Wednesday, 26 January 2011
National Monument at 14-16 Moore Street, Dublin: Statements
I am very pleased to see that we have representatives of all seven signatories in the Visitors Gallery today. This is an historic day in some ways. I welcome them all. It is my pleasure to give the Government position on this matter and to take some questions and make some comments at the end of the debate following contributions made by Members of the Upper House.
The Government fully appreciates the historical significance of the site of the last military actions of the 1916 Rising leaders, Pearse, Connolly, Plunkett and MacDermott. Their actions and self-sacrifice, the centenary of which will be upon us in just five years, laid the foundations for the establishment of the Irish State. It was for these reasons that in January 2007, the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Dick Roche, placed a preservation order on Nos. 14-17 Moore Street, Dublin under section 8 of the National Monuments Act 1930. The purpose of the preservation order was to ensure the preservation of No. 16 Moore Street in the context of the wider redevelopment proposals centred round the former Carlton cinema site. To achieve this, the preservation order also covered Nos. 14-17 Moore Street
There had been uncertainty that No. 16 was the actual site of the 1916 surrender as there were indications that the street had been renumbered at some stage in the meantime. However, the proposed redevelopment of the Carlton site brought the issue to prominence and prompted research into the matter. I acknowledge the work of those groups who raised concerns about the preservation of the property.
A report commissioned by Dublin City Council at the time pointed to No. 16 Moore Street as the building used by the leaders of the 1916 Rising as their headquarters after they had left the GPO. The council believed that the façade of No. 16 was so badly damaged in the bombardment that most of the current façade brickwork probably dates from the late 1920s. Internally, there is an original 18th century staircase and original fireplaces.
The preservation order was made on the grounds that the buildings constituted a monument, the preservation of which was of national importance by reason of its historical importance as the final headquarters of the leaders of the Easter Rising. The objective of the preservation order is to protect the monument from any danger of being destroyed, injured or removed. The effect of the preservation order is that any works affecting these properties, including any excavation or ground disturbance within, around or in proximity to them, require the prior written consent of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government under the National Monuments Acts. The Minister is statutorily obliged to consult the director of the National Museum of Ireland as part of the consent process. It is an offence for anyone to damage, injure, remove, carry out, cause or permit work affecting the monument without the Minister's written consent.
It is important to note that, although covered by a preservation order, Nos. 14-17 Moore Street are privately owned and not in State care. The preservation order does not empower the Minister to carry out works or to oblige the owner to undertake works with the intention, for example, of replicating the structures that existed up to 1916.
There have been suggestions the existing preservation order should be extended to include the entirety of the terrace containing No.16 and a wider area. The historical significance of No. 16 as the final headquarters of the 1916 Rising was the determining factor in the decision to make the preservation order. The inclusion of the entire terrace would not add to this significance, nor does its exclusion from the ambit of the preservation order in any way detract from the recognition and acknowledgement of the national importance of No.16. It is also the case that the planning approval given by An Bord Pleanála for the redevelopment of the Carlton site provides for the removal of the buildings on Moore Street other than Nos. 14-17.
As a prescribed body, my Department commented on the initial planning application for the Carlton site in May 2008 and identified a number of concerns relating to, inter alia, architectural heritage, height, demolition of certain buildings, impact on the character of the O'Connell Street architectural conservation area and so on. The Department's concerns have been addressed in the redesign of the project through the inclusion of a screen along O'Connell Street to reinforce the street facade, the omission of the tall building element onto Henry Street, the overall reduction in height of the tallest element of the development and its relocation to the centre of the site where the visual impact from surrounding streets will be lessened.
An Bord Pleanála's planning approval in March 2010 in no way supersedes the preservation order on Nos. 14-17 and any proposed works affecting the latter buildings will require the Minister's consent under the National Monuments Acts. To date, no application for consent for works to the monument related to the proposed major development of the Carlton site has been received by my Department.
The proposed development of the site, in accordance with the permission granted by An Bord Pleanála, envisages the retention of Nos. 14-17 Moore Street. Subject to ministerial consent under the National Monuments Acts, No. 16 is to be converted to use as a commemorative centre. This is in accordance with the objective of the Dublin City Council development plan to have the building in museum use. Nos. 14, 15 and 17 will be conserved and used as cafés, shops or offices.
