to our heritage remains real and significant.
We need the Government to step up finally and put in place proper safeguards for all these important historic locations. If properly developed with the historic sites preserved sensitively in a way that is authentic and true to the area's history and character, the whole area can become, not just an enduring memorial to all those women and men who fought and died in 1916, but also in this year of the 100th anniversary of the Rising, an inspiration for future generations, encouraged by the selfless courage and commitment of these women and men. That is the position I understood we shared across the Oireachtas.
The State should intervene to preserve what we have and moreover to develop it in an authentic way that advances not only heritage development but also economic development. We believe that the memorial we propose is the only fitting one. We owe at least that much to the memory and legacy of the women and men of 1916.
I find myself somewhat amazed that I am once again speaking on the issue of Moore Street, the surrounding areas, the history, the last outpost, the people's Republic, cast aside with scant regard of what the area means to the people of Dublin and the island as a whole. This is an injustice that highlights the Government's attitude towards the history and the formation of this nation. Maybe it is ashamed.
If nothing else, the Government has been consistent on this one. For many years, the families and relatives of the leaders of 1916 have fought endlessly in the hope that their dreams would come to fruition this year - dreams of seeing the memorials of their relatives, as fallen heroes commemorated for taking on the might of the British Empire, being remembered and respected. The reward for their hard work is a demolition site - a turnover of history, an eradication of heritage.
This is the destruction of the very bricks and mortar that hold stories of passion, bravery and equality based on a need for freedom and for a sovereign state. We in this House have spoken, the media have spoken, the people have spoken, all at length and with a longing, but yet still the silence remains deafening.
As demonstrated by the occupation that took place a few weeks ago and the legal battle that is currently making its way through the courts - it is down for consideration again on 9 February - the public will is undeniable. Their calls continue to fall to the wayside and remain unheard, which is a national disgrace. It is disrespectful to those who gave us the freedom that we take for granted today. They planted the seeds for a fair and just Ireland. That is what they envisaged. How this has played out is surely as insulting as it gets to the memories of those who fought and died to strive for an Ireland no longer oppressed.
I, along with many of my colleagues, have pressed this issue with the Minister for quite some time. Questions and Topical Issues have been raised repeatedly. We have also debated it during Private Members' business on many occasions. It has done nothing. It has gone nowhere. The people have been stonewalled. We are consistently told the matter is one for Dublin City Council. We have faced a constant revolving door with insufficient answers as to where responsibility lies. The Minister has repeatedly absolved herself of responsibility for anything outside of 14-17 Moore Street ever since this issue arose, but it is time the Minister took a stand and listened to the will of the people.
The State has purchased 14-17 Moore Street, which is very welcome. However, merely to see that as a means to an end is just not good enough. The voice of the people of Dublin and the wider community, as well as those outside of the city and abroad, must be listened to. The Government has done the bare minimum required in an attempt to walk around this stumbling block, but it will simply not suffice.
The potential of the Moore Street site, alongside the surrounding areas, is limitless. We in Sinn Féin have consistently called for the preservation of the buildings, laneways and surrounding areas, as they are of substantial historic and national significance. The preservation and restoration of the entire terrace would enable it to be transformed into an historic quarter and battlefield site. This could have endless possibilities and would draw huge interest from tourists throughout the world.
These proposals should be seriously considered due to the potential economic and social benefits to Dublin and the surrounding area. Yet they are quickly dismissed, as they may raise some concerns among protected investors. As the Minister is aware, the National Museum described this site as the most important historic site in modern Irish history. The proposals to turn parts of this site into a shopping centre can only be described as ludicrous - history consumed by a consumerist metropolis.
I suppose it is to be expected. This Government, right up until its dying moments, has followed in the footsteps of those that have gone before it, using that age-old mantra that the markets will decide. It has once again favoured the developers, those who will line their pockets at the expense of picking the pockets of our heritage. All this is happening under the watchful eye of the Government.
