Senator Daly: I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I pay tribute to my colleagues, Senator Darragh O’Brien and Senator Labhrás Ó Murchú, as well as the families and relatives of the people of 1916 who have been pursuing this issue for a decade and more. I pay tribute to the members of the Fianna Fáil Party on Dublin City Council, including Paul McAuliffe, Seán Haughey and Daithí de Róiste, who have been pursuing this at council level.
Before we get into the meat of the issue, I thank the Minister of State for his involvement in the all-party consultation group on the decade of commemorations. A programme has been produced and, while we disagree on significant details in the case of Moore Street, the programme is comprehensive and something people have been seeking for a long time. I welcome the recent publication and announcement of the plans before Easter. I thank the chairman of the committee, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Heather Humphreys, who is doing an excellent job throughout the country. I have been at some of the meetings where she is promoting and asking communities to get involved in 1916 commemorations. I thank John Concannon who has been working tirelessly on the various projects.
What we are doing in 2016 is celebrating those ordinary yet extraordinary men and women who did an extraordinary thing on an ordinary day. They took on the biggest empire the world had ever seen and ultimately dealt it a fatal blow which eventually saw its fall. We are also celebrating the aims of the Proclamation, the equal rights, equal opportunities and civil and religious liberties that we spoke about 99 years ago. We are celebrating how far we have come and we are contemplating how far we have yet to go.
As a nation we are poor when it comes to celebrations. The leader on this side has spoken about Kilmainham Gaol. Kilmainham Gaol was to be demolished. That was the proposal of Dublin Corporation. It was in rack and ruin and the roof had fallen in. Only for volunteers, the predecessors of the people in the Gallery, the people who got together and decided that the situation could not continue, Kilmainham Gaol today could be a block of flats. Moore Street could have been in the same situation were it not for citizens getting involved.
I will set out my own experience on the GPO and the interpretative centre which, we are told by An Post, will be ready for Easter 2016. The initial proposal from four years ago was that there would be a foundation stone laid in Easter 2016 rather than an interpretative centre. I met representatives of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. They wrote a four-page brief on what needed to be done and the timeline required to get everything ready for 2016. The response from An Post was to ask what would the Smithsonian know about museums. I am pleased the Government has decided not to go with An Post and that the project will be ready, as it should be. Some 100 years on, the GPO is still a post office, yet if a person walked in there today, he would not know that the most significant event in this country’s history took place inside that building. That is a travesty and, I suppose, a condemnation of previous Governments. In a similar fashion, the Moore Street monument was initially only going to comprise No. 16 Moore Street. I pay tribute to the then Minister, Dick Roche. He made it a national monument and added Nos. 14, 15 and 17 Moore Street. We are talking today about developing a battlefield site. As has been said, it is our Alamo in that it was the place of the last stand in 1916.
Others have spoken about redevelopments gone wrong. Certainly, there are governance issues in other development vehicles. People look at Temple Bar as if it were a disaster. There have been issues, but Temple Bar was due to be levelled and turned into Busáras. Previous generations made a decision not to do that and we are perfectly happy that it is there today and that it is a great tourist attraction. It is not perfect, but nothing ever is. The Ballymun redevelopment was an excellent redevelopment, as is Grangegorman. There are always redevelopment vehicles. This is simply a vehicle by which we can ensure future generations will enjoy what people enjoy today when they go to Kilmainham Gaol.When one walks out of the GPO interpretative centre, the ideal situation would be to progress up Moore Street and onto Parnell Square ending up at the new redevelopment there—–(interruption) —–along with visiting the Garden of Remembrance. We are disagreeing on the Bill and that is unfortunate but we must remember the history of previous developments such as Kilmainham Gaol. Citizens such as those in the Visitors Gallery took action when politicians failed. Similarly, the GPO, a hundred years on, will be developed but only because people decided to act and say that a foundation stone on the 100th anniversary is not enough. Moore Street has come a long way from a situation in which it could well have been knocked to a proposal for No. 16 to be preserved to it then being made a national monument. Now we are arguing and disagreeing and losing this battle but the leaders of 1916 would probably agree with me when I say we might lose the battle but we will win the war.