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The British Embassy “Had To Be Destroyed” – Moore Street Planning Appeal

category dublin | history and heritage | news report author Friday April 24, 2009 15:22author by Diarmuid Breatnach - None Report this post to the editors

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)
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.

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.

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..

There is no doubt that the developers' plan includes some attractive features, including a glass-roofed access from O'Connell Street, a roof-top “park” or garden and an observation platform with a view over Dublin, “roughly the height of the former Nelson's Pillar”. But it is the encroachment of this plan and in particular its grand staircase on to the National Monument that is the bone of contention for the Campaign. They also comment that “the creation of toilets and amenities in those areas suggests … that the idea of a National Monument is not being treated with either consideration or respect.” Indeed, the developers' plan intends to place toilets in the very basements that the insurgents tunnelled through. The objectors also commented on “the lack of imagination in terms of uses beyond cafe and retail” for that area.

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”.

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.”

author by Pat - Save Moore Streetpublication date Sat Apr 25, 2009 02:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Its a pity that this issue did not receive much attention in the general media. I seen the photo of the protest in last Mondays Irish Times but was disappointed to find that it was not accompanied by an article. I did not see or hear any other mention of the save Moore Street protest anywhere else.

The organisers of the protest done a great job having had a very successful protest last Sunday. I attended the protest myself and thought it went very well. It was great that we got the numbers required to complete the human chain around Moore Street, but having said that I was disappointed that the number of protesters was not bigger. I feel that the protest might have been a lot bigger if it had been advertised a bit more. I only found out about it through Indy Media. I seen no notice of the protest anywhere else.

It’s a terrible pity that more prominent people were not there. We have enough singers and song writers who have made a good living for years while singing about the rising, and rare oul Dublin. Why were none of these people at the protest ? If these type of developments continue we will have plenty more songs to write about rare oul Dublin. I hope we are not just left with the ballad of Moore Street as a memory of what was once the Dubliner’s cultural heart of the City.

Have we not learned our lesson yet ? . Although no article appeared in last Mondays Irish Times of the Save Moore Street protest, there was an article of similar subject, on page four under the heading, ’’E.S.B. competition for world-class redesign of HQ’’
The article by Frank McDonald reminded us of the destruction of 16 beautiful Georgian houses along Fitzwilliam Street in 1970. McDonald writes
’’ At the time, conservationists were appalled that Dublin’s longest Georgian façade, from Mount Street, to Leeson Street, was to be broken by precast concrete window panels and set on a podium. The ESB brought in Sir John Summerson, a leading English architectural historian, to give his opinion on the merit of the houses to be demolished. Notoriously, he condemned them as ’’simply one dammed house after another’’
We also read that ’’ Ten years ago, the ESB gave serious consideration to a plan by Sam Stephenson that would have involved refronting the office block with a Georgian façade as a Millennium project.

I thought that we had moved on from the destructive mindset of the seventies when the beautiful and historic buildings of Dublin were ripped apart to make way for ugly glass houses and office blocks that were completely out of character with the rest of the city. It would be a crying shame to let a similar destruction happen to Moore Street all in the name of ‘progress‘. Why did Frank McDonald, who is the Environment Editor for the Irish Times not bother going down to Moore Street last Sunday and report on the protest to save Moore street. One would imagine that while Frank McDonald was on the subject bad planning at the cost of historic houses in 1970, he might have mentioned the threat that is hanging over the historic houses of Moore Street in April, 2009. I cant help thinking that there is a major snub when it comes to buildings associated with our revolutionary past. Who fears to speak of Easter Week…….same old story.

author by Bikerpublication date Sat Apr 25, 2009 09:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

er... the Reichstag was burned down by the Nazis as part of Hitler's total seizure of power in Germany. Of course they framed a communist for the job, but their fingerprints were all over it. The building was left a shell so the Red Army had nothing to do and while they did bomb it, the building was sufficiently intact to be rebuilt and now serves as home to the Bundestag, the federal German Parliament.

What it has to do with 16 Moore Street is beyond me.