As I said before, heritage cannot be rebuilt. Is this the legacy the Minister wishes to be remembered for? Does she wish to be remembered for allowing our heritage to be pulled from under our feet? Bricks and mortar, once destroyed, cannot be pieced back together like a cultural jigsaw. Once it is gone, it is final. I ask those who have influence, for one last time, to stand up and take ownership, and listen to the will of those who put them in office in the first place.
Back in July 2015, I warned the Government of the difficulties it faced if it were to sell on the NAMA portfolio of Project Jewel. I stated that any continuing uncertainty regarding the future of the historic area is totally unacceptable to the relatives of the founding fathers of our nation as we approach the centenary of the Rising. I said that to sell it off to private investors, who would have little regard for the significance of Moore Street and the surrounding areas beyond its commercial potential, is unacceptable and an affront to Ireland's people and history.
Within this motion we have called on the Government to support the retention of this site. The Minister has the power to intervene in this instance. We need a vision and administrative leadership to come to the fore and to work with Dublin City Council in a productive and proactive manner. This needs to be done in a way that acknowledges the bravery of the people who fought and died for this State, a fitting way to remember them, as opposed to sending in the builders and the bulldozers - a stroke of redaction across the history books.
We shall continue to voice our concerns and discontent on this issue with both the Government, be it incumbent or new, and Hammerson, the owner of the NAMA portfolio which was held in the area. The pressure needs to be applied.
It is fantastic to see the people on the ground having organised an occupation as well as the many other groups who have been working on this. We organised a protest on Sunday last and the turnout was fantastic. Those who are leading the occupations and legal proceedings are to be commended on the way they spoke with such passion and heart that cannot be curtailed or oppressed. They have our continued support and I thank them for their efforts. We shall persevere with this issue and fight until the issue is resolved in a satisfactory way. The mobilisation of the people brought on the rebellion of 1916. People are mobilising again. They, like the leaders of 1916, realise that the opportunity has presented itself for fairness and justice to prevail.
As one of my final points, I wish to raise something that is hardly ever mentioned. We must protect the traders and small businesses in the area. They should have been front and centre in regard to concerns over the planning process from the outset. They have been trading there for generations and have brought authenticity to the area. Has the impact of a shopping centre been analysed in a way that looks at the effects on those who already work in the area, given that this is a government that actively supports jobs? Are there not credible concerns that these people would have to close their doors to the public? They, as citizens, also deserve and demand the Government's recognition and support.
I ask Members to consider what is at stake. They should take a step back and take a minute to process it. They should think of how it would sound to future generations to say, "Here is where the rebels lay, the last outpost before their surrender - here in this shopping centre."
We, the Irish people, are a proud and patriotic bunch. Rather than the children of tomorrow looking back at these times with disdain and disgust at how their history has been neglected, we should support this motion. Would it not be a fitting way to bow out?
With the year that is in it, I believe it would be quite apt. Although there may be one or two reasons to destroy this site to allow investors to swoop in like vultures and feast on the remnants, alternatively, there are 1,000 reasons for it not to. History and heritage can, of course, be rewritten, something some may pursue. It cannot, however, be rebuilt once these buildings and their legacy are demolished.
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.
Deputy Colreavy is correct in that we are going through the motions tonight. While not many of us know if we are coming back, we would like to think that what we try to achieve in here has some sort of meaning and brings about some sort of positive change. This is what this motion is about.
Moore Street has a special place in the hearts of Irish people. In an act of cultural vandalism, however, the Government, through its inaction, is allowing the destruction of part of our national heritage, including the battlefield site on Moore Street. This street teems with history and significance. It is part of the DNA of Dublin people. It is clear there is a significant groundswell of public opinion in favour of preserving and developing not only Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street but the entire battlefield site. As this year goes on, that groundswell of opinion will manifest itself more and become more vocal and angry about what is happening with this site.
