RECOMMENDATIONS TO DIVIDE AND CONFUSE — the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street

Diarmuid Breatnach

A TESTING TIME

The Report contains some very welcome elements which campaigners will appreciate, as well as being proud in bringing them about. But those elements are combined with some very dangerous ones, specifically in some of the recommendations at the end of the Report — and recommendations are the strongest part of any report. That combination of welcome and dangerous elements may or may not be specifically designed to split the forces campaigning for the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Historic Quarter but it will almost certainly have that effect. This, taken together with the offending recommendations means that the Report in total is a dangerous and divisive document containing a number of significant recommendations which it seems to me we are duty bound to oppose.

Source: Internet

The positive elements in the Report are bound to engender a touch of euphoria about the Report among many close and distant supporters of the broad campaign to save the Moore Street historical quarter.  Those who do not read on to the Recommendations or who do not think them through.

Consequently there is bound to be an element of criticism of those who do not support it as a whole – epithets such as “begrudgers” or “Utopians” are bound to come to minds and even be hurled.

The temptation is to “win something” after many years of campaigning. Another temptation is to see the positive and imagine it contains more than it actually does, while ignoring the looming negatives. Junctures like this test campaigners, sometimes even more than decisions about whether to risk fines and jail by breaking the law when that seems the only viable action left to halt an injustice or to remedy one. There have been many difficult junctures like this in Irish history.

Indeed a number of occasions of this sort have occurred before in this very campaign.

A HISTORY OF APPARENT CONCESSIONS TO SPLIT OR DISCREDIT CAMPAIGNERS WHILE FACILITATING SPECULATORS

1) When there were murmurs in Government circles that No.16 might be saved some people were very happy and, indeed, one campaign FB page had been named “Save 16 Moore Street”. Others objected and stated that this was insufficient historical recognition of what had gone on there.

2) Again, when the State accorded protective and preservation status to Nos.14-17 in 2007, there was a similar reaction of euphoria and congratulation from many people. This was resisted by some campaigners who pointed out that almost at the same time, the giant shopping mall plan had been agreed by the local authority (and later by the State), which would see the rest of the block and the laneways demolished and that the historic buildings were being allowed to deteriorate. The ‘nay-sayers’ were proved correct on this occasion.

3) It is worth recalling that around this time, the property speculator involved (at that time only Joe O’Reilly of Chartered Land), proposed to turn the four houses into a museum upstairs with a cafe and toilets downstairs and to incorporate the whole into the giant shopping mall. He had the shoebox museum plan promoted in a flashy video and he succeeded in splitting the campaigning 1916 relatives group, bringing four of them (including one of James Connolly grandsons) out in favour of his proposal (a fact that the State and the media have regularly used to counter the objectives of the broader campaign).

Speculators’ original plan for Shopping Centre from O’Connell Street to Moore St. — note the four houses to be “saved” in the centre left. (Image source: Internet)

Artist’s Impression of Shopping Centre planned by Chartered Land, much of it agreed by DCC Planning Department (Image source: Internet)

4) In the summer of 2014, the speculator O’Reilly of Chartered Land, by this time being paid by NAMA to manage his debts, proposed to Dublin City Council to swap them two of the four protected houses for their two at the north end of the terrace, which was where the Council had their cleaning depot. The head of the Planning Department (also Deputy Chief Executive of the Council) Jim Keoghan and the Chief Executive Jim Keegan, unsurprisingly in view of their record, recommended the deal.

The early days of the weekly SMSFD stall in Moore St. — 4th October 2014 (Photo: D.Breatnach)

SMSFD lobbying City Hall to prevent ‘land swap’ deal going ahead, stretching some petition sheets already signed in previous two months. Nov.2014 (Photo source: supporter)

At this time, even some supporters of the broad campaign stated that campaigners should take the deal because it put four houses of preservation status into public ownership. Thankfully they were outvoted, since with those end-of-terrace buildings in his possession, the speculator would have been free to begin to demolish houses all the way at least up to No.18 – at total of seven houses and approximately half the terrace.

But a new campaign was launched specifically to defeat this deal, bringing a sustained weekly presence on Moore Street into being, along with a petition of thousands of signatures. As opposition to the deal gathered force, the speculator offered first a third house in the deal and finally a fourth. However with the assistance of lobbying of elected Councillors, the ‘land swap’ proposal was defeated in a vote by a large majority, much to the publicly-expressed disgust of Heather Humphreys, Minister with State responsibility for Heritage.

5) Towards the end of 2015, the State purchased the four dilapidated buildings from the speculator, reportedly paying him four million euro and promoted the deal as a great historic one, announcing that they would have a 1916 museum on the site.

Again, there was euphoria, with campaigners being congratulated on their victory. However, at this time a substantial number of campaigners from different concerned groups pointed out that this did nothing to save the rest of the block, yards and laneways, that the street market was being steadily degraded and that the plan for the museum seemed to be exactly the same as that proposed by the speculator.

It was actually worse than was thought by many of those campaigners, for in January it emerged that the State planned the demolition of three buildings in the 1916 terrace under the guise of making the “museum buildings” safe. The SMSFD campaign group raised the alarm and brought two demonstrations on to the street, after one of which many people occupied the buildings until a High Court Judge ruled that there be no demolition until a case taken against the State (to which the property speculators joined themselves) be decided, a decision that was enforced by a five-week activist blockade of the site.