The planning permission specifically states: "No works shall commence within the preservation order boundary of the National Monument at 14-17 Moore Street unless the prior ministerial consent to such works has been obtained in accordance with the statutory requirements of section 14 of the National Monuments Acts, 1930-2004." This reiterates the existing protections afforded by the preservation order.
In late 2010 the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government approved an application for consent for minor works to protect and maintain the fabric of these buildings. These minor works are being undertaken by an established firm of conservation architects. The works entail an investigation of the underlying condition of the fabric of the buildings to inform plans for any necessary refurbishment. Any such refurbishment works would require the Minister's further consent, in which case the appropriateness of the works would be carefully considered by the Department, taking into account all potential impacts on this significant monument.
More recently, there has been comment on the demolition of the wall of Nos. 17 and 18 Henry Place at first floor level to prevent danger to the public. Nos. 17 and 18 Henry Place are not protected structures under the planning code, or national monuments, and the works in question took place outside the area covered by the existing preservation order. I understand Dublin City Council instructed the site owners in April 2010 to carry out an inspection of their properties on Moore Street, Moore Lane and Henry Place-Lane because of concerns about the structural stability of these vacant properties. On foot of discussions with the council, the site owners' consulting engineers recommended, inter alia, the demolition of the wall of 17 to 18 Henry Place to first floor sill level to prevent danger to the public. This was approved by Dublin City Council and the works were carried out on 18 December 2010. The works did not impact on the area covered by the preservation order and, therefore, there was no obligation for ministerial consent to be obtained for them.
The appropriateness of any proposed works will be carefully examined against the historical background if and when a development related consent application is submitted to the Department. The Minister of the day will need to see the full extent and detail of the developer's proposal before being in a position to offer any comment on it in the context of the National Monuments Acts.
The National Monuments Acts do not provide a vehicle for commemorating historical events. The Department of the Taoiseach has established a 1916 Centenary Committee to make preparations for a major celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Rising in 2016. I am sure that in due course the new Government will bring forward arrangements for the centenary of Easter 1916 to be commemorated in an appropriate manner which will permit all the people of Ireland to take pride in the remarkable generation that laid the foundations of the State.
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.
Is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Stáit. Ócáid stairiúil í seo mar tugann sí seans dúinn ár mbuíochas, ár meas agus ár n-omós do laochra na Cásca a theaspáint agus cinntiú nach mbeidh aon dochar déanta do aon rud a bhaineann leo siúd, toisc gur sheas siad an fód in am an ghátair.
We are here as Members of the Oireachtas and we would not be here only for the men and women of 1916 and all the other patriots who endeavoured to secure our independence and sovereignty and ensure we had control of our own destiny. I am particularly pleased that we have present in the Visitors Gallery members of the Moore Street committee and relatives of the leaders of 1916.
This is an historic occasion and I thank the Leader, Senator Cassidy, for acceding to my request to have statements on this subject with the Minister of State present. I felt we were leaving all the hard work to a small group of people who were working, not on their own behalf but on behalf of the reputation of the nation. These are people who come from different walks of life. They started from a particular base, where they had to educate people as to the importance of the Moore Street area. Many would not have been aware of its significance but for that committee. I attended one of their meetings, where there was a capacity crowd. It indicated to me that the committee had developed a momentum that would keep going.
We accept that Nos. 14-17 Moore Street have been designated as a national monument. However, as with all national monuments, the environs also must be taken into consideration. For instance, the Rock of Cashel, where I come from, is a national monument but the environs are also preserved and must be taken into account when there is any development.
Those who will be still alive in 2016 will feel very proud when they look back on the events of 1916. I say this because at the 1916 commemoration that was held recently one could see an outpouring of emotion, gratitude and patriotism. I can look back to 1966, when we saw exactly the same. If, when we reach 2016, we have not done what is right with regard to Moore Street we will have made a serious error. History will not be kind to any of us who stay silent on this issue.
