CATALAN FLAG FLIES OVER DUBLIN CITY HALL

Clive Sulish

 

After the Spanish police attack on voters in a referendum on independence in Catalunya1 on October 1st, People Before Profit2 Councillor Tina McVeigh put forward a motion condemning the attack and calling for the Catalan Flag to be flown over Dublin City Hall as a mark of solidarity with the Catalan people and their right to determine their future.

Front view of Dublin City Hall showing the Ensaya flying next to the Irish Tricolour (Photo: Casal Catala Irlanda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was not such a wild step for the Council to take as it may seem: the Palestinian flag had been flown from City Hall in May, to the delight of most Dubliners but to the disgust of the Israeli Ambassador and to Zionist sympathiser and former Government Minister Alan Shatter. And Dublin city has been ‘twinned’ with Barcelona since 1998.

Nevertheless, in November the Protocol Committee agreed to recommend flying it by majority only, seven votes for and five against. It still had to be voted on by the whole Council and so went forward on to the agenda for the monthly meeting in December. Councillors began receiving emails from Spanish unionists asking them to vote against, which at first substantially outnumbered those in favour. As the first Monday in December drew nearer, the correspondence equalised between those in favour and those against. But the meeting ran over time before the motion was reached on the agenda and another date was set to discuss it. When the councillors reconvened, the motion was proposed, discussed and voted on. Unlike the decision on the Palestinian flag earlier this year, the vote was very close but the motion passed by three votes.

Section of the attendance at the event
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

In January this year the Catalan flag was hoisted – the regional ensaya and not either of the independence esteladas3 – on top of City Hall, where it will fly for a month. City Hall is itself a historic site, having been part of a battleground during the 1916 Rising.  On January 6th, Catalans and some supporters gathered outside City Hall to celebrate the show of solidarity in the flying of the Catalan flag.

Joan Pau of Casal Catala of Ireland4 welcomed the attendance and thanked the Councillors for flying the flag and introduced the Lord Mayor, Mícheál Mac Donncha, telling those present how he had approached the Catalans to help them. Mac Donncha (SF)5 thanked the Catalans for the invitation to attend and said that he was proud of the Council for the decision they had taken. He remarked also that in the past Ireland had political prisoners just like those now in Spanish jails for supporting the Catalan referendum and deplored elected officials of Catalunya being jailed for following the mandate of the people. He spoke also about Ireland’s fight for freedom and how in the 1916 Rising, Volunteers had taken over City Hall itself.

Another view of a section of the attendance Front view of Dublin City Hall showing the Ensaya flying next to the Irish Tricolour (Photo: Casal Catala Irlanda)

 

 

 

Joan Pau then expressed his regret that Cnclr. Tina McVeigh could not be present due to a family bereavement, since she had been very active in solidarity with the Catalan people. He introduced Cnclr. John Lyons (also PBP) who also expressed his pride on the result of the vote, as well as his condemnation of the Spanish Government, as distinct from the Spanish people, for their undemocratic and violent behaviour in the October 1st attacks and subsequently in the jailing of Catalan public representatives. He also condemned the Irish Government for not supporting the right of the Catalan people to self-determination.

Front view of Dublin City Hall showing the Ensaya flying next to the Irish Tricolour
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Although a Spanish unionist had contacted the Council to threaten a counter-demonstration, there was no sign of any such presence throughout the ceremony. A number of passing tourists took photos (some even having themselves photographed with the group) and a number of passing motorists tooted their horns in solidarity.

Section of the attendance with flags (including the “Sí” ones used campaigning for the referendum) & placards calling for the release of the political prisoners.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

After the formal part of the meeting was over, Dublin walking history tour guide Diarmuid Breatnach invited Catalans to gather around DCC’s plaque to the garrison of City Hall and surrounding buildings in 1916. The guide explained the origin of the Irish Citizen Army in the Dublin Lockout of 1913 as a workers’ defence militia against brutal attacks by the Dublin Metropolitan Police Force. It has been called “the first workers’ army” Breatnach told them and drew attention also to it being the only one of the various organisations taking part in the Rising that formally gave equal status to men and women. There were women officers in the ICA and after the killing of the commandant of this garrison Seán Connolly, it was a woman who took over as commandant. The fighting here had been fierce as Dublin Castle is just next door and that had been the HQ of the British Occupation of Ireland since 1169.

Plaque (located to the right side of the front of City Hall) listing the names of men and women of the Irish Citizen Army who fought at that location in 1916. Four ICA Volunteers died there.

After receiving answers to a few questions, many of those present retired to a local pub to warm up and to carry on conversation on a number of topics, in the best Irish – and Catalan – manner. Up above, the Catalan flag on the east side of City Hall’s roof waved in the breeze, with the Irish tricolour next to it, in the centre, waving too.

End.

FOOTNOTES:

1Catalunya is considered part of wider nation called Paisos Catalans (Catalan Countries) which includes Valencia, the Balearic Islands and parts of Aragon and Murcia; most of it lies within the current territory of the Spanish state, with a small part within the French state. Catalunya (capital Barcelona) is one of the regions within the Spanish state with limited autonomy and it is there that the referendum was held, the result mandating its Parlament to create and independent republic. The Spanish Government and Constitutional Court ruled the referendum illegal, confiscated ballot boxes, assaulted hundreds of voters, declared the referendum result non-valid, jailed a number of elected members and activists, threatened others with jail, ruled Catalunya directly Spain and called for new elections, which confirmed the situation more or less as before. The struggle is ongoing.

2People Before Profit was launched as a broad front by the Trotskyist organisation the Socialist Workers’ Party Ireland, formerly the Socialist Workers’ Movement, founded in 1971 and close to the SWP of Britain.

3There are two Catalan independence flags or estelladas: the Republican one with red stripes on a yellow background, with a small blue triangle to the left, containing a white star; the Socialist (or Communist) one, also with red stripes on a yellow background but with a red star to the left and no triangle. The regional ensaya, without any star, was proposed as the one least likely to cause division.

4Casal Catala are Catalan cultural associations that have been founded in a number of countries outside Catalunya.

5SF or Sinn Féin – the party is represented on Dublin City Council and tradition has it that the Lord Mayor is elected yearly in rotation from among the elected representatives; this Council year it was SF’s turn again.


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THE MOORE STREET HISTORIC QUARTER – REALITY AND WISHFUL THINKING.

Diarmuid Breatnach

It has been said by some people prominent in the broad Moore Street campaign that the Minister for Heritage has declared her support for the Report of her Consultative Group on Moore Street and its recommendations. A number of other campaigners have said this is not so and I am one of those (NB: there are a number of campaign groups in this struggle). 

For saying that, I have been criticised as “rocking the boat” and “spreading inaccuracies” or even “generating conspiracy theories” and also personally verbally attacked in public and on social media by name and by inference. The reputation for integrity of a political and social activist is very important to her or to him and so these allegations are of course hurtful. But there is much more at stake than my feelings or even my reputation or that of a few other activists – there is indeed the struggle for the Moore Street historical quarter itself. For a successful conclusion of this long struggle, the direction taken is crucially important.

(For those who may be unfamiliar with the background or have lost track of some of the major developments, a very brief background is given in an Appendix below).

THE MINISTER’S CONSULTATIVE GROUP AND ITS REPORT

In June 2016, the Minister set up her Consultative Group on Moore Street to which she invited a range of political party representatives (and one Independent) elected to the Dáil, a number of Dublin City councillors and representatives of two campaigning groups. The list excluded the first campaign group to raise the Moore Street conservation issue along with the most active campaign groups of recent years and also included no historians.

Though it did not publicly call for them, the Consultative Group accepted submissions in writing and a number of campaigns and individuals made presentations in person (the 35 submissions are available on the Department’s website under Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street – see link at end).

Two members of SMSFD campaign presenting petition sheets with around 70,000 signatures to some members of the Minister’s Consultative Group at City Hall in March 2017.

On the 29th of March, the report of the Consultative Group was launched.

Should the Minister accept the Recommendations of the Report in full, then there are a number of recommendations which we should celebrate (and indeed some of us proposed many of them in submissions to the Consultative Group itself) and for which we should seek implementation. But there are also some very harmful ones which we should repudiate.

