Topical Issue Debate

Roads Maintenance

I raise this Topical Issue matter in the House following a public meeting I attended immediately before Christmas in a village called Rathcabbin on the north Tipperary and Offaly border, which is known as the Lower Ormond electoral area. I am not elected to the district but it will form part of the new constituency of Offaly. I, along with my colleague, Deputy Corcoran Kennedy, and other councillors in the electoral area were invited to the same meeting.

The meeting was very well attended. It was called by the residents of the village and the immediate area of Lorrha and surrounding areas because many people are frustrated, infuriated and quite angry about the gradual decline in the condition of the roads in the vicinity. We heard various speakers from those in attendance who were informed in the preceding days by schools in the areas of Birr and Roscrea that school transport providers and bus companies were seriously considering withdrawing their services because of the terrible state of the roads in the area. We also heard from many business owners in the area. It was explained that suppliers were ringing them in advance of deliveries and asking that people meet in locations three miles from their place of business, again because of the unfortunate state of the roads.

It is predominantly a rural farming area which depends on a major form of infrastructure to carry out their daily business and social and economic lives, such as bringing children to school and whatnot. It is becoming a very dangerous chore and impinges on livelihoods, cars and so forth. Unfortunately, over time, very little has been spent. I have submitted many parliamentary questions to the Departments of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Over time, and in particular over the past number of years, we have under-invested in local county and regional roads, a fact which is now coming home to roost. It is estimated that there has been up to a 50% underspend in the maintenance of our roads. That is putting extra pressure on capital investment and the reconstruction of roads. It is plain to see that the recovery has not taken hold in many rural areas but it has very little chance of taking hold if infrastructure is not put in place or brought up to the sort of level that people would expect, considering the amount of tax that is paid, such as road tax and property tax, and notwithstanding the fact that those two sources of funding were diverted to Irish Water over the past number of years, something which does nothing to assist people in thinking that progress can be made in this regard.

I am also conscious of the ongoing flood situation and the further damage being done to our roads. After the last major storm in June 2014, the Department called on local authorities to apply for funding to repair the damage, but up to 37% of what was requested was not forwarded by the Department. This is causing local authorities to fear doing the work they want to do. Further to a suggestion made by Deputy Corcoran Kennedy and I, a meeting took place between local authority members, a section of the community and engineers from Tipperary County Council. Immediate remedial works were carried out as best as they could be but, unfortunately, they were nothing along the lines of what was intended.

Very significant pressure will be placed on other local authorities as a result of the recent weather conditions. Will the Department make a specific and special case in this instance to address this issue and allow people to see local and national government are aware of the situation and are willing to put in place a plan or programme, over a number of years if necessary, to address this issue and return us to a level playing pitch with other parts of the country?

I am responding to the Deputy on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport who regrets he cannot attend.

The improvement and maintenance of regional and local roads is the statutory responsibility of each local authority, in accordance with the provisions of section 13 of the Roads Act 1993. Works on those roads are funded from local authorities' own resources, supplemented by State road grants. The selection and prioritisation of works to be funded is, therefore, a matter for the local authority.

Ireland has just under 100,000 km of road in its network, and the maintenance and improvement of national, regional and local roads places a substantial financial burden on local authorities and on the Exchequer. The national financial position has meant there have been very large reductions in the Exchequer funding available for roads expenditure over the past number of years. State funding for regional and local roads in 2008 was €604 million while funding last year was €320 million. In this context, it is important to reiterate that the purpose of Exchequer funding is to supplement the own resources spending of local authorities, and the Minister has been emphasising to local authorities the importance of prioritising expenditure on roads when allocating own resources, including revenue from local property tax receipts.

Local authorities are aware that it is a matter for each council to determine its priorities and to allocate funding accordingly. Given funding constraints, the Minister’s objective has to be to allocate funding to local authorities on as equitable a basis as possible. The main grant categories are, therefore, based on road lengths in each local authority's area of responsibility. The division of Department grant moneys under the restoration improvement, restoration maintenance and discretionary grant programmes between various local authority districts is decided at local level.

