Moore Street in Dublin was a key battle site in the 1916 Easter Rising, and it recently came under attack again by property developers who wanted to replace the buildings with a shopping center. Dubliners were having none of it.
Visitors to Ireland might be surprised by the number of historic heritage sites everywhere as they tour the countryside. Some sites are famous destinations such as Newgrange and Cashel, but even a simple drive to admire the scenery can easily bring tourists past gorgeous Celtic crosses, fairy forts and ruined churches. Despite this, Ireland’s urban heritage sites have long been in danger from property developers. The only part of Galway’s ruined city wall visitors can view is actually in a shopping center. Dubliners have had to fight to preserve many parts of the city, including Temple Bar and several Georgian buildings. The latest battle has been for Moore Street, a bustling, down to earth market street with an important history.
In the 1916 Rising, Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and other rebels were forced to retreat from the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell street when it became engulfed in flames. They moved down the adjacent Moore Street, and convened in a house there to consider their options. Given the heavy loss of life suffered, they decided to surrender to try to prevent more deaths. Elizabeth O’Farrell, one of the rebels, carried the surrender negotiations back and forth between the Irish leaders in the Moore Street house and the British forces.
Saving Moore Street
Today, Moore Street is a perfect symbol of Dublin. It’s steeped in history, and the road is lined with the stalls of fruit and vegetable sellers, some of whom have been trading in the area for generations. The buildings house an array of shops selling goods and foods from around the world – Nigeria, China, and beyond. It’s a perfect mix of traditional old Dublin and vibrant, worldly new Dublin packed into a couple of city blocks.
It looked doomed when developers began planning to build a shopping center on the site where the buildings are, but Dubliners took to the streets. They protested, and they occupied the buildings in heart of winter, and crucially, they launched a court challenge. And in a 400 page ruling, a High Court judge agreed the area was a historic battle site and that the previously granted permission to build a shopping center was invalid.
The judgment could be appealed to the Supreme Court, but as the nation is celebrating the centenary of the Easter Rising, that would surely provoke widespread anger. So what will happen to the site? Some activists would like to see more than the simple designation as a national monument. As vibrant and bustling as the area is, arguably it isn’t reaching its potential. While many businesses line Moore Street, the actual rooms used by the rebels have not been put to commercial use. The judge in the High Court case toured the buildings, and found them very moving. Perhaps someday visitors can also see the exact room where Connolly lay wounded, where several signers of the Proclamation discussed the terms of surrender and where O’Farrell relayed the responses from the British during the negotiations.