The 28th of June was not a normal Sunday in Moore Street. On a normal Sunday, Moore Street is not a busy street, although it is not quiet either. The stallholders are on a day off to come back on Monday but a number of small shops are open as are the supermarkets and the ILAC shopping centre, one of which doors opens up on to Moore Street. But on this Sunday, crowds packed a part of the street for the event organised by the Save Moore Street from Demolition group.
As a crowd had gathered already by 1.30pm, a half an hour early, singer-musician Paul O’Toole responded to his performing instincts and started playing a set of compositions of his own and of others. A song against the Water Charges opened his set, to be followed by another of his own, We Shall Not Lie Down.
Meanwhile the Save Moore Street from Demolition (non-political party) group, had set up their stall as they had done the previous day there and on another 41 Saturday afternoons in Moore Street. The folding table, covered in a Cumann na mBan flag donated by a diaspora supporter, was staffed by Bróna Uí Loing, a relation of 1916 veterans and of Fenians involved in the famous Manchester prison van escape, and Vivienne Lee, another early activist in the campaign. On the table was a petition to save the street and leaflets were being handed out by helpers. Nearby, some Irish tricolours, the Starry Plough and the Irish Republic flag fluttered and a number of placards indicated the concerns of the campaign: “NÍL SAOIRSE GAN STAIR (“There is no freedom without history”) stated one, while another said “NO TO SPECULATORS”.
MOORE STREET IN HISTORY
Moore Street is the sole remaining street of a market quarter going back hundreds of years comprising three parallel streets with many lane-ways in between, all the rest of which are now buried underneath the ILAC shopping centre and a Dunne’s Stores; people lived in those streets and laneways and clothes and shoes, meat and fish, fruit and vegetables and furniture were sold there.
But in 1916, Moore Street, its back yards and its surrounding streets were host to history of a different kind: in the last days of the 1916 Rising, the GPO roof burning and the ceiling unsafe, around 300 Irish Citizen Army and Irish Volunteers evacuated the building and made their way through a side door, across a Henry Street made hazardous by flying bullets, and into Henry Place. It was probably here that the English revolutionary socialist, Weekes (also variously Weeks, Wicks) who had joined the Rising, fell dead.
The insurgents’ evacuation group included three women: Elizabeth O’Farrell, her life-long friend Julia Grennan and Winifred Carney, James Connolly’s secretary who, on leaving Liberty Hall on Easter Monday, had packed a Webley pistol along with her typewriter. All three had refused to leave as the other Cumann na mBan women made their own earlier hazardous way helping the wounded fighters to Jervis Street hospital.
As the evacuees made their way hurriedly through the Henry Place laneway, they encountered a storm of machine-gun and rifle fire at the intersection of the lane and another, now named Moore Lane. The fire was coming from a British Army barricade at the top, in what is now Parnell Street. Here Michael Mulvihill fell, mortally wounded; he was also fresh over from England but originally from Kerry. Volunteers broke into a yard and dragged a car out, placing it across the gap and taking a breath, they ran across, mostly one by one. Connolly was being carried on a makeshift stretcher, his ankle shattered earlier by a ricocheting bullet in Williams Lane, ironically just next to Independent House, owned by leader of Dublin “nationalist” capitalists, William Martin Murphy and also ironically, across the road from the former office of the Irish Socialist Republican Party, founded by Connolly in 1896, sixteen years earlier.
Shortly before the evacuating group were making their way across that murderous gap, Michael The O’Rahilly had led a dozen fighters who had volunteered for the task in a charge at another British barricade and machine-gun a the top of Moore Street, also in what is now Parnell Street. Since the GPO was being evacuated, there was no covering fire from the top of that building and the fire coming down the street must have been terrific. None made it as far as the barricade. The O’Rahilly was apparently unharmed and got quite close; he sheltered in a doorway on the west side of the street and then ran across to a lane on the other side. A burst of machine-gun fire caught him and in the laneway, now named O’Rahilly Parade, he died, after having penned a note to his wife. The note is reproduced now on a bronze plaque in that street.
The other group, having made it through Henry Lane and prevented from further progress by the firing of that same machine-gun, broke into the first house of a Moore St. Terrace on the north side of the terrace and began to tunnel northwards from house to house, occupying in time the whole terrace by the time their leaders gave up their plan of breakout and, in an attempt to save further loss of civilian life, surrendered themselves and all the garrisons of the Rising on both sides of the Liffey on Saturday of Easter Week.
The surrender party of Pearse and O’Flaherty met General Lowe in what is now Parnell Street (exactly where is disputed but from the photo of the event it would appear to be outside of where In Cahoots café is now). The GPO/ Moore Street garrison marched up O’Connell Street and surrendered their arms outside the Gresham Hotel and were kept prisoner in the garden of the Rotunda, the building where the first public meeting to found the Irish Volunteers had been held in 1913. A British soldier posed later for a photo with the Irish Republic flag held upside down in front of the Parnell Monument and at some point a whole group of British officers posed for another photo, also holding the flag upside-down to signify the defeat of the rebels.
From that tunneled-through terrace in Moore Street, six were among the 14 shot by firing squad, including five of the signatories of the Proclamation: Tom Clarke (whose tobacconist shop was where the Centra shop is now, across from the Parnell Monument), Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Seán Mac Diarmada and Joseph Plunkett. Another, William Pearse, was also executed.
MOORE STREET ON THE 28th JUNE 2015
Jumping forward to June 28th 2015, while Paul O’Toole was playing and singing to keep the audience interested, shouted slogans from the Henry Street end of Moore Street announced the arrival of the Dublin Says No weekly march, come to support the campaign.
