I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Ba mhaith liom an Bille um Fhorbairt Ceathrú 1916 2015 a mholadh don Teach. Beimid ag déanamh comóradh ar Éirí Amach na Cásca agus ar chéad bliain ón Éirí Amach sin an bhliain seo chugainn. Tá sé fíorthábhachtach go ndéanfadh muid comóradh agus ceiliúradh ceart ar an Éirí Amach. Bhí go leor cainte ar an Éirí Amach ach go minic bíonn easpa tuisceana ar thábhacht an Éirí Amach, ní hamháin i stair na tíre seo, ach i stair an domhain. Bíonn daoine ag rá go bhféadfaí saoirse a bhaint amach ar bhealaí eile. Faraor géar, níl sé sin fíor.
I recommend the 1916 Quarter Development Bill to the House. I believe the Bill is important as next year we commemorate and celebrate the 1916 Rising. I think it is very important that we leave a permanent legacy to the generations to come in terms of how we commemorate the Rising.
Before I come to the details of the Bill, I would like to put the 1916 Rising in context. The 1916 Rising is often taken in its military context and obviously that is very important and is in a certain way the subject of the Bill because what we are seeking to preserve are the sites at which the Rising took place. However, to see the Rising in purely military terms is to underestimate the seismic change that came about as a result of the Rising, the legacy that those who survived the Rising took from the Rising and how they went on to build on the Rising in subsequent years.
The world of 1916 was a world in which the British empire dominated on the world scene and where any map of the world would show that the influence of the British empire literally spread across all of the continents. In that context, a very small number of people decided that the only way they could break that empire's grip in this country would be to stage a rising. They believed that, in the events that had happened leading into the First World War and the opposition to home rule, even home rule itself would not come rapidly. Of course, what they aspired to, and what I think history proved the Irish people aspired to, was full independence.
I have always believed that 1916 must be taken in the context of 1919 but it also must be taken in the context of the demise of the British Empire in the following 100 years. The story is recorded that, when the negotiations started in 1921 and Éamon de Valera went over to meet Lloyd George, he had a huge map of the empire and, to try to intimidate de Valera, he asked how little Ireland could stand out against all of this. The reply given was that de Valera would see, within his own lifetime, the demise of that empire. In fact, he did largely see the demise of that empire within his lifetime. However, it is fair to say that what happened in Ireland was the first stone taken out of the edifice - it was the first block removed that made the rest crumble. Therefore, 1916 is a world-important event. Anybody who has had any contact with people who were involved in Indian independence will say that the leaders of India took massive inspiration from the independence movement in Ireland in what they were seeking to do. It is only when we look at 1916 in this wider context that it becomes absolutely imperative that we respect the heritage we have inherited.
As I said, to think of 1916 just as an event of a week or a few weeks is, in my view, to misunderstand exactly what happened. The leaders of the Rising knew, because of the countermanding order and the loss of the shipment of arms on the Aud, that militarily they could not succeed. However, what they also knew was that by making a stand, they would be able to influence and embolden public opinion and encourage people to look for their just rights, as an independent nation, and to believe they could get them.
When we look at 1916, I always believe we cannot do so without looking at the 1918 election and the setting up of the First Dáil. For those who say that 1916 did not have a democratic mandate, they have to look at the first opportunity in a full franchise of men and women that was given after the Rising, in that the Rising got an overwhelming endorsement not only in 1918 but in the subsequent election of 1920. Therefore, to read the 1918 election purely in terms of conscription is, in my view, to miss the point.
Why is the Dáil so important? It is important because we sit in this Dáil and this Dáil takes its numbers from the First Dáil and claims to be the successor of that First Dáil. Let us remember that of the people who were behind the setting up of the Dáil, many were either veterans or relatives of veterans of 1916. The inspiration for the First Dáil, a democratic assembly of the Irish people, free and independent, took its inspiration from 1916. When people talk about the military side of it, they often forget that the Proclamation talks about a government elected by its men and women. They did not see a government set up by military action as being the ideal one; they were very clear they wanted a government and a Dáil elected by the people. At the first opportunity they got, because they were the same people, they set up that Parliament.
One of the extraordinary achievements of this nation is that it is, to my knowledge, the first country that undermined the rule of another country by literally replacing its administration with an alternative administration that had the will of the people. When we talk about the 1919-21 period, we often talk about the War of Independence but what we often ignore is that a proper Parliament was set up.
Amazingly, with the election taking place at the end of November or beginning of December, they managed to set up a Parliament. Nowadays, if we were doing that, we would have about five commissions and there would be ten years of a delay. They set up a Parliament on 21 January, although many of the leaders were in prison. If we look at the Dáil record, we will find that every debate that took place in that Parliament was reported verbatim. All one need do is check out www.oireachtas.ie and enter any date between 1919 and 1921 and one will find extant every debate that democratic Chamber had.
That Parliament was extraordinary because, despite the fact the British Government would not recognise the democratic wish, it set up its own consular services in Versailles. It had a massive diplomatic mission to America and it set up consular offices there. It set up its own justice system, courts and police. It had a culture department. There was a big debate in that Dáil, which was very interesting. Cathal Brugha proposed that the Army - the IRA - would come under the control of the Dáil. Extraordinarily, in view of future history, that proposal was seconded by Terence MacSwiney. In a time still to come, Cathal Brugha's son was to marry Terence MacSwiney's daughter in an extraordinary symmetry of history. This concept that has been so fundamental to this State, and which has been different in so many other newly independent states, of the Army coming under the control of the democratic Parliament, was laid in the 1920 period.