I appreciate what the Minister of State has put before us, which is the status quo. However, it cannot end there. I ask the Minister of State to convey to the appropriate Minister and to the Department of the Taoiseach that a meeting should be held within seven days between the representatives of the Moore Street committee, the appropriate Minister, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, and the Taoiseach. That would give the committee members the opportunity to explain the devastation with which we are now faced in Moore Street. It is clear that the prospective developer is going to appropriate more than 60% of that historic environment. This is not acceptable. It cannot happen. The people do not want it. I have no doubt that if a plebiscite were held it would be clear that the people would want the wishes of the descendants of the 1916 leaders to be respected.
I am overawed by the sense of history that comes from having the relatives here. How nice it was for me to meet the relatives, not just today but on previous occasions. I know that every family of every patriot suffered because of that patriotism. No patriot who sacrificed himself or herself for Ireland did not also see his or her family sacrificed in exactly the same way. We owe it to these descendants, to the committee who have taken it upon themselves to be in the forefront of this campaign, to the nation and, above all else, to our own sense of respect and decency as a sovereign nation to ensure not an inch of ground in the Moore Street environment is in any way desecrated for whatever reason.
I am certain there is cross-party support for this proposal. That is absolutely vital. The 1916 Rising preceded the disastrous civil war, when we split out energies and our focus. We can all celebrate 1916 and commemorate it together. I was glad to hear Senator Donohoe's contribution. I have no doubt that the political will is there to do what is right at the right time in this regard. What we say today will become part of the record of the Oireachtas and will be there for examination and for posterity.
The area should not merely be preserved. It could be developed into a historic attraction, and I do not use the word "attraction" in any derogatory sense. In any part of the world when a self-respecting nation is commemorating its history it spares no effort to ensure it is done properly and authentically. Our history has a connection with the whole world. Other emerging nations from that era took the example of our people, where might did not succeed over right. Right succeeded over the might of the British Empire. So many other countries have the same history in order that when their people come to visit us and celebrate our achievements there is no place more they will want to go than to the historic sites. Even if we think in a mercenary or commercial sense — I do not mean this as the lowest common denominator — what better achievement could we have or what better recognition of what the heroes and heroines did than to give an opportunity to people to visit this site? I am not thinking of merely one small house. If the out-structures have been demolished and the laneways changed we will not be dealing with the environment to which the people of the GPO retreated during Easter Week.
I know the credentials of the Minister of State, Deputy Michael Finneran, and know his heart is in the right place. I know he will take what we are saying in the right way and relay the message back. I ask him to give us that urgent meeting. We must not lose this opportunity. If we do not avail of it we will regret it in years to come.
I welcome the Minister of State and thank the Leader for arranging the taking of statements.
I subscribe to the views outlined by the Minister of State and Senators Donohoe and Ó Murchú. This area is of huge historical and cultural significance. It is the foundations of the beginnings and birthplace of the Republic, so to speak. Everything that can be done to preserve it must be done. I welcome, therefore, the existence of a preservation order for Nos. 14-17 Moore Street.
I acknowledge the presence in the Visitors Gallery of the committee and relatives——
In common with all other Senators, I welcome members of the Moore Street committee and relatives of those involved in the 1916 Rising. I subscribe to what was said. I am glad the preservation order has been made and that the properties in question are considered to be a national monument. As has been said, they are in private ownership. I am not being definitive about this, but in view of what has occurred with the owners, perhaps the National Asset Management Agency might become involved. We must take steps to ensure this is a high class interpretative centre and museum. For that reason we should consider working towards transferring responsibility for the project to the Office of Public Works, which is the appropriate State agency to manage our built heritage and places of historic and cultural significance, which Nos. 14-17 Moore Street so obviously are, especially No. 16. It is also important, however, that we protect and enhance the entire area and preserve its structures. I urge the Minister of State to look into getting the best brains of the State, through the OPW, involved. I welcome the fact the committee and officials from the Department of the Taoiseach will be involved in an early meeting that it is hoped will progress this work and any other work they think might be of importance in that regard. Many Irish people are unaware of the importance of this area to our history and are unaware that this is where the leaders retreated and where the last decisions were made before the surrender. It is important, therefore, that they would be able to visit it.
We should also consider how important this site might be from a tourism point of view. It is in the centre of our capital city and could make a wonderful visitor centre, both for Irish residents and visitors to Ireland. I look forward to seeing developments in that regard and hope much will be achieved and that everything will be in place before 2016 and the centenary celebrations. I wish the committee and all the officials who will be involved the best. We wholeheartedly support the efforts being made.