Later photo of SMSFD campaigners and table (Photo: D.Breatnach)

6) Once again, there had been concerned people who argued that campaigners should accept the deal, “work with the museum”, that now the houses were in public ownership but many of those were silenced when the State plans were revealed. However, the occupiers were targeted by a number of media, a couple of prominent historians and columnists attacked them, Heather Humphreys labelled them hooligans and wreckers. The activists were accused of preventing the State from opening the museum in time for the Easter Rising commemorations that year (despite the many months of work needed for a commemoration only months away). They were accused of denying 1916 relatives an appropriate monument.

But it was clear on whose side the majority of the public was and it wasn’t with the State or the speculator. This was underlined not only by tens of thousands of petition signatures but by the reaction of many to activists loudly denouncing Minister Humphreys when, as part of the State’s 1916 commemorations, she came to lay a wreath outside a boarded-up No.16 Moore Street. The public’s reaction for the most part varied from “what did she expect?” to “serves her right!” and, perhaps sensing this, even the media’s response was muted and restricted to factual reporting.

On March 18th High Court Judge Barrett delivered his judgement that not only the whole terrace was a “national 1916 historical monument” but the whole block, and the street and three laneways surrounding it. Again there were wild celebrations, shared in by all campaigners but some urged caution as the Minister could appeal the judgement. They were right – she did, the case to open at the end of the year (unless she takes it to the Supreme Court, which she declared she was considering.

Campaigners, including occupiers and blockaders of the buildings, celebrate the Battlefield judgement on March 18th 2016. (Photo: J.Betson, Irish Times)

7) When the Minister set up the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street, despite the fact that she put into it the 1916 relatives supporting the speculators’ plan, despite the fact that she excluded the most active groups of campaigners in recent years, despite the fact that the main political parties were to be represented, concerned people and excluded campaigners were told to have faith in it and even told that it was “the only game in town”.

Having reviewed the history of proposed deals of the past, it is now time to examine the one being offered now.

THE RECOMMENDATIONS

Conclusion 1, commenting on the struggle to save the Moore Street quarter, states that “the background …. has been one of dispute, mistrust and litigation. It has been characterised by deeply held and divergent views, frustration and ultimately stalemate. This has seen Moore St and environs further decline and a failure to progress the National Monument or the wider development of the area.”

While this has elements of truth it also has large elements of obfuscation, of muddying the waters, appearing to apportion blame equally or to imply that no-one is to blame or even perhaps blaming the campaigners for the decline of the buildings. This is quite important because in what follows some of the major villains in this drama are not only being ‘cleaned up’ but it is proposed to give them continuing roles of control in decision-making on the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street quarter.

Let us recall once again that the Planning Department of Dublin City Council, backed up by the State, supported the planning applications of property speculators which would have entailed the destruction of the historic quarter and the running down of the street market. The Dept of Heritage took no action until 2007 when it gave protected status to four buildings and took no steps to ensure the speculator maintained the buildings.

Towards the end of 2015 the Department of Heritage planned the demolition of a number of buildings in the historical quarter, a disaster averted by citizens occupying buildings there for five days in January 2016. Subsequently a nearly six-weeks’ blockade was imposed by citizens to prevent damage and demolition, because the Minister prevented and forbade the entry of any independent conservation experts or public representatives, including the Lord Mayor and a number of TDs.

The actions of the campaigners were to preserve historic heritage and to seek transparency. The actions of DCC’s Planning Department and of the State were to facilitate the property speculators, to defeat the aims of the campaigners and to conceal what they intended doing and were in fact doing in a number of buildings.

These differences between the opposing forces are important to recognise not only in setting the record straight but in deciding which bodies should and should not be given responsibilities with regard to the Moore Street Quarter.

Conclusion 2 goes on to claim for the Consultative Group set up by the Minister, the centre stage for a resolution of the conflict, as though it were some impartial mediating body. Excluded from Consultative Group were the National Graves Association, the first campaign group to raise the issue of the historical conservation in Moore Street, along with the most active campaigning groups of recent years (the Save Moore Street From Demolition and the Save Moore Street 2016 groups), also excluding a number of individual campaigners and concerned historians and conservation experts. It is true that a number of those groups and individuals were permitted to make submissions to the Consultative Group but they were not permitted any say in its final recommendations.

The plaque placed on a house in Moore Street by the National Graves Association (no State or Council plaque had been put there ever). (Photo: D.Breatnach)

Conclusion 4 states that “the place of Moore St in the narrative of 1916 … is now better understood across a much wider range of interests than previously. The appreciation of the historic importance of the area and of the value attached to the dramatic events fought out there in the closing events of the week of 1916 is now more widely shared. The potential of the area to be developed as a place of cultural and historic importance therefore, alongside appropriate commercial development, offers, the Group believes, positive and substantive opportunity to move forward.”

But the Report has nothing to say about how this came about, which was by hard slogging and sacrifice by campaigners supported by ordinary people. And this happened in the teeth of opposition by the Department of Heritage and Dublin City Council officials and calumny and defamation by the Minister of Heritage of campaigners. Not only should this record be set straight but their history in this affair means that they should not be relied upon in controlling the development of the Quarter.

Conclusion 5 goes on to say that “In the event of consensus being secured on an agreed way forward for the development through dialogue by the Advisory/Oversight Group (see 17 below) 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.”