However, if the Minister has not accepted the Recommendations, then nothing has been won by the Consultative Group, even on paper, despite the many submissions and delegations it has received and the meetings and discussions of its members. This would obviously be a distressing revelation to some of those who were part of that Group. And we can expect even less from the next one the Minister has set up, the Advisory Group.

But, let us return to the question: Did the Minister or did she not accept the Recommendations of the Report? Let us examine the available evidence.

THE MINISTER’S ACTUAL WORDS

On the 29th of March 2017, the following statement was issued by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs:

The Moore Street Report – Securing History’ is presented to Minister Humphreys by the Moore Street Consultative Group

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys TD, has today (Wednesday) received a copy of the report compiled by the Moore Consultative Group, which she established last year. The Minister announced the establishment of the group in June 2016, as a means to make positive progress in relation to the future of Moore Street.

I set up the Moore Street Consultative Group, which includes political representatives, relatives and other stakeholders, in a bid to bring together the range of views on Moore Street and seek a positive way forward. Since then, the Group, chaired by Gerry Kearney, has carried out a body of work which has resulted in the report they are publishing today.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the Group for their dedication and commitment in completing this work in such a short timeframe. The time and effort which went into this report is greatly appreciated.

I welcome the fact that the report is seeking a way forward based on consensus. I believe that the recommendations in the Report can help find a way to breathe new life into the Moore Street area, while at the same time retaining its sense of history and enhancing its traditional street market.

The Report signals the potential of a negotiated outcome, balancing the perspectives of the key stakeholders. I am fully supportive of this constructive approach and I want to see the work of the Group being built upon, so we can progress to the next stage.  I will therefore be recommending to Government the establishment of a new Advisory Group as recommended in the Report to advance that process.”

(end quotation)

A little over a month later, on the 2nd May 2017, Éamonn Ó Cuív (Fianna Fáil) asked a question of the Minister in the Dáil and followed with a supplementary one:

National Monuments

 43. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív   asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs   if she has considered the report of a group (details supplied) issued in March 2017; her plans to implement the recommendations in the report; the progress made to date in doing so; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20440/17]

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív:   As the Minister knows, the Moore Street report was published in March and a timeline was set out with the hope that a decision would be recommended in six weeks, as the matter has dragged on for years. Has the Minister brought this to the Cabinet and have we a decision? Will she set up the advisory group that has been recommended in the report so we can move to the next phase? I am afraid we will lose the good momentum built up in the past six months towards progressing the Moore Street project to a suitable resolution.

Deputy Heather Humphreys:   I agree with the Deputy that good momentum has been built up and I put on record my sincere appreciation to the members of the group referred to by the Deputy for the report they recently presented to me. The group, which was independently chaired by a former departmental Secretary General, included local and Oireachtas political representatives, 1916 relatives, street traders and other stakeholders. It was set up in a bid to bring together the full range of views on the matter and it held its inaugural meeting in September 2016. In the mean time, it has reviewed numerous presentations and submissions from a range of interests, looked at a variety of official and other reports, interviewed relevant public officials and other experts and examined a large body of work from within its own membership, as the Deputy knows. This extensive programme of work has culminated in the series of recommendations contained in the report that was presented to me in the last few weeks and that is now being examined in my Department.

I welcome the fact the report is seeking a way forward based on consensus. Its recommendations can help breathe new life into the area while retaining its sense of history and tradition. In addition to its particular association with the 1916 Rising, there are other relevant aspects of the street and surrounding area that also need to be taken into account, including the range of State, public and private property holdings and ownership and, of course, the presence of the street traders themselves, who do so much to give the area its unique ambience and place in the life of our capital city. The report has looked carefully at all these elements and I am delighted that it signals the potential for a mutually successful outcome to be agreed between the relevant parties, balancing the perspectives of all the key stakeholders. I am fully supportive of this collaborative approach and I want to see the work already done being continued so we can progress to the next stage and see tangible results on the ground. Critical to this will be the establishment of the new advisory group that the report itself identifies as the most effective way to move forward with its recommendations. I will be proceeding with the setting up of this group as quickly as possible to build on the positive and constructive foundations set out in this report.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív:   As happens so often, the Minister gave me much information that I already have, as I was part of all those discussions and on the forum referred to. As she pointed out, we had a very experienced chairman and in his work he was very diligent in advising us against things that could not be done. However, the report very clearly states that the establishment of the advisory oversight group should happen within six weeks. As the Minister knows, this was because a consensus was built through a huge amount of work. People believed they had put together a map to bring us forward. There are two questions that still have not been answered. When will the advisory group be set up or will it be set up? Has the Government considered this report and made any decision on the recommendations of the report? All of them must be implemented but some need very urgent attention, including, for example, those relating to street traders.

Deputy Heather Humphreys:   The appointment of a chairman for the new advisory group is the next step in the process and I hope to see that person appointed, with the group beginning its work, as soon as possible. I am very much aware the chairman of the previous consultative group worked in a particularly effective way with all the parties and his efforts were key to the achievement of the agreed outcome to the group’s deliberations as set out in the report. The next stage is equally crucial and the new chairman will have just as vital a role to play. I am looking at possible candidates and hope to make the appointment as soon as possible. The report envisaged this process taking six weeks and we are still well within that timeframe. The new advisory group will be drawn from among the existing membership of the outgoing Moore Street consultative group. I understand it had 27 members and it is envisaged that the new body, while being equally representative across the same spectrum of interests, will be somewhat smaller.


THE REALITY

People reading the text of the Minister’s statements and replies will search in vain for anywhere she says that she actually accepts the Report and its Recommendations. In fact, one can see that while in politician-speak she talks around it, she studiously avoids saying that, confining herself to praise for the Group and its Chair and to the spirit of consensus. And well she might praise the consensus, because despite the public positions of many of the Consultative Group prior to their being chosen by the Minister and which some may still hold, and despite the calls from a number of campaigners and other stakeholders in their submissions, the Group did not call on the Minister to abandon her appeal against the High Court judgement (i.e that the Moore Street historic quarter is “a National 1916 Historical Monument” — more on this below).

Also, the Minister and the Report both accept the speculators as “stakeholders” and the Report calls for the future to be decided in negotiations between those “stakeholders” and the two elements who have all along been facilitating them: Dublin City Council’s Planning Department and the Department of Heritage!

Those who have been repeating the erroneous line that “the Minister has accepted the Report” argue that a) she set up the Group and/or b) she has proceeded to the second stage, setting up the Advisory Group and therefore must accept its Report. Or b) even that an Irish Times news report carried a headline saying that she supported it and that the Minister did not deny the headline!

The best that can be said for that reasoning is that those are their interpretations but her statements quoted above do not support those interpretations. Nor do they refute them, it is true. But surely if the Minister did actually support the Recommendations, she would have unequivocally and specifically said so?

DANGEROUS RECOMMENDATIONS AMID WELCOME ONES

As noted earlier, the Recommendations contain some positive elements, including keeping the “footprint” of the main remaining Moore Street 1916 quarter intact, i.e the block enclosed by Henry Place, Moore Street, O’Rahilly Parade and Moore Lane, along with the lanes themselves and the street. They also include a number of recommendations for long-overdue improvements to the hard lot of the Moore Street street traders (but not the small business shops), both in terms of provision of facilities and in terms of their trading license restrictions.

But to leave the future of the historic quarter to negotiations between the three historic villains of the saga, the property speculators, the Planning Department and the Department of Heritage, as laid out in the Main Recommendations, 7, 8, 9 and 12 (pp. 6-7)) and in Chapter 10, Conclusions and Recommendations (pp.36-37) 10.3 and 10.4 is surely not what we should be doing.

A number of times in the Report the State is claimed to be “the ultimate custodian of our history, culture and heritage”. Whatever one might think of the desirability of such a state of affairs, such an evaluation of the role of the State is patently untrue as even a glance over the history of this state will demonstrate. It is untrue about historical and archaeological sites, the Irish language, Irish traditional music, Irish dance and Gaelic games.