It is important to note that while the Minister's existing road budget will continue to be tight for the next number of years, reflecting the constraints relating to the EU fiscal rules, the seven year transport capital plan provides for the gradual build up in capital funding for the road network from the current relatively low base towards the levels needed to support maintenance and improvement works. Of course, damage caused by the severe impact of the recent storms and flooding will be assessed and prioritised as required by councils, and the Minister has asked his officials to review the Department’s overall budget allocations with a view to engaging with local authorities to address critical repair needs.

I thank the Minister of State for his response. Unfortunately, what it contained will be of little solace in the near future for those who asked us to put forward this case and highlight it in our national Parliament. The Minister of State stated a five year capital expenditure programme in the form of a national plan is in place, that there would be gradual improvement over time, that we are coming from a very low base and that the allocation of funding in this area has decreased from €604 million to €300 million. With the best of respect, we already knew much of this information. According to the reply, the responsibility is, in the main, primarily with local authorities, which should use their own resources. Unfortunately, this avenue is not open to many local authorities. The constraints upon local authorities with regard to the own resources element because of a lack of funds mean the work simply cannot be done in a timely fashion.

As I stated earlier, there must be an effort on the part of the Government to bring about better balance, better regional development and a semblance of an intended recovery in the regions, rather than it being concentrated on the east coast as it is at present, with specific and specified funding geared towards restoring vital infrastructure in the constituency I am discussing and the one adjoining it. I attended a similar meeting in Lusmagh where the same issue arose, with the same frustration and anger. A commitment is sought by the electorate from those who represent them to steer funding in this direction to put in place a plan to help these regions benefit from any recovery as it emerges.

I implore the Minister of State to bring back to the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, and the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, the implicit wish of people in this area, and others, that a realistic programme and funding be put in place to address the further dilapidation of these roads by recent weather conditions. A proper and adequate funding stream should be put in place so people can see the situation is being treated with the attention it deserves. It should be treated properly and effectively, with a plan in place to rectify it over the coming two to three years.

I certainly will convey the Deputy's sentiments to the Minister and I am sure he will see the record. I suggest the Deputy write to the Minister on this matter, which affects various local authorities throughout the country. It may involve a change of policy and direction in future.

Road Network

Recent heavy rainfall and flooding has been an enormous source of stress in communities throughout the country but, naturally, my concerns must be local. Constituents in Offaly and north Tipperary have raised the issue of structural problems occurring on regional, local and tertiary roads as a result of recent downpours. In areas which had been previously neglected the problem has been exacerbated by the recent storms. In some areas filling in potholes would be sufficient, but in other areas local towns and villages have been cut off. For example, the access road to Banagher from Lusmagh in west Offaly has been flooded since the beginning of December. This inconvenience is bad enough for day to day travel, but recently I heard from a bed and breakfast owner who had to cancel her bookings over Christmas because nobody could access the property. She is concerned, naturally, about loss of earnings. She was not flooded but her home was inaccessible.

Lack of access between Shannon Harbour and Banagher meant the local public house suffered a loss of income despite the fact the property was not flooded. There was a lack of access to the village at a very busy time of the year, which was important for the business. These are local roads which will require considerable investment in future.

They need to be improved to a level where people can actually access their own homes and businesses at times of flooding. We must accept that flooding will occur on a regular basis and we must plan for that reality. Whether we like it or not, whether we are climate change deniers, sceptics or whatever, the fact is that our climate is changing and this type of torrential rain will be a feature of our lives into the future. We need to do the necessary planning to ensure people do not have their access to their properties cut off on a regular basis.

Extra funding is required for the considerable investment that must be put into regional roads. Last week, I visited the flooded section of the N65, which is a national secondary route located between Borrisokane and Portumna. Lough Derg flooded at Ballyquirke Cross, cutting access for ordinary vehicles. Only those driving large jeeps or trucks could get from one area to another. Such was the level of flooding that in order to highlight it, several local sports enthusiasts took to their water skis. I am not condoning that necessarily, but it was an imaginative way of showing the difficulty involved in getting from place to place. Some excellent improvement work was done by the National Roads Authority last year on a section of the road near the new bridge. That section did not flood. I appeal to Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, to continue its good work in the area by putting a programme in place whereby the rest of the road can be resurfaced and upgraded to achieve the same positive impact. It is vital that this important artery through the area does not flood again.