Paul O’Toole’s place was taken later by Kev and Dwayne, who played and sang a set of Dublin and 1916 ballads, to be followed by a performance of two of his pieces by John Cummins, Poetician, champion of the Slam Poetry competition. His piece on Moore Street was particularly well received.
Diarmuid Breatnach of the Save Moore Street from Demolition group, who had been MCing the entertainment part of the event, then called on the crowd to line up on the street and stretch arms in a symbolic act of: “Love for Moore Street and our heritage and resistance to the plans of property speculators to destroy it”. Paul O’Toole came back on and played as the crowd eventually stretched around all four sides of the “1916 terrace”, areas where in 1916 bullets flew and people died as a relatively small group of women and men took on the British Empire. Cries could be heard of
“Save Moore Street, save it all,
Save the Terrace and the stalls!”
When the ‘Arms Around’ exercise had been completed, photographed and filmed, Breatnach called the participants to gather back around to the Moor Street terrace and introduced Mel Mac Giobúin, to speak on behalf of the SMSFD group and to MC the final part of the event.
Mel thanked the crowd for encircling the 1916 terrace in defence of “ ‘me jewel and darlin’ Dublin’ as Éamon Mac Thomáis would say”. Mel explained that the small group of which he was part had run an information and petition stall “every Saturday for over 40 weeks in Moore Street, in rain, cold and now sunshine” and paid tribute to all those who had campaigned over the years. He spoke of the support of ordinary people who shop in the street, who come up to the stall not only to sign the petition but to tell us their memories of shopping or working in Moore Street, of relatives who were involved in the 1916 Rising and/ or in the War of Independence.
Enumerating some of the advances that had been made over the years, Mel denounced the Chartered Land giant “shopping mall” proposal and the NAMA process through which property speculator Joe O’Reilly was now going and Moore Street along with him. (Joe O’Reilly was, at €12.8 billion, top of the list of NAMA debtors not long ago but is now at No.6 of the Top Ten. He is still in business and being paid €120,000 annually by the State to manage his debts; also was recently involved in bidding for another big property site — DB). Dublin City Council had received a large number of submissions, Mel said, and was now beginning to think that another shopping mall might not be the best idea for Moore Street.
“We should continue to recognise the important significance of the 1916 Rising and the long tradition of the street market” Mel said and, in concluding, he thanked the crowd but asked them to be ready to be called out again in defence of the Moore Street historic quarter.
Next to speak was Donna Cooney, representing the 1916 Relatives Association, who spoke of the Cumann na mBan women in Moore Street in 1916, one of them being her great grand-aunt, Elizabeth O’Farrell. Donna recounted how O’Farrell had tripped in Moore Lane during the evacuation but had been caught and saved by Sean McGarry. On entering No.10, the first thing O’Farrell remembered seeing was Connolly on a stretcher and went to tend to him (she was a nurse by profession).
Donna spoke of the perilous journey O’Farrell had to take twice in the negotiations with General Lowe and then later, more danger in the unhappy task of taking the surrender instructions from Pearse and Connolly to insurgent strongholds in various parts of Dublin. “The Government needs to do much more”, said Donna, referring to Government plans to commemorate the centenary of the Rising in 2016 and was warmly applauded by the crowd.
Proinnsias Ó Rathaille, called up next by Mel, is also a 1916 hero’s relative – his grandfather was The O’Rahilly, who died in the lane that now bears his name. Proinnsias spoke briefly of the international importance of the 1916 Rising, which had given such inspiration and encouragement for their own revolutions to nations around the world, particularly those under the British Empire. Turning to the importance of the Irish diaspora to the struggles, Proinnsias singled out Maeve O’Leary who continues to promote the cause from Australia where her home is now and who had recently returned to her native Dublin for a short while (and worked with the Save Moore Street from Demolition group — DB).
Proinnsias concluded by reading the moving poem written by Yeats to the memory of The O’Rahilly to great applause.
The final speaker introduced by Mel was Jim Connolly Heron, great-grandson of James Connolly, a long-time campaigner for the appropriate preservation of Moore Street. Jim spoke about how the Chartered Land plan to destroy Moore Street had been agreed by a Minister in the current government and how a land-swap deal, which would have facilitated the destruction of much of the 1916 terrace, had been voted down by elected councillors of a number of political parties and independents.
Jim went on to speak of the NAMA sell-off of assets due for the following day, when among other properties, Chartered Land’s stake in the ILAC and Moore Street was to be sold off to the highest bidder. “Moore Street is not for sale”, he said, to cheers. Jim went on to speak of “the golden generation” who had risen in 1916 and the need to honour their memory and to commemorate the event properly and how conserving the historic Moore Street quarter, the only surviving 1916 battle-site, is very important part of that. Jim concluded to loud cheering and applause by saying that “Moore Street will not be sold on our watch!”
Paul O’Toole then played and sang again his “We Will Not Lie Down”, with the crowd joining in on the chorus, after which he accompanied Diarmuid Breatnach singing “Amhrán na bhFiann”, the first verse solo and everyone joining in on the chorus.
And so the third Arms Around Moore Street event in six years (along with other types of campaign events) came to a close. Next Saturday, the Save Moore Street from Demolition information and petition table will be there again, for people to sign, to read, to share their memories, their anger, their hope that the market, the terrace, the quarter are saved. In the meantime, people will sign the petition on line and post supportive comments on the SMSFD Facebook pages and others. It is not just their past – it is their future too.