This is, in nuanced language, apart from seeking negotiation with a property speculator, a request to the person who took the case to not to defend it, with the inducement that the lawyers will get their fees and the litigant will not be out of pocket.

The State should of course bear the costs, both because of “the widely acknowledged public interest which informed the taking of the case” and because of the intransigence and obstructionism of the Minister of Heritage which led to the case being taken in the first place. And this should not be done as payment in some kind of sordid deal.

On the other hand, there is no mention whatsoever of the Minister dropping her appeal against the Moore Street Battlefield Quarter judgement that the whole quarter is a National 1916 Historical Monument. In fact the “settlement” envisaged is to give the Minister a clear run without the litigant who won that historic judgement defending it.

Recommendation 9supports the retention of Moore Street and adjacent lanes so as to broadly capture the sense of how it would have appeared in 1916 – this covers the street and lanes, key buildings, street paving and lighting. It recognises that this needs to be approached on a practical and authentic basis given that a number of structures in place actually postdate Independence. The preservation of the existing lines of the street and the lanes and the restoration of streetscapes are essential. “

All this seems good until we note words like “key buildings” and “structures in place …. postdate Independence”. Thus far the Minister has only conceded the historical importance of four buildings, Nos.14-17. And, although a number of buildings in the Quarter have been rebuilt since 1916, every single one contains the historical footprint of the 1916 occupation and resistance and every single one contains at least some structural feature of the original buildings.

And No.10, of which the Minister denies importance, was the first HQ of the Rising in Moore Street and field hospital of the evacuated GPO Garrison – and substantial parts of that building also remain intact.

Recommendation 10 actually concedes some of what I say above, albeit in timid language when it states that “… opportunities arise for the State to provide the centre point of historical focus and cultural celebration within 10 – 25 Moore St.”

Indeed, not only “opportunities exist” but the whole terrace should be maintained and developed as a “point of historical focus and cultural celebration”. But where is the recommendation that this actually be done?

Recommendation 15 states that “Critical to the renewal of the area is the regeneration of the Moore St market to its full potential. Particular recommendations in this regard are set out at Chapter 6.”

We should I think support nearly all of the recommendations in that section, i.e. all those that bring greater comfort, freedom from Market Inspector harassment and flexibility in regulations to the street traders. All the campaigners have stated that the market traders should have better conditions and that the market should be upgraded and one campaign group in particular, the Save Moore Street From Demolition campaign, perhaps because it is on that street at least every Saturday, has been very specific about including this in its demands since it was first formed.

Regrettably, the Report has nothing to say about the other independent businesses in the street. Moore Street has always contained shops and other business as well as stalls and it is regrettable that despite SMSFD’s submission commenting on this aspect, the Consultative Group had no representation from the independent shops and business and the Report has nothing at all to say about them, although small independent businesses are the key to regenerating an area by day and by night.

Indeed, other than the street traders, the only business interests mentioned in the report are those of the property speculators, who propose a giant shopping mall to be occupied by chain outlets.

Recommendation 16

The Report’s view of “essential” “well-grounded institutional arrangements for taking the process forward” recommends:

Policy ownership in relation to the National Monument at No’s 14/17 remaining with the Minister for Arts & Heritage;

Overall planning framework and designation of other buildings in the quarter should remain with Dublin City Council;

The development and eventual management of State’s property in Moore St, transferring to the Office of Public Works;

The next phase of development of the National Monument at No’s 14/17 taking place under OPW control and, where private contractors are involved, such contracting follows a transparent public tendering process that fully accords with good international practice as laid down by EU procurement requirements. In addition, engagement and briefing with the Advisory/Oversight Group (see below) as appropriate should be undertaken in respect of this process.

We emphatically should not agree with the first two sub-recommendations.

If the Department of Heritage and Dublin City Council Planning Department is to have a role it should be in supporting a People’s Consortium, composed of representatives of all the campaigning groups (not cherry-picked by the Minister) and other representatives.

While sub-recommendation 3 and most of 4 seem fair, one cannot agree with the role of the Advisory/Oversight Group as recommended by the Report (more on that later).

Recommendation 17

The Report states that “A critical part of the next phase of the process will involve securing consensus by the relevant players to a way forward” and that “this will require engagement with public bodies, developer interests, traders and voluntary groups.”

Why should the protection of our heritage be subject to protection of “developer interests”, i.e the interests of property speculators who are still at this moment in time trying to destroy that heritage and replace it with a shopping centre? The inclusion of those “interests” in deciding the future of our heritage and our national monuments should be rejected.

Recommendation 18

The Report recommends “that an Advisory/Oversight Group should be established” to steer the project and “will require engagement …. with the public bodies and the developer to seek to find agreement on the way forward.”

As stated earlier, there should be no role in seeking agreement with enemies of our heritage and facilitators of property speculators on the way forward for safeguarding our heritage and our national monument.

But further, the Advisory/ Oversight Group envisaged by the Report (“representatives from among the current membership of the Consultative Group, including appropriate Oireachtas and DCC representation”) is an unrepresentative group, continuing the exclusion of the most active campaigning groups of recent years and of the National Graves Association, the first campaign group to raise the issue of the historical conservation in Moore Street, along with the exclusion of a number of individual campaigners and concerned historians and conservation experts.