The regional and local roads network likewise needs attention. During the recession, all budgets were cut across all Departments. The focus in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport was on capital projects, concentrating on motorways and some national secondary roads. The sections of the N62, for example, between Birr and Athlone and between Cloghan and Banagher were badly in need of upgrading. That work was started as part of a multi-annual investment plan and will be finished next year. However, the focus must now shift to regional, local and tertiary roads, some of which have been neglected to the extent that they are beginning to deteriorate. I have in mind, in particular, the R357, a regional road from Blue Ball to Shannonbridge which continues on to Ballinasloe. It is another very important route in which investment is required.

I am responding to the Deputy on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Paschal Donohoe, who regrets that he cannot be here this afternoon. The most extensive impact of the weather to date in the transport sector has been on the road network through both pluvial and fluvial flooding. This has caused serious disruption to daily life in many areas and has led to the cutting off in some cases of small communities and households across the country.

Regional and local roads are the statutory responsibility of each local authority, and the authorities in the affected areas have been working very closely with all the relevant State agencies, including An Garda Síochána, to manage the immediate impact of the storms and floods. The Minister has asked me to acknowledge the tremendous work done by all concerned to ensure warning signs were in place, diversion routes were organised and signposted, and information and advice were made available to the public via websites, social media and local radio. The Road Safety Authority has also played its role in supporting and disseminating safety messages for all road users.

Local authorities and Transport Infrastructure Ireland have advised the Minister's Department that it is not possible as yet to obtain a comprehensive view of damage to road pavements until the floods fully recede and investigations and assessments are carried out. Bridges that were damaged as a result of the flooding and storms will need to be inspected and a detailed assessment of the damage undertaken. TII has engineering consultants on a bridge framework available to commence inspections once flooding has subsided. Where underwater inspection is required, this is a specialist area and only a limited number of consulting engineers have the capability to undertake such inspections. The chief executive of TII has written to local authorities offering the services of the framework consultants if there are non-national road bridges that need to be inspected. In certain cases, it may be some months before full information is available on the cost of repairs. In other cases, where water levels have receded more quickly, the timeframe will be shorter. The Minister's officials and TII staff will engage with local authority officials to minimise the timeframes associated with critical repair works.

The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government has been taking the lead in responding to the immediate needs of local authorities arising from the storms and flooding and has provided funding to local authorities to allow them to deal quickly with the clean-up and implement the measures needed to protect public safety. That Department has also sought submissions from local authorities setting out both the estimated short-term costs and the costs related to damage to infrastructure, including transport. This is to ensure that a comprehensive picture of the full cost of the recent flood event across all sectors, including the road network at national, regional and local level, is garnered both by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. So far, 25 of the 28 local authorities have reported on their estimated infrastructure damage costs, and my Department is in the process of reviewing the estimates received so far.

The roads capital budget for 2016 is tight but, as indicated to Deputy Cowen, the Minister has asked his officials as a matter of urgency to assess areas where funding can be reprioritised or reallocated in order to release funding to deal with the consequences of the storms. The Minister is also conscious that the scale of the damage incurred and the overall substantial cost involved will require a cross-departmental response and he is liaising with Government colleagues on the funding needed.

I thank the Minister of State for his reply. In the time remaining to me, I will focus on the area to which Deputy Cowen referred. I attended the same public meeting he mentioned and, prior to that, surveyed the flooding with a number of local residents around Ballhea and Rathcabbin. Having served many years on Offaly County Council, I am aware that this road has not been included in a roads programme for at least a decade. The extent of the work that now needs to be done is a result of that neglect. If the road had been included in a programme under which a section at a time was upgraded over a number of years, it would have prevented the absolute mess we have now. I have never seen a road as bad in all my time as a public representative. More than 100 houses are affected along the 15 km to 20 km section. One knows it is bad when the school bus cannot get down it and people are asking neighbours to take them out in tractors. All of this is without even much flooding; the road is that bad.