A restored Moore Street and battlefield site would be a fitting tribute to those who raised the flag of the Irish Republic 100 years ago. It would also be a huge tourist attraction for Irish people and foreign visitors, not to mention the unique educational advantages it could bring to school students and anyone with even a minute interest in history. Although the Government will try to shift the blame, the primary responsibility for the mess that is Moore Street, as well as the surrounding area as far as O'Connell Street, rests with it and its predecessors. Tonight, we will hear that it is the fault of Dublin City Council or somebody else but we all know where the fault lies. It was this Government which refused to use the legislative powers at its disposal to stop NAMA, a State agency, from selling off the entire Moore Street terrace, which was in its power to do so under the NAMA Act. It was this Government which failed to use the same legislative powers on 15 other occasions. Previously, when my colleague, Teachta Ó Snodaigh, questioned the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy White, on why the Government did not do just that with this site, he was told the site was not appropriate for such an intervention. That is on the Dáil record.
This approach was adopted, contrary to the view of the National Museum of Ireland which has identified this site as the most important historical site in modern Irish history. There are some experts and then there are those who seem to know everything. The bald facts are that the Government has been more than happy to hand over part of our national heritage to developers, speculators and profiteers to do what they like.
They see Moore Street through a different prism than the rest of us and see this site purely as a source of speculative profit.
Our vision is different. We want to see the area preserved and redeveloped in a manner worthy of its history. It not too much to ask. We want the area from the GPO to Parnell Square, including Moore Street, to be officially recognised as a 1916 revolutionary quarter and, as such, be marked and designated a national monument under the protection of the State.
Sending in the bulldozers to Moore Street is not acceptable and it will not be tolerated by the people not only of this city but of this country. It will be resisted, and resisted fiercely, in this centenary year of the Rising. I commend and applaud the 1916 relatives committee on securing a stay of works at the Moore Street site and those who occupied the site to stop its demolition. The full case is up again on 9 February, involving the 1916 relatives versus the Irish Government. We do not know what the outcome will be but we hope and pray that the courts, in their wisdom, will see the justice of the case and the justice of the argument that the 1916 relatives are putting forward. Hopefully, we will see the preservation of, and safety applied to, the Moore Street site. It means a great deal to the people not only of Dublin but of Ireland.
I cannot imagine this scenario in any other country, that a battlefield site of its fight for independence would be destroyed with the encouragement of the government of the day on the centenary of such a momentous event as our 1916 Rising. I cannot imagine any other nation engaging in this erasure of its proud history. The truth is that this Government and the kind of people who support this kind of government, including the big developers, want to forget about the Rising. The Government has shown nothing but contempt for our revolution, for those who fought for the Republic, for our history and for our people. Once we realise that, it is not too hard to understand why the Government would want to wipe out such a fine battlefield site where such a body of men and women behaved heroically in the face of the enemy.
The same two Government parties and their counterparts in Fianna Fáil have shown contempt for the ideals of the Proclamation and have failed spectacularly to make even the slightest attempt to build the Republic envisaged by it. Instead, the carnival of reaction which occurred on both sides of the Border after partition has destroyed the concept of a republic and has created a society divided deeply by class and ruled by a political class devoted to making the rich richer and the poor poorer, while engaging in the corrupt politics of nod and wink.
The Labour Party, instead of defending workers and following the path set out by James Connolly, has surrendered itself again and again to the control of right-wing parties for the sake of a few crumbs of power. Its credibility is destroyed and the decent working people who used to support it are left disillusioned and disappointed.
The 1916 battlefield site and the GPO represent all the honour and bravery that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour have abandoned. It includes the laneways and buildings of the full terrace in Moore Street. This is where the GPO garrison escaped to when the building was in flames and collapsing. In every one of the buildings on Moore Street those heroic men and women were present. It was here that the final council of war was held with five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation present. It was their last time together before being court-martialled and executed. It is hallowed ground and there is no other way to describe it.
Experts at home and abroad tell us how valuable the site is. The National Museum tells us that it is the most important site in Irish history. Even if a person was so cold-hearted and devoid of patriotism to ignore all that, even if the bottom line is simply to ask "What does it do for you", it makes no sense to destroy this terrace and the lanes and alleyways behind it.
