Hundreds have rallied in support of a group of protesters who have occupied buildings on Moore Street in Dublin as a simmering row over plans for the development of the site, a key site in the history of the 1916 Rising, has now become a stand-off.
About 30 people occupied the terrace at Moore Street in Dublin from Thursday evening before a street protest on Friday heard calls for the Dublin government to explain their actions.
The rally -- which was addressed by independent TD Maureen O’Sullivan, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald and other politicians -- was held to oppose development works being undertaken on the street which it is feared could destroy a site of historical significance.
The site on 14-17 Moore Street, known as ‘Ireland’s Alamo’, was the last HQ of the rebel forces and where the decision was made to surrender to the British.
As many as 300 Irish Volunteers and Cumann na mBan members fled into the terrace from the back of the GPO after a bombardment of British artillery set the rebel headquarters ablaze.
Soldiers tunnelled their way through the houses and ultimately surrendered from their base at No 16.
The row of houses was declared a National Monument in 2007, but the debate over what should be done with the site has long been a benchmark for the government’s lacklustre interest in the heritage of 1916. After years of campaigning by environmentalists, historians and republicans, the government finally stepped in and acquired the central site in March of last year.
But following the erection of hoarding between 18 and 19 Moore Street, indicating new steps in the construction of a shopping mall at the site, the ‘Save Moore Street from Demolition’ group has organised protests and dozens have now climbed on the scaffolding, roof and into the buildings.
Some descendants of the rebel leaders and heritage campaigners fear Number 18 will be demolished to make way for the huge shopping complex.
Occupier Mick Mooney said they are concerned that planning permission granted to developers of a shopping centre allows for partial demolition of the Moore Street houses, and they plan to remain in the building until a resolution is put in place.
Barry Lyons, honorary secretary of the 1916 Relatives Association, said they felt as though they had been deceived by the government despite assurances that they would be fully consulted and briefed on plans.
“We are fully supporting the occupation, and encouraging it,” he said. “When we were dealing with Minister Humphreys we felt as though we were deceived by what we were told.
“We were told nothing would go ahead without us being informed or without our consultation, but the deal was signed off before our last meeting. While the minister was at a photocall to announce it, we were in Kildare Street being told about it.
“They are going ahead with demolition.”
Frank Allen, who organised the ‘Arms Around Moore Street’ campaign, described the works as akin to “turning Anne Frank’s home into a Burger King”.
Proinsias O Rathaille, grandson of famous rebel Michael Joseph O’Rahilly (The O’Rahilly) who died on a street adjacent Moore Street after leading a sortie from the GPO, said he was “horrified” at the impact the work has had on the buildings.
Mr O Rathaille said fittings had been removed from number 16. “The old staircase which was to be preserved and doorways have all been removed and all the old timbers have been thrown out the back,” he said.
However, another campaign group, the ‘Save No 16 Moore Street’ Committee, which is also led by members of rebel families, has backed the government’s “restoration work” and criticised the protestors for “causing unnecessary delays”.
Both Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail are supporting plans to create a 1916 historical quarter in Dublin city, which could encompass not only the GPO and Moore Street, but also other key locations which were linked to the 1916 Easter Rising such as Bolands Mills, South Dublin Union (St James Hospital), the Old Jacobs Factory and the Royal College of Surgeons.
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams has called on Minister Humphreys to immediately intervene.
“As one of the most historically important sites in the history of the nation, Moore Street has a special place in the hearts of citizens. It is vital to ensure that it is redeveloped in the respectful and dignified manner befitting of its status.
“The negligence of successive governments cannot be allowed to lead to the irrevocable damage of the Moore Street terrace and destruction of our heritage.
“The onus is on the Minster to halt stop the works being undertaken now in order for consultation to take place amongst the various stakeholders involved, including the Save Moore Street campaign, the 1916 relatives, the Moore Street traders and the local community, who all simply want what’s best for Moore Street.”
Another demonstration is planned at Moore Street for Saturday afternoon.