I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit chuig an Seanad. It gives me great pleasure today to introduce to the House on Second Stage the Moore Street Area Renewal and Development Bill 2015. First, I wish to commend a few people who have worked tirelessly for the past 13 or 14 years, many of whom are in the Visitors Gallery this evening. Patrick Cooney has been involved in the Save 16 Moore Street campaign. James Connolly Heron and others have been involved in the 1916 relatives committee. I am also delighted that Proinsias Ó Rathaille is present. He is the grandson of The O'Rahilly, the only leader who was killed in action during the 1916 Rising. Others have also been involved. We have put a lot of work into this Bill and we hope for cross-party support from across the House to allow the Bill to pass Second Stage.
The Bill will provide the grounds upon which certain approvals may be made by Moore Street Renewal Limited, relating to existing or proposed buildings and premises in the Moore Street area, to provide that Moore Street Properties Limited shall be a development company for the Moore Street area and for the compulsory acquisition of land in that area by it, to authorise the Minister for Finance to guarantee borrowings by Moore Street Properties Limited, to make further provisions relating to Moore Street Renewal Limited and to Moore Street Properties Limited and to provide for connected matters. That is the official definition of the Bill. We have taken our inspiration from the Temple Bar Properties legislation from a number of years ago, which was very successful in taking a holistic approach to a designated area and to make sure that the area was developed appropriately.
The designated area envisaged for the company in this Bill is the Moore Street area which is, in effect, the most significant historical site in modern Irish history. I very much welcomed the Government decision to purchase Nos. 14 to 17 Moore Street. I said that at the time. However, more is needed in the sense that we must ensure that what is developed around the Moore Street battlefield site area and the adjacent lanes is conserved and developed appropriately and sensitively given the context of the site. What we are talking about in this area is effectively the birthplace of the modern day Irish Republic. I, for one, wish to ensure that any development in the areas is done properly and sensitively and that it is not rushed on the basis of the fact that we have very important centenary commemorations next year. The project to properly develop Moore Street and the adjacent areas is one for the future to ensure that future Irish generations, not just those living in Ireland but from the diaspora, who have such an interest in Irish history, can come back to the Moore Street and O’Connell Street areas and see where the final stand of the brave men and women of 1916 took place. I, for one, wish to ensure that Nos. 14 to 17 are preserved, but more than that needs to be preserved. I do not want to see a huge shopping mall built beside the area. All of us, including the Minister of State, Deputy Ó Ríordáin, as someone who represents a Dublin constituency know the area very well. We wish to ensure that as the area is developed in the future it is conserved and preserved in order that we can be proud of it when we look back in ten years’ time and that we can say we did the right thing.
I had the great pleasure of dealing with many Dublin city councillors across all parties when the original proposal for the land swap was rejected, rightly so, by Dublin City Council. I commend all those councillors, including my own colleagues, Paul McAuliffe, Deirdre Heney and Seán Haughey, and those of all parties, including my Sinn Féin colleagues, who rejected that offer. That set in train this opportunity for us in the Oireachtas to mind the site and to develop it properly. This is the mechanism to do it. We have worked very hard to put the legislation together. It will give the Government at any given time oversight of what happens in the area.
When one looks back at the surrender of the leaders that took place in Moore Street and the last stand of the Rising, more than 100 volunteers broke out from the GPO and tunnelled into the Moore Street area for their last stand. James Connolly was injured there. The discussions took place on the surrender and the leaders decided they would surrender to ensure there was no further bloodshed visited upon the citizens of Dublin. That is a precious area. The blood of our forefathers was shed on Moore Street and it behoves us to ensure that what happens there is appropriate as it is a sacred place and it should be preserved in that manner. We do need to improve the area. It needs to be conserved and restoration work needs to happen. However, that does not all need to happen before the centenary celebrations next April. Certain things can be done to ensure the site is presentable. However, let us put forward a plan for the next generation, for my daughter and her generation, in order that they can have an input and that schoolchildren from across the country can come to visit the site and walk the laneways of one of the only intact urban battlefield sites we have. We must be aware of how important that is.
We also have an opportunity to ensure the economic regeneration of the area. I grew up in Dublin and as a child I remember going down to Moore Street and seeing the traders and all that goes with it. The Minister of State will be shocked to learn there are only 26 traders left on Moore Street.