Do tourists come to the capital city to see shopping centres the same as the shopping centres they have at home all over Europe and the world? No, they do not, they go abroad to see something unique, something particular to the country they are visiting. Imagine the boost to Dublin city centre to have a historical, cultural quarter celebrating and commemorating our struggle and the men and women who lived and fought and died in that struggle. I congratulate the relatives of the 1916 heroes who have achieved a stay of execution on Moore Street and who return to court next week to fight for its preservation.
I believe strongly that the people of Dublin will never let the bulldozers into Moore Street. I believe that the spirit of 1916 lives in the spirit of Hill 16 among the thousands of Dublin GAA members and supporters who have upheld a proud republican tradition. I believe that those Dubs and the people of the city who fought an empire will not let the destruction of Moore Street take place, not on their watch, not on my watch and certainly not on this party’s watch.
I appeal to the Government and to the Fianna Fáil Party and the Technical Group to make one of the last acts of this Dáil a unified one, a unified action to do the right thing - to save Moore Street for future generations. We need to save and preserve our history and we can do that here tonight but I doubt very much if those who have betrayed that consistently since the partition of this country will do the right thing.
While the events of Easter week 1916 took place primarily to the backdrop of the city of Dublin, men and women from across the country participated in the rebellion. As the Minister should know, there is no county more proud than County Monaghan with our close links to James Connolly, Margaret Skinnader and Bernard MaCartan Ward, among others, who played prominent roles and who marched out on that fateful Easter Monday. In this centenary year every county in Ireland will organise commemorative events and reflect on how 1916 changed the history and political course of Ireland. However, this is all happening at a time when relatives of our 1916 heroes have been forced to go to court to halt construction work - destructive work perhaps better describes it - to the historic battle site and final meeting place of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic at Easter 1916. This is a damning indictment of this Government and demonstrates the utter contempt that it has shown to the legacy of the men and women of 1916.
The responsibility lies with the Government to safeguard our culture and heritage. Instead, the contrary has happened. It has allowed the developers, speculators and profiteers to take control. It fed off grossly inflated property prices during the Celtic tiger and it saw this street and this site purely as a source of speculative profit. That continues to this day because now, in our so-called recovery, more interests are lining up to see how they can profit from this site. Today a developer plans to level most of it in order to build a shopping mall. This cannot happen and we must not let it happen. It is imperative that we preserve this site. Its historic, cultural arid political significance cannot be over-stated.
I want to make a particular reference to the 1916 relatives committee who have worked tirelessly to secure a stay of works at Moore Street. It is astounding that in a matter of days, 100 years since the rising, relatives of the 1916 heroes will be in court again, battling the Government to preserve this area. As one of the most historically important sites in the history of the nation, Moore Street has a special place in the hearts of Irish people. It is vital to ensure that it is redeveloped in the respectful and dignified manner befitting of its status. We will not tolerate the destruction of any part of our 1916 heritage in this centenary year or - may I make it very clear - in any other year.
The people of Ireland, the Irish diaspora and friends of Ireland everywhere, are looking forward to this significant centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. There is also significant public support across the island of Ireland and throughout the diaspora for the full preservation of this national monument and the development of the surrounding General Post Office, GPO-Moore Street area into an historic revolutionary quarter and battlefield site which we have called for in this motion.
We also call on the Government to rescind immediately the ministerial order that allows for the demolition of Nos. 13,18 and 19 Moore Street; to work with Dublin City Council, 1916 relatives and all relevant stakeholders to implement an urban framework plan for the area bounded by Moore Street, Parnell Street and Henry Street that will retain Nos. 10 to 25 Moore Street; to meet and work through the Dublin City Council Moore Street Forum and the Moore Street Advisory Committee to achieve that; to develop a commemorative centre as part of a wider scheme for the regeneration of this historic quarter; and to rejuvenate street and market trading in the area.
