As the centenary of the 1916 Rebellion gets closer, relatives of the leaders have a plan to preserve rundown historical locations, writes John Drennan

**There is also a Facebook group for this issue for anyone interested: Save 16 Moore Street Dublin

John Drennan
Sunday Independent
April 08 2012

Concern is growing at the highest level of government over the ongoing dereliction of the central location of the 1916 rebellion.

The area surrounding the GPO and Moore St, where the first Republic was declared and lost, is within the theology of the Irish Republic, a sacred space where the heroism of those boys, poets, shop-keepers and Socialist pamphleteers, who took on an Empire and created the seeds of the Republic, should be celebrated.

However, as the centenary of 1916 comes ever more close, the current state of this cradle of the Republic has been described by relatives of the original Rising leaders, and correctly so, as a “national disgrace”.

Such a verdict is seriously embarrassing for both the Taoiseach and Tanaiste who, separately, prior to the election toured the location and promised to comprehensively revitalise it.

But, whilst countries such as America, who possess a sense of civic pride, know how to revere their history, on a recent tour of the historic alleyways of Moore St with James Connolly Heron, the great grandson of James Connolly and members of the Save 16 Moore St Committee, the kindest thing that could be said of the birthplace of the Republic is that it is a tattered place now.

Everywhere the air is thick with the smell of grease from fast food outlets covering every single thing like a fine fog. Tatty signs advertise such delights as cash for gold whilst on streets, where tar has been laid across pre-Famine cobblestones, three gentlemen, from what appear to be the tramp class are drinking what appear to be old-fashioned flagons of cider.

As the centenary of 1916 approaches, meanwhile, a new series of battles are being fought over these streets whose walls are still pock-marked with bullet holes.

In one corner Chartered Land developments, owned by the Nama developer Joe O’Reilly, are planning to, in the words of Connolly Herron, “blitz” the area to build a shopping centre.

Of the 20 buildings earmarked as having a role in the Rebellion, under the developer’s plans only four will survive as a heritage centre to the Rebellion.

The developers Chartered Land note the plans are supported by Dublin City Council and An Bord Pleanala. However, the commitment of Dublin City Council to the history of the State is questioned by Connolly Heron. And other State bodies such as the Heritage Council, the National Museum and An Taisce are becoming increasingly concerned about what Connolly Heron and the relatives of the 1916 leaders call the ‘”most important battlefield site” in Ireland.

The battle for the future of the birthplace of the Republic will heat up even further when the original campaigners launch, with the surviving relatives of the 1916 leaders, a new plan for the area — HQ 16. A Citizens’ Plan for Dublin.

In a unique event, family members of the executed leaders will be there –but any politicians who turn up should tread warily, for the surviving 1916 relatives are scathing about the role played by an indifferent political elite, soul-less careerist bureaucrats and buccaneering developers in the destruction of the birthplace of the Republic.

In a recent statement, relatives of the seven signatories to the 1916 Proclamation noted that the State’s treatment of a historical quarter which, dating back as it does to 1760, is actually older than Sackville (O’Connell St), “insults the memory of those it purports to honour”.

It is hard to disagree. Connolly Heron recalls that when he was in opposition Enda spoke eloquently about ‘the lanes of history’ surrounding Moore St.

Now the place where the volunteers gathered and took the agonised decision over whether or not to surrender is a gaudy white-fronted mobile phone shop, with a sideline in hair accessories. The laneways where boys rolled out hand-carts to hold off the Empire, and where nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell famously emerged under gunfire waving a white flag to signal the end of the Rising, are dripping in dereliction rather than ‘history’.

As we walk past the spot where the dying O’Rahilly wrote a note to his wife (“‘I got more than one bullet I think… it was a good fight anyhow” he wrote) one piece of perfect iconography for the evolution of the Republic they died for awaits us.

At the end of the tour, on the wall of Conway’s pub, a plaque notes this was the place where Pearse surrendered. In time, of course, the now derelict Conway’s achieved its own fame, courtesy of its status as one of the favourite places for crooked spin doctors, such as Frank Dunlop, to ‘do business’ with corrupt politicians and corrupting developers.

History, of course, can be changed. Connolly Heron notes that Enda, Eamon, and in particular Jimmy Deenihan can, at the stroke of a pen, end the scenario where Nama are ‘”planning with taxpayers money to destroy a national monument the State has undertook to protect”.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent Connolly Heron also said he expects the Government to ‘”uphold and honour its undertaking to ensure that this National Monument is secured, preserved and protected to its fullest extent”.