By Gerry Adams (for Leargas)
Most readers know that Moore Street in Dublin City Centre holds a special place in the history of Ireland. It was in Moore Street and the surrounding streets and laneways and at the nearby GPO that a fierce battle was fought between the 1916 republican forces and the British Army. Number 16 Moore Street was where five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation held their last meeting before the surrender. The National Museum of Ireland has described Moore Street as “the most important historic site in modern Irish history.”
Regrettably not everyone sees it that way. In the late 1990s the Moore Street terrace was scheduled for demolition. Later a developer Chartered Lands produced a plan that would have destroyed much of the site. An alliance of relatives of the signatories, of those who fought in 1916, republicans and a range of other groups and individuals commenced a campaign to save Moore St.
Their dedication to the development of the site as a cultural and historic quarter in which the 1916 buildings and streetscape would be preserved for future generations was matched by the determination of successive Irish governments to hand most of the land over to private developers for profit.
I have visited historic landmarks in other places. Robben Island in South Africa was an infamous prison where ANC and other political prisoners were held for decades under the most cruel regime. It is now a World Heritage Site. In Europe the battlegrounds of former wars are protected and the cemeteries of their dead protected and cared for. The same in the USA. I visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution where debated and adopted. The building is a UNESCO site and is cherished.
But in Dublin we have Irish governments with no sense of the history of their own land, no imagination, no sense of history and no vision for the future. Only four houses -14-17 Moore Street – were adopted by the Irish government in 2007 for preservation as a national monument. 14 years later and no work has been carried out. The buildings remain derelict and sealed off from the public.
In the meantime another developer – Hammerson – has been trying to achieve what Chartered Land failed at.
The public campaign to preserve Moore Street and the 1916 battlefield site entered a new phase last week with the publication by the Moore Street Preservation Trust and the Relatives of the 1916 Signatories of their preliminary plan for the area. The plan was published several days after the British-based property company Hammerson also announced that it had submitted the first three of six planning applications it intends lodging which cover the Dublin Central site.
In an initial response to the Hammerson plan James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly, and spokesperson for the Moore Street Preservation Trust criticised the Hammerson plan has falling far short of what the site needs.
Connolly Heron was especially critical of the extraordinary intervention by An Taoiseach Mícheál Martin who provided an endorsement to Hammerson which they carried in the media announcement of their proposal.
Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald challenged the Taoiseach on this in the Dáil. She said: “We now have the disgraceful situation where we have a Government that ... supports a plan to turn one of the most significant sites in modern Irish history over to a private developer. Shame on the Government for taking that stance.”
Last Thursday the Moore Street Preservation Trust and the Relatives of the Signatories published a preliminary copy of their Moore Street Master plan. Commissioned by the Moore Street Preservation Trust and devised by leading architects Fuinneamh Workshop Cork and Kelly and Cogan Dublin.
The Master plan presents an imaginative and realistic way forward for an area neglected for generations. The 1916 terrace will be restored and the ground floor shops let with over shop living facilitated. Existing ancillary buildings at the rear of the terrace will be converted for retail, cafe/restaurant use. New builds within the block will provide 45 units in mews and loft style developments, a theatre space and public meeting hall. Incubator retail units and workshops will be woven into the ground floor of these developments.
The terrace gardens will be exposed and restored for public use and the centuries old street market trading tradition, long in decline will be retained and enhanced with the re-opening of all pitches and the provision of storage and wash room facilities for the traders.
The Moore Street Master plan conforms to the recommendations of the Ministers Advisory Group on Moore Street 2021 and the Lord Mayors Forum 2021. It also has the support of a wide range of individuals and groups including, The Easter 16 - Relatives of the 16 executed leaders; the GPO Garrison Relatives; Sinn Féin; People Before Profit; the Green Party, as well as well known writers, historians, artists and actors including Adrian Dunbar; Tim Pat Coogan; Damian Dempsey; Frances Black; Christy Moore; Ruan O Donnell; Paul Ronan; Saoirse Ronan; Fionnula Flanagan; Robert Ballagh and Jim Fitzpatrick.
So, if you want to preserve Moore Street and the laneways of history go to https://www.facebook.com/MooreStreetTrust/ and join the battle to preserve Moore St.
* Finally, a little postscript:
Dublin City Council passed an emergency motion on Monday evening this week adding the terrace (10-25 Moore Street) to the list of protected structures. These are the building occupied by the Volunteers who evacuated the GPO at the end of Easter Week 1916 and where the last meeting of the Leaders occurred.
The motion was proposed by Sinn Féin Councillor Mícheál Mac Donncha and was supported unanimously at the Council’s June monthly meeting. This is a hugely significant decision by the Council at a time when some of the buildings are under threat of demolition in a development plan proposed by property developer Hammerson. This vote begins the process of assessment towards listing them and as such they are now legally protected.