The Labour Party and Fine Gael Party Government, and the entire Dáil, have an opportunity this evening to do the right thing now and support this motion to leave a legacy behind that will be enjoyed not only by future generations of Irish people but by many who will visit our shores eager and anxious to learn of the story of the Irish people in relatively modern, contemporary times. We look back over the past 100 years at the significant changes and advances that have been made and the opportunities that can still be built upon. We want to see the fulfilment of the hope and promise of the Proclamation. We want to see our children enjoy that hope and promise by living in the republic envisaged by those men and women who so proudly and courageously marched out on that Easter Monday, and we want to see a fitting memorial in the heart of this city where they took such a stand. Therefore, a revolutionary quarter and battlefield site that properly reflects all that they gave is the legacy this Dáil and the next one must leave.
I move amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:
— the importance of this significant centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising and the Proclamation of the Irish Republic as a pivotal event in our history; and
— that the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht is continuing to work with a broad range of stakeholders, including Dublin City Council and 1916 relatives’ groups, in the context of the delivery of the comprehensive countrywide Ireland 2016 Centenary Programme of commemorative events, activities and projects;
commends the Government and the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht on the purchase, preservation and conservation of the National Monument at Numbers 14-17 Moore Street - the only substantially pre-1916 structures surviving in the terrace in that street, with Number 16 being the location of the last Council of War of the 1916 Rising - as one of the iconic capital projects to commemorate the centenary of the Rising;
acknowledges the commitment of all of those who have worked to preserve the National Monument at Numbers 14-17 Moore Street, but deplores the recent occupation of the National Monument on Moore Street and the consequent disruption of, and delay to, the conservation and preservation works;
notes that the ongoing works to the National Monument are consonant with the requirements of planning law and the consents issued under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2004;
reiterates that planning matters insofar as they relate to Moore Street and its environs are matters for Dublin City Council; and
calls on the Government to continue to support the work of the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in regard to securing both the restoration and conservation of the National Monument at Numbers 14-17 Moore Street and its opening to the public as a permanent Commemorative Centre dedicated to the 1916 Rising and its leaders, while complementing the new Government-funded General Post Office, GPO, Witness History Interpretive Exhibition Centre and enhancing the amenity of the wider Moore Street-GPO area."
I wish Deputy Colreavy well in his retirement. The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has just stepped out of the Chamber. I also wish him well in his retirement and thank him for his courtesy and fairness over the past five years.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to clarify my role and the Government's plans to put in place a permanent and fitting tribute to the 1916 leaders in Moore Street. Before I do that, however, I acknowledge the campaign by relatives that led to Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street - the only remaining substantially original pre-1916 buildings - being saved. The Save No. 16 Moore Street committee campaigned for many years to have the location where the 1916 leaders had their final council of war properly recognised. Their commitment led to the making of the preservation order under the National Monuments Acts in 2007. The preservation order applied not just to No. 16 but also to Nos. 14,15 and 17. Unlike other adjacent properties, these buildings retain significant and extensive internal 18th century elements, including staircases, partitions, plasterwork, doors, floors, fittings and fixtures. The 18th century building form and profiles also survive. Most important, however, we also have physical evidence of the leaders' presence in the form of the openings broken through party walls. These tunnels will be kept and preserved in order that the public can see at first hand what the rebels encountered and where they made their final decisions to end the uprising.
Sinn Féin claims its members are here tonight because they want to honour the 1916 leaders. Unfortunately, where Moore Street is concerned, all we are getting from Sinn Féin is disingenuous grandstanding, deliberate misinformation and blatant electioneering.
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.
On the other side of the monument is No. 13, which again can be identified as a new build just by glancing up from Henry Street. It was completely rebuilt decades after the Rising. Its neighbour, No. 12, was constructed in the 1970s. 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. On the other hand, Nos. 14 to 17 date from the late 18th century. They are the only substantially intact houses in this terrace that predate 1916.
They also have the physical scars of the Rising in the form of the openings broken through by the rebels as they tunnelled their way up the street. They retain significant 18th-century elements, including staircases, partitions, plasterwork, doors, floors, fittings and fixtures. The removal of the fundamentally new buildings alongside the national monument will allow the historical structures to be underpinned and stabilised and the gables to be given permanent finishes, protecting them into the future on a permanent basis.
