The following is a part of the personal submission on the future of Moore Street which I made to the Minister’s Consultative Group on Moore Street; another section, 0n the Moore Street Market, has already been published.
The 1916 Rising historical aspect of Moore Street has been most commented upon, understandably and rightly so; however because of that I do not feel it is necessary for me to do aught than to outline the bare bones of the historical case.
The Easter Rising began on Easter Monday April 24th — it was a momentous occasion in Irish and in world history (see 1916 RISING – OF GREAT SIGNIFICANCE IN IRISH AND INTERNATIONAL HISTORY to be published separately) and of unparalleled significance in making possible the present national and international status of Ireland (whether it or subsequent events resulted in true independence or lived up to the dreams and vision of the Rising’s participants is another matter).
April 24th was not only the day the “Republic was asserted in arms” but also the day it was declared by written and spoken word, to Ireland and to the world. That was done through the Proclamation, signed earlier in the week at No.21 Henry Street and then read out by Patrick Pearse outside the GPO on behalf of the Irish Republic, copies being also distributed through the city.
Why read out at the GPO? Because the HQ of the Rising was there, the Provisional Government of the Irish Republic. And on Friday 28th, when that building was no longer habitable due to shell-fire and flames, the Government and those remaining of the GPO garrison evacuated the building.
Leaving by a side door that no longer exists, the evacuees crossed a smoke-covered and bullet-live Henry Street and entered Henry Place. There they made their way to the corner of Moore Lane and two men died on that journey. They entered houses seeking British soldiers, ready for hand-to-hand fighting and found none – the British soldiers were at distant remove and armed with machine-guns and rifles on the roof of the Rotunda and at a barricade on Parnell Street.
Building a temporary barricade for cover, the evacuees made their way across this gap – indeed a bearna baoil — and continued on towards Moore Street. Here again the main body came to a halt, as another British barricade was firing down this street too.
Possibly one Volunteer died trying to cross here; certainly the majority instead decided to enter No.10 Moore Street (junction with Henry Place) and some houses in the southern terrace (that whole terrace and a part of No.10 were later destroyed by shelling and flames). Some volunteers also occupied the furthest house south but were forced by flames and heat to evacuate it later.
Nos.10, 14, the End of the Terrace and O’Rahilly Parade
In No.10, Volunteer Nurse O’Farrell set up the field hospital, treating up to 20 wounded men, including a wounded British soldier picked up under British fire by George Plunkett from near a Volunteer barricade at the Moore St./ Salmons Lane junction and brought inside to be cared for.
Such details would make No.10 of great historical importance but it is trumped by another – this was also where the Provisional Government met on the evening of Friday 28th, the last night of the Rising. And it was here that the decision was taken to tunnel through the rest of the houses.
Through the rest of that night tunneling continued to the last house in the terrace, which is to say at the lane now named O’Rahilly Parade. And the Government relocated to nearer the centre of the terrace, almost certainly No.16. Those facts alone make the whole terrace of important historical significance.
Yet there is more. Just prior to the evacuation, The O’Rahilly led a detachment of volunteers (in both senses) in a charge along Moore Street at the barricade. Of those who remained in the street only one somehow appears not to have been wounded but his luck was about to run out: as he ran across the road to the laneway which now bears his name, The O’Rahilly was hit by five bullets and lay, dying, in the lane. Here he composed and wrote that prosaic and yet heart-rending simple letter of farewell to his wife and children, the script and content of which is reproduced in the monument currently on the wall in this laneway, near the junction known for generations locally as “Dead Man’s Corner”.
ANOTHER SUICIDE ASSAULT PLAN AND SURRENDER
In this laneway the next day, Saturday 29th, there gathered another barricade suicide attack party mobilised by Seán McLoughlin, to provide at least a diversion for the rest of the Garrison to escape and proceed westward to continue the resistance. Included in this group was Oscar Traynor, subsequently serving at different times as Minister for Post & Telegraphs, Defence and Justice (also President of the Football Association of Ireland) (but also later instrumental in denying McLoughlin a pension at commanding officer level).
Impressed by McLoughlin’s conduct earlier and during the evacuation, Connolly had appointed him to replace himself as head of the GPO Garrison now in Moore Street: yet another great historical importance of Moore Street – McLoughlin went on to become an IRA organiser in Limerick and also Commandant of a Flying Brigade in Limerick during the Civil War (by which time he had become a communist).
