If you have visited Dublin, you have probably seen the General Post Office, more commonly known as the GPO, on O’Connell Street, where the 1916 Uprising leaders fought.
Did you know the pillars in front still have the nicks from bullets fired during that battle? Most likely you have seen the statues of heroic leaders from the past with the shiny new Spire smack in the middle of them.
You might have veered slightly off the wide and wonderful O’Connell Street and discovered Moore Street, a marvelous mishmash of old fashioned fruit and vegetable street vendors and newer shops featuring staples from around the world. But odds are, unless you are very informed and very observant, you walked close to one of the most important historical sites in Dublin without even noticing it.
Don’t blame yourself. It is rather nondescript, derelict actually, with just a small plaque outside, but the adjoining properties at 14 – 17 Moore Street are a national monument. They are also in imminent danger of going on the market.
Why is anyone worried about a few derelict buildings in a prime city center location? Because this is where the leaders of the 1916 Uprising retreated as the GOP went up in flames. Here Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Joseph Plunkett, Tom Clarke and Sean McDermott made the excruciating decision to surrender and where they penned their negotiations. Nurse Elizabeth Farrell walked from these buildings to bring the written negotiations of the terms of the surrender between the member of the provisional government inside and the British troops outside.
Is the Clock Running Out This Time?
Plans have been afoot to develop the site for some years with now unlikely goal of having it ready for the centenary of the 1916 Easter Uprising. In 1999, the site seemed doomed. It was slated for demolition, but a local group including some family members of those who were in the GPO and the houses at Moore Street in 1916 negotiated successfully with the Dublin City Council to save the site.
The danger now is that the government has yet to acquire the property. It is owned by a developer whose properties are currently under the control of the National Asset Management Agency, and the Moore Street property is part of a portfolio of properties due to be sold. The wheels are in motion to transfer the property from the developer to the government, but it is not clear yet if this will happen before the portfolio of properties is sold. Dublin City Council members, community activists and history buffs are worried and have asked the Taoiseach to intervene with NAMA and remove the site from the portfolio.
With less than a year until the 1916 Uprising centenary commemorations, time is short for the site to be developed and readied for the flood of visitors from throughout Ireland and around the world expected to visit for the occasion. The coming weeks will tell if Moore Street will again be the site of a heartbreaking surrender or if the luck of the Irish will save this bit of history for 2016.