There is hardly a more important monument in the country than this, but there are many potential pitfalls around its preservation that could be wounding to our memory of what happened in 1916 if poorly handled. An unseemly squabble for ownership of 1916 would not be appropriate when everyone can claim lineage to it. I claim lineage to it which I will explain briefly. My grandmother Peg Ginnity — a great lady — from Dromiskin was taught by Thomas McDonagh when she studied French and English in UCD, Earlsfort Terrace. Before her death, she recalled distinctly the occasion of his last lecture to her class during Holy Week. When he walked in, there were three candles lit on the lectern. He said that three candles were unlucky and snuffed one out and proceeded with his lecture. That was the last time she saw him. She related that story to me and I and my family cherish it because it gives us a sense of identity, longevity and connection with the start of the State.
I know from families throughout the country that there are similar and far more profound and harrowing stories of courage and bravery to be told. For that reason, it is important that proper thought is given to this monument and that the issue is properly handled. I support Senator Ó Murchú's call for an early meeting at the highest level on the matter and for the centenary committee to be involved. The job of that committee is to appreciate the importance of the memory and history of the site and to honour it and do it justice. The Senator also used the word "desecration", a word normally associated with places of worship. Memory is so sacred and precious that a missed opportunity or poor decision made regarding this site would be a form of desecration because the memories related to it are cherished and sacred.
I support the fine ideas I have heard in terms of the OPW and the involvement of those whose grave responsibility it is to help us remember well. They will help us remember in a way that will allow us repair some of the damage the nation feels at this time. I heard a mental health expert speak on a radio show the other day and he urged people to get back into the clubs, the churches and whatever it is that sustains them or gives meaning to their lives or helps them hold themselves together at a time when so much is being atomised. The 2016 centenary celebration will, if it is properly organised, help provide healing for us all as we seek to find a new identity and sense of belonging and ownership in the country. There are contemporary lessons and gains for us in how this issue is addressed. If done well, it will help preserve the memory and tell the story in a way in which no one will take a proprietary hold of it. It is important that does not happen.
While the physical structures on the site are unprepossessing, that is no reason for us to be snobbish about them or to show a lack of respect. No. 16 is a site where a seminal decision was made in terms of the history of the nation. It is worthwhile for the committee to look at how Berlin has preserved its memories, even very painful ones. There, the memories are interpreted in a way that does not hide or gloss over what happened but allows people to gain a sense of what happened. That sort of work has been done particularly well in Berlin. Context is everything and it is not just about the bricks and mortar of the two or three houses in question here. The context is important, the laneways, the streetscape, the approach, the atmosphere, the ambience and the night lighting. These all matter. I commend the recommendations that have come forward through this worthwhile debate and hope they contribute to a proper, appropriate and respectful restoration and memorial of the people of 1916.
Ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh an Aire Stáit go dtí an Teach agus roimh coiste Sráid Uí Mhórdha agus muintir cheannairí Éirí Amach na Cásca 1916. It gives me great pleasure to give my strong support today to the conservation of this site. However, I am angry because this should have been done years ago and we should not be talking about it today. We have talked the talk. Let us now walk the walk and do the job. I support the call by Senator Labhrás ó Murchú for an early meeting with the relevant agencies. I know and accept times are difficult, but this project is so important that people are prepared, even in these hard times, to bring this project to fruition. I am confident they are prepared to put their hands in their pockets and not leave them there.
The leaders of the 1916 Rising showed great vision and courage.
They led the way. They knew they would not win in the short term, but they paved the way for others to follow. My late maternal uncle, Geoff McDermott, was one of those who fought for independence at the time. Members of this House, the Dáil and Dublin City Council and the entire population must come together with a common objective to bring the project to fruition.
