April 29th looms ever closer and the Centenary celebration truly comes to a close…at least until May when the executed leaders will be remembered a hundred years after they were killed. The surrender was originally offered on behalf of the revolution by Elizabeth O’Farrell, but the English would not accept it from a woman. She returned with Patrick Pearse and stood at his side when he offered it himself to “prevent the further slaughter of the civilian population and in the hope of saving our followers, now hopelessly surrounded and outnumbered”. Some argue that it was no surrender at all, but rather a pause to prevent the loss of innocent life because the leaders knew the fight for Irish freedom would continue, with or without them. Others couldn’t bear the thought of standing down for anything, even if their leaders were asking them to. The end to the Easter Rising is a fact, but were the rebels defeated?
That’s a question I’ve been studying for a long, long time and my answer is still yes and no. It’s also for a different post, because this one is about what you can do in Dublin on April 29th to commemorate the close of the battle and to lend your support to those who are still fighting to save one of the most important areas of the city.
Yesterday’s plan was to observe and walk behind the 1916 Societies’ Easter Commemoration parade, being a proper journalist and chronicling the march. Instead, upon arrival at the GPO, my traveling companion and I were handed the Cumann na mBan flag to hold while the two ladies it belonged to got to know us and socialized with other parade organizers. When the flag was taken up to join the others of the parade, the women invited us to join them in carrying the Constance Markievicz banner, and we were given pride of place near the very front of the march. It was an amazing experience and beyond my wildest imagination of what yesterday could be.
I’m returning to my favorite cause lately again for one more time (this week). Last night the “Banksy” mural appeared – and while it is obviously not Banksy, it is pretty great.
Well, it’s pretty great except for one thing. As one astute observer on Facebook said, “Just another time Elizabeth O’Farrell was edited out of the picture.” This artist didn’t even add her shoes. Still, the flash of color and the twist on the old surrender picture is still an awesome one.
I seem to have written a piece about Moore Street in Dublin every four to six months or so, since my last visit there. As the (de)construction looms ever closer, it has happened a bit more frequently. The protection of Moore Street is one of my favorite Irish causes, and I spend a good deal of time reading through mind-numbing transcripts and watching videos and news from afar as the government tries to weasel a new mall or hotel into what should be a sacred and protected space.
There’s a fight raging in Dublin over the few historic, urban battleground sites that still remain. These locations have dwindled drastically over the last hundred years as big industry takes hold in Ireland. There are plaques all over the city, noting the historical significance of what used to exist on that spot – but many of the buildings and businesses are gone and they’ve been replaced by something new, or worse – they’ve been removed altogether.
Finally, the Dublin City Council decided to actually vote on the Moore Street dilemma. They have been putting it off as the contention grew to palpable levels and more and more people got involved in the process. At issue was an opaque “Land Swap” which was an idea that involved a lot of special interests, veiled corruption and back room deals – but in the end, the deal was finally defeated yesterday.
There have been a lot of ups and downs, questions, and contentious debates in Dublin regarding just what to do with Moore Street. It is home to one of the only outdoor produce and farmer’s markets left in the city, it is a magnet for black market cigarette sales and it is an historical gem that should never be lost. All around the area, you can find shopping centers, malls, restaurants, and hotels rising into the sky, dwarfing the historically significant buildings and edging out the market, little by little. There’s been talk of development and yet another mall, hotel or shopping center, despite how many are already there.
Historically it needs to be preserved. This is where the soldiers trapped in the burning GPO made their escape in 1916. The alley they ran through is a shady spot – some people have witnessed drug sales and shakedowns of various degrees. It’s not the best area – but what back alley is? The buildings above the market, where the escapees busted through walls for at least half a city block are ramshackle and almost entirely empty. Everyone knows something has to be done about them, but no one can agree what that thing is.