The type of investment that is needed in this case will be much more significant than what the local authority will be able to access. As such, a special case should be made for it. The council has had an assessment done of the likely costs and it seems we are looking at the guts of €750,000. That is a conservative estimate. We need to think creatively in situations like these. In a rural area, people have access to diggers and tractors and the manpower is there. Let us work in partnership to resolve the problem. We need to get creative or we are facing terrible consequences. We must start using our imaginations in the face of the terrible storms we have seen this winter.

I will convey the Deputy's concerns to the Minister. I advise that she write to him outlining the details of what is clearly a very inferior road which is having a huge effect on the lives of people in the local community in different ways.

I will be happy to convey the Deputy's sentiments to the Minister. He asked me to do so.

National Monuments

Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Joe Costello, Seán Crowe, Mary Lou McDonald and Sandra McLellan are sharing time. They have 12 minutes in total which I presume will be allocated on the basis of two minutes to each Deputy.

It is very timely that this has been chosen because of what has happened in the past week. When one sees the route taken by the 300 men and women of the Volunteers and the Citizen Army along Moore Street that Thursday in 1916 and when one walks that route today, it is clear that so much happened at different places along the lanes and in the houses. This is a battlefield site of historical significance and it is not just Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street that should be a national monument. What happened on the battlefield site did not just involve the leaders, it also involved men and women from the Volunteers and the Citizen Army, and the ordinary citizens of Dublin. Why is the area, including the laneways, not a designated national monument? Was NAMA ever asked to gift the battlefield site to the Government and to the nation because it is of such huge historical importance? Why, when paying the €4 million, did the Government not consider that this sum should have included the entire battlefield site, because it is recognised as a battlefield site, both by our National Museum and by the British Imperial War Museum?

As it stands, Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street will be preserved and the rest of the street will be a shopping centre, which is totally inappropriate in an area of great historical significance, not to mention that Dublin does not need another shopping centre. There is a need for a different vision of a historic cultural quarter that will link up with the plans for Parnell Square, which will maintain the fabric of how the street looked in 1916 and which will be much better for the street traders.

We know the work began last Monday week when the builder moved in. Who is monitoring and overseeing that work? Who is on-site to ensure those builders know exactly what they are doing? Where is the conservation architect who will oversee that and ensure that no more is lost in the area?

I congratulate the relatives, who succeeded in getting an injunction to prevent any further damage to the national monument and to the site as a whole. It is a debacle that we are here, 15 years after this issue was first highlighted, and there is a threat to a national monument. By national monument I mean not only the small portion of what should be a national monument that has been designated as such so far. For any proper understanding of what happened in Moore Street in the future, we need to understand the context. Deputy O'Sullivan just outlined the Government's intention, namely, to secure a number of buildings in the middle of a street and surrounded by a shopping mall. This would mean the historical context of the buildings is gone, along with the understanding that is gained from it. Anybody who understands history understands that the historical context is nearly as important as the building itself. Unless children, visitors and anybody else coming to Dublin in the future have a full streetscape, including the lanes of history around it they will not fully understand what happened in Moore Street. People can be imaginative and use the whole street as a living museum, if they so wish. That is what I suggest the Government look at and it should designate the whole street and the laneways as a national monument. Even at this late stage, I believe the Minister has that power.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the restoration of the national monument on Moore Street. It is nearly 20 years since I first put forward a motion to Dublin City Council proposing that No. 16 Moore Street, where the last council of war was held, with James Connolly, Pádraig Pearse and other signatories to the Proclamation, be made a protected structure and a 1916 commemorative centre. I put forward the original motion when the National Graves Association brought to my attention the unauthorised removal of the 1916 commemorative plaque, which had been erected in 1966, 50 years after the Rising. Together with the National Graves Association, I established the Save 16 Moore Street campaign. This led to the eventual recognition of Nos. 14 to 17 together with the GPO in 2007. The Moore Street national monument was at that time in private ownership and I opposed a number of large-scale planning applications for the site and its environs as recently as 2010. I also gave evidence at oral hearings, most recently in 2010, opposing the manner in which the planning application for that development was put forward.