As we approach the centenary of the founding of the State which was down to the great vision and courage of the people concerned, it is time we stopped talking and started walking. Let the commemorative committee and all of the agencies involved lead the way and put in place once and for all a monument by conserving the site and turning it into a tourist attraction. We would all justly be proud of such a project because the people it would commemorate gave their lives in order that we would have a tomorrow. We owe it to them. Many have left the country — emigration is part of our culture. I am a returned emigrant. There would be no better reason to come to Dublin than to visit the site, if it was suitably preserved in a way that could be agreed by all of the agencies concerned. Let us stop talking and do something about it because it is high time this was done. We can all find ways and means to procrastinate. There has been a policy of procrastination regarding the site. It is past time all of the agencies concerned should have got together to work on a monument of which we could all be proud. People would be prepared to make a positive contribution to the project and I am one of them. It is time we stopped talking.
I welcome the relatives of some of those who fought in 1916 and gave their lives for the country. Thomas Davis who was from Mallow would be proud today that a fellow Corkman was elected leader of Fianna Fáil. In his famous song, "A Nation Once Again", he wrote the line, "three hundred men and three men" to describe how the Greeks had taken on the Persians. As far as the British were concerned, Easter Monday 1916 was expected to be an ordinary day, but it turned into an extraordinary day in Irish history. The men and women concerned took on an empire which was bigger than the Roman empire and controlled the lives of 25% of the world's population. It had command of one quarter of the surface of the planet and they took on an army which, by the time the First World War had ended, comprised the Commonwealth nations and allies throughout the world, including South Africa. The empire could mobilise an army of 17 million. The odds against the men and women of 1916 were 11,000/1. On that ordinary day these extraordinary men and women dealt a fatal blow to an empire which was larger than the Roman empire. It marked the beginning of the end of British rule not only in Ireland but also throughout the world. It gave others belief that they too could attain freedom.
Last Friday, 21 January, was the anniversary of both the sitting of the First Dáil and the beginning of the War of Independence. I stated on the Order of Business that it was a sad reflection on the House that both events would go unmarked. That is why we are struggling to preserve the buildings on Moore Street and still wondering what we will do with the GPO which is still being operated as a post office. How is the headquarters of the 1916 Rising still a post office as we approach its centenary? Last week I stated it was a sad reflection on all parties in the House that that was the case. We have failed to commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the War of Independence. The French have Bastille Day, while the Americans celebrate Independence Day on 4 July, but we do not even commemorate what happened on Easter Monday 1916 properly.
The proposal to preserve 14-17 Moore Street is laudable, but Fianna Fáil has been in government for a long time and it has failed to do this. It is to the shame of my party that that is the case and we are still debating the issue in the dying days of the Government. However, this is one of a number of proposals in the Taoiseach's office which I hope will see the light of day. I also hope the abomination of a proposal for the development of an area around Moore Street which signifies the last remnants of the Celtic tiger will not come to fruition, but I am afraid it might through a failure of the Government to properly transform the area and the GPO. There is a proposal from Cloughjordan regarding the establishment of a centre to commemorate Thomas McDonagh. Deputy Blaney and I proposed that the Tricolour flying over the GPO should be replaced every day and that every year 365 schools receive a Tricolour flown over the GPO until every school had one.
Boston has an innovative tourist attraction called the Freedom Trail, a red brick walking trail. A line of paint guides people through all of the historic sites between Boston Common and Bunker Hill. I helped to draft a proposal that was placed before Dublin City Council and that is in the Taoiseach's office, under which we would develop a 1916 trail using green paint and bricks and taking in historic sites such as Wynn's Hotel where the Irish Volunteers force was founded, Liberty Hall, St. Stephen's Green and the GPO, finishing on Moore Street where Padraig Pearse surrendered.
It is a privilege to have the relatives of those who died in the Rising present. I hope in the fullness of time and before the centenary we will honour their memory.
I am delighted to be associated with the endorsement of the proposal that the preservation order be achieved at all costs. I recall two years ago we had a debate on the relocation of the Abbey Theatre to the Carlton site. I know the area well because I was a member of Dublin County Council between 1985 and 1989. There has since been a discussion——
I support the proposal and want to ensure the preservation order is endorsed. When I was a county councillor based in Rathfarnham many moons ago, Rathfarnham Castle was bought by a developer. At the time we made a big push in the former Dublin County Council to prevent the developer developing the site. An agreement was made that Rathfarnham Castle would be preserved and that a land swop would be arranged with the developer. That is where it is at. I hope members of Dublin City Council will think along those lines because we have an opportunity to preserve our national heritage.