It is worth noting that the restoration of Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street is one of a number of major building projects being undertaken as part of the Government's Ireland 2016 centenary programme.
Just around the corner, an immersive new visitor centre is being finalised in the GPO on O'Connell Street. Over in Kilmainham Gaol, visitor facilities are being upgraded. Major new visitor facilities are being constructed at a number of historically important locations, including Richmond Barracks, the Military Archives and Pearse's cottage in Rosmuc. The Government is spending in excess of €30 million on these legacy projects, which is only possible thanks to the economic recovery, which is another thing that Sinn Féin opposed.
Finally, I want to refer to the motion's call for me to create a historical or cultural quarter in the Moore Street-GPO area. No matter how many times I explain my remit as Minister for the arts, Sinn Féin ignores it. The vast bulk of the surrounding properties are privately owned.
The development of the wider street is a matter for Dublin City Council, where I believe Sinn Féin is the biggest party. Under the Planning and Development Act 2000, Dublin City Council, as both local government and planning consent authority, is charged with managing the ongoing development of this important inner city area of Dublin. The shopping centre or mall that Deputy McDonald refers to is a matter for Dublin City Council and was subject to planning permission, and Sinn Féin had the opportunity to object to it.
-----designated in July 2001, and the O'Connell Street area of special planning control, adopted by Dublin City Council in September 2009. These mechanisms operate within the wider policy framework of the Dublin City development plan, which is currently under review. It remains open to the city council to prepare a statutory local area plan for the area under the provisions of the Planning Acts. As I said earlier, Sinn Féin is the largest party in Dublin City Council. The Bord Pleanála planning permission will keep Moore Street as an open street and Dublin City Council policy is to keep the traders. It is somewhat ironic that I am being asked to work through various committees of Dublin City Council, which itself is the responsible authority. It would quite simply not be appropriate for me to intervene in the manner suggested, as it would cut across and undermine the existing statutory processes for the proper planning and development of this area.
My objective and statutory responsibility in Moore Street is to restore the four historic and original buildings that make up the national monument at Nos. 14 to 17 to their 1916 state and to allow the Irish public to see the marks of that revolution.
The four houses are the only houses in that terrace whose exteriors and interiors predate 1916 and which bear the scars and evidence of the presence of the men and women of 1916. I am not in the business of revising or rewriting history, unlike some. I am certainly not in the business of declaring buildings national monuments when they were only built in the last few decades.
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-----
-----agus a bhogadh chun tosaigh agus rudaí soiléire a dhéanamh maidir leis an stair. Seasaigí suas maidir leis na rudaí cearta agus seasaigí suas maidir leis na rudaí atá déanta sna blianta a chuaigh thart. Ba mhaith liom m'aitheantas agus mo bhuíochas a ghabhadh arís leis an Aire, an Teachta Heather Humphreys, agus a comhghleacaithe, na daoine a mhacasamhail le John Concannon atá ag obair ar an chomóradh 2016, ar an chlár tábhachtach agus ar an sárobair atá déanta thar na blianta a chuaigh thart. Mar fhocal scoir i dTeach Laighean, beidh deiseanna móra ann maidir leis na glúine atá romhainn agus tá dualgais agus freagrachtaí orainn maidir leis an chéad ghlúin eile amach anseo. Beidh deiseanna ann i mbliana agus tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this issue once again. All Members respect the republican ideals that inspired the men and women of 1916 and which are reflected in the Proclamation of 1916, in the compilation and writing of which the Labour Party played a major role. James Connolly was a significant contributor and it was published in Liberty Hall.
Moreover, the families of many Members of this House were involved in the War of Independence and so on. Consequently, Members respect those ideals and consider it to be quite proper that in this centenary year, they should be honoured in every way possible. They should be honoured in respect of what they stood for and the direction in which they placed the country with regard to equality and a focus on children in a far-reaching Proclamation that incorporated those ideals.
