Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Dáil debate on Moore Street

A Dáil debate this evening on the fate of the terrace of houses in Moore Street that was the site of the last stand of the GPO garrison in 1916 was the site of more skipping and sliding and sidestepping than anything since the Oireachtas championships at the mass Caip Chúl Áird dance.
The houses, and the streets and lanes around them, are a battlefield site that any capital city would give its eyeteeth for, but they are endangered by a plan for a giant shopping mall, planned to be built by the same developer that brought us Dundrum's shopping centre, and bringing in the same style of shops to compete with the surrounding shopping streets of Grafton Street, O'Connell Street, Henry Street, Talbot Street, Exchequer Street, Wicklow Street, etc.
Sinn Féin's motion was announced in a packed Dáil, which rapidly emptied as the members rushed to more important business (it was 7pm), leaving some 15 TDs sitting. The visitors' gallery, though was packed, with relatives of the 1916 leaders and those who care about Dublin city and history attending for this important debate.
The speakers were mostly thoughtful and sensible, though Eamon Ó Cuív surprisingly called for the GPO to be turned into a museum. Another TD started by rejecting the bloodshed of 1916; d'oh! When you go to Paris and look at the Place de la Concorde, where Marie Antoinette was topped, do you come home and start a revolution? When you go to the Imperial War Museum in London and attend the moving re-creation of the Blitz, does it inspire you to go and kill Germans? When you visit Washington and pay your respects at the wall of names, do you do it with any reflection on the mass murders America has been committed? When will our politicians realise that commemorating the dead of history is not the same as wanting to go out and repeat that history?
Not much of a politico, I don't know who the young TD was who made a wonderful and impassioned speech about the neglect of the city's north side, its Georgian heritage and its historic areas where the battles of 1916 and the War of Independence had been fought. (I'll amend this tomorrow, if I remember, when the Oireachtas report should be online and I'll have his name.) (It never was online; for some reason these after-hours debates aren't noted it seems [nota bene would-be revolutionaries] but his name is Patrick O'Donovan, and he's said to be the blue-eyed boy.)
But the highlight had to be a speech by a young TD, whose name I won't reveal out of solidarity as a fellow-eejit. She awoke the dozing House by a passionate description of the cottage in Mayo that has been sent to New York to become a museum commemorating the Famine.
The gallery slapped their knees and snorted with laughter, as a whisper ran around: "That's the solution - export the GPO Battlefield Trail to America - they'll respect it there!"
The vote is tomorrow. Fifty of the opposition TDs support it - astonishingly, Joe Higgins refused to support the preservation of this piece of working-class Dublin history - but the government parties are apparently afraid to save our country's history. We live in interesting times.

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