The State has failed to defend a great many sites of historical, archaeological and architectural importance from property speculators and other financial interests, was about to demolish houses in Moore Street and one of its Government Ministers is currently appealing a judgement that the whole Quarter is a “National Historical Monument”. The main Irish-language promotional and defence organisations were set up as voluntary bodies though some now receive some low State funding and most of the activity is by unpaid activists.  Neither the Minister of the responsible department nor her Ministerial appointments to the Gaeltacht desk have been competent Irish speakers and some years ago the Ombudsman for the Irish Language resigned in protest at inaction and obstruction from within the state apparatus. The national Irish-language TV channel (TG4) and radio station (Radió na Gaeltachta) were won by people campaigning against the State, in which activists were fined and threatened with jail (one campaigner did go to jail to defend his right to motor insurance documentation in Irish). Likewise bodies promoting Irish traditional music and song were voluntary to begin with and although Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann now receives State funding, most enthusiasts and practitioners, whether within or without Comhaltas, are doing so either in a voluntary or private professional capacity. That is also true of Irish traditional dancing, both social and performance.  Gaelic Games are also largely a voluntary activity with minimal state support overall.

The “ultimate custodians of our history, culture and heritage” are the PEOPLE! And it is to the people that we should look to defend these aspects of our identity. It is they who must be represented in the decision-making and stewardship of this national historical monument, and all other bodies subservient to them. Setting up such a representative, inclusive and transparent management committee for the project will not be easy but is surely worth the effort, rather than handing it over to the main villains, whom campaigners have been fighting – on this site alone – for a decade-and-a-half!

THE MINISTER, THE LITIGANT AND COURT CASES

Without going into too much detail, an individual by the name of Colm Moore in 2015 initiated a High Court case against the Minister of Heritage on a number of issues, all to do with her plans and actions with regard to the Moore Street quarter. In January 2016, during an occupation by protesters of the site to prevent the Minister’s contractors from demolishing three houses in the terrace, Colm Moore obtained a temporary injunction against any demolition until judgement had been reached in his case.

The property speculator involved attached himself to the case as a respondent (i.e as a “defendant”). The Minister’s legal team and her Department’s officers defended all her actions, denied that the site was a battlefield (“all Dublin was a battlefield”) and denied the importance of any buildings except Nos.14-17 Moore Street (even of No.10, which was the site of the first transferred HQ of the GPO Garrison and of the 1916 Rising and of the emergency insurgent hospital dealing with nearly a score of wounded including a rescued British soldier).

On March 18th 2016, the High Court Judge found against the Minister and speculator on all grounds and ruled that the whole quarter is a 1916 battlefield and a historic national monument. The Minister said that she was considering appealing, asked for more time, then more time again and finally confirmed that she would indeed appeal the judgement, with the support of the full Cabinet. Contrary to interpretations of her reasoning and to a reply Enda Kenny gave on her behalf to Gerry Adams TD (Sinn Féin) last year, she has entered an appeal against all parts of the judgement, 250 pages – far from the “clarification on some points of law” reason for the appeal which some people have claimed (and which a speaker was still claiming at a public meeting as recently as 22nd of May this year).

Some people have said that the Consultative Group’s Report, while nowhere suggesting the Minister should drop her appeal of the historic judgement, instead suggests the litigant, Colm Moore, should drop his defence of the case. I am one of those people. We have been called liars, troublemakers, conspiracy theorists and accused of making inaccurate statements.

Again, let us examine the actual text (extract from 10.1 New Beginnings (p.34):

In the event of consensus being secured on an agreed way forward for the development through dialogue by the Advisory/Oversight Group with the developer, and agreed to by the Applicant and the State, the Group is strongly of the view that payment of legal costs, incurred by the Applicant’s legal team, by the State is warranted and appropriate. The Group has reached this conclusion after considerable reflection and having regard to the widely acknowledged public interest which informed the taking of the case and the savings which would accrue to the State by settlement through such a process. (end quotation)

I agree that the section does not actually say Mr. Moore should drop the appeal but I do think that it is a nuanced call for him to do so and offers an inducement to him and more particularly to his legal team. To me, the subtext to this reads something like this:

Listen lads, we know you put a lot of work into this and the legal team in particular have had to turn away some lucrative work while they concentrated on this case. And we know they haven’t yet received a penny for doing so. So, you settle the case on terms the State can agree with and we guarantee the legal team get paid and your litigant can walk away. Millions in the legal team’s bank accounts now or years in court with no guaranteed win – which is to be, lads?”

It is not only an inducement to settle but a possible seeking to cause a split between the litigant and his team. The litigant is taking the case presumably because of historical and possibly political (in the broad sense) motivation but one cannot expect that motivation of the legal team.

The latest news on the legal case is that Minister asked for time to consider skipping over the Appeal Court and taking it straight to the Supreme Court. Normally such an extension is for six weeks but the Minister has exceeded that and no limit was set – although clearly she will have to declare definitely at some point to which court she is taking her appeal. In the event of it being the Supreme Court, my information is that we could well see the end of 2019 before it reaches there. And meanwhile the buildings and laneways deteriorate and no substantial work of a construction nature can be undertaken to improve facilities for the market traders.

ROCKING THE BOAT

(Source image: Internet)

When a boat is being steered in a bad direction it is perfectly justifiable for those crew who become aware of this to rock the boat, to bring their concern home to the other members of the crew. Should this fail to yield a change of direction, it becomes time to inform the passengers. If danger appears, it is not a time for discreet nudges and whispers but for speaking clearly and loudly, that all may have an opportunity to bring the boat back on a safe and productive course.

 

End item

APPENDIX

VERY BRIEF BACKGROUND IN BULLET POINTS

  • Moore Street is the last remaining street of a centuries-old street market quarter (the rest is buried under the ILAC shopping centre).

  • On Friday of Easter week 1916, with the GPO in flames, the insurgent garrison evacuated, most of it through Henry Place eventually to Moore Street, some participants being killed along the way. On reaching Moore Street, they occupied a number of houses and in particular No.10, then tunneling through the walls throughout the night, to occupy the whole 16 houses of the terrace by Saturday.

  • On the Saturday, the decision was taken to surrender and instructions to that effect were sent out to the other garrisons. Among the 14 taken prisoner and later shot by firing squad in Dublin, six were from the Moore St/ GPO garrison, including five of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.

  • In 1966, the 50th anniversary of the Rising, the National Graves Association, a voluntary non-state-funded organisation, placed a plaque on No.16, the first formal mark of recognition of the events there.

  • Around 2001 a campaign was started to have a building in Moore Street as a national monument; this later expanded to cover the whole terrace Nos.10-25, back yards, and surrounding street and laneways.

  • In 2007 the State decreed Nos.14-17 to be of historical importance and in need of preservation; the Planning Department and Government between them approved the speculator’s plan for a huge shopping centre with the four buildings being a tiny museum inside the shopping mall campaigners; the 1916 Relatives campaign on Moore Street split, one James Connolly relative favouring the speculator’s plan and another against; the State offered the speculator €5 million for renovation work on the buildings.

  • In September 2014 the speculator proposed to hand over the four buildings to Dublin City Council in exchange for two the Council owns at the end of the terrace, which would have enabled him to demolish half the buildings in the terrace. The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group was formed specifically to defeat the land swap proposal (which had the support of the Chief and Deputy Chief Executives of Dublin City Council) and began a petition on Moore Street every Saturday. The proposal was defeated by majority vote of councillors in November 2014.

  • In July 2015 the State purchased Nos.14-17 from the speculator at a total price of €4 million. An individual, Colm Moore, took three cases against the Minister of Heritage with regard to Moore Street.

  • In January 2016 the State was about to demolish three buildings in the terrace. The SMSFD group convened two emergency demonstrations in the street. The site was occupied by protesters for five days and subsequently blockaded for five weeks by a new group that grew out of the occupation, the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign group.

  • On March 18th the High Court Judge ruled against the Minister and the speculator and ruled that the whole quarter, including streets and laneways, is a historic 1916 National Monument.

  • In July 2016, after much delay, the Minister put in an appeal against the High Court judgement – the appeal has still to be heard.

Links:

Minister’s Consultative Group Report: http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/app/uploads/2017/03/moore-st-report-final-version-1.pdf

Save Moore Street From Demolition FB pages: https://www.facebook.com/save.moore.st.from.demolition/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/757869557584223/

Save Moore Street 2016 FB page: https://www.facebook.com/SaveMooreStreet2016/

UNITY UNDER WRONG PRINCIPLES?