Second, we should respect the built heritage that also is theirs and this is what the Government has been seeking to do. The last act of the present Administration in respect of this matter has been to obtain the buildings on Moore Street for the State in order that they can be properly preserved. They now are in State ownership, which was not the case until late last year and this is major progress and a considerable step forward. It now is the responsibility of the Minister and the Government to work together with the National Museum to ensure the development that takes place is in line with the requirements under the National Monuments Act. I have put on the record previously the manner in which Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street became a national monument and it did not happen by chance. Unfortunately, none of those people who now speak from the rooftops most loudly were involved in any way in getting Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street declared a national monument and nor were they involved in any way in preventing planning permission for a shopping mall being put in place. They cry loudly now but when they had a chance to make a difference, they were nowhere to be seen and nor were they anywhere to be heard. However, as a general election is to take place in 2016, they now are shouting from the rooftops.
Although the manner in which Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street and the General Post Office, GPO, were declared national monuments has been put on the record previously, I will repeat it. The National Graves Association brought to my attention that the plaque which had been erected in 1966 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Rising had been taken down by a businessman and had been hidden for devious reasons. It eventually was found and was re-erected and it was in this context that I brought a motion to Dublin City Council requesting that No. 16 Moore Street be given its proper recognition and that the plaque would be restored. In due course, this was accepted by all the councillors at the time and that was the first step forward. Arising from that, a request was made for Gráinne Shaffrey and the architecture firm Shaffrey Associates to conduct an examination of the area. When that firm discovered it was not simply No. 16 Moore Street that was the focus of attention at the time but that the surrounding houses, Nos. 14 to 17, had been closely identified with the rebels, Shaffrey Associates recommended that Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street be declared a national moment. The then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, agreed and the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dick Roche, brought forward the necessary proposals. Consequently, in 2007, the GPO and Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street were declared national monuments. Throughout all that time, up to the declaration of a national monument, not a single member of Sinn Féin on the city council ever spoke in favour of it. It is incredible; they were conspicuous by their absence and had not the slightest interest in the national monument on Moore Street. Members can check the record if they think it is different; it is not. Now, nine years later, they suddenly have discovered a national monument on Moore Street and people who never opened their mouths when there was something to be done are telling us all about it, as though they were the guardians of the national monument.
Much later, however, when planning applications were made to Dublin City Council by a number of companies which sought to compile a large property portfolio in order that there could be large developments in the area, was there any sign of objections from Sinn Féin councillors? They could have stood up at the time and opposed the shopping mall for which planning permission was granted. I have heard this being trotted out by Sinn Féin Members all night. Not one of the party's councillors turned up.
The planning permission was given by DCC and the Deputy was in a prime position to object to it at the time as a councillor. She did not bark. She did not say a word and she stood idly by. Now, because there is an election in the air, she is saying she wants to protect everything.
The work has started. As I understand it, there is a motion before the High Court and I do not know how that will work out. However, I want a national monument that many people, myself included - but not those in Sinn Féin - worked so hard over the past two decades to put in place.
The ideal scenario would be to do that without impacting on any of the surrounding houses. The neighbouring houses are not of the same period but, nevertheless, it would be best if they were not impacted upon. It must be recognised that Moore Street has been the most derelict street in Ireland and every effort we have made to deal with it has not been successful.
It is a terrible shame that as the centenary of 1916 approaches, it will remain the most derelict street in Ireland with no commemorative centre in place to mark the heroism of those who fought in the GPO and on Moore Street.
I made my farewell speech in the House last week but with so many people out canvassing, I was wheeled back in again tonight. Coming from Enniscorthy, I grew up with the songs and stories of 1798 and 1916 and it is appropriate that I would say a few words on the motion. Fianna Fáil will support it if we get the opportunity to vote on it tomorrow night but that is unlikely.