We must ensure they are supported and that the markets there become a vibrant place, so more people will come to the Moore Street area and more people will trade there. This development Bill will designate the site as an area for urban regeneration and renewal. Taking into account the historical significance of that area, we must consider how best we can improve it, bring further jobs and life to it and improve the markets and how we can look after the traders, many of whom have traded there for generations. Six to seven generations of families have traded there and they are proud of their stalls and of the work they do. Unfortunately, they do not get the required support from Dublin City Council officials.
Allowing this Bill to pass through the House would send a clear message that we cherish this area and that the area is important. It is not just the buildings, but the people who live and work there. The north O'Connell Street and Moore Street area can become a major economic hub for regeneration in our city centre and breathe life back into an area that encapsulates so much of what old and real Dublin is about. I say that as a Dub and as Dublin spokesperson for our party. People who live in the rest of the city and the county of Dublin cherish that area. That is what this Bill will achieve. Consider all the work that has been done over the past 12 to 14 years. If people had not come forward 14 years ago, this terrace would have been demolished. The people in the Save 16 Moore Street campaign and the relatives groups campaigned against that happening, and I commend them for that. We are now discussing the first legislative measure designed to copperfasten that and bring their work to another level.
I do not claim that this legislation is perfect or that no other matters could be included in it, but that is something we could deal with on Committee Stage. I commend those from all parties, including my colleagues in Sinn Féin, who have been supportive of this legislation. That includes Independent Members as well. I know from speaking to Labour Party colleagues how they feel about this. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan and Deputy Joe Costello, whose constituency covers this area, and others have also been to the forefront on this issue. I believe the Seanad can do important work on this today. It will send a message to the city council that any existing planning permissions are, and should be, effectively frozen. There should be no further commercial development work in the vicinity of this site or in the area. The strongest way to secure that is to designate it as a historical quarter.
Consider everything we have further north into Parnell Square, Mountjoy Square and up to Glasnevin and the National Botanic Gardens, and when one travels from there through to the Liffey and on to Temple Bar, College Green and the surrounding area. We have the ability today to start a freedom trail in that area of Dublin. There can be no freedom or historical trail within the city unless the Moore Street area and its environs are protected, enhanced and conserved as they should be. Let us invite the experts in to carry out an independent battlefield survey. That has not been done up to now. I am aware that the Minister has a personal interest in this so let us send the message that we are serious about this matter. This could be a project for all of our school children. There will be important commemorations over the course of the next few years in respect of our founding fathers, the men and women of 1916 and the sacrifices they made right through to the War of Independence and the terrible tragedy of our Civil War. Let something positive, a living project, emerge from that - the living project that is Moore Street. In developing and conserving it we would breathe fresh life back into the city.
This is the city that the men and women of 1916 were so proud of that they decided to make their stand there to fight against the might of the largest empire in existence at the time. The sacrifices they made can be repaid in a small way here this evening by allowing this legislation to pass and by letting Oireachtas Members from all sides of the House work together on this, to bring about something of which the entire country can be proud. The political lineage and heritage of all Members comes from the men and women of 1916 regardless of their political party or whether they are Independents. All of us emerged from that. We want what is best for our city, heritage and culture.
I implore the Minister to accept this legislation. Let us work together with interested groups such as my colleagues in the Visitors Gallery, who have worked so hard and tirelessly over the years to secure something tangible. Let us get control of this area back into the hands of the Irish people. The commemoration of 1916 is owned by every man, woman and child in this country, so let us lead on this issue and show that we value its importance as the last place in which the Provisional Government of 1916 met before the tragedies that happened in the following weeks.
I will conclude with one thought. Consider Kilmainham Gaol and the people who worked on that for years with no funding or support. People thought it would never happen, but look at what we have. I realise more work must be done there but the people in the 1940s and 1950s came forward and said they would do this work themselves and ensure that Kilmainham Gaol would be there for all future generations. Now, thousands and millions of visitors and school children go there to learn about their heritage and their history. We should do the same for the area from the GPO through to Moore Street and have a living testament to the signatories of the Proclamation and the women and men of the Rising. Let us do something of which the women of Cumann na mBan and the volunteers of the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army would be proud.
I again implore the Minister to accept this Bill. It gives me great pleasure to propose the Moore Street Area Renewal and Development Bill and I look forward to hearing the contributions from all sides of the House.