James Connolly Heron and other relatives of the signatories became deeply involved in the campaign in the last number of years and thankfully in 2015 the national monument passed into the ownership of the State. It is right and proper that a national monument of such significance be held in the possession of the State and that the State take full responsibility for its restoration. We must remember that under the legislation, the restoration of the national monument has to be carried out under the auspices of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, in consultation with the director of the National Museum, so there is already a monitoring process in place. It is now essential that the restoration work on the national monument goes ahead without delay, so that Moore Street national monument can play its rightful role in the centenary commemorations. This national monument should be developed together with the neighbouring national monument, the GPO, which was the headquarters of the Easter Rising, in a manner befitting their iconic importance in the history of our Republic.

I am proud of those who took part in the revolution of Easter Week 1916: the youth of Fianna na hÉireann, of which my grandfather was a member; the women in Cumann na mBan; the Volunteers; and the men and women of the Citizen Army. As one of those lucky people who knows a bit of the history of this country and this city, I am appalled by what is happening to the national monument and to the terrace in Moore Street. I am not ashamed of that freedom struggle. That is the difficulty and that is what we are dealing with in respect of this monument. I commend not only the relatives of 1916 and their actions through the courts but also those who recently occupied the buildings in Moore Street to prevent their demolition. We have not got leadership from politicians on this issue and hopefully the courts will now give that leadership.

I remember attending the 1966 commemoration as a young child and the pride people had at that time. I also remember this State banning the Easter commemoration in 1976 and Nora Connolly O'Brien being brought through the courts and fined for taking part in that. We have come a long way since then, but unfortunately we now have a similar Government, a Labour Party-Fine Gael coalition, to that in power in 1976, and it seems determined to demolish these buildings. I am standing here this evening in this Chamber and I am saying to the Minister that the people of this city and of this country will not allow her to do that.

It is hard to credit that the Minister and her Government are standing over what is planned for Moore Street.

It is hard to grasp fully how utterly crass and ignorant is the approach. It is hard to credit that anybody with even a passing interest in or faint respect for the events of Easter week 100 years ago, for the women and men of that time but, perhaps more importantly, for the country and the citizens in the here and now, could promote a commemorative shopping mall on Moore Street because, when one strips it all away, that is what it boils down to. By the way, I have nothing against shopping malls. I probably need to put that on the record because the Tánaiste earlier today intimated that I might hurt the feelings of shopping malls by speaking in this way.

It is self-evident and blindingly obvious that what is happening here in this year with the Government's intention to vandalise our national heritage is a direct re-run of what was envisaged for Kilmainham Gaol. One should bear in mind that fine edifice and recognition of the history of our struggle for freedom would not be in its current state had it been down to the State or any Government in particular. No doubt at that time some might have thought it a bright idea to bulldoze that and erect a shopping mall. Fortunately, the National Graves Association did not let that happen. We see a direct re-run now.

It is astonishing in the commemorative year that the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and her crass and ignorant colleagues in government would insist on proceeding with this approach. She should do the right thing, at a very late hour but nonetheless. I believe the Minister would enjoy full support, not only of the Oireachtas but of the people, if she does the right thing.

It is baffling that in the second week of the centenary year the issue of Moore Street is still on the agenda and has not been dealt with in an appropriate manner. As demonstrated by the occupation that took place last week, an occupation the Minister herself described as extremist with what was termed "questionable motivations", and the legal battle that is currently making its way through the courts, the public will is there. The want and the need for the retention and restoration of all the area is present but it has fallen on deaf ears time and again.

We in Sinn Féin have consistently called for the preservation of the buildings, laneways and surrounding areas as it is a battlefield site of substantial historical and national significance. The proposals to develop a historical quarter will be of considerable benefit to Dublin, both economically and socially. As the Minister will be aware, the National Museum described the site as the most important historic site in modern Irish history.