It is only when we look at this total picture and the extraordinary movement that grew out of it that we can then understand why it is important that when we celebrate and commemorate 1916, we do it in a holistic fashion and realise the importance of the event. Sometimes we think things that happen here are important worldwide. Funnily enough, I believe in this case it is the other way around. Too many people see this as a local event rather than a catalytic event that tore down an empire. Therefore, I believe that in commemorating 1916 next year and in subsequent years, there will be huge interest, not only from our own diaspora, but from other nations that became free as a result of what happened in Dublin.
This brings me to the nub of the Bill. This Bill seeks to ensure that the State takes to itself the power to preserve all of the relevant sites relative to 1916. The huge interest in the Easter Rising right across the country is amazing. People have great pride in their past. I have been contacted by people connected with the Fingal Brigade, for example, and by people and families connected with different battalions, with Boland's Mill, Jacob's and the South Dublin Union. They all believe that as part of the greater totality, but also in their local areas, they should be recognised as part of the Easter Rising.
Our Bill seeks to set up a 1916 quarter, a company, a 1916 quarter renewal limited. This is based on the Temple Bar model but is slightly more dispersed because the Easter Rising took place in many parts of Dublin. The centre of the Easter Rising was the GPO and the area adjacent to it, particularly Moore Street where the last stand was made. It is important to note also that right around the city, there were other important sites, Jacob's, the College of Surgeons, Boland's Mill, Mount Street, the South Dublin Union, which is now St. James's Hospital, and so on. Some of those places have changed utterly since 1916 but some are unchanged, for example, the schoolhouse in Northumberland Road, which is now a hotel, was left intact. It is important we have a system whereby the State now, and into the future guarantees that these important buildings, the site of this important event, will not be destroyed.
I would like to address the Moore Street issue. The issue is simple. The State has bought a number of the houses but the difficulty is that the full streetscape of that part of Dublin as it was in 1916 is not guaranteed to be left intact by what the Government is doing and that we will find these four houses in the middle of a modern shopping centre, making it difficult for visitors to visualise the Dublin of 1916. Furthermore, if we continue along this route and the Government does not step in, we could, considering the history of the area, have inappropriate development in Moore Street. The proposal for an Irish language cultural centre in that part of town, which is something we need in the city centre, would make a big contribution to posterity.
The advice normally given to governments in cases such as this is based on the issue of money. As a Minister, I always saw capital expenditure on a one-off basis as very different from current expenditure. If a government takes on expenditure of €10 million this year on something that will continue in the future, that amounts to €100 million after ten years. However, if a government takes on a one-off capital expenditure, once the money is spent, there is no further demand on the purse. There is a huge difference between necessary capital expenditure and current expenditure. If we look around, we will see where governments in the past took courageous stands and were willing to invest capital. At Newgrange, for example, quite a significant amount was spent but no doubt at the time people argued the moneys could be spent on hospitals or other issues.
In the context of what we are talking about here, we are asking that in the centenary year, a decision is made to pass this Bill and for a decision to be made then to preserve these sites, starting with the Moore Street site. Appropriate development could then take place under this company that would not destroy the important streetscape. I believe that if we have the courage to make this decision, the Irish people will thank us for doing it as will future generations. It is important we do not allow short-term considerations stand in our way because in ten or 20 years' time, people will say the amount required was a modest enough sum for the benefit achieved by it. Today, a group outside Leinster House was selling bonds to try to raise money from the public to save the Moore Street centre. I commend them on their work. They have taken on a huge task and I was happy to support them and to buy one of the bonds. However, I believe this is really a matter for the Government. It is a matter that is bigger than any one group. The Government, on behalf of the Irish people, should take this step.
I hope the Minister of State will support this Bill. I hope that in time this decision, if taken, will be seen by the Government to be the right decision. I hope it will be seen as an act of vandalism if we allow this important site to be destroyed. If we are brave enough to take this decision, many visitors from all around the world will visit this site in years to come.
They will do so just as they now queue outside Kilmainham Gaol, which was saved by a voluntary committee in the 1960s. I was often there in the 1960s when they were doing it and it is now one of the treasured and iconic sites belonging to the State, where one must queue to get in. The GPO, its interpretive centre and Moore Street - with the traders on that street part of the scene - will become one of the "must visit" places on a tour of Dublin. People will come to spend hours there if we have the courage to act.
I recommend the Bill to the House. I hope we will not divide on it because I do not want a division. Nobody wants that. In putting forward the Bill, Fianna Fáil is hoping we will endorse a decision that the Government can take to preserve these sites and ensure they remain for posterity, so the physical legacy of 1916 can be preserved. These are places where, for example, The O'Rahilly wrote his last letter to his wife and where the surrender note was written.
I always think that one of the very great decisions of the Rising was the decision to call it off in order to save civilian lives. That becomes an even greater decision when one realises that those who signed the surrender note knew they were signing their own death warrants. They did not glory in slaughter and they wanted to preserve civilian lives. Therefore, the place where that incredibly brave decision was taken should never be destroyed and it should be preserved for posterity.