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The British Embassy “Had To Be Destroyed” – Moore Street Planning Appeal
history and heritage |
Friday April 24, 2009 15:22 by Diarmuid Breatnach - None
Witness for company planning to develop Moore Street compares burning of British Embassy to destruction of Reichstag
Public hearing of appeal against property developers' plan for Moore Street has been going on all week. 500 people protested on Sunday in a symbolic Arms Around Moore Street event. Witness for the developers compares the deliberate destruction of the Reichstag as a fascist symbol with the burning of the British Embassy in Dublin after Bloody Sunday.
Spelling it out -- of the protesters on Sunday (some of the 1916 leaders' descendants in front)
On Monday 20th the public hearing of the appeal against permission for the development plan for Moore Street proposed by the Carlton Development company opened with objectors to the plans stating their impassioned objections. Submissions were made by Robert Ballagh (artist and designer), Ronan Sheehan (author of the Heart of Dublin) and Arthur O'Neill (lecturer in Labour History). Those opposed to the current development plan include the National Graves Association, An Taisce, Dublin Georgian Society and a number of relatives of those who fought in 1916.
The second stage of the public hearing drew to a close early Thursday evening. Held in the Gresham Hotel by an Bord Pleanála and lasting over four days, it has heard hour after hour of evidence from the company wishing to develop the site and from their witnesses.
Friday will perhaps be the last day of the company's evidence and those objecting to the development will have their opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses. That point will provide the only lively moments, the only passion perhaps, except for that shown on the first day of the hearing and again during Arthur Morgan TD's statement. The predictions are that this stage will last into next week.
The plan of the property developers, Chartered Land, encompasses around 5.5 acres bordered by Upper O'Connell Street (including the Carlton building, a cinema in previous years), Henry Street and Parnell Street, right back to Moore Street. The objections centre around Moore Street itself and the perceived effect of the development on no.s 14-17, officially designated a National Monument, but also on the effect on Moore Lane. While the objectors agree with the need for development they hope to see one which will preserve the character of the terrace. Some objectors have also stressed their wish to keep the street market character of Moore Street in any development.
LAST HEADQUARTERS OF THE EASTER REBELLION
Towards the end of the Easter Rebellion in 1916, as flames consumed the GPO and shells continued to fall upon it, the Headquarters Battalion of the rebellion and their leaders retreated under sniper fire across Henry Street and into one of the houses in Moore Street. They then tunnelled their way through the walls, passing through four houses in that way. Five of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of Independence were there: Patrick Pearse, Mac Diarmada, the seriously-ill Plunkett, the badly-wounded James Connolly and the veteran Fenian Thomas Clarke. Over the following days, along with another ten, all were to be shot by British firing squad.
Surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned, it was in No.16 Moore St. that the difficult decision to surrender was taken. Elizabeth Farrell, herself one of the insurgents (but always referred to by historians as Nurse Elizabeth Farrell), waving a white flag, braved sniper and machine-gun fire to open negotiations on behalf of Patrick Pearse with General Lowe who was commanding the forces moving in to suppress the Rising.
It was for that reason that the terrace was given National Monument status by Irish state. However, little has been done over the years to preserve the site and some of the houses are in a neglected condition. The Save Moore Street Campaign wish to see the development of the terrace undertaken in accordance with recommendations such as those in the Shaffrey Report of 2005 by one of the bodies concerned with preservation such as the Office of Public Works, the Heritage Council and An Taisce or the National Museum.
ARMS AROUND MOORE STREET
The day before An Bord Pleanála's hearing commenced, on Sunday afternoon, a number of organisations and individuals answered the call of the Save Moore Street Campaign . Wearing T-shirts printed up by the campaign and given out in exchange for voluntary contributions, over 500 people lined up and held hands in the “Arms around Moore Street” event. As they did so, the organisers called for a minute's silence. Quiet descended on the street, except for the music coming from a shop in the distance and the whine of an approaching electric garbage cart. One of the demonstrators crossed Moore Street to speak a moment quietly to the Dublin Council workers clearing the street. They nodded and the machine was switched off. Later on too, a large Dublin Council lorry stayed quietly at the Parnell Street end of Moore Street, awaiting the end of the event before moving in to clear the rubbish from the street.
Patrick Cooney, a London Irishman now living in Dublin and PRO of the Campaign, spoke calmly but with passion, outlining the reasons for the campaign and quoting briefly from Elizabeth Farrell's account of her involvement in the Rising. He also introduced the relatives of five of the signatories of the Proclamation: descendants of Connolly, Plunkett, Clarke/Daly and of Éamonn Ceannt. They came forward to lay a lily stem and later posed with a photograph of their famous ancestor in their hand for the assembled media (one such photo made in into the front page of the Irish Times the following day).