The proposals to turn parts of this site into a shopping centre can only be described as ludicrous, but it is also very sad. Once these buildings are demolished, the history contained within the bricks and mortar die with it. In any other country, the mere proposal to demolish parts of an area that is of such importance would itself be a catalyst for an uprising. It is a national disgrace that these works have already begun. This is history that led to the foundation of the State.

The Minister needs to intervene. We do not need another shopping centre. There are lots of shopping malls but there is only one Moore Street. Is this the legacy the Minister wishes to be remembered for?

On 10 November 2015, I announced that I had approved a comprehensive scheme of restoration works to Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. The announcement of the commencement of works featured in national media coverage at the time and was widely welcomed. Having secured ownership of the buildings at Nos. 14 to 17, following agreement from the Government to purchase the site, work got under way by Lissadell Construction, who are recognised conservation and heritage experts. Projects that they have completed, to name but a few, are the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, the Gate Theatre, and Rathfarnham Castle. Over the past week, we have had a situation where a group of individuals, led by Éirigí, occupied the national monument, delaying and jeopardising the entire restoration project. I note Deputy Crowe's comment commending them. The works that are now resuming will stabilise, underpin and conserve these buildings for future generations to enjoy and visit. They will provide for the creation of a 1916 commemorative centre, which will be a fitting tribute to the leaders of 1916.

The archaeological and conservation work undertaken to date has revealed the tunnels where the rebels broke through from one house to the other, and these will be kept and preserved. The painstaking manual work has also revealed period details from 1916 and before. It will allow the public to see first-hand what the rebels encountered and where they made their final decisions to end the uprising to avoid further loss of life. The work under way will return the houses to their 1916 state, for which there is ample witness, anecdotal, physical and documentary evidence.

On the issue of the buildings on either side of the national monument which have been the subject of some commentary, Nos. 18 and 19 were in ruins at the time of the Rising. No. 13 is a modern build, internally and externally. Nos. 18 and 19 have been rebuilt and remodelled in the meantime too. None of these houses has any evidence whatsoever of the presence of the rebels. They are modern inside and out and lack any fixtures, fittings, finishes, partitions, stairs or other original elements. This is backed up by documentary evidence, including valuation records from 1911 to 1915 and from 1915 to 1925, Thom's Directory 1915 and the Dublin electoral lists from 1908 to 1915. The removal of these fundamentally new buildings will allow the national monument to be comprehensively underpinned and stabilised and the gables to be given permanent finishes, protecting them into the future on a permanent basis.

Discussions on Moore Street have dragged on for decades. Moore Street is now being dealt with and our approach is neither crass nor ignorant. It was 2007 when Nos. 14 to 17 were declared a national monument and we are only now at the point of restoration. As everyone in this House will be aware, the development of the wider Moore Street area is a matter for the local authority, Dublin City Council. It does not fall under my remit. However, a report was prepared for my Department by Shaffrey Associates architects and Frank Myles archaeologists in February 2012, and they are experts in this area. Their report included an inspection, assessment and fabric investigations of an area incorporating the block formed by Moore Street, O'Rahilly Parade, Moore Lane, Henry Place and some of the areas south of Henry Place extending back towards Henry Street. The methodology used was approved by my Department and the director of the National Museum.

The report reinforced the status of Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. The main conclusions of the report were that there is little surviving of the historical landscape of the republican occupation of the Moore Street area on the final night of the Rising. The buildings along Moore Street do not demonstrate any exterior evidence of the conflict and what does survive is the street plan itself which retains something of its legibility as the route of the evacuation, or indeed as the advance on the British position, is followed.

Under the planning permission given by An Bord Pleanála in 2010, Moore Street itself will continue as an open street. As part of the wider development plans for the area, Henry Place, Moore Lane and O'Rahilly Parade are also to be retained. Before any further development takes place, a detailed project proposal must be submitted to Dublin City Council in which the historical significance of the critical locations along the evacuation route from the GPO are featured and interpreted.