author by kevin murphy - 32 csmpublication date Sat Apr 25, 2009 11:32author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I suspect the comment was a reference to the determination some people have to destroy certain buildings for ideological reasons - to erase the physical vestiges of an ideology diametrically opposed to their own . With the destruction of Tara occuring simultaneously to the planned destruction of Moore street one could be forgiven for thinking that the decison to erase national monuments so closely identified with the concept of an Irish nations existence was a determination to erase that concept and replace it wth another .
Certainly in the case of the British embassy there was a determination to physically erase a building which symbolised the colonialist ideology that it was perfectly right and proper for a colonialist country to occupy a small nation and periodically slaughter its citizens when they become politically awkward . It therefore simply had to be erased for ideological reasons .
In the case of 16 Moore street and indeed Tara theres seems to be an equally driven but differently motivated desire to eradicate these national monuments when it would simply be very easy not to eradicate them . And most certainly the ideology which predominates regards them as at the least unimportant , therefore is an ideology which does not share their importance , which means it is an ideology which is at odds with what such monuments represent. Therefore appears to be an ideology which is hostile towards such monuments for whatever reason and has the political power to ensure they are eradicated . And is currently engaged in eradicating them

author by Jacqueline Fallonpublication date Sat Apr 25, 2009 14:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Comhghairdeas to the organisers of the ‘Arms Around Moore Street’ event which was an absolute pleasure to attend. The Sun shown brightly and the birds sang delightfully, and we were treated to a recount of the historical event that took place on the street during the Easter Rebellion 1916, and how those events changed the course of Irish history and spurred people on later to fight the British Empire in the War of Independence. On the day there was beautiful singing from Pzazz who sung the “Daughter of James Connolly” (which no doubt attracted the two thrushes, but then again, birds are indeed spiritual messengers, so, perhaps, it was the spirits of the signatories of the Easter Proclamation that had summoned them to be in supportive attendance). Go raibh míle maith agat for the free CD, which is a treasure and pleasure to listen to. It was, indeed, a pity the event didn’t get the media reporting it deserved, as it was a well organised dignified event with descendants of the 1916 Rebellion leaders in attendance.

What remains of old Moore Street should be preserved and the National Monument should have been restored and preserved years ago. The whole street should be dedicated to all the Volunteers who fought the British Empire during Easter Rising 1916 and to all who lost their lives in its neighbouring streets and lanes, so we could enjoy independence from Britain today (but, regrettably to date, for only 26 of our 32). This historical street is where the brave Volunteer/Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell ventured down Moore St dodging snipers with a white flag to approach the British Commander (the original of which I had the privileged of seeing on the ‘Arms Around Moore Street’ event - go raibh míle maith agat for that); and it was where she on returning saw the wounded Irish Volunteer Mr O‘Rahilly laying dead (ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam). Also, it was where Commander Pádraig Mac Piarais decided (after been beckoned to the window of the house in 16 Moore Street by Seán Mac Diarmada) upon seeing three elderly gentlemen civilians laying dead with white flags in their hands across the street - to call a halt to their brave fight in order “to save the lives of citizens“.

This National Monument deserves so much better, in my opinion it should have been restored years ago and used as a Dublin Inner City Heritage Museum for displaying historical artefacts from the 1916 Rebellion and cultural items relating to the history of the Moore Street and its environs with its many colourful characters, stories and songs.

I couldn’t help but reflect on Sunday, as I looked sadly around Moore Street on the dilapidated houses that are an Irish National Monument, how such an historical site could lay in ruins for so long and throughout the life of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ (RIP), when there were plentiful funds then and an opportunity to restore them. The houses should have been preserved and given the dignity that they deserve, but 16 Moore Street has been left abandoned and forgotten shamefully by those in power who claim to be ‘Republicans’ and who declared themselves that this dilapidated site - which has remained dilapidated for years by successive Leinster House administrations - is a National Monument!

p.s. To all who died during Easter week 1916 - solas síoraí dá n-anamacha.

To all successive Leinster House administration:

Extract from Mise Éire le Pádraig Mac Piarais (Dia go deo leis):

“Mór mo náire mo chlann féin a díol a máthair.”
(great my shame, my own children that sold their mother)

author by kevin murphy - 32 csmpublication date Sat Apr 25, 2009 15:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I agree wholeheartedly with the above poster . The entire street should be preserved as a national monument . Its a dreadful stain on this countrys character Moore street is in the state its in today and what these barbarians intend doing to it . What type of people are we really ? wheres the self respect ?

author by maverickpublication date Sat Apr 25, 2009 21:44author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Pat complains that Frank McDonald, enviroment correspondent of the IRISH TIMES did not attend the SAVE MOORE STREET demonstration. was he actually invited?

i note that the IRISH INDEPENDENT (despised by the left!) actually did a news item, which no one yet has mentioned. now there's an irony....


a closing comment: why has no-one really bothered about Moore Street republican-connected houses until the last few years? surely 1966 or 1970, both key commemoration dates, would have been the best time to have started protecting these national monuments?

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/92046
author by Pat - Save Moore Streetpublication date Sun Apr 26, 2009 18:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

maverick says....
Pat complains that Frank McDonald, enviroment correspondent of the IRISH TIMES did not attend the SAVE MOORE STREET demonstration. was he actually invited?

