Derry Council calls on Irish government to protect 1916 buildings

The Irish Tricolour flying over the General Post Office in Dublin.
The Irish Tricolour flying over the General Post Office in Dublin.

Derry & Strabane Council tonight called on the Irish Culture Minister to ensure that a group of historic buildings relating to the 1916 Easter Rebellion are “fully protected” ahead of the centenary commemorations.

A ‘Save Moore Street’ campaign has developed around the fate of buildings on Moore Street in Dublin, with people occupying buildings where the 1916 rebels had their last headquarters, and mass rallies having been held in the area.

Sinn Fein Derry Councillor Colly Kelly.

Sinn Fein Derry Councillor Colly Kelly.

During Easter 1916, hundreds of Irish Volunteers escaped, under a hail of fire from British military, from the burning General Post Office and took shelter in the Moore Street buildings, and eventually surrendered there.

The Moore Street buildings, which date from the 18th Century, were given national monument status almost a decade ago.

There has since been controversy over permission being granted for a major development nearby.

The Irish government have said recently that some of the buildings at the centre of the protest were of themselves not among those which were of historic significance to the events which revolutionised Irish history a century ago this year.

Can you imagine the outcry if someone started demolishing the Derry Walls or Free Derry Corner?

Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly

Two separate motions on the issue were initially presented before Derry City & Strabane District Council’s monthly Full Council meeting on Thursday afternoon by Sinn Fein Councillor Colly Kelly and Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly.

Colr. Kelly had proposed that the Council “calls on the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys TD and the Minister for the Environment and Community, Alan Kelly TD to ensure that the areas around 10-25 Moore Street, Dublin are fully protected as a National monument or the purpose of preserving locations associated with Easter 1916”.

Colr. Donnelly had proposed another motion for the same thing, and said he was happy to withdraw this if part of his own motion would be incorporated into that tables earlier.

His motion had urged the council to “call upon the relevant State and Council authorities to immediately withdraw all threats of demolition to Numbers 13, 18 and 19 Moore Street”, and this was incorporated into the earlier motion.

Derry City & Strabane District Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly. DER2114MC153

Derry City & Strabane District Independent Councillor Gary Donnelly. DER2114MC153

Speaking to his motion, Councillor Kelly said he had been approached by many local people over the issue and had seen first hand what was happening and the strength of feeling about it upon visiting Moore Street on January 7.

“On this 100th anniversary it is ironic we are fighting to preserve these buildings,” he said. “The National Museum described this as the most important site in modern Irish history. Developers should not be setting the agenda.”

He asked whether in any other country in the world people could envisage such an iconic site being under threat, adding that he hoped the State was now starting to realise how important the preservation was.

“Can you imagine the outcry if someone started demolishing the Derry Walls or Free Derry Corner?” he asked.

A photgraph capturing the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

A photgraph capturing the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin.

Colr. Donnelly said that it was a shame the council had to go to these measures, but said that it was not surprising given the way other sites of major historic importance in Ireland, such as Tara and the Viking settlement in Dublin, had been treated.

DUP Councillor David Ramsey said the issue he had with the motion tabled was that “the community I represent see the Easter Rising was an attack on the State at the time, but we have a share history and we are working on a shared future.”

Colr. Ramsey said his party would find it difficult to support the motion without an assurance and amendment that the three people from the city who fought in the Rising on the side of the British, two of them killed and the third wounded, were remembered, along with the four local regiments- Derry, Buncrana, Enniskillen and Leinster, who fought in Dublin.

Independent Councillor Paul Gallagher said he too had been to Moore Street and saw what had been done and pledged his support for the motion.

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly also pledged his party’s backing, stating that they “fully recognised the value of our own built heritage to the physical fabric of this city”.

He added that 1916 had been a “pivotal year” for Ireland, from the Rising to the Somme, and said that the centenary events should be inclusive of all traditions.

The Republic of Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland.

The motion was carried with the unanimous backing of the 28 Sinn Fein, SDLP and Independent Councillors present, with the nine DUP and UUP parties voting against.

Earlier in the meeting DUP Thompson had argued that the council standing orders “state very, very clearly” that every motion must be relevant to some matter that the council has power over.

He said he didn’t believe that the council has any jurisdiction over 10 to 25 Moore Street in Dublin or any jurisdiction over the Minister in the Dail.

“This motion should not even have been brought to this council,” he argued.

The City Solicitor said however that there was some ambiguity as to what may or may not be acceptable, with further guidance expected from central government, adding that in the present case, it would be for the chair, Mayor of Derry & Strabane Elisha McCallion, to rule.

Mayor McCallion said she believed there was enough fluidity within the Standing Order to allow the motion to be tabled.