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

We’re on the one road


Sharing the one load


We’re on the road to God knows where
…..”

(song by Francis O’Donovan)

It is time for plain speaking. Preserving a united front is not always a good thing. This I know will seem like a kind of heresy, maybe the talk of an individualist, a wrecker of some kind. Whether unity is a good thing or not depends on the cost – what is gained by it and what is lost. So allow me to give some examples from Irish history to illustrate my point.

At the end of the 19th Century the Irish Parliamentary Party, also known as the Irish Party or the Home Rule Party, had by far the widest support of Irish people seeking some degree of independence from British rule. The Irish Parliament, a minority parliament to which only Anglicans were admitted, had been abolished by fraud and bribery in 1880 and in 1881 Ireland formally became part of the United Kingdom, with its elected representatives taking seats in Westminster, where the Irish population was under-represented proportionally by MPs who were outnumbered and sure to be outvoted.

CRITICAL VOICES

There were other voices, of course, which did not support that party. Connolly castigated it often, partly because it contained capitalists and slum landlords and partly because they postured around commemorations of Irish nationalists and even Republicans of the past, without fighting for Irish independence in the present. The tiny Irish Socialist Republican Party which Connolly jointly founded was hostile to the Irish Party, as was the somewhat larger Irish Labour Party, which he also led in founding.

The small Sinn Féin, a nationalist dual-monarchy party, did not support the Irish Party, nor did the remains of the IRB, nor Ininí (modern spelling) na hÉireann. But the Irish Party was unquestionably dominant on the Irish political scene, not only in the elections for seats in Westminster but in many local authorities too. In fact, their only united opposition of any weight in Ireland was from the Unionists. The Irish Party called on all who supported any measure of Irish independence to support their party but others argued that the Irish Party would never lead them to independence, that it did not support the vote for women, that it was full of corruption and cronyism, and so on. History proved the critics right.

DISASTROUS AGREEMENTS

John Redmond addressing a mass meeting c.early 1916.
(Image source: Internet)

When the Irish Volunteers was formed in 1913, at first the Irish Party (then under the leadership of John Redmond) took little interest and only a few of its supporters joined the organisation’s executive committee but many of its electoral support flocked to join the ranks. Redmond, taken aback by the numbers joining, demanded the doubling in numbers of the executive, with all the additional seats going to his nominees; the threat was that otherwise he would denounce the organisation. Since he already had some of his party on the committee, such a change would give him overall control of the organisation.

It would seem to us now that this was an undemocratic demand in addition made under a threat and should have been resisted. The IRB, who had members on the executive committee, agreed to resist Redmond’s move. This was a correct call for unity among the IRB and their allies in this instance but it was broken by leadin IRB member Bulmer Hobson and, with a number of others voting in favour. Redmond’s proposal gained a majority.

The consequences of this were proved disastrous when, during a Volunteer exercise in the first year of WWI, Redmond, without any consultation much less debate within the Executive, called publicly on the Irish Volunteers to join the British Army to fight in the War. A split followed in which the majority of the Volunteers took his lead and a smaller part kept the name of Irish Volunteers, while the others became the Irish National Volunteers and faded into the British Army.

Cartoon in the Irish Worker depicting Redmond as one of a shanghailing part delivering the Irish Volunteers to the British Army.
(Image source: Internet)

In this case, Redmond called for unity with his leadership and with the British in the War, stating that the latter would reward Ireland afterwards by enacting the Home Rule Bill which was on the statute book. The IRB, the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan and the Labour Party did not agree. There were elements of Sinn Féin, the Gaelic League, GAA and even the Ancient Order of Hibernians (normally a stronghold of support for Redmond) which did not agree either.

Redmond WW1 British Army Recruitment poster.
(Image source: Internet)

The Irish Volunteers prepared for insurrection under the initiative of the IRB but with the reluctant leadership of Mac Neill who, after the British prevented the landing of German guns, cancelled the Rising and countermanded the mobilisation order. The Rising went ahead a day later with a much reduced force.

The political effect of the Rising and the reaction against its brutal suppression by the British led to the electoral wiping out of the Irish Party two years later in the British General Election of 1918 and the domination instead of Sinn Féin, a party reformed into a Republican Party and containing many disparate elements and basing itself on the 1916 insurrectionists. The call for unity with the Irish Party had been proven wrong.

The War of Independence began the following year, which brought the British to negotiations, after three years of State repression and terror and rural and guerrilla resistance war. The terms agreed by the Irish delegates in London were opposed by the majority of the Irish fighters but agreed by a majority of the TDs in the Dáil (elected representatives in the Irish Parliament). The Pro-Treaty forces called for unity with them, arguing that a partitioned Ireland as a Dominion of the British Commonwealth was a step towards an independent and united nation.

The Anti-Treaty side (also often referred to as “the Republican side”) disagreed and went to war over it, which in less than two years, they lost, again after a campaign of State terror and repression but this time, by an Irish State.

Free State soldiers bombarding Republican stronghold in the Four Courts with British cannon, 1922. The Republicans refused unity with the Free State government of a divided country under British dominion.
(Image source: Internet)

Whether the Anti-Treaty decision to go to war at that point was correct or not, history has proven the Republicans correct in their prediction. The Free State was ruled by a conservative alliance of the Catholic Church and Irish capitalists, content to remain under British domination but with an Irish Parliament. The more nationalist Government of De Valera and his 1937 Bunreacht (Constitution) did not change matters much. Nearly one hundred years later, Ireland is still partitioned and still dominated by foreign capital, although British foreign capital has been joined by others.

History has proven that the call for unity with the Free State on the Treaty had been wrong.

MORE RECENT TIMES, AROUND MOORE STREET

Fast forward to 2007: The State declared four out of the sixteen houses in the main terrace to require preservation and some wanted campaigners to accept that and to work with the speculator on providing a shoebox museum in the planned shopping mall.

Some 1916 relatives accepted that and a split took place among the campaigners who were insisting that their goal was no less than the whole 16 houses, back yards, surrounding streets and laneways.

In 2015, after nine years of neglect by the property speculator who owned the buildings, the State bought the four houses and some encouraged us to accept that victory and to go no further. Until, that is, it emerged that the State intended to demolish three houses bracketing the four they had bought. The Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign called emergency rallies in Moore Street in January of 2016, during which the houses were occupied by protesters, preventing any demolition.

After five days of occupation, Colm Moore, an individual taking a case about Moore Street against the Minister of Heritage, went to the High Court and obtained an interim order forbidding any demolition until Moore’s case against the Minister had been heard and on that assurance the occupiers left. Subsequent evidence of use of heavy machinery and a refusal to allow campaigners or public representatives to inspect work resulted in protesters imposing a blockade of nearly six weeks on the site, preventing any building workers from entering the premises.

Some of the activist campaigners in Moore Street upon receiving the news from the High Court on March 18th.
(Photo: Alan Betson, Irish Times)

And on March 18th the High Court judgement was delivered – that the whole quarter, backyards and surrounding streets and laneways is a battlefield, a National Historical 1916 Monument . But then the Minister of Heritage appealed the judgement, seeking to overturn it.

The Minister set up her hand-picked Advisory Group on Moore Street and eventually a Report was produced, apparently agreed by all within the Advisory Group (whether wholeheartedly or with reservations).

DISSENT AS A PUBLIC DUTY

When dissenting voices are kept quiet or stifled, what happens? The dominant voice – the one that is not silenced — carries the day ; it becomes the ‘official’ voice of the struggle. The media chooses which people and what voices to promote and the authorities recognise which voices to deal with. Those voices then become the ‘official’ voices and the path they point to is seen as the “correct” one. Those who raise a different voice, if they are loud enough or positioned strongly enough to be heard, are labelled the “disruptors”, “dissidents”, “wreckers”. But what if the dissenting voices are correct?

The Report of the Minister’s Advisory Group (from which she excluded the most active campaigning groups of recent years, the Save Moore Street From Demolition and Save Moore Street 2016 campaigns), in response to submissions made to it (including by the two campaign groups mentioned) contained some very positive Recommendations (although the Minister has not specifically said whether she accepts them) — but it also contained some very dangerous ones.