It is irrelevant whether he was invited or not, if he had any interest in protecting the historic houses of Moore Street he would have made it his business to be there. The point that I am making is that he wrote an article about the destruction of a row of Georgian houses in 1970, and yet he chose to totally ignore the similar destructive threat is hanging over Moore Street at present.

Surely we have enough shops and restaurants in that area. Developer O’Reilly plans to build into this complex 109 shops and 17 restaurants. This grand idea might have been dreamed up during the so called Celtic Tiger when people seemed to be on an never ending credit induced spending spree. I personally feel that as we are now in a recession that might last 20 years or maybe more, this project could be pared back.

Why not save Moore Street as an open museum ? I have seen similar projects over the years such as Bunratty Folk Park, or Arklow Jail were people dressed up in period costumes and gave guided tours. The houses in Moore street could be completely restored to attract tourists from both at home and abroad. The houses themselves could be filled with historical artefacts form the rising itself. I was told a number of years ago by a member of staff, that boxes of these artefacts from the rising are stored away in back rooms of our National Museum. I have not been back to the section in the National Museum that covered the 1916 Rising in years. The last time I was there, all the artefacts that I remember seeing as a child were gone and replaced with letters and photographs etc. They used to display the actual rifles, revolvers, bullets, clothes, handcrafts made by prisoners in Frongoch internment camp, but chose instead to store them away out of sight.

I believe that people would be more interested in learning about the rebellion in the actual buildings themselves rather than sitting in one of 17 new insignificant restaurants that can be found anywhere else.
A guided tour could start in the G.P.O. and cross to Henry Place and follow the route the rebels took in 1916, and end in no 16 Moore Street. It has already been suggested that no 16 could serve as an interpretive centre for the centenary of the rising in 2016. With the centenary approaching in just under seven years this would be a golden opportunity to do something right for a change. Would it be asking too much to show some respect in honouring with genuine sincerity, the men and women of 1916 who sacrificed their own lives so this country could stand on its own feet and take her place among the free nations of the world with dignity and pride.

No doubt when the centenary arrives all the hot shot VIP’s and big Nobs, from the various political parties who claim roots back to 1916 will be jockeying for the best positions on the platform outside the G.P.O. They will tell us all about Pearse and Connolly and the sacrifices made and how important that chapter in our history is. The problem with the powers that be is that they really don’t give a toss about the events of 1916. They have let Moore Street run into decay while refurbishing all around it. Just look at the other streets around Moore street, they have all been upgraded with a fresh new look. The purpose of this deliberate neglect and running down of the street is to make it easier to get rid of when the time is right for the developer.

In an article in History, Ireland magazine March/April 2006, we read how ....’’In August 2005 campaigners, inspecting the building (no 16) from the outside, noticed that most of the roof tiles, still in place in 2004, had disappeared, leaving the interior dangerously exposed to the elements. Following a flurry of publicity, temporary roofing was installed’’

No doubt decay was not happening quick enough so they removed the slates from the roof of no 16 to speed things up. Now is the time to act and insure that we do not lose any more of our priceless heritage. I hope more influential people come on board this campaign to try and save Moore Street before its too late.

The roof of 16 Moore Street in August 2005. (Dominic Dunne)
The roof of 16 Moore Street in August 2005. (Dominic Dunne)

author by Diarmuid Breatnachpublication date Mon Apr 27, 2009 20:07author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for the eloquent and informative comments on my article which have all been interesting. I knew about the Reichstag burning (the Nazis blamed communists and foreigners for doing it and I have read Dmitrov's defence statement -- he actually got off!). I had assumed the building had been rebuilt in time for the Soviet Army to destroy it, but maybe not. O'Connell, in a long day of evidence, made the points to which I referred and I must admit that I was so impressed with them in themselves that I forgot the context in which he made the references..

Another comment drew attention to the ideological importance acquired by certain buildings and the point was made well.

Yet another comment asked whether a certain individual was invited while another comment, while clashing with that one, actually also made a point about the net for support not being cast wide enough. I think the organisers of Hands Around Moore Street are conscious of the need to develop their networking and it is to be hoped that they will do so over the coming weeks and months. I have also supplied the email address of Save Moore Street Campaign for people to contact them in order to offer encouragement, help etc.

No doubt 1966 and other dates since would have been good times to protect and develop those buildings but here we are now and the question is what are we going to do?

It was not Pzazz who sang in Moore Street but one of the singers of that group: Clare Halligan.

The photo posted of the roof of one of the houses is very interesting too, in that it appears to show that the building is unprotected from the weather. I'd need to check the record but thought that Dublin City Council gave evidence at the hearing that measures were taken by them to protect the buildings from the weather.

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