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'You just feel like no one cares one bit about us' - Moore Street traders working in the shadows of history

It’s been a long year for the traders of Moore Street as they work in the shadow of 1916.

IMG_20161212_120756 Marie Cullen works at her fruit and veg stall on Moore Street every day with just 4ft of space. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

MARIE CULLEN MOVES back and forth behind her fruit and stall on Moore Street on a grey December afternoon.

People walk up and down the busy street. A man stops and buys a bag of oranges, a woman gets some onions. Marie smiles and bags the goods with ease and friendliness.

A third generation trader, she has been working on the stalls for over 20 years and knows her business well.

But business has never been as tough for Marie as it is now. Towering up behind her back is a large mass of black scaffolding that rises into the air and pushes out onto the street.

For nearly a year now, that scaffolding has taken up the majority of Marie’s space on the street, leaving her just about 4 foot on which to sell her goods every day.

If one person walk down the footpath they block the street entirely. The path is crowded and hectic, and most people don’t bother to stop to browse at her stall as they pass.

IMG_20161212_121318 The scaffolding overlooking the stalls on Moore Street. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

Hers and two other stalls have to contend with the scaffolding, but the other traders have the path to themselves.

Most people will stop to buy goods away from the scaffolding to avoid being jostled or having their foot run over by a trolley or a pram.

“I’m at my wits’ end. We’re coming up to Christmas which is a very busy time for us, no one can get by, it’s the width of a pallet,” says Marie.

It’s an absolute nightmare to work here.

IMG_20161212_121158 The space between the stalls and the scaffolding measures about 4ft. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

Scaffolding 

We first spoke to Marie in July of this year, seven months after the scaffolding went up.

She was angry and frustrated then, and felt that the Moore Street traders had been forgotten about in the the debate over the future of the area.

Marie Marie speaking to TheJournal.ie in July.

The scaffolding behind Marie was erected on 6 January to facilitate building works on Nos 14-17 Moore Street – the site of the 1916 Irish rebels’ surrender to the British Army and a designated National Monument.

The Irish government had recently acquired ownership of the monument, and had plans to convert the old, run down buildings into a commemoration centre in time for the Easter Rising centenary celebrations in March.

The construction of the planned centre would have interfered with other buildings on the street, long designated as not historically important by the government.

However, protesters from a series of groups under the blanket of Save Moore Street disagreed. A large contingent of people occupied the National Monument in January in protest, refusing to allow the works to go ahead.

download Protesters occupying the buildings in Moore Street in January. Source: RollingNews.ie

They lodged a legal challenge against the proposed government works. In March, the group scored a key victory when the High Court ruled that the entire Moore Street area should be designated as a battlefield site, meaning that the planned development could not go ahead.

But the scaffolding still didn’t come down. The government announced in June that it had lodged an appeal with the High Court, arguing that the ruling was incorrect. That appeal is due to be heard in December 2017.

In July, the Department of the Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht announced that some minor works would be carried out on Nos 14-17, after which the scaffolding would come down.

The traders

Margaret Larkin has also had a very difficult year. She says her business is down 40% since the scaffolding went up.

Every day, she has to contend with trolleys and prams running over her feet and pushing her against the wall.

“I stand here and they run a trolley or a pram over my feet, and say ‘Oh sorry I didn’t see you there’. It’s unbelievable,” she says.

The traders have long been called the heart of Moore Street, with council officials as well as Save Moore Street activists and opposition TDs saying they are an integral part of the area.

download (1) Marie's stall and others on Moore Street. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

“The traders are the heart and the soul of the street – they are part of heritage and culture and the interest in the area,” Peadar Tóibín, Sinn Féin spokesperson on regional affairs told TheJournal.ie earlier this month.

Logic would dictate that we care for them in any plan going forward.

Despite this, the Moore Street traders have to fight regularly for their existence.

A quick look through the Irish Newspaper Archives will turn up a number of incidents throughout the years where traders have been faced with increased council levies, plans to withdraw their license and other measures.

There are no public toilets or wash areas provided by Dublin City Council for the traders in the area. They also are given no permanent trading licenses.

Marie said she had to ask builders working on the National Monument to put up some lights recently on the scaffolding as it was too dark for her to sell and the council had provided no street lights.

“They did it, in fairness to them,” she says.

IMG_20161212_121342 Marie Cullen says her business is down 40% on last year. Source: Cormac Fitzgerald/TheJournal.ie

The future

A spokesperson for the Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht said that the works being carried out on Nos 14-17 were in order to “preserve and protect” the buildings.

The spokesperson said that the work was “progressing satisfactorily” and was expected to be completed by January, when the scaffolding would be taken down.

While the pavement space taken up by the scaffolding and protective hoarding has been kept to a minimum, [the minister has sought] the cooperation of the traders and has assured them that every effort is being made to bring this element of the works  to an end as speedily as possible.

Tóibín says that the rights of the traders have been ignored throughout the entire Moore Street saga, and that the council and the department needed to address their concerns.

“With regards the scaffolding that needs to come down asap and toilets put into the streets,” he says.

For Marie, she has to contend with the scaffolding while the Christmas rush takes over Dublin city, and hope that the building works will be completed soon, so her life can return to some form of normality next year.

You just feel like no one cares one bit about us – and that’s just it.

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

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

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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