What struck me most about the representations I received in recent weeks was the fact that many people stated many historic buildings and places in this country have not been recognised and many of them are under threat. I found this hard to believe.
I read through some previous debates from the Dáil and Seanad, including a debate in which I took part in the Seanad in 2004 when we discussed amending the National Monuments Act. During the debate we discussed the battle of Aughrim and the battlefield mentioned by the Minister when speaking on this motion. I welcome what Sinn Féin is doing through this motion because these issues are part of our history and heritage and we should have more debates on national monuments.
As has been stated, when in government Fianna Fáil introduced a national preservation order on Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street which declared the buildings were of national importance by reason of their historic significance. Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú made a very strong case in the Seanad with regard to the buildings. No. 16 was the last place of refuge for the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. They were forced to abandon their GPO headquarters and take refuge there in what were to be the last hours of the insurrection. Leaders including Patrick Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett, Sean McDermott and Thomas Clarke took refuge in this house on 29 April, the day before the unconditional surrender by Pearse. Under this preservation order, Nos. 14-17 Moore Street would be afforded the same status and protection as a priceless historical structure. One article I read compared it to Newgrange.
In 2007, the then Minister for Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Mr. Dick Roche, said: “In the decade leading up to the centenary celebrations of the 1916 rising it would be unconscionable for the Government not to close any potential legal loophole which might result in the loss or destruction of a national monument such as No.16 Moore Street to future generations.”
It is regrettable for this building to have a neglected or vacant appearance. Earlier the Minister spoke in positive terms about his concern. I hope that there will be agreement between all involved – An Bord Pleanála, Dublin City Council and the Save No. 16 Moore Street Committee – on the idea of developing there with a conservation plan for the historic site. The committee, whose members include relatives of the signatories of the 1916 and whom I welcome to the debate, has done much to raise public awareness of the importance of this historic address. Members of the committee have made presentations on a number of occasions to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht, and they have highlighted their campaign once again. I look forward to exploring with the Save No. 16 Moore Street Committee how this area of Dublin can be developed in a balanced manner that respects the historical significance of the site.
I ask the Minister to act without further delay to ensure the plan to transform this site with the full preservation of the national monument is carried out. The Minister mentioned the battlefield site, which is certainly important. It will greatly enhance our national heritage and the tourist potential in our capital city as we approach the centenary of the Easter Rising. Many of us received representations from a French art historian and museum professional who talked about having this building in its place beside Kilmainham Gaol as a top attraction in the guidebooks, which is something to which we should all look forward.