The Moore Street struggle has been fought against three main enemies: Property Speculators, DCC Planning Department and the Ministry of Heritage. And who does the Report say should decide the future of the Moore Street quarter? Those very three! And this is despite the public position taken by many of those before they entered the Minister’s Consultative Group that the Minister should accept the High Court judgement.

As for the newly-founded Minister’s Advisory Group being some kind of check on them, it has no statutory powers, it is a smaller group than was even the Consultative Group, the most active campaigners of recent years are again excluded and it is chaired by the former Chair of the Water Forum set up by the Government.

The Minister did not accept the High Court judgement of March 18th 2016 which declared the whole Moore Street quarter to be a battlefield and a Historic 1916 National Monument and she is fighting it in the courts. The Recommendations did not call on the Minister to drop her legal fight against that judgement but in somewhat nuanced language, they did encourage the litigant who won that judgement to give up his legal defence of it, the ‘sweetener’ being that he and his legal team would get their costs paid.

Should the Minister win her appeal, the giant shopping mall plan will be back on the table – Jim Keoghan of DCC’s Planning Department, before he retired, extended the planning permission for that horrible plan for another five years.

At recent public meeting of a political party about the future of Moore Street, (the first-ever by the party in question), a prominent Moore Street campaigner who was part of the Minister’s Advisory Group made a strong call for public unity among the campaigners, with differences to be discussed in private. The chairperson and both other speakers, all members of the political party, supported that call. The same individual repeated that call at a much larger event in Liberty Hall. It seemed a good call – but it wasn’t.

(Image source: Internet)

Effective unity has to agree on basic steps – like that which was entered into for insurrection in 1916, between the Irish Citizen Army, Irish Volunteers, Na Fianna Éireann, Cumann na mBan, Hibernian Rifles. Effective unity did not exist between those organisations and Redmond’s Irish Party, although the latter would have said that “We all want the same thing.” Tom Kettle, the Irish Party’s most brilliant activist, condemned those who took part in the Rising for allegedly damaging Ireland’s chances of achieving legislative autonomy. He put his faith in British gratitude to the Irish fighting for the Empire (and was killed on the Continent doing so). Effective unity in the Moore Street struggle cannot be on a vague promise that our aims are the same: we need to unite on the minimum basic demand that the Minister drop her appeal.

We’re on the one road


It may be the wrong road


But we’re together now who cares?

I care. We should care. We don’t want to be on the wrong road, to lose this battle.

When agreement is harmful, dissent is a duty. And when silence helps to conceal what is happening, dissent needs to be public.

End.

 

Links:

The Report of the Minister or Heritage’s Advisory Group on Moore Street: http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/heritage/moore-street-consultative-group/report-to-minister-on-moore-street/ (written submissions received by the Advisory Group are also listed on this site).

Another article on historical issues in united fronts: https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2016/11/23/unity-is-it-a-good-thing/

JORDAN’S MICHAEL COLLINS FILM CRITICISED

Rebel Breeze introduction to critical videos:

This is an interesting criticism of the Michael Collins historical biopic 1996. Written and directed by Neil Jordan, the film begins with the end of the Irish 1916 Rising, has the longest part focused on the War of Independence (1919-1921) and ends not long after the start of the Civil War (1922-1923). The film starred Liam Neeson as Michael Collins and included others such as Aidan Quinn playing Harry Boland, Alan Rickman as Eamon De Valera, Stephen Rea as Ned Broy, Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan, Gerald Mc Sorley as Cathal Brugha and Brendan Gleeson as Liam Tobin.

The video from Foras Teamhrach presents its criticism using clips from the film while commenting and also comparative clips from other films, which is a useful way of presenting a challenging view. Unfortunately neither the name of the author of the commentary nor of the commentator (possibly the one and same) appeared on the Youtube link, only the company name and the comments function was disabled (perhaps understandably).

Most of the points are well made but there are some omissions which might usefully be added to the criticism.

The GPO surrender scene

The video criticism points out that showing only the GPO makes the Rising look much smaller than it actually was; despite the countermanding order which reduced the forces in Dublin by perhaps as much as two-thirds, the Rising was fought by four major garrisons on the southern and three on the northern side of the Liffey, with other smaller outposts and individual actions. However, the narrator says nothing regarding the historical inaccuracy of portraying the surrender as occurring at the GPO.

In fact, the GPO had been abandoned on the Friday and the Surrender took place on the Saturday, following a decision made in the 1916 Terrace in Moore Street and around 350 insurgents there were the first to surrender following the order. This matters not just from a point of historical accuracy but because there is a struggle (now approaching two decades) to save this area from property speculators and State and Dublin Council Planning Department collusion.

Portrayal of De Valera

One does not have to be a supporter of De Valera’s philosophy and actions to rapidly come to the conclusion that his portrayal in Jordan’s film is so inaccurate as to seem to be someone else. Every person who took up arms in 1916 to fight the British Empire showed courage and those who continued to actively oppose the British occupation during the intense years of the War of Independence showed even more courage in doing so.

Collins, of a much more ebulient character than De Valera, according to witnesses, was more inclined to exhibitions of temper and shouting than was De Valera, whose manner was generally in accordance with his studious appearance – contrary to his behaviour in the Treaty discussion scene of the film. As to another aspect, when we review the record of his actions in preparation for the Rising through to the War of Independence and on through the Civil War and the early years under the Free State, De Valera cannot reasonably be accused of lacking courage. The shivering wreck as which he is portrayed during the Civil War in Jordan’s film runs counter to the historical record.

There is testimony from one or two participants that at a period during his command of Boland’s Mill, De Valera had something of a breakdown. This, if it occurred, could have been as a result of fear or instead of lack of sleep, or of being overwhelmed by responsibility or a number of causes and if this alleged episode is what inspired Jordan’s depiction it was certainly unfair to use it to characterise De Valera at other times. There are many criticisms that can fairly be thrown at De Valera but lack of courage is not one of them.

Portrayal of Cathal Brugha

And likewise with the portrayal of Cathal Brugha. Some of Brugha’s military and political history may help in evaluating the portrayal of this man in Jordan’s film.

One of fourteen children empoverished by the death of their Protestant father, Brugha joined the Gaelic League in 1899 and quickly became fluent, soon changing his name from Charles Burgess to Cathal Brugha. He and Kathleen Kingston, also an Irish language enthusiast, married in 1912 and had six children. Brugha joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) and in 1913, the year they were formed, he became a lieutenant in the Irish Volunteers and led a group of Volunteers to land the arms smuggled into Howth by the Asgard in 1914.

In the Easter Rising of 1916 Brugha was second-in-command at the South Dublin Union under Commandant Éamonn Ceannt, scene of some of the fiercest fighting during the Rising. Overlooked in the evacuation on Thursday of Easter Week and, being badly wounded, he was unable to leave. Bleeding from 25 wounds (some of which had penetrated arteries) he continued to fire upon the enemy and when Eamonn Ceannt led a group to investigate who was still firing he discovered Brugha singing “God Save Ireland” surrounded by his own blood and with his pistol still in his hands.

Brugha was not expected to survive which may have saved him from the execution parties and he was discharged from hospital in August 1916 as “incurable”. However he recovered in 1917 though left suffering pain and with a permanent limp and preferred to cycle than walk.

Already in 1917 from his hospital bed, Brugha began to seek out Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army people who were willing to join the new armed resistance group and it seems that he, more than any other, should receive the main credit for the initial formation of that which became the IRA.

Brugha was so respected in the movement that he was elected speaker of Dáil Éireann at its first meeting on 21 January 1919 and it was he who read out the Declaration of Independence in Irish, which ratified ‘the establishment of the Irish Republic’. He was also appointed temporary President, a position in which he remained until de Valera tok his place.

Far from being a bloodthirsty zealot as he is portrayed in the film, Brugha reduced Collins’ ‘Bloody Sunday’ assassination list considerably since in his opinion, there was insufficient evidence against a number of people named on the list. Then again, at the outbreak of the Civil War, a reluctant Brugha only joined the fighting on the Republican (Anti-Treaty) side in order to relieve the pressure on the Four Courts garrison. Cathal Brugha led a detachment in occupying a number of buildings in O’Connell Street and later, having got his men safely away or surrendered, was shot and mortally wounded in debated circumstances by Free State troops (which were under the overall command of Collins).

