OUR STORY MAY SAVE BATTLEFIELD SITE /continued/

DRAMATIC NEW evidence — and a change of tactics — may yet save buildings used by The O’Rahilly, James Connolly and Nurse O’Farrell in the crucial moments of the Easter 1916 rebellion.

 

For the first time, newly-appointed Arts Minister Heather Humphries has acknowledged details of the error that led to the flawed, and very limited, Moore Street preservation order signed and endorsed by her predecessors.

 

However, a meeting in Dublin’s Mansion House last week heard, without urgent action, An Taoiseach would be laying 1916 wreaths in front of a Burger King — and the Army No 1 Band would be playing in front of a bookies.

 

Wrong information     In May, Local News exclusively revealed that the Government’s own Monuments Division (in the Department of Arts) now know and accept that wrong information to then-Minister Dick Roche. In early 2007, then-Minister Roche signed an order preserving 14, 15, 16 and 17 Moore Street. These houses are widely acknowledged to have been occupied by 1916 leaders. He excluded 13, 18 and 19 on the grounds that, as he had been advised, they had been “built later”.

 

Historians disagreed, arguing for example that at minimum the façade and more likely the entire of 18 was built many decades before 1916. Similarly, cellars, façades and laneways surrounding 13 and 19 — and much of the rest of the street — were built in the nineteenth century or earlier. All were involved, in one way or another, in the Rising particularly as the confrontation ground to a bloody and painful conclusion late in Easter Week.

 

Now, as we exclusively revealed in May, there is no dispute about the other buildings. All sides agree that the wrong information led to the wrong order, and that most if not all the street must be preserved.

 

Terry Allen, a senior official in the Monuments Division, told Local News last May that the dissenting historians were right and his office was wrong.

Like James Connolly Heron, grandson of 1916 and labour hero James Connolly, he agrees that number 18, and much of the rest of the terrace, falls into the same historic provenance, build-date and category as numbers 14–17. His admission was recorded in notes by Local News reporter Paul Kelly, and witnessed by editor Frank Bambrick, who was standing nearby during the telephone interview.

 

Breaking eggs     Those passages of the Local News late May report were read out to the Mansion House meeting by James Connolly Heron. Mr Heron’s quote included Mr Allen’s remark (on the now-scheduled demolition of historic buildings) that “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”.

 

Meanwhile, authorities ranging from the Imperial War Museum to the National Museum of Ireland agree that the area must be preserved if events of Easter 1916 are to be understood. They now have some aces:

 

• Dublin City Council can prevent Chartered Land (who own much of the historic site) from changing the streetscape — for example “re-locating” Moore Lane. By law, only the DCC can allow the alteration of street layouts. Without DCC, Chartered Land has a pointless license to destroy — but none to build in the way they propose.
• While Arts Minister Heather Humphries insisted in the Dáil, just days ago, that she had “no power” over planning permission, her office now admits it was “unaware” of the now-acknowledged errors that led to those permissions in the first place.
• Local News has supplied the Taoiseach with detailed notes on these errors of historic fact — and more important, of the acknowledgement of those errors by Monuments officials. His office has undertaken to examine all these facts in detail.
• Legal options, including injunctions and judicial reviews, are also being considered.

 

It may not come to that.

 

Importantly, Local News has received off-the-record assurances from sources close to both An Taoiseach and Minister Humphreys that evidence supplied by this newspaper would be acted upon. This offers hope to Moore Street supporters that proper preservation will become government policy.

 

The Mansion House meeting heard that the government could sign an order giving all redevelopment and conservation chores to a 1916 Area Authority, similar to Temple Bar Properties. Already, interested parties have drawn up plans that emphasise history and heritage over burgers and bookie shops.

 

Recover funds    Even if bankrupt Chartered Land retains a role in Moore Street, their development cash comes, via NAMA, from you. And NAMA are far more likely to recover taxpayer funds a world-class historic quarter than from a 1970s-style mini-mall. Commercial advantage thus joining legal, historical, heritage and aesthetic considerations, all clearly on the side of preservation.

 

Will the Taoiseach (or his Ministers) still support, by act or omission, a shopping mall opening on the site? Within months of  the 1916 commemorations? During an election campaign?

 

We will publish the Taoiseach’s response to our notes in localnews.ie, and in future editions of this newspaper.