Save Moore Street Awareness Week 500 – 13 April 2024

Last Saturday 13th April, our campaign group Save Moore Street From Demolition reached the 500th anniversary of its first Saturday on the street. Since September 2014 we have been there every Saturday from 11.30am-1.30pm with the campaign table, petition sheets and leaflets.

We decided to mark that milestone with a modest event in music and words from 12 noon on our regular Saturday. We were fortunate with the weather for the event though showers caught us almost immediately after the event and while we were still staffing the campaign table.

The centuries-old street market (oldest surviving in Ireland) and 1916 Rising battleground, the site of the last stand of the Rising’s leadership and the GPO’s garrison, site of the surrender and location of last hours of freedom of five of the Seven Signatories of the Proclamation, is under threat.

The decision of An Bord Pleanála to our appeal (and others’) against Dublin City Council’s approval of Hammerson’s application is awaited but meanwhile Hammerson has taken Dublin City Council to the High Court for alleged interference in its planning permission. This is because elected councillors voted to give protected historical status to five buildings in the area.

We set up our stall as we do every week and a number went out on the street to distribute leaflets, encouraging passers-by to sign the petition, which many did. Meanwhile others were busy erecting the visual elements and with help from a Market supervisor and a young Nigerian man from a nearby ethnic hot food stall to set up the amplifier and microphone.

At around 12 noon, the advertised time, Diarmuid took the mic and announced the start of the event, apologising in advance for the lack of music since our invited musician had been in hospital and was too ill to attend (best wishes to Paul O’Toole for a speedy recovery).

Diarmuid pointed out that the history of the people belongs to the people and that the Moore Street area by rights belongs to those who value its history, to those who shop in the street market, to those who work on the stalls and the small independent stalls.

“It does NOT belong to property speculators!” he concluded to loud cheers.

He introduced our Bróna (Ní Loing), another co-founder of the group, a regular attending the weekly campaign table. Bróna is a grand-niece of 1916 fighters Harry and Ned Boland (from the GPO Garrison) and granddaughter of Gerry Boland of the Jacobs Factory Garrison.

Her great-aunt Kathleen Boland, also out in 1916, conveyed rifles by bicycle hidden under her long skirts.

Bróna read the lyrics of a song composed by her mother in 1966 (50th anniversary of the Rising).
Roll the drums, roll the drums
For those who’ve gone away.
But they are not forgotten,
just because they could not stay;
Tho’ they died to free their homeland,
sure their memory still lives on;
For the Flag of freedom’s flying
and the foreign rule has gone.
Roll the drums, roll the drums
For those who’ve gone away.
Yes they gave their lives for Ireland
And our people will agree
They took up arms together
For the cause of liberty.
Let’s pray they’re all in Heaven
And sure God must understand,
For t’was he who sent St Patrick
And t’was He made Ireland.
(Eilis Boland for 1966, 50th anniversary 1916 Rising)

Our MC then introduced Deirdre Colgan, regular participant in the SMSFD campaign group, in Cumann na mBan uniform to perform a piece representing one of the women who fought in the GPO Garrison.

Deirdre read:
“Eileen O’Shaughnessy is ainm dom. Is ball de Cumann Na mBan me. I am a very proud member of Cumann na mBan and I arrived at Headquarters in the GPO this morning with a message from Commandant Eamonn Ceannt, leader of the 4th Battalion who are fighting in the South Dublin Union.

“Tom Clarke asked me to wait for a while and then later in the evening the British shells set the whole roof on fire. The leaders gathered around Commandant James Connolly who lay injured on an old mattress on the floor. They voted to evacuate the GPO and Pearse ordered the women in the garrison to try and get home if they could. Tom Clarke spoke to the Medic Mr. Ryan and he implored on a few of the Cumann Na mBan volunteers to try to bring some of the seriously injured soldiers down to Jervis St. Hospital.

“I am heading there now but it will be very difficult to avoid the British Army and their gunfire.
Slán agus beannacht.”
(Piece of script by the 1916 Performing Arts Club for a dramatic reenactment of the GPO evacuation)

Long-standing regular Orla Dunne was introduced to read Pearse’s poem to his mother as he awaited his execution.
I do not grudge them: Lord, I do not grudge
My two strong sons that I have seen go out
To break their strength and die, they and a few,
In bloody protest for a glorious thing,
They shall be spoken of among their people,
The generations shall remember them,
And call them blessed;
But I will speak their names to my own heart
In the long nights;
The little names that were familiar once
Round my dead hearth
Lord, thou art hard on mothers:
We suffer in their coming and their going;
And tho’ I grudge them not, I weary, weary
Of the long sorrow – And yet I have my joy:
My sons were faithful, and they fought.
(Patrick Pearse May 2nd/ 3rd 1916)

Breatnach then introduced dramatist Frank Allen, saying that the Arms Around Moore Street event organised by Allen in 2008 had been Breatnach’s first involvement in the campaign to save the historic battleground and ancient street market for which Frank Allen continued to press for conservation.

Frank Allen pointed out in his short speech that the Mayor of Dublin, “the city’s First Citizen” had years ago been refused permission by the Minister of Heritage to inspect some buildings and the work which the Minister had authorised. This was a blow against democracy itself, he said.

Allen went on to decry a state of affairs that seemed to permit a foreign property speculator to supersede the wishes of hundreds of thousands who had signed the petition to conserve the area but also went on to praise the campaigners “for their long and amazing dedication.”

Breatnach returned in period costume representing an Irish Citizen Army Volunteer to read two poems:
“ALL our history is important,
not just 1916,
teaching us what we are
and what we have been.
How we came to reach the now,
of those who fought
or those who bowed,
through bloody pages,
down through the ages;
it relives the struggle to be free
and whispers soft what we might yet be.”
(Diarmuid Breatnach, January 2016)

“Where fruit and veg and fish seller,
Skin clinic and fortune-teller
For centuries plied their trade
A people’s history was laid.

“From blood-soaked cobbles history calls
But Council and Government shadow falls
Where brave Volunteers once surrendered –
To vulture and profiteers being rendered.

“Twelve hundred women, boys and men
Fought and lost but would rise again
Against the greatest Empire ever seen
Of greatest plunder that’s ever been.

“The Empire bombarded without pity
Not long before, its second city;
Docker, seamstress, artist, writer:
All were made freedom fighters.

“Around the world the story echoed
To mountain, plain and city ghetto,
Called to arms against the Empires
From Dublin city’s funeral pyres.

“Tricolour, Republic and Starry Plough,
Green Flag and Harp laid low;
Empire’s vengeance in retribution
Sixteen were sent for execution.

“This battleground must be saved –
That is what the people crave;
A hundred thousand signed petition
Against Moore Street’s demolition.

“Here we stand and this we say:
For the past and a future day
Moore Lane and Henry Place
And Moore Street must live again.”
(Diarmuid Breatnach, May 2019)

Our MC thanked all for their attendance and participation but wished to bring the event to an end as the street is also a functioning market. He encouraged all to continue to support the campaign, to follow us on Facebook and on our website, to sign the petition in hard copy and online also.

As people queued to sign the petition the group continued to distribute leaflets, encourage petition signatures and discuss with people’s experience of the market and listening to people tell of their relatives who had contributed to the struggle for Irish freedom and independence.

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