‘JUST FOUR HOUSES’ — A SCENE FROM THE EASTER 1916 RISING

Diarmuid Breatnach

Introduction (for those who might need it):

In the last days of the 1916 Easter Rising, with the GPO in flames, the garrison had to evacuate and did so through Henry Place.  When they came to Moore Street, it was being raked by machine-gun fire from a British Army barricade at the junction with Parnell Street.  Consequently, the garrison entered the first house in the terrace to the their right, No.10 and tunneled from house to house until they reached the end of the terrace, No.25.

A struggle is taking place currently to have the whole terrace saved and declared a national monument, a battlefield site in the context of the Historic Quarter.  In 2007, the State made only four houses a national monument, No.s 14 to 17 and at the very end of 2015, bought the four run-down houses from their speculator owner at a million Euro each.  The Government plans to make them into a commemorative centre, in the course of which they wish to demolish buildings 13, 18 and 19.  Speculators have planning permission for a giant shopping mall from O’Connell Street to Moore Street and from Parnell Street to Henry street, which envisages the demolition of the entire terrace except for No.s 14-17.

In reply to campaigners, Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, has stated that some of the buildings are of post-1916 construction and therefore are of no historic value.  In opinion pieces in the Irish Times, one week after the other, Frank McDonald and Diarmaid Ferriter wrote articles supporting the Government.

JUST FOUR HOUSES — a sketch for three actors

AT HENRY LANE/ MOORE STREET INTERSECTION

(Sounds of shells crashing, flames roaring, combustibles exploding, rifle fire, the chatter of machine-guns)

Irish Volunteer A: “Bloody hell, it was hot in the GPO!”

Irish Citizen Army Volunteer: “Hot as Hell. We were lucky to get out alive, with ammunition about to blow.”

Volunteer A: “We can’t stay here in this laneway in the open, though.”

ICA Volunteer: “No, let’s get under cover quick! Into that terrace there … Moore Street this is, right? Sixteen houses ….

Volunteer B: “No, we have to occupy just four houses in this street.”

Vol. A: “Only four? But there’s nearly 300 of us here!”

Vol. B: “I know. But orders …”

Vol. A: “Damnation! OK, best bash that door down, No. 10.”

Vol. B: “No, not that one.”

Vol. A: “Why not?”

Vol. B: “Only Numbers 14 to 17.”

ICA Vol: “But they’re in the middle of the terrace. We’d get shot to pieces by the British machine gun up at Parnell Street – and we have to carry Connolly’s stretcher so he’d get shot too!”

Vol. B: “Yeah, they’ve already shot up The O’Rahilly’s lads.”

Vol A: “Whose orders are these? Who says we should all pile in just four houses in the middle of the terrace?”

Vol. B: “Somebody called Humphreys …. and a Mac Donald …. and a man called Ferriter. Something about only those four houses being of historic significance.”

ICA man: “What? Bloody rubbish – look, go and ask Connolly what he thinks. He’s the Commandant of this garrison, not that lot, whoever they are.”

(A few minutes later)

Irish Volunteer B: “Well, what did Connolly say?”

Vol A: “His exact words? ‘Don’t be stupid lad – break down the door of No. 10 there and tunnel along the terrace, from house to house, aye, all the way to the end – No. 25, isn’t it?’ ”

ICA man: “That’s more like it – I knew we’d get some sense out of Jim – I mean, the Commandant.”

Vol A: “Thanks be to Jayzus for someone with sense in charge. Who the hell are that other lot and where did they come from, that Humphreys, MacDonald and Ferriter?”

Vol B: “I dunno. Give’s a hand with this door before we get shot out here, gabbing …”

(Sound of nearby hammering, wood splintering …)

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