Seanad debates

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

National Monument at 14-16 Moore Street, Dublin: Statements


2:00 pm

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Fine Gael)

I thank the Minister of State for his detailed contribution and extend a welcome to the relatives of the signatories who are present to listen to the debate. It is an important debate at this time, given the events that have taken place in the country in recent months. There has been a great deal of discussion in this House of the role and nature of our economic independence and sovereignty and the effect of the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank intervention. That discussion has made some of us realise that if we take our sovereignty and freedom for granted, we do so at the risk of losing it. There is no doubt that the people who were involved and lost their lives in the historic events that took place at the properties we are now discussing realised that to an extent at which we can only marvel.

It would be unthinkable at a time when some of our independence has been compromised not to find a way of honouring the heritage of the people who gave birth to the idea of Ireland as an independent State and defined what independence meant for the country at a time of major difficulty, for which many of whom paid the ultimate price. It would be unthinkable, regardless of the economic difficulties we face, not to do this.

What would be unthinkable also is that when the ceremony of whatever nature takes place in 2016 to commemorate what were momentous events in the State the properties we are discussing were found to be in one of two conditions, namely, in their current state which would be to our shame or either part of or compromised in a commercial development such as is currently proposed, which would also be to our shame.

In terms of what is proposed, everybody wants to find a way of ensuring the economic regeneration of the city centre and the capital street running through it. It is the main thoroughfare of the city and in terms of the events that took place there, the properties we are discussing were the birthplace of the movement that led to the foundation of the State. If we cannot find a way of balancing the imperative for economic regeneration with the urgent need to remember where we came from and the vision and ideals of the people concerned, we have not learned as much as we are telling ourselves we have learned. The decision that will be made on this matter will test the commitment of the incoming group of politicians to the idea that we are more than just an economy but a society with a sense of history. For all these reasons it is important that we find a way of moving this issue forward quickly.

An event which took place recently which changes fundamentally the environment in which we will make those decisions is that the assets and the business organisation of the developer in question now play a significant role in the National Asset Management Agency. The fact that the State will, therefore, play a direct role in decisions that will be made on their property, assets and loans opens the possibility of involvement of the broader considerations to which I referred.

My party leader has met many of the people involved in the Save 16 Moore Street campaign. The two Fine Gael councillors for the area, Councillor Mary O'Shea and Councillor Ray McAdam, also met a representative of the group recently to communicate our desire to support this issue and find a way to progress it in a constructive manner.

There are four areas we need to examine to find a way to do this. The Minister of State defined clearly the history of the properties and the different statutory bodies playing a role in it. He pointed out that the National Monuments Acts did not provide a vehicle for commemorating historic events, which is the case. What the Government has done, which is important, is put in place a centenary committee that I hope will meet soon and frequently, to define the way we should commemorate this event.

It is important that in the coming months we find a way of generating an agreed vision regarding what we want to happen in these properties, the way the role of these properties can be reflected in the history of the State and the views of different people on how these events should be commemorated. It is appropriate that a consensus in that area be quickly developed.

The second aspect that is important is that a ministerial order regarding the development of those sites should not be given until that consensus is reached and people are clear on how the properties are to be developed. It would be unthinkable for us to come close to the centenary of the 1916 Rising and find that the properties were either in their current state or hemmed in, compromised or part of commercial developments. It is important also that if the ministerial order is not given — I do not believe it should be given — the city council which currently owns a number of lanes adjacent to the properties in question does not hand over ownership of these lanes to facilitate further development until we have come up with a proper plan on what will happen with the properties.

I conclude by stating my views on what should be the proper plan. It is self-evident and necessary that if we put in place a centre, a facility or a monument, it should clearly outline what happened in the properties and the perimeter and area should reflect the location in which these events took place. In any country in existence longer than our own — we must remember this is a young state — one will find many examples, as one would expect, of where momentous events that gave birth to the state are commemorated. That is a given. It is unthinkable the same would not to happen here. It would not be acceptable to anyone if no centre, monument or form of museum that reflected these momentous events was erected on this site. Nearly every political party in the State came from the events of 1916. All of us have a clear interest in making sure we reflect this fact.


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