The upcoming centenary of 1916 marks an important milestone in the history of our republic. The Easter Rising defined us as a country. It belongs to no party but to the people of Ireland. Even in my county, some historians would like to rewrite the history of 1916 but the British, French and Germans all celebrate historical events such as this and this is our opportunity to celebrate, 100 years later, the significant role played by the brave men and women of 1916. We should not apologise for that. It is an important political occasion to reflect upon our successes as nation in the face of seemingly impossible odds and to examine those of our shortcomings that history demands should be addressed. It is also a poignant personal moment for families whose relatives served in the Rising. I am sure every Member receives the same representations but almost every day, a huge number of people contact my office in Wexford in the hope that they can attend the celebrations in Dublin on the day. Some family members of those involved in 1916 have been invited while others have been left out in the cold. Some left it a little late to apply for tickets. However, I had a discussion with the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Kehoe, earlier. The Government should consider late applications from direct descendants and allow them to attend the celebrations, particularly in Dublin.
The Moore Street area is a central part of our historic heritage and should be appropriately preserved and developed to mark the 100th anniversary of 1916. The Government has bought 14 to 17 Moore Street but there is serious controversy over plans for the site and the surrounding area, which is owned by a private developer. We fear the area risks continued dereliction and decline. Fianna Fáil proposed a Temple Bar-type company with the power to create and develop a fitting historic quarter. This would be a much more effective mechanism to secure and revitalise the area appropriately. The historic buildings associated with the 1916 Rising at 14 to 17 Moore Street are in a state of great disrepair and the Minister said they would be brought up to the required standard. The entire Moore Street area was under the ownership of NAMA and the care of Chartered Land before a significant amount was recently sold. The original plans for the area should have ensured that it would be developed, that the traders would be protected and that there would be an economic plan for the area. This has not happened.
It was the last headquarters of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic during the Rising. Volunteers broke into houses on Moore Street and tunnelled their way through the terrace and took up new positions in each house, making No. 16 their headquarters. As many as 300 Irish Volunteers and members of Cumann na mBan escaped to the buildings from the GPO after it caught fire following a bombardment by British artillery during Easter week 1916. The buildings were designated national monuments in 2007 by the then Minister for the Environment, Mr. Dick Roche. As a national monument, the Minister has a duty to ensure the buildings do not descend into permanent decay.
The Moore Street area has been neglected by the Government parties since they came to office. They have failed to bring forward an economic plan to revitalise the area, they failed to create a business environment, they failed to look after the Moore Street traders who have been part and parcel of Dublin for generations. I would like the Minister to serious re-examine what is proposed. I come from Enniscorthy where there will be a full year of celebrations. There will be re-enactments. We have had a school programme which featured the names of Galligan, Weafer, Rafter, Etchingham and Brennan. Every year, Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil hold commemorative events. Next Sunday, Fianna Fáil will celebrate the life and times of Liam Mellows. As far back as I can remember, we have had celebrations in Easter Monday in the cathedral in Enniscorthy followed by a parade to Market Square and the laying of wreaths at the monument to Fr. Murphy and the people of 1798.
We have monuments also to Captain Thomas Weafer and Captain Seamus Rafter and we are very proud of the historic significance of the Easter celebrations. In 1994 and 1995 when, perhaps, it was not popular to do so, our then chairman, Mr. Peter Byrne, who has since retired from politics, invited the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, to Enniscorthy as part of the 1916 celebrations. It was not very popular at the time but it was a forerunner to the celebrations and the Good Friday Agreement. Enniscorthy is proud of leading the way in that regard. We contend that the tricolour was flown for the first time in Enniscorthy. Some people contend it was flown for the first time in Waterford. We will continue to fight that issue with the people of Waterford. From Easter Sunday 2016, the tricolour will fly over Enniscorthy for generations to come in a specific glass casket that will protect it.
Returning to the motion, it is important that the Minister revisit Moore Street and the surrounding areas. In recent years NAMA has sold property to large developers, foreign developers and UK developers not only in Dublin, but around the country, when it could have been more appropriately used for local people and the people of Dublin. I ask the Minister to reconsider the situation and to revisit the issues called for in the motion. I know she has assigned to herself some of the celebrations and some of the good work she has done in this area. The people of the area want to see more of the properties around Nos. 14-17 Moore Street secured and developed in a different way for the people of Dublin and not for the big developers and those who would sell it on for massive profits in the future.
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.