Recommendation 22 — The Role of the State

When the Report declares that the State is “the ultimate custodian of our history, culture and heritage”, it is perhaps stating an aspiration but it is demonstrably not stating a fact. The State, as represented by a number of governments during its existence, has done nothing to commemorate nor protect the significance of this historic quarter, save the purchase of four buildings after years of campaigning, and that around the same time it planned the demolition of a number of buildings in the Quarter; the State’s representatives publicly denied the historical importance of 12 buildings and even denied the area had been a battleground.

When Chartered Land’s (Joe O’Reilly) properties were taken over by NAMA, the State should have prevented the speculator from selling or otherwise passing on his stake to British-based property speculators Hammerson. They did not and so became complicit.

Looking beyond Moore Street around the country, it is the voluntary National Graves Association that has been responsible for most of the plaques commemorating the struggle for national independence (and a fair number of monuments) and the upkeep of graves of participants of that struggle, with a number of local authorities coming second and the State possibly a poor third.

Turning to our culture, the body that has done most to promote Gaelic Sports is the GAA, not the State. Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, smaller associations of musicians and individuals, not the State, have been the promoters and developers of traditional music. With regard to the Irish language, the State has overseen a drastic decline in the Gaeltacht areas, continuously fails to ensure the supply of even State services through Irish for Irish speakers and recently, has appointed a Minister for Heritage and two Ministers of State that were not competent in the use of the Irish language. Irish traditional dancing, whether exhibition and competition step-dancing, céilí, set-dancing and sean-nós have all been conserved and promoted by different organisations, none of them a State one (in fact, for a period, the State banned set-dancing in people’s homes).

The State has failed to protect and preserve a great many other areas of our heritage, including our natural resources.

So who then are “the ultimate custodians of our history, culture and heritage”? It is the PEOPLE!

However, one has to recognise the reality of the governance framework under which we live and the State should, for a change, represent the interests of the people in this case and ensure the Moore Street Historic Quarter is developed appropriately in consultation with campaigners, local independent traders and shopkeepers, workers and residents. And in doing so, the State can make some amends for its compliance and complicity of the past.

WHO SHOULD GUIDE POLICY AND PRACTICE ON THE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT OF THE QUARTER?

The body that discusses and guides policy on the future development of this historic quarter should be composed solely of a wide representation of those who have demonstrated a commitment to the defence of the historic status of the quarter, along with those who work there, in addition to any expert technical advisors they may think right to coopt.

IN CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY, although the Report contains much that is good and I believe campaigners should support those elements, due to a number of unhealthy recommendations which undermine what has been fought for so hard for so long and would leave important decision-making in the hands of the very proven enemies of the preservation, conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Quarter, those dangerous Conclusions and Recommendations of the Report should be rejected and I call on all genuine campaigners and supporters to reject them also.

In doing so, I would encourage all campaigners to remain firm in their determination, looking back on the long road traveled to reach this point and not to falter at this juncture, the fate of so many popular movements of the past.

We have been called ‘dreamers’ many times in the past but who could have foretold back in 2001, the gains steadily won over the years? ‘Dreamers’ is usually employed as a term of abuse, of ridicule and no doubt those critics consider themselves wise. To those we may reply in the words of one who spent his last two days of freedom in Moore Street in Easter Week 1916:

Oh wise men, riddle me this – what if the dream come true?”

In this at least let us make that dream come true.

End.

Links:

The Report:

http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/app/uploads/2017/03/moore-st-report-final-version-1.pdf

List members of the Consultative Group:

http://www.ahrrga.gov.ie/app/uploads/2016/11/list-of-members.pdf

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

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.

INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ DAY IN DUBLIN

 

Clive Sulish

May 1st, International Workers’ Day was celebrated in warm sunshine in Dublin with a parade and rally organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and a later event organised by the Independent Workers’ Union.

Crowd scene outside Garden of Remembrance, the starting point of the DCTU march

The DCTU-organised event met at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm and set off at nearly 3pm, with numbers although still small by European standards nevertheless larger than has been seen for some time in Dublin, according to the organisers filling O’Connell Street, the city’s main street throughout its whole length (500 metres or 547 yards).

Seen on the parade were trade union banners, those of some political parties, also of campaigns and community groups.

As it has been doing for years, the parade ended in a rally in Beresford Place, in front of Liberty Hall, the very tall building owned by the SIPTU trade union, where the audience were addressed by speakers from trade unions and campaigns and NGOs.

Section of crowd at rally in Beresford Place

Curiously, soon after arrival the comparatively strong showing of Sinn Féin flags, the green one with their logo and the blue and white version of the Starry Plough, were nowhere to be seen.

Similar section with some banners noticeably missing

The issues of lack of affordable housing, of public land being sold for private housing and speculation, of precarious employment, of financial speculation and cuts in services were addressed by speakers, with a mention also of solidarity for the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. A number of speakers also addressed the treatment of migrants and in particular the conditions suffered by refugees in the Direct Provision hostels of the state’s welfare service.

Stage erected at Beresford Place, outside SIPTU’s offices

The Moore Street campaign banner was one of the campaign groups present on the parade and mentioned from the stage by the rally’s chairperson.

One of the speakers at the rally — she denounced the sale of private land including the deal done at O’Devaney Gardens estate in Dublin.

