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Dublin: 18 °C Monday 15 July, 2019
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Why are councillors getting so worked up about the 1916 site at Moore Street?

It could be back to the drawing board for city planners if tonight’s controversial ‘land swap’ plan for the 1916 site is rejected…

Actress, Fionnuala Flanagan at the historic site.
Actress, Fionnuala Flanagan at the historic site.
Image: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland

CONTACTS BETWEEN PARTIES are set to continue down to the wire ahead of a controversial “land swap” motion at Dublin City Council tonight on the future of Moore Street.

At the moment it’s looking like Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil, People Before Profit and the Greens will oppose the proposal from Council bosses as the local authority holds its monthly meeting.

But councillors from Fine Gael and Labour have indicated they’re in favour of it — as has Independent Councillor Nial Ring, who chairs the Moore Street Advisory Committee.

There’s also a possibility the decision could be kicked down the road for another month — but with just over 18 months to go before the 2016 anniversary celebrations, that would mean yet another delay in the process.

So what’s being proposed?

In a nutshell, the plan would involve developers Chartered Land carrying out €9 million worth of restoration works to turn 14 to 17 Moore Street into a museum centre. Funding would come from NAMA, and the project would have a proposed deadline of six weeks before the 2016 ceremony.

The Council would then take over ownership of the museum.

In exchange, the local authority would hand over numbers 24 and 25 Moore Street — currently the location of a cleaning depot. It’s planned that land would be used for the development of a large-scale shopping centre.

The leaders of the 1916 Rising surrendered in the building at 14-17 Moore Street, which is also the site of where the provisional government was headquartered during the Rising.

Those in favour of the project are arguing that it would represent positive progress in establishing a national monument, which could be enjoyed by the whole city in time for the centenary.

Those against say the entire terrace of Moore Street, between Henry Street and Parnell Street, should be preserved. Some contend the issue of the ‘artificial’ deadline is forcing councillors’ hands, and that more time should be taken to get the project right.

That said, it’s a complex issue — as several councillors contacted by TheJournal.ie this afternoon noted.

The wider question of what should be done at the site has been discussed for years.

Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Patrick Cooney, songwriter Pete St John and Great Grandson of James Connolly, James Connolly Heron of the ‘Save Moore Street’ Campaign.

The councillors 

“In essence, if we vote for a museum it comes with a shopping centre attached,” according to Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe (who also happens to be an architect and a lecturer in planning).

He said the proposed development was “overscaled and out-of-date” and that a plan for the area similar to the one adopted for Temple Bar in the early 1990s should be looked at.

Cuffe said the prospect of British high street stores conducting business at a site “where patriots lost their lives 98 years ago is difficult to reconcile”.

Sinn Féín councillor Daithí Doolan echoed a comment from Cuffe that it was more important to get the project right “than rushing things” in time for 2016.

“We’ve been quite consistent on this,” Doolan said.

We’ve a very different view than the Council. They want a shopping centre with a minimal heritage centre. We want to develop the whole quarter.

Doolan said that Sinn Féin, which is the largest party on the authority with 16 seats, was “not going to be dazzled” by the mooted deadline.

Fianna Fáil group leader on the Council Paul McAuliffe said he expected the party’s nine councillors would also vote against the plan.

“At the moment we’re operating in a little bit of a vacuum,” McAuliffe said.

“We don’t know how surrounding buildings will be treated,” the Ballymun-Finglas councillor added, saying he wouldn’t want to see a ”string of superpubs and McDonalds” on the street.

 

It’s not the right financial deal for the city and doesn’t allow us to see how Moore Street will be developed.

McAuliffe also raised the prospect of a Temple Bar-style initiative for the area.

[TheJournal.ie]

Those for…

Fine Gael, Labour and some other councillors appeared to be taking a more pragmatic approach, when contacted by this website earlier.

Labour’s leader on the Council, Dermot Lacey, said he was inclined to vote in favour of the plan, as it provided an opportunity to preserve four units of the street.

“I’ve been involved in this issue since 2002,” Lacey said.

Our initial objective was to preserve number 16 Moore Street. We are now getting the possibility to preserve 14 to 17 and start the rejuvenation of Moore Street.

Independent councillor Nial Ring (who, again, chairs the Moore Street Committee) is also supporting the proposal, and his backing is likely to sway the support of some of the 11 other independents tonight.

Both Lacey and Kieran Binchey, the leader of the Fine Gael group, said they respected Ring’s input on the issue and had taken his position on board.

Binchy said he intended to support the proposal tonight, and that he expected other FG councillors would also do so.

“Dubliners have been campaigning for very long time for an appropriate way to commemorate the 1916 Rising,” he said.

He added that politics was about achieving the “art of the possible” and was “about making things happen”.

Kicking it down the road? 

After all that… the vote may not even go ahead at all tonight, Councillor Ring said.

“We may be recommending or requesting that it’s deferred for a month,” he explained.

With so many new councillors on the authority, some of them still need time to get to grips with the complexity of the issue, he said.

Over 50 per cent of the councillors are new and now they’re landed with an issue of national significance.

Planners were briefing members on the issue at a meeting this lunchtime, while group leaders of the parties represented on the council have also been meeting.

“Anything could happen in the next few hours,” one councillor said, when we began writing this article (which, admittedly, was a fair few hours ago now).

However, if SF, FF, the Greens and PBP all turn up and vote as expected, the plan would be rejected with a 33 to 30 majority at least.

At which point, it would be back to the drawing board for city managers.

Read: Who is your new local councillor? Here’s a list of everyone elected

Read: Relatives of 1916 leaders call for Moore Street preservation work to begin

Read: Relatives of 1916 Rising rebels are angry about the plans for Moore Street

 

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