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John Drennan: Disagreement may derail plans to restore 1916 Moore St site

A disagreement has erupted between rival community groups over proposals to build a commemorative centre on the Moore Street site where the 1916 rebels surrendered.

The increasing tensions have led to growing concern in local and government circles that a split within the original 'Save 1916 Moore Street' committee may thwart ambitious plans to have the centre and historic trail put in place in time for the centennial anniversary of the 1916 Rising.

In spite of its derelict appearance, when it comes to the sequence of events that led to the creation of the Irish Republic, the trading area of Moore Street is of major historic significance.

It was on this street that the rebels, having broken out of the GPO, finally surrendered. The passage of time means that only four of the houses on Moore Street today were actually in situ in 1916.

But, when it comes to the four houses, number 16, is of particular historical relevance, for the house, then known as Plunkett's Poulterers, was the last HQ of the 1916 provisional government.

In the wake of the rebellion the Moore Street area fell into such a state of disrepair that at one point planning permission was given for the historic buildings to be demolished.

But thanks to a complex campaign incorporating battles against such giants as Treasury Holdings by the 'Save Number 16 Moore Street' committee -- led by John Connolly, the grandson of the 1916 leader James Connolly -- the site was turned into a national monument.

Now, as part of a major redevelopment of the Moore Street area by NAMA builder Joe O'Reilly, the developer behind Dundrum Town Centre, a conservation plan for the historic site has been presented to the Arts and Culture Minister Jimmy Deenihan.

As part of the process, an agreement has been brokered between the developer, An Bord Pleanala, the council and the original 'Save Number 16 Moore Street Committee' which also includes James Connolly's great-grand-daughters Ruth and Sarah.

Developers Chartered Land confirmed that under the agreement restoration works would begin on four houses, numbered 14-17, in time for the 1916 commemorations.

The plan, developed in association with the conservation architectural specialists, Shaffrey Associates, will see "the key buildings sensitively restored and used as a commemorative centre, incorporating a history trail, tracing the flight of the rebels from the blazing post office through the back laneways through to Moore Street".

The original 'Save Number 16 Committee', whose numbers also include Mark Price, the grandson of the slain Michael Joseph O'Rahilly (The O'Rahilly), has warmly welcomed the plan. It is believed the Government is also "positively disposed" to its aims to create a 1916 historical centre.

However, a group led by James Connolly Heron, another relative of the original Connolly, wants the entire street, much of which was built in the 1920s, to be restored.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, John Conway warned that it made no sense to stop the project because of concerns over buildings constructed years later in the post-independence era.

Sunday Independent