Frank Allen then spoke briefly and introduced Clare Halligan, one of the Pzazz music group, as she stood at the microphone to sing The Daughter of James Connolly. CDs of the song were given out to the assembled supporters by the campaign. This reporter had first heard this CD about two years ago and had been informed that it was to be the soundtrack of a planned film for which fund-raising was being undertaken. Apparently this film still awaits conclusion at some date in the future.
While the singing and speaking was going on, this reporter observed a missel thrush take up a position on some guttering above the ground. It was surprising to see that species in such a built-up inner-city area. However, the bird was soon joined by another, and both sat there near one another above the crowd for awhile before flying off. Mystics often see birds as carrying some message of import but no-one there interpreted this unusual avian appearance. Long queues then formed to buy a campaign badge at €2 each before the event was over. Some of the t-shirts and badges obtained that day were to be seen among the supporters of the appeal in the hearing the following week..
ROOF GARDEN PLAN AND SPACES FOR PARKING 1,500 CARS
However, while giving evidence on the scope of the development, the proposers mentioned in passing, as one of the attractions of the development, that car-parking facilities for 1,500 cars is to be included. During the whole of the hearing no reference was made to the impact of attracting that number of cars into the centre of Dublin. While car users might welcome the additional parking facilities, attracting more cars into Dublin is surely something that the city does not need. Already it can take half an hour at peak times to travel by bus from the North Frederick Street junction with Dorset Street down through O'Connell Street and to the first bus stop in Dame Street – a distance of probably less than a mile.
Car use in the inner urban areas has long been recognised as a problem by town planners, not to mention environmentalists and there are those who maintain that the car has no place in the inner city at all, except perhaps for public transport (e.g. taxis), the disabled, ambulance and doctor services. Cities such as London imposed a tax on private vehicles driving through the city during the daytime which has seen, despite protests, a significant reduction in traffic congestion and, no doubt, in pollution also.
The developers witnesses had impressive amount of high-tech presentations and interesting slides. They also brought an strong array of professional witnesses with expertise in arenas of architecture, historic preservation, town planning and design (including the Spire developers) and even planting (with regard to the roof garden). It was not surprising that without exception they validated the developers' plan. But there were a few surprises. On Wednesday, Brian O'Connell, during a whole day of evidence that included the history of buildings and technical and architectural points, related that the upward-shining lights (a la Nuremberg Rallies) on the Carlton Cinema had been lit only once as on the day of the cinema's opening they had been mistaken by aeroplane pilots as a those of the airport Baldonnel and the Irish state had ordered them switched off since.
When standing in front of the iconic building of the GPO, of course, one can become aware of the great violence that took place around it and the desperate fight put up by the insurgents, as they took on the greatest empire the world has seen. But it is not often that we think of or imagine the fighting going on in other parts of the street and of the city. We were reminded of that when Brian O'Connell described a building near Parnell Street as having “survived extremely well, considering the depredations to which it was subjected – the amount of shooting and blowing up that went on around it”.
“THE REICHSTAG …. THE BRITISH EMBASSY ….. HAD TO BE DESTROYED”
Later in the day, Brian O'Connell referred to the Reichstag building in Germany and its deliberate destruction by the Soviet Army as it dealt the death-blows to the Nazi regime. O'Connell stated that he could think of no parallel except the burning of the British Embassy (then in Merrion Square) in January 1972 (after the British Army shot and killed 13 unarmed civilians in Derry, a fourteenth dying of his wounds months later). “It just had to be done – had to be destroyed” he said, to the evident surprise of many in the room. People looked at one another; one could see them thinking: Did he just say what I thought I heard him say? But that comment could have been in reference only to the Reichstag, of course.
As Thursday's hearing drew to a close, the Chair permitted Arthur Morgan, Sinn Féin TD for Louth, to make a statement to be written into the record. Contrasting the heroism, self-sacrifice and vision of those who fought in 1916 with the motives and vision of developers, he also made the point that without the action of those men and women of the Rising we would not be here today. Any such appeal hearing would have been chaired under a British authority and he would not be a TD.
TD Morgan also pointed out that at least one of the developers is a member of what has been called the Golden Circle, which is currently under investigation with a possibility of criminal charges and that the funding of the development could run out, leaving some future developer to further harm the National Monument. Morgan appealed for an integrated historical integration of the GPO with Moore Street and its development with that in mind, in such a way that it would attract visitors from around the world.
After the session closed at 7pm, Patrick Cooney of Save Moore Street Campaign after the conclusion of today's hearing told this reporter that those leading the campaign had been concerned with Moore Street for years and that the campaign would go on. “Eight years ago I walked down that street and noticed that a commemorative plaque had been removed. I got involved then and have been since.”