Somewhat later, the Independent Workers’ Union held their own event, marching with a colour party from their offices to James Connolly monument, also in Beresford Place and across the road from Liberty Hall.

IWU event colour party at Connolly Monument

Damien Keogh chaired the event and introduced veteran campaigner Sean Doyle who gave a short and to the point speech about the situation in which working people find themselves today and ending with a quotation from James Connolly, in which the revolutionary socialist castigated those who claimed to love Ireland but could tolerate seeing poverty and deprivation among its people. Doyle also sent solidarity greetings to the Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails.

Paul Bowman was then introduced and in a longer speech covered Connolly’s time in the USA, his membership of and activities of the IWW (“the Wobblies”); the Haymarket Incident in Chicago which led to the choosing of May 1st as International Workers’ Day and the state murder of the Haymarket Martyrs; the principles and attitude of the IWU today.

Another Moore Street campaign banner and supporters in period costume also participated in the IWU event

Some random tourists, one form London and the other from Madrid, who chanced to pass by and remained for the whole ceremony.

Damien then introduced Diarmuid Breatnach to sing “We Only Want the Earth” (an alternative title to the original of “Be Moderate”). Breatnach explained that the lyrics had been composed by James Connolly and published in a songbook of his in New York in 1907 without an air. As a consequence the lyrics have been sung to a variety of airs but Breatnach said he sings it to the air of “A Nation Once Again” (composed originally by Thomas Davis some time between 1841 and 1845). This arrangement provides a chorus and Breatnach invited the audience to join in the chorus with him, which they did.

We only want the Earth,

we only want the Earth,

And our demands most moderate are:

We only want the Earth!”

A wreath was laid at the monument on behalf of the IWU by Leanne Farrell.

The chairperson then thanked those in attendance, speakers and singer and invited all back to the offices of the IWU in the North Strand for refreshments.

End.

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)

 

 

MOORE STREET MUSEUM — A FUTURE TOURIST’S ACCOUNT

A MOORE STREET HISTORY TOUR — A VISITOR’S EXPERIENCE IN THE FUTURE

Some decades into the future, I invite you to imagine a foreign-based tourist writing of her experience of the 1916 History and Cultural Quarter. Her name might be Isabela Etxebarria, from Argentina; she may be writing in her excellent English or perhaps her Castillian was translated.

This also formed part of my submission to the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street which is soon to publish their recommendations.  A number of important, not to say crucial, campaigns were excluded from that group but were permitted to make submissions.  I contributed to two group contributions but this is piece is from my personal one, of which I have previously posted some sections:

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/the-1916-history-of-moore-street/

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/the-moore-street-market-a-possible-future/

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/personal-recommendations-for-the-moore-street-quarter/

 

“Dublin is an amazing city for someone interested in culture, literature or history. By virtue of its long existence as a centre of population, and also as a result of its history of invasions, occupations and resistance, it has enormous historical interest. It has also contributed three writers to the Nobel Prize pantheon and arguably would have contributed another one or more, were it not for certain prejudices of their times. I had read something about the Rising in Dublin against the British Empire early in the 20th Century — right in the middle of the First World War — and was eager to learn more.

I was also aware that an Argentinian citizen, Eamon Bulfin, of the Irish diaspora to my country, had raised the Irish Republic flag on the GPO, had been condemned to death after the Rising and then deported to Buenos Aires where he had functioned as a foreign representative of the revolutionary Irish Republican government. His sister Catalina had married Seán McBride, a Nobel laureate and also winner of the Lenin Peace Prize, son of John McBride, one of the sixteen executed in 1916, and of Maude Gonne, a prominent Irish Republican activist.

“Irish Republic” flag, the design of the flag which was raised by Eamonn Bulfin on top of the GPO.
(Photo source: Internet)

On Friday, we went to experience one of the famous historical tours of inner city Dublin. There are various history tours, some of which lead to a building called the General Post Office but which all the locals refer to only as “the GPO”. Other tours then take the ‘GPO’ as their starting point and it is one of those that I joined – its title was ‘The 1916 Rising – Evacuation, Advance & Surrender’.

The tickets of those participating were checked (except for children’s tours, the regulations restrict to no more than thirty at a time including ten children,) and we were handed audio earphones, radio receivers and issued with our instructions – stay with the group, obey the instructions of the guide, etc.

Our group contained some young children and a few in their late teens, with their parents. About half or more of the group looked like tourists and some asked for the foreign-language options of receivers. There was one man in a wheelchair.

As instructed by the guide in a number of languages, we tested our receivers to find the volume settings appropriate for each individual. Then our guide motioned for us to listen to our earphones … and the narration began.

Depiction of 1916 Rising in art
(Sourced on Internet)

Gradually, we were pulled back across the decades until we were in that amazing Rising, taking place in what had once been considered the second city of the British Empire, rising up against that very same Empire, the largest the World had ever seen.

Eamon Bulfin, from Argentina, who raised the Irish Republic” flag on the GPO at the Henry St. corner (Photo sourced on Internet)

In our imagination, aided by a commentary, it was the fifth day of the Rising and many of the buildings in the city centre were ablaze. Through our earphones, against a backdrop of booming cannon and crashing shell, chattering machine guns, rifles’ crack and whining ricochet, we could hear the crackle of flames. Irish Volunteers’ voices reported that the glass in Clery’s building opposite had melted and was running across the street like water. The heavy ledgers the Volunteers had placed in the GPO windows to protect against bullets were smouldering. Other voices added that despite fire-fighting efforts the roof was on fire and the roof lead melting. We could almost smell the smoke. Then finally, on the following day, the order to evacuate given in an Edinburgh accent – James Connolly, the socialist commandant of the HQ of the Rising, the General Post Office.

