THE Moore Street Preservation Trust and Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald organised a conference to support the development of a Historical 1916 Cultural Quarter in Dublin city centre, with Moore Street at its heart.

The conference was uniquely held in the GPO in Dublin on April 24, the date on which the Rising commenced in 1916. It was from that location at the end of Easter Week that several hundred Volunteers, led by five of the leaders, evacuated the burning GPO to Moore Street. This area is at the heart of our fight for freedom. 16 Moore Street was the last HQ of the 1916 government of the Irish Republic.

It was in the buildings, streets and laneways surrounding Moore Street that the Irish Republic was born and where it was defended for six days by heroic patriots who believed in a better future.

The packed meeting of business and retail people, local traders and Save Moore Street activists, as well as relatives of the 1916 leaders, heard contributions from a range of speakers, including Seán Antóin Ó Muirí, the architect who designed the alternative plan for the Moore Street Preservation Trust. Seán’s presentation gave us a sense of what is possible. 

Uachtarán Shinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald, who hosted the event in association with the Moore Street Preservation Trust, spoke of the ‘ambitious vision’ that the relatives and the Trust have for Moore Street. She said: “The Master Plan presented by the Moore Street Preservation Trust is a plan that weaves together much needed housing, retail, and cultural experiences throughout the historical quarter. It’s framed by the idea of the ‘economics of uniqueness’ whereby city centre cores are revitalised through investment in the unique historical and cultural characteristics of a city to create compelling experiences.

"This modern approach is driving the regeneration of city centres across the world – creating jobs, delivering new opportunities, fostering social progress and empowerment, and growing local economies and tourism sectors in a resilient and sustainable way. This is what Dublin needs, and it’s all possible, all achievable.”

The opening contribution was by Liz Gillis, historian, and James Connolly Heron, great grandson of James Connolly. The two spoke of the importance of Moore Street and cited the campaign to save Kilmainham Gaol. Over the centuries, that prison held hundreds of republican prisoners through a succession of rebellions. It was there in May 1916 that 14 of the leaders, including the five who had been in Moore Street, were executed by British firing squads. In the 1930s there were plans to demolish the building which remained empty and derelict until the establishment of the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee in 1958. Hundreds of volunteer workers persevered for years following 1960 to replace the roof and protect the buildings. If it had been left to the government, Kilmainham Prison would have deteriorated beyond repair. Today it is the second most popular visitor attraction on the island of Ireland and is among the top ten museums in the world.

For Liz Gillis and James Connolly Heron, the lesson of Kilmainham is especially pertinent to Moore Street.

Professor Terry Stevens is an international tourism expert who works with the United Nations in destination development. In his contribution he described Moore Street as a “unique and remarkable” project that can “deliver something very special to the story of Ireland and to Dublin” and can “enhance the overall appeal of your capital city".

It was a point made time and again in the course of the conference by local and international contributors.

Paddy Cullivan is a musician, presenter, historian, comedian and all-round entertainer whose successful one man shows on historical characters like Michael Collins and Wolfe Tone are funny and insightful and reveal much about our history that others have sought to revise and hide.

With the use of photographs he reminded us of the many iconic buildings – Carlow Jail, Kilkenny Workhouse, Frascati House – and other locations from our past that have been swept away by developers and planners to be replaced mostly by shopping centres and hotels. He reminded us that the greed of some has destroyed important parts of our important  historical infrastructure.

Clearly, the people of Dublin and Ireland will be better served by Seán Antóin Ó Muirí’s proposal and plan for Moore Street than the developers' proposal to demolish this battlefield site. If properly developed, this unique initiative will generate jobs and income alongside a sense of pride and respect for the men and women of 1916.

Michael Murphy is an architectural designer, educator and writer. He designed the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, which includes the National Lynching Memorial. It is a striking monument which commemorates a dark time in US history but which has also significantly contributed to the economic regeneration of Montgomery. Michael flew in from Boston to support the Trust’s plan. 

Others who contributed to a very successful day were Stephen Troy a fifth generation butcher trading on Moore Street, Harry Connolly from Fáilte Feirste Thiar, Caroline Alwright, a fourth generation market stall owner, and Jean McCabe of Retail Excellence Ireland.

All in all, it was a hugely informative day. The choir from Gaelscoil Coláiste Mhuire sang a rousing version of ‘Óró, Sé Do Bheatha Abhaile’ and Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald called on the government to “withdraw its backing for the Hammerson plan and instead throw its weight fully behind the vision for Moore Street as set out by the Moore Street Preservation Trust. It should also progress and action the Ceathrú Chultúir 1916 Bill drafted by Aengus Ó Snodaigh and passed unanimously by the Dáil in 2021.”

Her comments were echoed by James Connolly Heron and the relatives of the Signatories who attended the conference and by the Preservation Trust. In a statement at the end of the conference and in a letter to An Taoiseach Simon Harris, James Connolly Heron advocated the alternative plan, and asked for a meeting with Mr Harris “to present the alternative plan to you in person at the earliest opportunity. We believe that a meeting with you to discuss this alternative vision for Dublin Central will be of benefit in progressing a plan that will have the support of all interested parties.”

It’s now over to An Taoiseach.

Mass graves an act of barbarism

AT the weekend Leas Uachtarán Michelle O’Neill was in London to address a massive pro-Palestine march. She described what is happening in Gaza as "the gravest human rights violation of our time". Michelle called for "an immediate, unconditional and complete ceasefire. We need to see an end to genocide, ethnic cleansing and collective punishment. All hostages should be released immediately and all aid for Gaza must be delivered immediately, and Israeli forces must withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank.”

Her call follows on the devastating reports that mass graves have been found at two hospitals in the Gaza Strip, Nasser and al-Shifa, containing the bodies of 400 women, children and the elderly, as well as doctors and nurses. Many had their hands tied and some were buried alive. They were all executed by the Israeli military.

Fascinated by pictures of the past

I love photographs. Especially old photos.  Particularly black and white ones. Bill Kirk is a veteran photographer. The Falls is his most recent collection, some twenty years after Images of Belfast. It captures a time and a neighbourhood which has gone.  

As Robin Livingstone in the foreword says: "It is a vital and compelling historical archive, describing in rich detail the people and places where the latest conflict in the shared and troubled history of Ireland and Britain took place."

Well done Bill Kirk and Frankie Quinn, Director of the Belfast Archive Project. I really enjoyed trawling through Bill’s images, spotting old friends and associates as well as places where I spent my childhood. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. 

 The Falls is available from An Fhuiseoig, Falls Road.