I welcome the family members of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation. I am delighted to be associated with the project which I wish to see brought to fruition. I refer to the entire site, including the Carlton site and the relocation of The Abbey. We have a golden opportunity to make it a national monument. That would enhance the entire area. As a former member of Dublin County Council and knowing the area so well I would be delighted to endorse the preservation order, which I hope will come to fruition and that we will be able to preserve the site.
I speak in support of this serious and important matter raised by Senator Ó Murchú who tabled the motion. I endorse what was said by Senators Ormonde, Glynn, Daly and colleagues on the other side of the House. Most of us in this House are born to a tradition of the men and women of 1916. I recently read a magnificent book published by the Office of Public Works which outlined in minute detail the experiences of four reverend gentlemen who were very much associated with everything that happened to the men and women of 1916 from the Easter Rising until their death. There is no more important issue as far as I am concerned than to preserve the building in Moore Street.
I am a Member of this House for approximately 30 years. On only two occasions did I sign an objection for planning. I spent my life trying to help families get planning permission in their places of birth in particular, but I had no difficulty in signing the objection when asked by Senator Ó Murchú and other Oireachtas colleagues from the Dáil. I know the area very well. I am a long time in business in the north inner city of Dublin. My family runs a lot of businesses in the area. Now is a timely opportunity for us as Members of the Oireachtas and guardians of the Constitution on behalf of the men and women who created and gave it to us to honour the men and women of 1916. I have no difficulty in doing anything I can to help the Minister and the departmental officials who all wish to help with the important proposal before us. Regardless of where we are after the next general election, in opposition or in government, I will support whatever moves are made in this regard.
The year 1916 is only five short years away. It would be wonderful to celebrate the 100th anniversary with something meaningful being done on this historic site. On 29 April 1916 these men had to make the most difficult decision in their lives. They did it in the interest of saving the lives of many others. In the course of their actions they gave their own lives. To give one's life for that particular cause is the greatest sacrifice anyone can make. Those men and women are the heroes. Their actions have led to our commitment to public life. My commitment to public life is very small compared to the sacrifices of the men and women of 1916. I thank the committee for attending the debate. It is uplifting to be present in the Chamber with the relatives of the men and women of 1916.
Looking back on the past 30 years, the other important occasion on which I was moved was the re-interment in Glasnevin Cemetery of Kevin Barry and his comrades who gave their lives for this country. We are very proud of what they have done. We will never forget them and we hope not to allow future generations to forget them either. I doubt many Oireachtas Members would have made the sacrifice they did in the name of Ireland.
I am impressed with the fact the Leader of the House accommodated such a debate, that so many Members of the Upper House have decided to contribute and for the constructive contributions made.
Senator Ó Murchú vividly outlined the background and painted a picture that encompassed the views of many other Members who spoke. I compliment him on that. He suggested it would be appropriate at this time that the members of the Save 16 Moore Street Committee should meet the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Ó Cuív. When the House suspended in the course of the debate I used the opportunity to progress the suggestion. I am pleased to confirm that I have arranged for a meeting on Tuesday, 1 February between the committee, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Protection. The time and location of the meeting will be conveyed to the committee in the coming days. It is important the committee is closely involved in the work of the 1916 centenary committee with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Social Protection — I do not need to elaborate on his connection with the most important event in our history.
I did not get an opportunity previously to refer to the contribution of Senator Ó Murchú on the re-interring of so many people from Mountjoy Prison and the important part he allowed my county to play in that event with the re-interment of Paddy Moran. We very much appreciate that and the recent book written by his niece launched in Kilmainham Gaol.
Today's debate has been important. Speakers have committed to the public record what they believe should happen. Much thought and sincerity was put into what was said. I hope the meeting I have arranged for Tuesday next will be a step towards completing what will be an important event in 2016. Nobody should feel excluded on account of anything that happened subsequent to 1916. We should all reflect on the fact that 1916 preceded any of the other events, unfortunate though they may have been, and that we can all, as a free people, embrace the centenary in a wholesome way, irrespective of what political party or allegiance we have, and have a meaningful remembrance, whatever form it will take.