Dear Minister Humphreys

Diarmuid Breatnach

Dear Minister Humphreys,

I write to express my admiration for your work and my sympathies with regard to the criticisms with which you are currently being bombarded. I hope you will forgive my ignorance of much of the work you have been doing in the area of Heritage, which is not really where my strengths lie. But I love the way you talk, the way you shoot down those critics, especially those TDs who ask those nasty questions. And I’m sure you had something to do with removing Westport House from the NAMA sell-off, even if it is in Enda’s constituency. Such a fine example of our colonial architectural heritage!

Heather Humhpreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

Heather Humhpreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

But as we know, Minister, that wouldn’t be the kind of thing that would be appreciated by your critics. They’d rather you devoted your talents to a shabby row of Dublin houses of dubious architectural importance in a grubby street market. A street which they say is “pre-Famine” — as if that were something to boast about! Laid down earlier than Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street) they say …. Sure why would we want to keep a street that old …. or remember that embarrassing episode in our history either, when we lost a third of our population to over-reliance on one crop! We learned from that, though, didn’t we? Sure we grow hardly any crops at all now and get them all in from abroad. And we live in cities now — who wants to be getting up at 6 a.m. in all kinds of weather and plodding through muck? If people like growing things that much, get a house with a garden, I say. And a gardener to do the donkey work.

Supporters at the symbolic Arms Around Moore Street event organised by the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign in June this year.

Supporters at the symbolic Arms Around Moore Street event organised by the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign in June this year. This is the corner of Moore Lane and Henry Place, across which Volunteers had to run under machine-gun and rifle fire from Parnell Street (at the end of Moore Lane, to the right of the photo) and at least one Volunteer died here.

But I’m digressing, Minister, my apologies. Apparently the reason they want to save that shabby terrace, that “pre-Famine street” — and the backyards and surrounding lane-ways, if you please! — is for HISTORICAL reasons. Historical! Sure have we not had enough of history – Brehon Laws, Golden Age, Clontarf, Normans, 800 years of British occupation, blah, blah, blah! Weren’t we sick of it at school?

I’ve never liked Labour too much (somehow even the word sounds sweaty) but I have to admire their Education Ministry’s efforts to remove history as a subject from the compulsory school curriculum. I’m sure they’re doing it for their own reasons – after all, wasn’t their party founded by that communist James Connolly? Sorry, revealing my own knowledge of history there, ha, ha! But whatever their reasons, they are on the right track. Who wants to know where we are coming from? It’s where we ARE and where we are GOING TO, that matters!

But some people just can’t let it go, can they? They trail history around like something unpleasant stuck to a shoe. So what if 300 of the GPO garrison occupied that terrace in 1916? The Rising, if you ask me, was a big mistake and I know plenty of people agree with me, even if most don’t have the courage to say so. Wouldn’t we be much better off if we’d stayed in the UK? And kept the Sterling currency? And as for the War of Independence …. don’t get me started!

Aerial View Moore St. 60s

Aerial view Moore Street, looking northwards, 1960s, before the building of the ILAC and the running down of the street market.

And then there’s all that communist-sounding stuff about treating “all the children of the nation equally” — what kind of rubbish is that? Some are born to big houses with swimming pools and some are born to flats, or even rooms. That’s just the way of life. And some will claw their way up to get to own big houses and if they are a bit uncouth, well that can’t be helped, they still deserve where they get to. And their children at least will be taught how to fit into their new station. That’s democracy! But everyone equal? Please!

Sorry, back to the Moore Street controversy. OK, after the mob pressured the Government, four houses in the street were made a national monument. But was that enough for the mob? Oh, no, not at all — eight years later the State had to buy the four houses to satisfy them. Thankfully the specul ….. sorry, the developer, got back a good return on his investment – four million, wasn’t it? That’s the kind of thing that makes one proud to be Irish – buying run-down buildings and letting them run down more, then selling them for a million each. That’s your entrepreneur! If only we had more like that, to lift this country up!

I must say I really liked that developer’s plan to build a big shopping centre from O’Connell Street into the ILAC, knocking those old houses in Moore Street down (although I know he had to leave those “national monument” four houses still standing in the plans). I do hope whoever has bought the debt off NAMA and now owns those houses will carry on with that plan. Actually, I’d like the whole of O’Connell Street under glass if it were possible. Wouldn’t it be great to do your shopping from the north end of the street to the south and from left to right, without ever having to come out into the weather? Of course, not much shopping there now, with Clery’s closed …. still ….

And then they’re going on about the market ….. traditional street market …. blah, blah. What’s wrong with getting your veg and fruit from the supermarket? Or getting them to deliver it your house, come to that? “Traditional street market” my ar….. excuse me, I got carried away there. Those street markets are all very well for your Continentals, your Africans, Asians, Latin Americans and so on. Or for us to go wandering around in when we’re abroad on holiday, maybe.  But back home?  It’s the nice clean supermarkets for me any day.

Well now, if the mob insists on saving the street market, here’s an idea: why not provide a showcase stall or barrow, stacked with clean vegetables and polished fruit, right in the middle of the new shopping centre. After all, that’s heritage, isn’t it? And aren’t yourself the Minister for Heritage?

Most sincerely,

Phillis Tine-Fumblytil

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