Oireachtas All-Party Committee for Environment, Transport, Culture & the Gaeltacht 8th November 2012


Submission to

Oireachtas All-Party Committee for Environment, Transport, Culture & the Gaeltacht

Made by John Connolly, Mark Price and John Conway

At Houses of the Oireachtas on Thursday 8th November 2012

Re: “Saving 16”

We had the pleasure of meeting the chairman of the Oireachtas All-Party Committee for Environment, Transport, Culture & the Gaeltacht, Mr Ciarán Lynch TD and the secretary of the Committee, Mr. Eugene OCruadhlaoich last May for the purpose of further briefing the Committee on the two alternatives which are presently before the Minister around securing the above objective.

In the course of the briefing we outlined to the officers of the Oireachtas Committee that the first of the two alternatives which the Minister is evaluating dates from the time our Save No. 16 Moore Street Committee was formed, around 2003, while the new “save the battlefield site/save the Moore Street Terrace” alternative dates from around 2008/2009.

The first alternative had its genesis in a call by us to the members of Dublin City Council and Oireachtas Éireann to desist from permitting the demolition of No 16 Moore Street and all of its environs to make way for a regeneration project for North O’Connell Street/Mid Moore Street/The Iliac Centre in the form of a mixed-use development of commercial and residential accommodation.

Full Planning Permission had been granted in 1998/1999 for this demolition of No. 16 Moore Street and its contextual buildings to be carried out.

Our proposal to the authorities for the implementation of an alternative vision, which would secure both the need to regenerate and the need to commemorate, was that a specialist conservation consultancy be identified and appointed for the specific purpose of carrying out a detailed examination of the area and bringing to council a report and recommendations as to how a balance could be correctly and properly struck as between, on the one hand, the requirement on the council to regenerate the semi-derelict and decaying northern end of our capital city’s main street while, on the other hand, correctly, properly and appropriately commemorating the events which were seminal to the genesis of our State, an important part (the Provisional Government’s decision to surrender) of which took place in No 16 Moore Street.

The firm of expert conservation consultants was selected and appointed and duly carried out its work and reported back to Dublin City Council in the form of a detailed, bound report, which identified and recommended that not only should No 16 Moore Street be returned to its 1916 specification and to pristine condition and used in perpetuity as a commemorative place to the events which unfolded on, in and around Moore Street in the latter days of Easter week 1916, but that No 16’s three contextual buildings, Nos 14, 15 & 17 should receive the same preservation treatment, but without actually specifying that these three buildings should form an integral operational part of the commemorative project.

The report and recommendations by the expert conservation consultancy received a rapturous welcome and endorsement, not only from all 52 members of the Dublin City Council, but also unanimously from our own committee’s 13 members, including the members who subsequently broke away from us to form various other “save” committees, the latest of which is the “save the battlefield site/save the Moore Street Terrace” grouping.

The proposal which was specified by the expert conservation consultants as striking an appropriate balance between regeneration and commemoration was subsequently designed to a conclusion by the various authorities and players with jurisdiction acting in cooperation i.e. Dublin City Council Planning Department, An Bord Pleanála, Chartered Land Ltd, the Save No 16 Moore Street Committee, the members of Dublin City Council and the concerned public and the planning permission which now exists reflects the comprehensive input of all of these groups.

The proposal is fully funded, both in capital provision terms and in terms of operating the commemorative element of the Dublin Central Scheme in perpetuity and is clearly defined in terms of the precise detail of how it is going to be implemented, with built-in contingency provision and is awaiting only ministerial approval of the Section 14 application to move forward towards the delivery of the commemorative element of the Dublin Central Scheme by September 2015.

By stark contrast, the “save the battlefield site/save the Moore Street Terrace” scheme is indeterminate in extent, woolly in concept, uncosted, unfunded and unfundable.  The scheme would require the dissolution of the existing planning permission (with the attendant Section 190 minefield”) and the designing and achieving of a whole raft of new permissions, at an expense of probably well in excess of €100,000,000 and with no suggestion forthcoming as to how we would fund the running costs in perpetuity.

Furthermore, this “save the battlefield site/save the Moore Street Terrace” proposal is proposing the impossible!  It proposes, among many other impossibilities, to save the complete Terrace of Nos 10 to 25 Moore Street.  However, Nos 24 and 25 Moore Street were completely demolished and dug out and filled across in 1978/79.  Then in 1995/96 a brand new, very substantial commercial warehouse premises was built on the sites of Nos 24 and 25 Moore Street and this new building has served as the depot for the city centre branch of the Dublin Street Cleansing Department ever since – and still does so!

How is it proposed, by the “Save the Battlefield Site/Save the Moore Street Terrace” proponents to save Nos 24 and 25 Moore Street?

With a time-travel machine?

We would respectfully submit that the original plan which has undergone a long and robust statutory process, with comprehensive input from all interested parties (including these latest “save the battlefield site/save the Moore Street Terrace” groupings) and the implementation of which can be financially afforded and can be commenced construction almost immediately, is not only “the only show in town” but is also the correct show and should be approved for implementation so that we will be able to open for commemoration in good time for Easter 2016.

The “save the battlefield site/save the Moore Street Terrace” scheme is, in our considered opinion, “pie in the sky” and represents a distraction which may well cause us to miss our target date or even miss our complete objective – “saving 16”!

The chairman of the Oireachtas Committee requested, at  the conclusion of our meeting, that we obtain reinforced assurances from NAMA and CLL that the commemorative element of the Dublin Central scheme could be successfully “de-coupled”, if necessary, from the commercial element of the scheme and that, even in the event that the main scheme was held back by our prevailing economic circumstances, both the capital and the operational overhead cost of the commemorative part of the scheme would be available from NAMA/CLL and we gave our assurance to the officers that we would attend to this aspect asap and report back.

We have since done so and reported back in positive terms.

To summarise:-

The proposal to restore completely restore the buildings at nos. 14-17 Moore Street, and to designate them as a commemorative centre to The 1916 Rising, which was made by the owner of the site,Chartered Land, and which was accepted with modifications by the planning authority and on appeal by An Bord Pleanala, was deemed satisfactory by the majority of the Save 16 Committee, in terms of achieving the Committee’s founding aims and objectives.

In arriving at this decision, the Committee took cognizance of the likely effect of the proposed surrounding development on the National Monument, and of the financing provisions which were then in place, and of the approaching deadline for completing the works by 2016. The Committee is of the view that the proposal is well worked-out and achievable within the limited financial context and timeframe.

The relationship between the National Monument buildings and the proposed adjacent commercial development has been carefully considered by the architects, with open space being created to the rear of nos. 14-17, which will feature some outdoor commemorative material. The proposal provides for the historic buildings themselves to be restored and renovated according to best conservation practice and thereafter used in perpetuity as a commemorative place to the memory of the events which unfolded in and around Moore Street during the course of the latter days of Easter week, 1916. The Committee is continuing to, and will continue to, carefully monitor the works to make sure they are carried out in accordance with the proposal, through its architect-member (The O’Rahilly’s grandson Mark Price), who has liased closely with Shaffrey Conservation Architects and will continue to do so until completion of the project to reinstate no. 16 Moore Street and its 3 contextual buildings nos. 14, 15 and 17 to their 1916 specification and pristine condition.

Yours sincerely,

John Conway, Secretary, Save No 16 Moore Street Committee