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Government challenge over Moore Street battlefield site likely to be paid for out of centenary commemoration fund

Minister for Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys announced where the funds would come from last week in a committee.

Some protesters that occupied buildings on Moore Street in Dublin in January.
Some protesters that occupied buildings on Moore Street in Dublin in January.
Image: RollingNews.ie

OPPOSITION TDS AND relatives’ groups have hit out at the Government after it was announced that funds to challenge a High Court decision declaring Moore Street an historic battlefield site would likely be taken from the centenary commemoration fund.

The High Court declared Moore Street in Dublin – the site of the 1916 rebels’ surrender – an historic battlefield site in March.

The decision meant that planned works by the Government to convert Nos 14-17 Moore Street (which have National Monument status) into a commemoration centre could not go ahead.

The decision was met with support and enthusiasm by various 1916 relatives’ groups, as well as by politicians from Sinn Féin and AA-PBP among others.

These groups have long argued that the Moore Street area should be designated as a battlefield site and preserved as such.

The Government announced in June that it would challenge the High Court decision, stating that it posed risks and problems for planning across the country.

8/1/2016. People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Bar AAA-PBP TD Richard Boyd Barrett addresses people at a rally at Moore Street in January. Source: RollingNews.ie

“The judgement extends the scope of national monument status, setting a precedent which could affect a wide range of vital infrastructure projects,” Minister for Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys said at the time.

Last week, Humphreys appeared before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

She said that costs for the legal challenge would likely come from the commemoration fund used to pay for projects and initiatives surrounding the Decade of Centenaries.

In response to a question from Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín – who is also chair of the committee – about how much the challenge would cost and where the funding would come from, Humphreys said:

It is under review at the minute, it hasn’t materialised but when it does come out it should come out under the B subhead.
“There’s a subhead there for commemoration – A 15″

The A 15 subhead is the expenditure provision created in 2014 to support the funding of projects and initiatives to do with the “Decade of Centenaries 1912-1922″.

It provides the funding used – for example – for the 2016 Centenary Programme to commemorate the 1916 Rising.

Humphreys also said that the legal costs “haven’t materialised yet” and so it was impossible to say how much would be incurred.

humphreys Heather Humphreys appearing before the committee last week.

Criticism

Speaking to the TheJournal.ie, Peadar Tóibín said that it was “ironic” that the Government might use money from this fund to pay any potential legal costs.

“Is it not ironic to pay for a High Court case [with commemoration funds] that looks to reduce the National Monument scope and breadth, which in itself pays tribute to those who fought in 1916,” he said.

That the Government is now seeking to use the funds assigned for the commemoration of these men and women to pay for this legal battle, is profoundly shocking.

toibin Peadar Tóibín pictured at the committee last week. Source: Oireachtas.ie

Donna Cooney, of the the 1916 Relatives Association, also criticised the statements by the minister, saying that it “beggars belief” that the commemoration fund would be used.

In reply to a query about funding from TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the Department of Heritage said that the costs would not be determined until the case in concluded.

“If the State wins its appeal it would normally have no liability for legal costs,” the spokesperson said.

Any costs awarded against the State would in the first instance be assessed by the Chief State Solicitor’s Offices.

The spokesperson said then that any discussion of costs at this stage was “premature and speculative”.

Works to redevelop the National Monument at Moore Street have been halted on the back of the High Court decision in March.

Recent minor refurbishment and renewal works are ongoing, however, which the department says are to “preserve and protect the buildings”.

Read: “I’m losing money every day while nothing is being done… it’s a nightmare” – How Moore Street’s traders have been forgotten about

Read: There was an “unlawful entry” at the Moore St battlefield site this morning

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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