The scene inside the GPO just prior to the evacuation through Henry Place as imagined by Walter Paget
(Sourced on Internet)

In the hubbub of people getting ready to evacuate some voices stood out: Elizabeth O’Farrell, giving instructions about the moving of the injured James Connolly; calls to evacuate by the side door and caution about crossing Henry Street, with machine-gun sniper fire coming from the east all the way down Talbot Street from the tower of the train station at Amiens Street and indeed, some bullets traveling from the west along the street too.

A man’s voice in our earphones says “It’s lucky we have oul’ Nelson there to shield us some of the way!” and we hear a few people laugh.

Then, The O’Rahilly’s voice, calling for volunteers to charge the barricade at the top of Moore Street and a chorus of voices answering, clamouring to be chosen.

Now we are out in a group and crossing Henry Street. The man in the wheelchair, having politely declined offers to push his chair, is propelling his wheels strongly along with his leather-covered hands. Brass ‘footsteps’ laid into the street draw attention to the GPO Garrison’s evacuation route. It is weird to see the pedestrian shoppers and sightseers of the Twenty-First Century as half our minds are back in the second decade of the Twentieth.

Across this short stretch to Henry Place we went, the crack of rifles and chatter of machine guns louder now in our earphones. And explosions of shells and of combustibles. The garrison scurried across this gap carrying the wounded Connolly on a bed frame and Winifred Carney, carrying her typewriter and Webley pistol, interposed her body between Connolly and a possible bullet from the train station tower.

The laneway here has murals and marking on the ground to mark the route of the evacuation. Immediately we stepped on the restored cobbles of the lane-way, the sounds of battle in our earphones receded somewhat.

No bullets can reach us here!” shouts a voice in our earphones.

No, but bejaysus them artillery shells can!” replies another.

Other shouts a little ahead warn us that gunfire is being directed down what is now Moore Lane from a British barricade on the junction with Parnell Street.

A sudden shouted warning about a building ahead of us, to our left, facing Moore Lane.

See the white house? The bastards are in there too,” shouts a strong voice which I am told is Cork-accented, a representation of the young Michael Collins’. “Let’s root them out. Who’s with me?”

Another chorus of voices, a flurry of Mauser and Parabellum fire, then only the steady chatter of the machine gun up at the British barricade and the sound of bullets striking walls.

The Cork sing-song voice again. “I can’t believe it — The place was empty, like!”

Aye, it was so many bullet’s hoppin’ off the walls made us think the firing was coming from inside,” a voice says, in the accents of Ulster.

The “white house” at the junction of Henry Place and Moore Street, on the GPO Garrison’s evacuation route on the way to Moore Street, photographed soon after the Rising. (Photo sourced at the Internet).

Then an unmistakably Dublin working class accent: “Would yez ever give us a hand with this!” followed by the creak and rattle of wheels on the cobblestones as the cart is dragged across the intersection. Now we can hear the machine gun bullets thudding into the cart.

Quick now, cross the gap!” comes the order and the dash across the gap begins. Nearly 300 men and women? Someone is bound to get hit and yes, they do and we hear that one of them died here.

Across the gap, nowadays mercifully free of enemy fire but still feeling vulnerable, we follow Pela, our guide, to the corner with Moore Street. In character, she peers carefully around as we hear machine-gun and rifle here too, but Mausers and Parabellum as well as Lee-Enfields.

Gor blimey!” exclaims a London accent from our earphones, reminding us that some of the Volunteers had been brought up in Britain. “O’Rahilly’s lads are getting a pastin’. None of ’em made it as far as the barricade!”

An Irish voice: “Into these houses then – no other way! We have to get into cover to plan our next move.” This is followed by the sound of a door being hit and then splintering as they break into No.10, the first house on the famous 1916 Terrace.

“Careful now,” Elizabeth Farrell’s voice, followed by a muted groan of pain as Connolly is maneouvred through the doorway and up the stairs.

Pela sends the man in the wheelchair up in the lift and leads us up the stairs. When the lift and the last of our group arrive we proceed across the restored upper floors from house to house, passing through holes in the walls, as the GPO Garrison did in 1916 – except that they had to break through the walls themselves, working in shifts and our ‘holes’ are more like jagged doorways.

No.10 was the field hospital and here, represented by dummies and holograms, are the cramped bodies of wounded Volunteers and the British soldier rescued by George Plunkett. The woman of the house is trying to prepare food for the fighters.

Through a few unshuttered windows, we can see the busy street market below us going about its business, apparently oblivious of our passage above them. But then, thousands of tour groups have gone through here over the decades. The weather being fine, the transparent roof covering the street is withdrawn and through the double glazing of the houses one can just barely hear the street traders calling out their wares and prices.

We pass through those hallowed rooms, listening to ghosts. Here and there a hologram appears and speaks, echoes of the past. Dummies dressed in the uniforms of the Irish Citizen Army, the Irish Volunteers, Cumann na mBan, Na Fianna and Hibernian Rifles are on display here and there. Imitation Mausers and Parabellums and Martinis, each one carefully made and to the same weight as the original, are there. They are security-chained but we know people are free to pick them up and feel the weight, as a couple of children do, to imagine carrying and firing one. But not to be flash-photographed, which is not permitted here.