Brugha had, according to some opinions, alienated a section of waverers at the Dáil debates on the Treaty, by a personal attack on Collins and the way his persona had been elevated (a common problem, the deification of leaders). This was no doubt a tactical mistake but there had been ongoing conflict between both men for some time. Although both had been members, Brugha had left the IRB after 1916 in the belief that their conflict with the Volunteer leadership had damaged the Rising. Collins’ rank in the organisation was supreme in Ireland and it seems that Collins used this at times to circumvent or undermine decisions of the Dáil, where Brugha outranked Collins and which the former believed to be the repository of democratic decision-making.

Collins as a guerrilla war leader

All Collins’ many talents and contributions to the War of Independence aside, his representation in the film as not only directing the whole armed struggle but also as teaching rural people how to wage a guerrilla war is a complete distortion of history that could only be undertaken by a propagandist for Collins.

It was Brugha who began to pull the scattered elements of the armed struggle together and laid the foundations for what became the IRA. It was Robinson, Breen, Tracey and Hogan who began the armed resistance of the War of Independence in Tipperary on 21 January 1919 in which two paramilitary policemen were killed. And they did so without permission from GHQ in Dublin.

As to rural guerrilla tactics, these were such as had been used for centuries or developed in the struggle and were certainly not taught by Dublin. What was taught by instructors sent by Dublin was weapon use and maintenance and personnel disposition for ambushes, moving in extended order through countryside and securing a line of retreat. One of the chief instructors in this kind of instruction was Ernie O’Malley and, in West Cork, the young Tom Barry used his British Army experience and other learning to do the same. The order to create Flying Columns might have come from Dublin but had been advocated already by fighters in Cork, Kerry and Tipperary and it was they and others who developed them in the field.

Collins’ special contribution was in organising intelligence, counter-intelligence and the assassination squad (which turned out to be a double-edged sword) and also, to an extent, supply of weapons. His contribution was notable but it did not lie in initial organising of guerrilla war, much less in rural guerrilla instruction.

The role of women in the struggle

Women are underrepresented in this narrative, as is usual in Irish history and Republican and nationalist narrative. Where women are shown, apart from the brief appearance of Markievicz at the non-existent GPO surrender (when instead she was at the College of Surgeons!), they are objects of romance (Kittie Kiernan) or auxilliaries working for Collins’ intelligence department.

There was a great opportunity lost there to show the women in action during the Rising in the many roles they undertook, including firing weapons, or in keeping the flame lit after the Rising and in particular in commemorating the Rising a year later, organising demonstrations, pickets, and funerals.

The Croke Park Bloody Sunday massacre scene

The film shows the ‘Tans or Auxies shooting down people with machine-gun on the GAA ground. As far as we have been able to establish it was the RIC who did it, although of course the other two were auxilliary forces of the RIC. Thankfully they did not fire with a machine-gun (the Army had one outside the grounds and an armoured car, it seems but did not open fire) or the carnage would have been a lot worse. When one examines the casualty list of those shot, just like more modern British massacres in Derry and Belfast, it is clear that the shooting was mostly disciplined, i.e hitting males of military age. Showing that kind of scenario would in the last analysis not only be more historically accurate but also more telling of the intent and cold-bloodedness.

And what of the three tortured and murdered in the Castle that day, Peadar Clancy, Dick McKee and Conor Clune? Yes, we know, one can’t show everything.

Go raibh maith agat to the individual who sent the video links to this blog.

LINKS:

The critique video, Parts 1 & 2:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zor3VvE9vD8

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KbGWEZehuFI

Another view, not quite so critical: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/film/michael-collins-review-nowhere-near-as-historically-inaccurate-as-we-once-supposed-1.2576150

PUBLIC DISORDER AND ASSAULTS AS PEOPLE PROTEST ROYAL VISIT AND COMMEMORATE PATRIOT DEAD

 

Clive Sulish

 

Scuffles broke out and people were pushed to the ground by Gardaí as an unidentified man, later assumed to be an undercover Special Branch officer, grabbed a megaphone from the hands of a person chairing the protest.  Yes, the public disorder and assaults were all the work of the Gardaí.

Garda blockade on Glasnevin Road, Dublin

An ad-hoc group called Socialist Republicans Against Royal Visits had organised the protest, also with the intention of marking 12th May, anniversary of the execution in 1916 by British firing squad of James Connolly, revolutionary socialist, as well as the death after 59 days on hunger strike of Francis Hughes in 1981.

Today Prince Charles of the British Royal Family, also Admiral of the Fleet, Field Marshal, Marshal of the Royal Air Force, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment (perpetrators of the Ballymurphy and Derry massacres), was due to visit Glasnevin Cemetery.

Participants in the event met this morning at Phibsboro Shopping Centre and marched along Phibsborough Road towards Glasnevin cemetery, carrying banners, flags and two floral sprays. Led by a banner carrying the legend which Connolly had erected over Liberty Hall during WW1, “We Serve Neither King nor Kaiser”, they passed over Cross Guns Bridge on the Royal Canal and on towards Glasnevin Cemetery, heading for the Hunger Strike Memorial there. However they found their way barred by a metal screen and blackout material, fronted by Riot police and other Gardaí with mounted police also being brought up.

Some participants and Police at Garda barrier

The marchers were not allowed to proceed and uninvolved members of the public were also prevented by police from proceeding along the pavement. After awhile, Dáithí Ó Riain, chairing the proceedings began to hand a megaphone to Diarmuid Breatnach who was about to speak when a man in plainclothes rushed forward and grabbed the megaphone. At no point did he identify himself nor give a reason for wishing to take the appliance except to say “Because I say so.”

Mounted Police visible at edge of barricade

Participants came forward to defend the speaker being assaulted and the police charged in, knocking people to the ground and twisting people’s hands and bending fingers back until they succeeded in forcibly removing the megaphone.

As participants demanded to have the megaphone returned and the police continued to refuse, Breatnach addressed onlookers to explain what had just happened and to say that “this is the kind of democracy that exists in this country …… when people want to peacefully protest and it doesn’t suit the State that they do so. When you hear of disturbances at a demonstration this is most likely how they started, with a police attack on people.”

Overhead, a helicopter kept circling the area for a period of hours.

Section of participants showing the man in plainclothes who later grabbed the megaphone (dark clothes 3pm position on right of photo)

A number of speakers addressed the participants and bystanders and congratulated them on not allowing themselves to be provoked by the police assault and a chant of “Shame!” was taken up against the police, in addition to the crowd singing two verses of “Take It Down From the Mast Irish Traitors” directed at the Gardaí.

Dáithí Ó Riain, chairperson of the event speaking after the police attack.

The floral sprays were laid at the corner of the wall of the cemetery since further progress was prevented by the Gardaí.

After some time, the protesters marched back to Phibsboro Shopping Centre where they held a short street meeting, to be addressed briefly by a number of speakers and to hear a reading of James Connolly’s last statement before his execution, after which they dispersed.

During the event, Sean Doyle and Ger Devereaux engaged with a radio program explaining the reasons for the protest and the commemoration, in addition to dealing with the statements of callers denouncing the participants.  The police attack occurred during the radio interview so listeners got to hear more of what went on than was expected.

 

A speaker on behalf of the organisers

Another view of the police and their barrier

Breatnach, who had the megaphone wrenched from his hand at Glasnevin after a struggle, addressing a short meeting afterwards in Phipsborough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS:

Sean Doyle and Ger Devereaux interviewed live on radio from demonstration:

 

MINISTER OF HERITAGE CONSIDERING TAKING CASE AGAINST THE MOORE STREET BATTLEGROUND JUDGEMENT TO THE SUPREME COURT

Diarmuid Breatnach

Lawyers for the Minister of Heritage (also of Arts and Gaeltacht) were supposed on Friday (28th April 2017) to lay out the legal terms nature of their Appeal Court action against the Moore Street National Monument judgement given on March 18th last year from the High Court. Instead, they came asking for another extension in order to consider taking her case to the Supreme Court.

Apparently over 13 months was not long enough to consider on what grounds and what court to which to take her case! All along the line the Minister has delayed and gone right up the deadline (and arguably beyond it at least once), then asking for yet more time. Meanwhile the buildings in the historic Moore Street quarter deteriorate further.