The fabric of the national monument is extremely delicate and I do not want to see it deteriorate any further. We are at a stage now where people need to decide whether they want to save the national monument. I hope good sense will prevail.

The answer ignores all the other events that occurred on these streets, coming from the GPO around to Moore Street and down to the place of the final surrender. The Minister is not taking into account all these other events which involved the members of the Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBan and ordinary citizens.

Some very significant events happened on that streetscape. We are talking about the fabric and the sense of what Moore Street was like at the time of the Easter Rising. The Minister was at Google recently launching a virtual reality tour of 1916. On Moore Street we have a real reality of what it was like. We know the value of folk parks and we know that, with a different vision, Moore Street could be that historical area. At the moment, a shopping centre is planned.

There has been a litany of mistakes, in which Dublin City was also involved. Where was the engagement between the Government and Dublin City Council on it? A week ago, I watched the "Scannal" programme about Wood Quay. We could remove the words "Wood Quay" and substitute "Moore Street", given that exactly the same thing is happening. There is a need for a different vision and time is running out. Who is monitoring what is happening? The builders are going in. They have no historic or conservation experience and more could be destroyed.

The Minister tried to use a logic that much of what is on the street did not exist in 1916 or has been built since then. By this logic, if An Post said it wanted to demolish the GPO, the Minister would agree, given that the GPO did not exist after 1916: it took eight years to rebuild it to its current glory. It was faithfully rebuilt, and this is what we are calling on the Minister to do.

We ask her to have some understanding of the context of these buildings. They are not three buildings alone. If they were, we could move them to the Phoenix Park and people could visit them there. The important thing is the context of Moore Street and the lanes off it. The cobble stones that the men and women, and even the British soldiers who were shooting them, went on still exist. It is a battlefield site. It is not three buildings in isolation. I urge the Minister to step in and ensure Moore Street is a full national monument.

People are coming very late to Moore Street and what it stands for. The late Tony Gregory and I were two of the people who went to prison to protect Moore Street traders and their conditions.

I was battered off the street for it.

The Deputy without interruption.

He should not be lecturing people.

Moore Street has been derelict for 100 years, and nobody considered preserving it at the time. Now, there is tremendous interest, which is right and proper.

It was because the State controlled it for the past number of years.

Much could have been done in the past, for example, people could have objected to the shopping mall. It was not for the Minister to object to a planning application by Dublin City Council.

The Government controls it through NAMA.

The planning applications were made before NAMA owned it.

I am talking about the recent years when the Deputy was a Government Minister.

Please, the Deputy without interruption.

The Deputy is encouraging me.

It is no use giving out about a shopping centre in the area when nobody here objected to the planning application. I objected to it and gave oral evidence against it.

Fair dues to the Deputy. He said nobody objected.

However, it went ahead. It would have been wonderful if all the people who are so concerned about it now and are raising it so loudly had been there when it mattered. Now, it is very important that we get the restoration of the national monument. When the national monument came up first, the aim was to protect No. 16 Moore Street. It was extended to Nos. 14 to 17. We need it restored for the 1916 commemoration. It has been left derelict for far too long. The director of the National Museum of Ireland is the person who must liaise with the Minister about the development. Has this liaison taken place and what is the role of the director?

Moore Street has a special place in the hearts of Irish people and it is vital that it be redeveloped in a manner worthy of its importance. The delays and negligence of successive Governments cannot be allowed to continue to damage and destroy the Moore Street terrace. The Minister's plan is minimalist and lacking in vision. It is an embarrassingly cobbled together bunch of ideas that fails to protect or enhance the 1916 monument and the greater battlefield site.

We are talking about a shopping centre. This is the Minister's vision of the 1916 leaders and the revolution, but it certainly is not shared by me or the majority of people in this city and country. The Minister must wake up to what is happening to the monument. If any damage is being done, it is by the wreckers and developers on site, not those who were occupying it and protecting the area before the courts could move. While the Minister and her Department sat on their hands and did nothing, people went in and protected the site, and they should be commended.