Working people’s bath in the early 1900s.
(Sourced on Internet)

Black cast-Iron kettle from the period
(Sourced on Internet)

Candleholder for lighting for the bedroom
(Sourced on Internet)

Replica Cumann na mBan medical kits are on display, open so one could inspect the contents. The houses also have period furniture, fireplaces, beds …. chamber pots …. kitchens with utensils … bedrooms …..

Mauser ‘Howth’ Rifle
(Sourced on Internet)

There are dummies dressed too in civilian clothes of the time typical of that area — women, men, children (even the dog fed by Tom Crimmins, the last Volunteer to leave Moore St.).

ICA Male Uniform
(Sourced on Internet)

Here are some Volunteers breaking through a wall; over there, exhausted Volunteers sleeping

Cumann na mBan uniform.
(Sourced on Internet)

We see magnified historical newspaper headlines, photos, badges and medals. A map of Dublin with fighting locations flashing on them, some of them going out as they fall, the dates appearing above them to show when that happened. But many were only surrendered on receipt of the order from Pearse or Connolly.

Snatches of poetry, of song come to us as we cross from room to room, from house to house, some of it nationalist, some traditional or folk, some even music hall from the era. And for our eyes, the holograms of the Proclamation, the portraits of the executed 16 and many others who fought and died or who survived, flags, the Tricolour, the Irish Republic, the green-and-gold Starry Plough, waving in the wind above Clery’s ….

Half-way along the terrace we come to the historical discussion between the leaders, creatively reconstructed on the basis of some witness statements. Pearse wishing to surrender to avoid further loss of civilian life (the names of the dead civilians in Moore Street, their ages and the manner of their dying appearing above him), Clarke arguing, a sob in his voice, Connolly saying maybe they should wait for Sean McLoughlin to get back (he is out preparing a diversion attack to allow a breakout) …. Then the arguments with some of the other Volunteers, Mac Diarmada having to use all his powers of persuasion.

Oh, such emotion in such short discussions! Then the decision, and Elizabeth O’Farrell volunteering to go with the white flag to open negotiations with the enemy …. even though civilian men and women have already been shot in died in that street, including one beneath a white flag.

Shortly afterwards, the faces of the dead civilians and Volunteers appear, then the sixteen executed come into view, suspended in the air in front and a little above us. We stand there while passages are read out from their trials, letters from their condemned cells, words to relatives …. Then the dates appear above them and we hear the fusillades as by one their faces blink out, until finally only Casement remains, the image of the gallows and then he too is gone. All is dark for a moment, then all sixteen faces appear again, over a background of the three flags of the Rising, with a list of the fallen rank-and-file, to a swelling chorus of The Soldiers’ Song, in English and in Irish.

Portrait of the 16 executed in 1916.
(Sourced on Internet)

At the end of the Terrace, we descend again, somewhat dazed and here view the O’Rahilly monument plaque and in our earphones hear the words of his final letter to his wife read out – he wrote it as he lay dying from a number of bullet wounds. I found my eyes moistening again as they had several times during the tour and some of the others were visibly crying – including other foreign tourists.

The end of our tour lay ahead, through the underground tunnel under Parnell Street to the Rotunda. There the Volunteers had been publicly launched and recruited in 1913 and there too, in 1916, the GPO/ Moore Street garrison had been kept prisoners without food and water or toilet, some for two days, while political colonial police came down to identify whomsoever they could from among the prisoners. Here Tom Clarke had been cruelly stripped by his captors, diagonally across the road from one of his two tobacconist shops, on the corner of Parnell and O’Connell Streets. Elizabeth Farrell had been kept prisoner in that shop too by the British, before being escorted to deliver the surrender order to a number of garrisons.

In between the shop and the Rotunda stands the Parnell Monument, as it did then, honouring “the uncrowned King of Ireland”, who had tried by mostly parliamentary means, two decades earlier, to bring about Home Rule for Ireland and had failed. British officers had been photographed in front of the monument with the “Irish Republic” flag held upside down – had they been entirely conscious of the irony?

British soldiers posing with captured Irish Republic Flag upside down in front of Parnell Monument, just near where prisoners were kept on Easter Saturday and Sunday. (Photo sourced on Internet).

Directly across the road from us stands a historic building too – the premises of the Irish Land League and where the Irish Ladies Land League had been formed and also raided by the police.

Now the recordings in our earphones ask us to remove our earphones and to hand them to our guide, also to listen for a moment after she has collected them. Having gathered the sets and put them away in her bag, Pela asks us all to give a moment’s thoughts to the men and women and children, particularly of the years each side of the centenary year of the Rising, 2016, who had campaigned to preserve this monument for future generations. Pela tells us that her own grandmother had been one of the activists.

Incredible though it may now seem, the whole terrace except for four houses had been about to be demolished to make way for a shopping centre, which would also have swallowed up the street market. It had taken a determined campaign and occupations of buildings with people prepared to face imprisonment to protect it for our generation and others to come. The State of those years had little interest in history and much in facilitating speculators.

