In a landmark victory for republican heritage campaigners, a High Court judge has granted that a number of buildings on and around Dublin’s Moore Street are a battlefield site worthy of the designation of national monument.
Judge Max Barrett’s decision means the Fine Gael Minister for Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys was wrong to claim that only one stretch of buildings at Nos 14 to 17 Moore Street should be protected, and that the others were “not historically significant”.
In his judgment, Justice Barrett said, having regard to the “wealth of evidence” before him, including from historians and architects, he was satisfied to grant declarations that various other buildings and locations on and around Moore Street are comprised in the national monument.
These include No 10 Moore Street, a portion of No 13 Moore Street, Nos 18, 20 and 21 Moore Street and most of the streets and street alignments of Moore Street, O’Rahilly Parade, Moore Lane and Henry Place.
The judge also made orders requiring that a large vinyl banner placed on the terrace to be taken down due to being unauthorised development.
The Judge had visited the Moore Street area late last month prior to embarking on the hearing which concluded earlier this week.
No 16 Moore Street was the site where the leaders of the Rising gathered on April 26th 1916 for the final time before their surrender and executions. It is intended as the centrepiece of a 1916 Rising Commemorative Centre being developed by the State on the terrace from Nos 14 to 17.
In his planning proceedings, Colm Moore, as a nominee of the 1916 Relatives Association, argued plans to demolish No 10 and Nos 13, 18 and 19 Moore Street so as to “isolate” Nos 14-17 amount to unauthorised development.
Some of the buildings had been on the point of destruction as part of a major commercial development, including the construction of a giant shopping mall. Republican activists had been forced to occupy the buildings in January after development work had begun before emergency legal action by relatives of the 1916 martyrs brought the matter before the courts.
Proinsias O’Rathaille, grandson of Michael Joseph O’Rahilly (The O’Rahilly) who died on a street adjacent Moore Street after leading a sortie from the GPO, described the impact the work has had on the buildings as “horrific”.
But Justice Max Barrett said on Friday that the Easter Rising was “unique” and the GPO occupied an iconic position in Irish history, making what happened to the men and women who fled from the GPO when it was ablaze “a matter worthy of unique commemoration”.
The Moore Street battlefield site, as the place to where the rebels fled, battle was done, surrender negotiated and where “workers, civilian and combatant, lived and died in what to no little extent was a workers’ rising”, was “uniquely worthy of commemoration”, he said.
The judge noted some republican fighters spent much of the battle smashing through walls of houses on Moore Street to create a line of passage from one end of the block to another. Connolly was later brought through those holes to No 16 where he participated in the rebels’ last council of war.
The bodies of four or five civilians shot by the British, at least one under the white flag, lay on Moore street overnight and anecdotal evidence suggested Patrick Pearse’s decision to surrender may have been influenced after seeing those civilian dead, the judge said. Perhaps most poignant of all the civilian deaths were those of two children, he noted.
In a Facebook post, eirigi said the judgement was the result of a sixteen year long campaign to defend the GPO/Moore Street battlefield site “from a corrupt state and the greed of private developers”.
“The campaign has been a victory for people power - for volunteer activists operating on a shoestring who were challenging the state and private developers with unlimited resources. Everyone who played a part in that campaign, no matter how large or small, owns a piece of today’s victory.”
Sinn Fein Deputy Leader and Dublin Central TD Mary Lou McDonald described the ruling as “a brilliant result”.
“It is a great shame that the relatives of our 1916 heroes had to take the state to the High Court to protect our heritage. As a local TD in the area I know that this ruling will be welcomed by the vast majority of people in Dublin Central.
“Any new incoming government must now go back to the drawing board and preserve the GPO/Moore Street area as a revolutionary quarter. This would be of benefit both economically and culturally to the people of Dublin and the rest of Ireland and would also be a fitting tribute to the men and women of 1916.”
Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams said the judgement had been a victory for the people of Ireland.
“I want to strongly commend the dedication of the concerned relatives of the 1916 leaders and their legal team, and all those who have supported their campaign.
“It is a national disgrace that successive Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour Governments refused to use the legislative powers at their disposal to designate as a national monument the GPO/Moore Street area.
“It is a metaphor of our times that in this centenary year of the 1916 Easter Rising that the relatives of the 1916 leaders and their supporters should be forced to take the State to the high court in order to save our national heritage, and that the state was defending the interests of a developer.”