On a very stormy Wednesday night (17 Nov. 2015) in Dublin around 150 people attended the launch of the video “Laneways of History” at Wynne’s Hotel, Lwr. Abbey Street.
The video maker is Marcus Howard who has videoed a number of interviews with relatives of 1916 heroes as part of a campaign to preserve the historic Moore Street 1916 Terrace and the laneways surrounding it. Marcus also videoed the second Arms Around Moore Street event, which was organised by the Save Moore Street Demolition campaign.
The video itself uses footage shot in a Dublin of today, tracing the footsteps in Easter Week 1916 of James Connolly from Williams Lane to the GPO, then of the garrison’s retreat from the burning building to Moore Street. It also stops at 21 Henry St. where the 1916 Proclamation was signed and follows the ill-fated heroic charge led by The O’Rahilly up Moore Street against the British barricade at the end, on Parnell Street.
The narrative is provided by Jim Connolly Heron (great grandson of James Connolly) and Proinsias O Rathaille, grandson of The O’Rahilly, and also by excerpts from witness statements of participants read by Marcus Howardand a woman whose name I did not catch (but will record when I find out).
Sound effects on images of the past are firing from artillery, rifles and machine guns and clips from the Cabra Historical Society are used to good effect. The video also includes recent footage from the campaign, including Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny being shown around the Moore Street Battlefield and the 2nd Arms Around Moore Street event, which was organised by the Save Moore Street from Demolition campaign.
Around the function room there were men and women in Ctiizen Army and Volunteer uniforms and typical IRA War of Independence dress to protect us from a raid by the British Army, Dublin Metropolitan Police or the Auxillaries (or perhaps to keep an eye out for unruly elements).
Music and some songs were provided before the speakers by two members of the Dublin band The Invincibles, one of which Paul Stone, sang Where Is Our James Connolly to a hushed room.
The main speakers were James Connolly Heron, Críona Ní Dhálaigh (SF Mayor of Dublin), Proinsias O Rathaille and Marcus Howard. Also called up to speak a few words were long-time supporters of the campaign TD Maureen O’Sullivan and Frank Allen.
Frank unveilled the 1916 Commemoration Bond and invited everyone to buy one at €100 each. Frank announced that the aim is to make sufficient on sales at home and abroad, to buy the threatened 1916 Terrace.
Presentations of the first three bonds were made to long-time supporters of the campaign Brendan O Neill, Colette Palsgraaf and Pat Waters (who had written the song for the “16 Signatories” production).
Frank also thanked Diarmuid and Mel (also thanked by Marcus Howard) for their long presence in Moore Street (the Save Moore Street from Demolition Campaign, which also includes Bróna Uí Loing).
There were some questions and interventions from the floor before people repaired to buy a DVD and/or a bond and thence to the bar, to chat and no doubt plot further steps in the campaign. Among the contributors from the floor were TV presenter Duncan Stewart, Donna Cooney (PRO 1916 Relatives’ Committee and grand-niece of Elizabeth O’Farrell), Manus O’Riordan (includ. Friends of the International Brigades in Ireland), Diarmuid Breatnach (includ. Save Moore Street from Demolition campaign), Bernie Hughes (Finglas community campaigner against the Water Charge). A Dutch woman living here 15 years made the point that migrants should be included in the vision — a point echoed by at least another two from the floor, one of whom drew attention to the fact that James Connolly had been a migrant.
Indeed, this was so, both to the USA and to Ireland, as was the case with Jim Larkin too; Tom Clarke had been born in England also and a number of those who fought for the Republic in the Rising (especially the Kimmage group) had been born and brought up in British cities and a few had no Irish connections at all.
Two women drew attention to the exclusion of the Irish language from the video and presentation. This last was a particularly relevant point, given that one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation was a writer in Irish and in English, as well as an educator and that five of them had been members of the Gaelic League (as were others of the executed or who died in the fight). One asked what the strategic purpose of the bonds was and how this fit into the campaign.
Overall, any criticisms or doubts aside, everyone who spoke was positive about the video and wholeheartedly in favour of the retention of the historic buildings and laneways. It was notable that no-one, from panel, podium or the floor, expressed faith in the Government or in most politicians — quite the contrary.
Among the historians present were Lorcán Ó Coilleáin and Mícheál Ó Doibhlín. Also seen were Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD, Robert Ballagh (Reclaim the Spirit of 1916) and Barry Lyons (Save 16 Moore Street).
(Photos, mostly long-range dodgy mobile ones: D.Breatnach)
Copies of video DVDs €10 each NOT including post and package from email are available through firstname.lastname@example.org
Save Moore Street from Demolition: https://www.facebook.com/groups/757869557584223/?fref=ts and https://www.facebook.com/save.moore.st.from.demolition/?fref=ts
Save 16 Moore Street: https://www.facebook.com/groups/114656558567416/?fref=ts