Pela invited us to applaud the campaigners, which we did, enthusiastically. She then asked us to turn around and view the reconstructed building we had left. There was a plaque on the wall there “Dedicated to the memory of the men, women, girls and boys of the early 21st Century ……” In bronze bas-relief, the plaque’s image depicts 16 houses in a terrace with activists on the scaffolding erected by those who intended demolition, with a chain of people of all ages holding hands around the site and in one corner, a campaign table surrounded by people apparently signing a petition.

Once through the underpass and inside the Rotunda building, the tour officially over, we thanked our guide and made for the Republican Café. I found we couldn’t say much, as my mind was half back in 1916. My companion was quiet too as were some other from our tour but some of the children seemed unaffected, brightly debating what to choose from the menu in the Rotunda café, or what souvenir they fancied from those on display.

We took a program of events, including film showings, lectures, dramatic representations and music and poetry performances, in order to choose which to attend later. There’s also a Moore Street and Dublin Street Traders’ Museum in the Rotunda which we intend to visit, perhaps tomorrow, after some shopping in the existing ancient street market.

Some of our tour group, we could hear, including the indefatigable man in the wheelchair, were going on the short walk up to the Remembrance Garden and we heard mention also of the Writers’ Museum and the Hugh Lane Gallery adjacent to the Garden.

We’d had enough for one day, however – we were full. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I knew that for me and probably for my companion, it was something that would remain forever alive in our memories.”

PERSONAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE MOORE STREET QUARTER

Introduction: Earlier this year I sent my personal recommendations for the conservation and appropriate development of the Moore Street Quarter to the Minster of Heritage’s Consultative Group on Moore Street.  Given that Group had been chosen by the Minister who has fought against the conservation of the quarter and denied it is a historic battleground and that she has appealed the judgement of the High Court Judge who ruled against her, I did not expect great things from this group.  When membership of the group was refused to important participants in the campaign such as the National Graves Association, the Save Moore Street from Demolition campaign and the Save Moore Street 2016 campaign, my cynicism was further justified.  However, “let them not be able to say that campaigners did not supply them with our opinions” is what I think and so I contributed to a number of group submissions and then presented my own.  Two parts of this I have already published here

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2017/02/15/the-1916-history-of-moore-street/

https://rebelbreeze.wordpress.com/2017/02/10/the-moore-street-market-a-possible-future/

and I have skipped ahead of some to other sections to publish this, the recommendations at the end of my submission. 

Aerial view of a part of the Quarter, with Moore Street in the foreground and Moore Lane nearly at the top of the photo. The four houses with red-painted shutters in the centre of the photo were the only ones the Minister wanted saved, the rest to become part of the huge shopping ‘mall’ (see diagram image below).                         (Photo sourced: Internet)

Diarmuid Breatnach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCRETE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE MOORE STREET QUARTER

In consultation with campaigners, street traders, the public, small shopkeepers, local residents, historians, architects and elected representatives: Save, Restore, Rebuild, Improve.

  • The whole area should be pedestrianised with the usual access exemptions for deliveries within certain hours, emergency services etc.

  • Buildings of the 1916 period in the Quarter should be preserved

  • All other buildings in the quarter should be preserved, renovated or reconstructed as necessary to appearance appropriate to the period and area (and appropriate to their current use – I am not advocating the building of public outside toilets or slaughterhouses)

  • The upper floor of the 1916 Terrace should be developed into a 1916 history experience, integrated with the GPO and the Evacuation Route, with disabled access

  • and the history being ‘social’ (i.e. how people lived) as well as a ‘political’ (about 1916)

  • The Evacuation Route should be conserved and appropriately renovated where necessary, with important events marked by plaques, panels and murals along its route

  • The Evacuation Route should be brought back to the period cobbles and kept clear of rubbish or graffiti with disabled access

  • Moore Lane and O’Rahilly Parade should be brought back to original cobbles with disabled access

  • The Moore Street Market should be valued and promoted

    Moore Street Market in busier days (but traders then also working in bad conditions), viewed from the GPO building presumably, looking northwards.
    (Photo source: Internet)

  • Petty official harassment of traders and small businesses should cease and appropriate expansion and regulations eased to assist in more varied use of the market

  • The traders should be provided with toilets, nearby water supply ports, heating and lighting for stalls

  • The whole street market should be provided with retractable transparent roof and sliding doors at each end

  • The street market should be made available as a “farmers’ market” on Sundays

  • The Historical Quarter and Cultural Quarter should be linked informationally

  • and with and underground pedestrian way connecting the two under Parnell Street

  • The development should take place in the context of upgrading the area as a history, culture and leisure area, most of it accessible by day and night

  • The part of Moore Street not currently part of the Barrett judgement should be included in the overall plan

  • The State should investigate the potential of applying for World Heritage Status, consulting widely and publishing its recommendations

  • Also for conservation within a European framework (some aspects of Horizon 2020 may be useful in this respect)

  • In order to do all this, a first priority is to formally urge the Minister to drop the appeal and I submit that the Consultative Group should do exactly that.

  • Develop a democratic, open and transparent partnership process to oversee the development, with representation for all stakeholders, including street traders and local small businesses, nearby residents, historians, campaigners (including activists currently excluded from the Consultative Group), historians ….

 

Two toxic waste spills for Moore Street? The Hammerson plan in dark blue and the existing Hammerson/ Irish Life/ Chartered Land ILAC centre in green. (Photo source: Internet).