There are three main villains in this ongoing drama: the property speculators, Dublin Council’s Planning Department and the Irish State, the latter in the particular manifestations of the Department of Heritage and successive governments.

THE STATE

It might be obvious to some but others may need to have it pointed out that Heather Humphreys, the Minister in question, is not acting alone – she has the Fine Gael-Labour Coalition Cabinet supporting her. Nor is it a matter of those two political parties alone either – Fianna Fáil, another major political party, is on record as wanting the Minister to continue with her appeal; apparently the right of a High Court Judge to declare that prime speculation property is a national monument, with all the protection that implies, cannot be left unchallenged.

Senator Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin’s representative on the Minister’s Consultative Forum on Moore Street (on which all the members were chosen by her Department), supports the Forum’s Report, including the recommendations that the man who won the court case against the Minister drop his defence of that judgement and that the three major villains in the piece, the Heritage Department, Dublin Council’s Planning Department and the property speculators negotiate over the future of the 1916 Battleground site, with a smaller and even more exclusive Advisory Committee to oversee the negotiations (but without any statutory powers). Whatever the chosen individuals and parties have said prior to their entering the Minister’s Consultative Group, not one member has dissented from those recommendations.

For over 90 years the State did nothing to mark the importance of Moore Street as a 1916 Battleground or that the Surrender was decided here, that Volunteers and civilians fell to British bullets in that street and surrounding laneways, including The O’Rathaille who famously wrote a dying farewell letter to his wife in the lane now named after him. Nothing to mark that of the 16 executed, six had spent their last days of freedom in Moore Street. Or that of the seven Signatories of the Proclamation, five had been in that street until the surrender.

NGA plaque on No.16 Moore Street  (Photo source: D.Breatnach)

In 1966, the voluntary and non-state-funded National Graves Association put one of their small commemorative plaques on the front of No.16 Moore Street and it was the removal of this plaque by a property speculator in 2001that gave rise to the NGA starting the campaign to save Moore Street, into which over the years others outside the NGA came to play major roles.

 

THE PLANNING DEPARTMENT OF DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL

The Planning Department’s pet property speculator was Joe O’Reilly of Chartered Land and TG4’s program Iniúchadh Oidhreacht na Cásca in 2007 traced the process by which this speculator was given extraordinary special facilities even over other speculators. The Planning and Property Development Department’s chief officer is, since a change in the law some years ago, empowered to grant planning applications without reference to the Councillors, the elected representatives. He is also incidentally the Assistant Chief Officer of the Council’s management executive. Jim Keoghan (now retired from DCC) has used that executive power to approve most property speculators’ application for “development” in Moore Street and indeed it was Dublin City Council that oversaw the destruction of most of the centuries-old street market quarter and its replacement by the ILAC Shopping Centre, Dunne’s Stores and Debenhams.

Throughout all these “developments” in the Moore Street area the street traders have had meagre shelters and poor lighting provided by Dublin City Council but no heating, toilet facilities, changing rooms or convenient water supplies for cleaning or flowers maintenance; they are obliged to renew their licenses yearly, licenses which are bound by all kinds of petty restrictions.

Famous photograph taken presumably from GPO roof, showing how busy the market used to be just a few decades ago. Even then, conditions for the street sellers were hard with no alleviation by Dublin City Council.
(Photo source: Internet)

As the modern-day battle for Moore Street intensified, Dublin City Council installed not one but two full-time Market Inspectors on the street, which had previously functioned well with one Inspector visiting in the morning and evening. These market inspectors have no role in preventing antisocial behaviour or in monitoring the quality of the food on sale and their main activity seems to consist of telling stall-holders what they may not sell1, or that they are placing merchandise beyond the strict limits of their stall area (in a street which now holds at maximum fifteen stalls, where once before there were many times that number), or that they have continued trading some minutes beyond their official closing time. And they are not permitted to sell on Sundays while, of course, the supermarkets bracketing them, Lidl and Dunnes, face no such restrictions.

These rules have been there for years – it is the degree of enforcement that has changed. One could be forgiven for thinking that some high officials in Dublin City Council want to drive the traders out and, indeed, traders who are now in their third and fourth generations on the street see no-one in their families willing to take over the enterprise when they retire.

THE PROPERTY SPECULATORS

The small shopkeepers are not without their own problems in the street. Most of them are on annual contracts (or even shorter, such as three months), subject to having their business in the street closed at the wish of the property speculators. The ILAC extension currently underway at the south end of the building resulted in the eviction of around ten businesses, most of which received no alternative site. Even the presence of a narrow vegetable produce rack outside a shop can bring down a threat or an actual fine from the Market Inspectors, while ugly hoardings approved by Dublin City Council squeeze the street and restrict the flow of pedestrians.

The ILAC shopping centre was jointly owned by property speculators Chartered Land and Irish Life. As outlined by the TG4 program, Joe O’Reilly of Chartered Land, like many banks and speculators, over-extended himself and Government agency NAMA took over his debts, however paying him €250,000 a year to “manage” them. Subsequently, NAMA approved Chartered Land to sell its debt on to Hammerson, a huge British-based property speculator and vulture capitalist concern.

Exposé by The Daily Mail of €200,000 being paid by NAMA to Joe O’Reilly, of Chartered Land.
(Photo source: Internet)

Chartered Land had been granted planning permission for a giant “shopping mall” of nearly seven acres (2.3 hectares), extending from O’Connell Street westwards to Moore Street and from parts of Parnell Street southwards to Henry Street. The planning permission entailed the demolition of every building within those limits, excepting only No.s 14-17, which the State had by then accepted were of historical importance and had granted them preservation status. The laneways and streets were also to disappear. In the meantime the State did nothing to oblige Mr. O’Reilly to maintain the buildings which they had stated were of preservation status.

The giant shopping ‘mall’ intended acreage in dark blue and the existing ILAC spread in green (which has buried a number of streets and laneways of the old street market quarter).
Famous photograph taken presumably from GPO roof, showing how busy the market used to be just a few decades ago. Even then, conditions for the street sellers were hard with no alleviation by Dublin City Council.
(Photo source: Internet)

The State bought the four houses in question in the latter half of 2015 and planned to demolish houses on each side of the four until in January of 2016 a legal challenge by Mr. Colm Moore and an occupation of the buildings by activists for five days, followed by five-week blockade, brought about a respite. The speculators attached themselves to the case as having an interest to defend.

While the case dragged on, the Minister’s officers and legal team endeavoured to undermine the historical importance of the quarter, arguing that the Moore Street area was not a battleground (instead “the whole of Dublin was a battleground”) and that no other building there other than the four with preservation status was of historical importance. This included the rest of the terrace and even No.10, which had been the first HQ of the Rising after the evacuation of the GPO, and which had been run as a temporary hospital by Volunteer Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell, caring for nearly twenty wounded men (including a British soldier found in Moore Street).

“Sailor” Simon Betty, front man in Ireland for Hammerson, may find the waters choppier than expected.
(Photo source: Internet)

The Save Moore Street From Demolition group (whose campaign stall has been on the street every Saturday since September 2014) raised the alarm and called an emergency demonstration in January 2016, after which people occupied the buildings for five days until the High Court Judge ordered no demolition until Mr. Moore’s case had been heard. Subsequently, with heavy machinery heard at work on the site and the contractors and Minister refusing inspection to campaigners, the Lord Mayor, Councillors or TDs, campaigners blockaded the site and allowed no workers to enter; this was led by a new, broad group that had arisen from the occupation: Save Moore Street 2016.

Minister of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht, orchestrating the destruction of our 1916 heritage.
(Photo source: Internet)

On March 18th 2016, the 100th anniversary year of the Rising, the High Court Judge delivered his verdict in the case brought by Mr. Moore, declaring that the quarter bounded by Moore Lane, Henry Place, O’Rahilly Parade and Moore Street, including the backyards and those aforementioned lanes and street, is a national historical 1916 monument. The campaigners lifted their blockade.

The Minister took her time deciding whether to appeal the judgement and at the deadline, announced that she would, with the support of the Cabinet and other departments. Then she set up her Consultative Forum, from which she excluded the most active of the campaigners, including the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign which has just passed its 136th consecutive Saturday on the street collecting over 80,000 petition signatures and distributing leaflets. Also excluded have been the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign group, a broad alliance of people from different organisations and none that arose out of the occupation and blockade of the buildings in early 2016.

