New plan counters bid to redevelop ‘Ireland’s Alamo’

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A grandson of 1916 hero Michael Joseph O’Rahilly has warned that Dublin’s coalition government is standing by while private developers prepare to tear up the Moore Street area where he died fighting for Ireland.

Relatives say “bit by bit by bit” his sacrifice is being trampled on by the 26 County state, following the shocking destruction last year of his home to make way for a 12-storey apartment and hotel.

The hero’s grandson, Proinsias Ó Rathaile, fumed: “I’m very upset at the moment with this state and this government that they cannot see the culture and the heritage around that area.

“After the O’Rahilly House was illegally demolished at dawn, are they going to stand by again and rip up the very laneways where he gave his life for his country?”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin has endorsed plans by British developer Hammerson to ‘transform’ Dublin’s Moore Street, where the Irish republican died while leading a charge against British machine gun fire in the last days of the Easter Rising.

Moore Street has suffered increased dereliction over the decades, but local traders and business people have so far successfully fought for numbers 14-17 to be preserved for their historical significance because they were used by Easter Rising leaders as they fled the burning GPO. It is recognised as the last battleground of the historic rebellion.

Relatives of the Rising heroes including Mr Ó Rathaile have proposed an alternative plan to rejuvenate the area without destroying history. The Moore Street Preservation Trust, supported by the 1916 Relatives group, have displayed their plan for the development of the Moore Street Battlefield for consideration by councillors in Dublin City Hall.

James Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly, said: “The policy of Dublin City Council on the development of the Moore Street area is clear. Moore Street is to be protected and preserved intact in its entirety.

“The terrace that was the last refuge of the Volunteers is to be added to the list of protected structures.

“The evacuation route must be kept intact so that the story of the retreat to the safety of Moore Street can be told in the very streets and laneways that still stand today.”

Relatives and local traders accused Fianna Fáil of siding with developers over the people and breaking promises made to them in a bill introduced while they were in opposition.

A similar bill brought by Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh - the 1916 Culture Quarter Bill - is now working its way through the Dublin parliament.

Patrick Cooney from the 1916 Relatives Group said: “It seems to me the most uninformed of them all is Micheal Martin, who not only has absolutely no connection with his republican history, he’s met privately with Hammerson, won’t disclose the details of that meeting and just before the new application went in he gave it wholehearted support, which is extraordinary.

“I’ve asked on behalf of the relatives for a meeting with the Taoiseach but he’s also turned us down. They’ve reverted to type, which is no surprise to people.

“When you’ve built up relationships and worked weeks with people on a bill and then when the chance comes for that bill to be enacted they shut the door on you, it shows how ruthless they are.”

Mr Ó Rathaile added: “This wouldn’t happen in any other country. The ultimate gesture [my grandfather] made, this is how this country rewards people who made that ultimate gesture.”

Campaigners accused the Taoiseach of hypocrisy after he said, following the destruction of the O’Rahilly house, that it was “wrong” and that “iconic” historic buildings and locations should be preserved.

His public endorsement of the British developer’s plans were last week branded “crazy” and “unprecedented” by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald McDonald. She said the plan to redevelop Moore Street should be scrapped in favour of the design by the preservation trust.

“This is a unique historic site and this is a place that needs to be developed, but that also needs to be preserved,” said Ms McDonald.

“This is the last great battlefield site. This is where history was made. These are the streets and laneways where the Republic was fought for, and so we are very much with the business owners and with people all across this area.

“We want Moore Street to be preserved and developed. We want to ensure that we can increase footfall so that you can have viable businesses, family businesses in many instances that have been here for generations.

“But we want to do more than that. We want to make this a living, vibrant cultural quarter that does justice to the memory of the 1916 patriots, but that also gives us a place for the future for Dublin.

“The problem is that we haven’t had governments that actually appreciate what we have. But I think the people of Dublin and the people of Ireland appreciate what we have.

“The families (of the Rising leaders) put together a plan, and it’s not just any plan. They have brought together the best and the brightest in terms of conservationists, architects, the whole lot. The plan is stunning and it’s the right plan for this part of the city.”

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