The Minister said different groups were involved in the occupation. Individuals were involved. Members of my party were involved. Friends of mine were involved. I was outside, and I will support them. The end result will be a shopping mall, which is the Minister's vision of the men and women of 1916.

The State, the Government and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht have operated in cahoots with developers. Joe O'Reilly made his planning application for a shopping mall, a controversy ensued and his loans were taken over by NAMA. NAMA acquired the entire portfolio, which it flogged off last November under the very appropriate title "Project Jewel". Deputy Ó Snodaigh argued that the Government should have intervened then, as it had full authority to do under the NAMA Acts. It was the window of opportunity. The Minister's colleague told Deputy Ó Snodaigh that it was his view and the view of the Government that it would be inappropriate. Dear divine God. There were ample opportunities time and again to intervene, yet the Government failed to do so.

It is a view widely held that the very idea of a shopping mall in the middle of Moore Street with a cultural and historical museum latched onto it is utterly crass to the point of being vandalism of our heritage.

The Deputy should have objected to it.

It is tasteless and is the action of absolute ignoramuses, or ignorami, in the Government. The Minister needs to fix it. That is why she is elected to public office; not to sit and take the part of developers.

I have raised questions on Moore Street ever since I took my seat in the Chamber. I have put questions to the Minister ever since she took office. She has repeatedly absolved herself of responsibility for anything outside 14 to 17 Moore Street. It is time the Minister took a stand and listened to the people. We do not want another shopping centre. As Deputy Joe Costello said, the fight took place, and we initially acquired No. 16 Moore Street, followed by Nos. 14, 15 and 17. However, this is not enough and we need to acquire more. The other buildings are of grave importance because of the history associated with them. Why should they be demolished?

Although there is a public outcry for these concerns to be listened to and acted upon, opinions continue to go unheard. James Connolly said, "We believe in constitutional action in normal times; we believe in revolutionary action in exceptional times." These are exceptional times as we watch our heritage being pulled from under our feet. The mobilisation of the people was what brought about the rising 100 years ago. Would it not be fitting if the same were to happen in this historical year to retain the memory of those who fought and died for our freedom?

Deputy Costello is correct when he says that planning permission regarding Moore Street was given by An Bord Pleanála in 2010. The Deputies opposite should have objected at that stage. The shopping mall is a matter for Dublin City Council. I am responsible for the national monument at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. Anything outside the national monument is a matter for Dublin City Council.

We know that. Never mind that.

To clarify, Lissadell Construction, which is carrying out the work on the national monument, has significant experience of restoration and conservation work.

I hope it will not be sub-contracted out.

The expert advice I have received is very clear. As I have outlined, Nos. 18 and 19 Moore Street were in ruins. None of the original fabric of the building at No. 13 is still present, as it was rebuilt in the 1940s. It has been clearly demonstrated that Nos. 14 to 17 are of historic importance.

All of it is of historic importance.

The Minister is missing the big picture.

I have been inside those buildings.

I have seen at first hand the fabric of the buildings that date back to 1916. I refer to what is there at Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. If one goes into Nos. 18 and 19, one will see that the inside of those buildings has been completely changed.

What about No. 10?

I have been there, yes.

What about Nos. 11 and 12?

This is the first Government to do something about Moore Street. We purchased the national monument. We have made money available to carry out restoration work.

The Government has not done enough.

We are developing a legacy that will be a tribute to the leaders of 1916.

Is the Minister referring to the shopping mall?

It will be a step back in time to see-----

To see the shopping mall.

-----what life was like for them in 1916.

It has taken us eight years to get to this point. One hundred years after the Rising, we are conserving and protecting the final headquarters of the leaders.

Time is of the essence. It has been my intention to allow limited access to the site at the national monument during the centenary commemorations. If further delays are caused, that quite simply will not be possible.

The Minister is looking for a ribbon to cut.

I appeal to everyone in the House to help to bring to an end to the efforts to frustrate the safeguarding and preservation of the national monument.

The Dáil adjourned at 5.42 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 19 January 2016.