Meanwhile, Jim Keoghan of Dublin City Council, in one of his last major acts of office before retirement, in the summer of 2016 extended the planning permission for the giant ‘shopping mall’, despite the fact that it was due to run out in March 2016, despite the High Court judgement, in the face of opposition by the majority of elected City Councillors and despite the fact that it had been conclusively shown in court that the speculator had carried out no substantial work on the buildings as required by the planning permission conditions.

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

And so to where we are today. The Minister has her extension (unspecified length but one supposes up to six weeks) but may not decide to take her case to the Supreme Court and may use the delay instead for other purposes, including setting up her select Advisory Committee, as in the Recommendations of the Report of her Consultative Group. If the case goes to the Supreme Court, a date for hearing will need to be set. If the Minister should continue instead to Court of Appeal, the case date has been set for mid-December this year 2017, which also means it is bound to continue on into 2018.

Meanwhile most of the buildings steadily and visibly deteriorate, prey to speculator neglect and Irish weather. The four buildings now in Government hands have been subject to restoration work with some visible inappropriate results, the whole of the work carried out without independent archaeological and restoration expert assessment or oversight, the Government ‘expert’, Gráinne Shafrey, being the same person who argued for the Minister in the High Court that the other buildings in the street were of no historical importance.

For progress to take place at the moment, the first step is for the Minister to drop the appeal and that should be the minimum demand of all who genuinely care for the historic buildings, laneways and street market. When that has been done, we can move on to consultation on the most appropriate way to save and restore the buildings, rejuvenate and expand the street market. And to how that process shall be democratically and transparently controlled.

No foreseeable change of Government seems likely to bring any relief to this situation, given the stand taken in the Minister’s Consultative Forum by the representatives of the four main political parties. Other than the continuing legal action, the real hope resides where it has done from the start – with the wishes of the majority of people and the energy, commitment and at times daring of the active campaigners outside the corridors of power or, one might say, instead on the streets of power.

End.

Historical background notes:

On 28th April 1916, with the GPO and many other buildings in O’Connell Street in flames, the garrison of the GPO and HQ staff of the Rising for an independent Irish Republic evacuated their building and sought to break out of the British Army’s tightening encirclement. They made their way along Henry Place, encountering heavy British fire at the junctions of Moore Lane and Moore Street from British barricades at the Parnell Street ends and from the Rotunda tower, suffering a number of casualties as a result. In Moore Street the major part of the evacuation tunneled from house to house along the No.s10-25 terrace and a number of other houses too. Another section mounted an unsuccessful charge on the British barricade at the end of the street.

On Saturday 29th April, after a number of civilians were shot down in the street by British gunfire, the decision was taken by the insurgents’ leadership to surrender and Volunteer Nurse O’Farrell went out under a white flag of truce to seek terms from the British. None being available, Patrick Pearse and James Connolly surrendered their forces unconditionally and over the next few days the forces in other strongholds in the city and in Wexford surrendered (or evacuated their fighting posts and went into hiding). Nearly 100 death sentences were handed out by British military courts of which fifteen were confirmed and carried out (and a further one in London by civilian court); the executed included six who had spend their last days of freedom in Moore Street houses, including five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation: Thomas Clarke, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett, Seán Mac Diarmada. Most other prisoners were sentenced to prison or concentration camps in Britain and many others were arrested and interned without trial.

Moore Street was at the time part of a whole centuries-old street market quarter of which most of the rest lies buried under the ILAC Shopping Centre, constructed in the later 1970s. For sixteen years a struggle has been going on for the preservation and restoration of this historical quarter.

Note about the author:

Diarmuid Breatnach is an independent political and social activist who has been campaigning for Moore Street for years, including in September 2014 being a co-founder and active member of the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign group and is a member too of the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign. He has written a number of articles, given talks and presentations on the Moore Street issue (including to the Minister’s Consultative Group). Breatnach also writes on history in general (among other subjects), conducts history walking tours and has publicly called on Dublin City Council to give Moore Street its correct Irish version of the street name, i.e Sráid an Mhúraigh rather than the “Sráid Uí Mhórdha” which Dublin City Council has named it.

LINKS:

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/moore-street-complex-planning-approval-set-to-be-extended-1.2674868

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063815/3bn-debtor-living-life-OReilly-Developer-sprawling-Dublin-mansion.html#ixzz4g40aIKIW

SMSFD https://m.facebook.com/save.moore.st.from.demolition/

SMS2016 https://m.facebook.com/SaveMooreStreet2016/

All submissions to Minister’s Consultative Group on Moor Street: http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/heritage/moore-street-consultative-group/submissions/

1In 2016, the centenary of the 1916 Rising, they were forbidden from selling Easter Lillies and Easter Rising commemorative products from their stalls, unless they purchased a special license to do so.

REPUBLIC DAY CELEBRATION HELD IN DUBLIN FOR EIGHTH CONSECUTIVE YEAR

 

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

On Monday 25th April people gathered in front of the General Post Office building in Dublin city centre. The occasion was the commemoration and celebration of the reading of the Proclamation of Independence by Patrick Pearse outside that same building, shortly after the 1916 Rising had begun under his overall command. Standing nearby during the reading had been James Connolly, Commandant of the GPO Garrison and also commanding officer of the Irish Citizen Army. Both were executed by the British weeks later for their part in the Rising, along with another thirteen (twelve in Dublin, one in Cork) and months later Roger Casement was tried in civilian court in London and hung.

 

Tom Stokes, who has been a chief organiser of this event since 2010, opened the proceedings, addressing the crowd and the flag colour party. He reminded his audience that in 1917 it had been Republican women who had organised the 1916 commemoration, printing many copies of the Proclamation and pasting them around the city, also defying British military law to gather outside the GPO to mark the events.

Tom Stokes speaking at the event outside the GPO (photo: D.Breatnach)

Among the reasons for this given by Stokes was that many Republican men had but recently been released from British prisons and concentration camps but also that the women had a special stake in the Republic for which the Rising had taken place – they in particular stood to gain from its achievement the status of citizens and many other changes in their status as a result.

So it was appropriate, Stokes said, to have women take prominent roles in the event, starting with Evelyn Campbell, who accompanied herself on guitar while singing her compositions Fenian Women Blues and Patriotic Games.

Evelyn Campbell performing (photo: D.Breatnach)

Following that, Tom Stokes gave the main oration, outlining his vision of a Republic and castigating the Irish state for what it had produced instead, in particular attacking its treatment of women and declaring that abortion was a private matter in which the State had no right to interfere.

This was followed by Fiona Nichols, in period costume, reading the Proclamation and after that came Dave Swift in Irish Volunteer costume, reading a message given by a wounded James Connolly  (he had been injured Thursday of Easter Week by a ricochet in Williams Lane while on a reconnaissance mission).

Fiona Nichols reading the 1916 Proclamation.
(photo: D.Breatnach)

Cormac Bowell, in period Volunteer costume played an air on the bagpipes, Fergus Russel sang The Foggy Dew, Bob Byrne sounded The Last Post on the bugle and Evelyn Campbell came forward again, this time to accompany herself on guitar singing Amhrán na bhFiann.

Cormac Bowell playing at the event.
(photo: D.Breatnach

Tom Stokes thanked the performers and everyone else for their attendance and said he hoped to see them all again on the 24th April 2018, which will be a Tuesday. He said it was his wish that this day be an annual National Holiday and they had started the annual celebration because no-one else was doing it.

Some of those present marched to Moore Street with a Moore Street campaign banner, taking the GPO Garrison’s evacuation route on Friday of Easter Week through Henry Place, past the junction with Moore Lane and on to Moore Street, where Dave Swift, still in Irish Volunteer uniform, competing with the noise of construction machinery coming from the ILAC’s extension work, read the Proclamation before all dispersed, leaving the street to street traders, customers, passers-by and builders.

 

A chríoch.

 

 

Bugler Bob Byrne sounding The Last Post.
(photo: D.Breatnach)

(photo: D.Breatnach)

(photo: D.Breatnach)

(photo: D.Breatnach)

(photo: D.Breatnach)

Dave Swift reading Connolly’s statement after he had been wounded. (Photo: D. Breatnach)