13 August 2005

Save the ‘Irish Alamo’

Daily Ireland

BY ZOE TUNNEY

On the face of it, 16 Moore Street just off Dublin’s O’Connell Street looks like any other derelict commercial property. However, inside the property, the original cast-iron fireplaces remain and the wallpaper is just about intact.
It was in an upstairs room in 16 Moore Street that an injured James Connolly, Patrick Pearse, Seán Mac Diarmada and other leaders of the provisional Irish government decided to surrender after the 1916 Easter Rising.
For nearly five years, campaigners have been lobbying the Irish government to have the property restored, preserved and opened to the public as a permanent memorial.
The campaign has been headed by the National Graves Association and has gained cross-party political support as well as the backing of An Taisce, historians, journalists and a plethora of interested and passionate parties.
The National Graves Association said in 2003: “On April 23, 1916, some 150 insurgents took over the GPO in Dublin and the men and women fought without pause or sleep for five days and nights.
“Ravaged by sniper fire, machine guns, nine-pound guns from Trinity College and 18-pound shells from the gunboat the Helga, the insurgents were forced to abandon the GPO and set up headquarters in 16 Moore Street.”
After a high-profile drive to save 16 Moore Street in 2003, Dublin City Council agreed to consider the property in the council’s regeneration of the area.
The National Graves Association hopes the property will be opened as museum or interpretative centre or simply restored.
Matt Boyle, the association’s secretary, said: “I have been through the rooms of Moore Street and touched the fireplaces, looked out of the windows Pearse or Joseph Plunkett would have stared out of.
“I’ve felt the history and got an impression of what it was like. Everybody in the 32 counties should have the right to take the same trip around the house. With a little bit of imagination, it would be a real gem.”
Moore Street is in Bertie Ahern’s Dublin North constituency and is part of the O’Connell Street regeneration programme.
The Carlton Group, which owns the former Carlton cinema, had planned to knock through the cinema into Moore Street. Since those plans fell through, Moore Street has become a legal minefield and is now the subject of a Supreme Court case.
Dublin City Council tried to buy the property in 2001 but was blocked by a former member of the Carlton Group, who challenged a High Court ruling in favour of the council in the Supreme Court.
Currently, 16 Moore Street is not even listed as a protected structure.
A plaque erected high up on its front wall, which is barely readable from the footpath, states: “Here on 29th April 1916, members of the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic decided to surrender.”
This plaque replaces an earlier one that was stolen in 2002. The earlier plaque was erected in 1966 on the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
So far, these have been the only contributions by the Irish government or Dublin City Council to commemorate the people and events of Moore Street.
Matt Boyle said there was hypocrisy among Irish politicians when it comes to progress and heritage.
He referred to the fact that both of the Taoiseach’s parents were members of the IRA, while justice minister Michael McDowell takes pride in the fact his father fought in 1916.
“Can you imagine what it will be like in 2016 on the centenary? Everybody from Michael McDowell and Bertie Ahern will be marching down O’Connell Street wearing rows of medals and claiming to be more republican than the next.
“And yet, right now, when they can do something to show respect to the republicans of 1916, they sit on their hands,” Mr Boyle said.
“The roof is falling in, the water is leaking in. Does the building have to collapse onto the street before anybody will do anything about it?
“We have contacted every minister in every department in the Dáil to try to get something done before it’s too late.”
Mr Boyle noted that, in the 1930s, the Fianna Fáil government of the day had supported calls to demolish Kilmainham Jail in Dublin and that Robert Emmet’s house had been demolished to make way for the St Stephen’s Green shopping centre.
“Kilmainham is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dublin today,” he said.
“With a little imagination, Moore Street could be the Irish Alamo.
“It could be a place to commemorate Elizabeth O’Farrell and the Cumann na mBan, Irish republicanism, the martyrs of 1916, just a place to remember that chapter in Irish history,” he said.

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