McLoughlin’s group were pulled back from their attack almost at the last moment as Pearse was now contemplating surrender. A number of civilians, including women, had been shot dead by the British in Moore Street (the Volunteers had shot one civilian, a teenage girl, with an accidental discharge upon entering No.10 – incredibly almost, the father pleaded the Volunteer be not punished and the mother cooked for the soldiers).
In pursuance of the decision to surrender, Elizabeth O’Farrell left the terrace (perhaps from No.14) under an improvised white flag of truce (despite a civilian man lying dead in the street under another such improvised flag), climbed over the British barricade and met with General Lowe, then returned to Moore Street and eventually emerged again with Pearse, whereupon the Surrender was formally agreed and Pearse’s order and Connolly’s co-signing was also decided.
All those events make the whole Moore Street quarter of huge national historical significance but there is yet one more – McLoughlin marched the garrison out under arms, in defiance of the orders of the British and they retraced their evacuation route, saluting the GPO as they passed it on their way up to the Gresham and captivity.
Apart from the civilians and Volunteers wounded and killed in that quarter, five of the Signatories of the Proclamation, including the Commander-in-Chief of the Rising and with his brother Willie, six of the fourteen executed in Dublin spent their last days of freedom in Moore Street.
During the Easter Rising Volunteers and their supporters or anxious relatives came and went to and from the GPO and other buildings in the area, some of them taking side streets to do so, many passing through the Moore Street quarter (including parts of it now buried under the ILAC). From the GPO to the Moore Street quarter is clearly the site of a historical urban (and WWI) battlefield, most of it intact.
Judge Barrett rightly pointed out that the issue is not how many of the houses are of pre-1916 construction (despite the State’s defence team making much of this issue) but rather of the historical footprint. In other words, Max Barrett took an archaelogical historical view rather than a historical architectural one.
Without being unmoved by architecture, I would concur with this viewpoint and emphasise it in stressing the historical importance of the street, laneways and buildings (including the eastern side of the southern terrace of Moore Street, included in the threat from the giant shopping mall plan). Nevertheless, it is a fact that some of the buildings are of pre-1916 vintage and that virtually all contain some of the original building, or cellars or courtelage. On the northwest side, bullet marks may be found on houses including parts of the wings of the ‘grotesque’ (on the roof of a fine “Dutch”-style house) which were shot off by British Army soldiers during the Rising.
CONCRETE CONSERVATION, RESTORATION AND DEVELOPMENT RECOMMENDATIONS
In consultation with campaigners, street traders, the public, small shopkeepers, local residents, historians, architects and elected representatives: Save, Restore, Rebuild, Improve.
The whole area should be pedestrianised with the usual access exemptions for deliveries within certain hours, emergency services etc.
Buildings of the 1916 period in the Quarter should be preserved
All other buildings in the quarter should be preserved, renovated or reconstructed as necessary to appearance appropriate to the period and area (and appropriate to their current use – I am not advocating the building of outside toilets for public use or slaughterhouses)
The upper floor of the 1916 Terrace should be developed into a 1916 history experience, integrated with the GPO and the Evacuation Route, with disabled access
and the history being ‘social’ (i.e. showing how the people lived) as well as a ‘political’, i.e. aspects of the Rising (see A MOORE STREET HISTORY TOUR — A VISITOR’S EXPERIENCE IN THE FUTURE, article soon to be published)
The Evacuation Route should be conserved and appropriately renovated where necessary, with important events marked by plaques, panels and murals along its route
The Evacuation Route should be brought back to the period cobbles and kept clear of rubbish or graffiti with disabled access
Moore Lane and O’Rahilly Parade should be brought back to original cobbles with disabled access
The development should take place in the context of upgrading the area as a history, culture and leisure area, most of it accessible by day and night
The part of Moore Street not currently part of the Barrett judgement should be included in the overall plan
The State should investigate the potential of applying for World Heritage Status, consulting widely and publishing its recommendations
Also for conservation within a European framework (some aspects of Horizon 2020 may be useful in this respect)
In order to do all this, a first priority is to formally urge the Minister to drop the appeal and I submit that the Consultative Group should do exactly that.
Develop a democratic, open and transparent partnership process to oversee the development, with representation for all stakeholders, including street traders and local small businesses, nearby residents, historians, campaigners (including activists currently excluded from the Consultative Group), historians ….