I never get to quit talking about Moore Street. Hopefully one day that will change, but so far this has not been the case. These days backroom deals and crooked politicians are commonplace and a world-wide problem but one of the most egregious examples of that type of thing is the continuing battle over Moore Street in Dublin.
It seems like the Moore Street campaign has been going on forever. Activists, historians, and relatives of those who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising have been fighting to preserve the area for years. They have tirelessly talked to tourists and locals alike to get their message across, spending every weekend teaching people about the area and collecting signatures from all over the world. They’re determined to save the historical buildings and outdoor market. Every day activists stake out the street, keeping an eye out (and a camera or two handy) for workers who try to do any unauthorized ‘restorations’ or work on the site. They have protest after protest and keep the cause in the forefront of everyone’s minds. They’re brilliant, dedicated, and indomitable. I was blessed to meet and march with them for a few minutes on Easter Monday and as their banner was carried through the streets crowds clapped, cheered and shouted encouragement at them.
This is because they work really hard to get their message out. Additionally, just weeks before the Centenary celebrations a High Court judge surprised everyone by ruling in favor of the relatives and the activists who took this battle to court. Justice Max Barrett threw the government and Chartered Land (the land developer) for a loop when he handed down a 400-page ruling which unequivocally stated that Moore Street and its buildings should be preserved as a National Monument. He also halted all demolition on site. It was a staggering win and many felt like the long battle was over.
However, activists knew better. I sat down with one of the organizers after the bustle of the Centenary was over and she shared her fear that the judgement would bring complacency and less interest for the cause. She knew then what some of us just found out this week – the government would appeal Justice Barrett’s landmark decision.
Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht has a long history of opposing the efforts of Moore Street activists. Given her job title one would think they’d have her support but sadly this is not the case. She supports Chartered Land in their quest to throw yet another mall in the area and feels the half-hearted and forced compromise of a 1916 Museum within it should be sufficient for all parties. She believes that only part of the street and its buildings need to be saved and the rest is unimportant.
The decision to allow her to lay a wreath on Moore Street for the government’s Easter centenary celebration was unfortunate and ironic because she has never supported saving the battleground. Ms. Humphreys is leading the efforts to get Judge Barrett’s decision overturned. She says she’s doing this because of the wider implications of the case, and on behalf of the street vendors (who rebut her claim). Her argument is that the judgement extends the scope of national monuments and might eventually lead to other privately owned sites and estates being yanked away and preserved, or other business plans getting scrapped and halted to protect historical sites. This is unlikely but true and frankly, I just don’t see how that would be a problem.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a problem with evictions. I live in one of the worst places for them in the world – San Francisco – which has surpassed every other city in the nation when it comes to mass evictions and expense. Thousands and thousands of people have been displaced and homes have been lost. This has devastated the area and it’s been done for one reason only – greed. The same is starting to happen to people in Ireland for that same horrible reason, but it’s a whole different animal (for me) when the goal is preservation. Throughout Ireland there are plaques and signs signifying its important history – and in most cases, these markers are all that’s left of what used to be there. The buildings or events that many signs commemorate have been erased and razed, making way for commerce and modern business. Some level of this is to be expected, but the rate that it is occurring is alarming and many vital pieces of history have vanished or have fallen into private hands. Moore Street, one of the last historical urban battlegrounds in the world, is slated for the same fate if the appeal succeeds. A modern mall will stand in the place of Ireland’s history, one that looks like all the others already in the area, and the final battleground of the revolt that eventually led to Irish freedom will be consigned to another plaque on the wall and a tepid museum for tourists.
This is what Chartered Land aims for. They have applied to extend their planning permission, which would give them more time and prohibit anyone from attaching new conditions or amendments to their original business plan. Elected Councillors haven’t made a decision on that yet but it doesn’t really matter what they think, since their executive branch can override any democratic vote if they decide to broker a deal with the developer. If history is any indication, Chartered Land may get that extension. These stalling techniques would certainly undermine Barrett’s ruling, especially when combined with the appeal from the government and Ms. Humphreys. It allows for a lot of loopholes and backroom deals, none of which aim to protect the area.
Alternately, Moore Street could be a historically preserved revolutionary quarter, which is what the activists, the relatives, the historians, and Justice Barrett think should happen. Many agree. The Lord Mayor of Dublin was just presented with another 50,000 signatures supporting the preservation of Moore Street. That’s a lot of people, but it’s not enough. The government could tie this up in court long enough for the fragile buildings to collapse and then use that as their excuse to raze the rest. They could convince the local population that the area isn’t worth protecting and then this precious place would be lost in a sea of neon and cheap clothing. No one should let that happen.
There are so many ways everyone in the world can help. Follow this Facebook page for information and updates, and the multitude of other pages and communities dedicated to the Moore Street cause. Find them on Twitter. Learn about the history of the area and share it with everyone. Watch this. Buy a Battlefield Bond. Write to your own representatives to recommend their involvement, or to the Irish government and Heather Humphreys herself. They’ll probably ignore your correspondence, but any pressure is good. No matter where you live in the world, take a picture of yourself (and your friends) holding a Save Moore Street sign and send it to the Irish government, or to the Save Moore Street campaign. If you’re visiting Ireland, make sure to stop by and sign the petitions. If your friends are visiting, tell them to do the same. These are easy ways everyone outside of Ireland can help.
If you live in country, do all of these things and then join the campaign. Talk to the activists to find out what they need and when and where they need it. Donate your time to observation posts, protests, and collecting signatures, or bring bottles of water and snacks to the dedicated people who do these things every day. They need any time and support you can give. This battle is far from over. Spread the word. And mark this in your calendars.