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Save Dublin’s Moore Street – Last Battlefield of 1916 Rising

Shane Cullen's memorial to The O'Rahilly, containing the words of his last letter to his wife.

By Robin Mary Heaney, Guest Blogger
February 13, 2012

The last battlefield of the 1916 Rising’s heroes must be preserved.

Moore Street, Dublin – for years the bustling site of flower markets and fruit sellers, but today the object of a fight to preserve Ireland’s heritage and the genesis of its nationhood.

Sometimes called the “Alamo of Ireland,” the laneways and streets surrounding Moore Street are some of the most historic in the nation. They are among the last remnants of battlefield Dublin from the Easter Rising of 1916. Unfortunately, despite being designated a National Monument, this area where the brave martyrs of 1916 retreated from the burning GPO, and where they made the decision to accept the British terms of unconditional surrender, is facing a new threat from a commercial developer who seeks to build yet another shopping mall.

So much of the original sites relating to the Easter Rising no longer exist. Liberty Hall is gone, the GPO is a reconstruction, and the building where the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was signed by the seven leaders of the Rising – Tom Clarke, Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, Sean MacDermott, Joseph Plunkett, Thomas MacDonagh and Eamonn Ceannt – no longer exists and is marked only by a tarnished and easily overlooked plaque on the outside wall of a store on Henry Street.

After having the amazing experience of touring the 1916 GPO Garrison’s battlefield and retreat route with James Connolly Heron, James Connolly’s great grandson, I was struck by the importance of this treasure to Irish and world history. To actually walk on the cobblestones where the leaders of the Rising walked and to be in those laneways where they fought was an incredible experience. I had the opportunity to understand the courage of men like The O’Rahilly and the young Michael Collins as they tried to clear a path for the retreat from the GPO, as the building was consumed by fire. Moore Lane contains buildings and cobblestones original to the period, and old industrial architecture. The battle raged here as the 300 men of the GPO Garrison struggled to get to safety in the buildings on Moore Street, all the while under fire from British guns.

It was chilling to hear of the callous attitude of the British as they left The O’Rahilly bleeding in the street. And his heartfelt last letter to his wife, written as he lay dying in a doorway, is enshrined on a plaque which I’m certain few visitors to Dublin ever see.

I was moved to see the building where the Pearse brothers spent their last night of freedom. Sure, as you look at the take-out restaurant at 10 Moore Street, it looks rundown and in need of repair. But the building and that whole block tell the story of the Volunteers’ passion for freedom and love for Ireland.

And, here too, is the building where the severely injured James Connolly was carried from the burning GPO. And it was from 16 Moore Street that the brave nurse, Elizabeth O’Farrell, left under a white flag of truce to discuss terms for surrender with the British army commander.

The Plunkett butcher shop at 16 Moore Street was the last headquarters of the Provisional Government and is a living reminder of those brave men of the GPO Garrison and their leaders, including Tom Clarke, Padraig Pearse and the badly injured James Connolly as they made the painful decision to surrender, with the leaders knowing that surrender likely meant their own deaths.

If walls could talk they would tell the story of the desperation and heartbreak felt by the five Rising leaders who met there, after a week of shelling and fighting and fire at the GPO. Those walls heard those brave men debate their options, whether to continue the fighting or try to avoid further civilian and patriot bloodshed by surrendering. Here was where they made that fateful decision that seemed to mean they had failed, although, in retrospect, the Rising spurred the nation to an independent future.

The garden in the back must have shook with the pain and anguish of the brave Irish Volunteers as they learned that the Revolution, which had begun with such promise on Easter Monday with the declaration of the Irish Republic by Pearse, would now end with his and their surrender to British forces.

Moore Street is just steps away from the Rotunda Hospital where the Irish Volunteers held their first meeting in 1913. In an ironic twist, that same area saw the British forces round up the brave survivors before marching them off, some to prison and some to court martial and firing squad.

History is alive in these houses and stores, and Ireland has the opportunity to create a living memorial, which will draw Irish citizens and tourists to that area of Dublin. The timing is particularly significant, as Ireland approaches the Centennial of Easter Week 1916.

The entire block may, in fact, be in need of revitalization, but its significance as the last outpost of the GPO Garrison and five of the signatories of the Proclamation cannot be overlooked and must be honored. It is simply not the same to just look at a photograph or examine a stone monument. That block and its surrounding laneways have the potential to be a living memorial to the men and women of 1916 who sounded the clarion call for freedom.

Commercial development of that area will destroy what should be a shrine to Ireland’s history, according to the members of “Save Moore Street Dublin”. That group, which has its own Facebook page, is spearheaded by descendants of those executed following the Rising and others who fought in 1916, and is asking the Irish government to declare the area a battlefield. They seek to restore Moore Street and its surrounding laneways as a monument, and they desire to see the entire area preserved so that future generations can understand the battle that took place, the story of retreat and surrender, on the very ground where it happened.

Historic preservation of the area will ensure that the future may learn from the past. And Ireland’s heroes will not be forgotten.

20 Responses to “Save Dublin’s Moore Street – Last Battlefield of 1916 Rising”

  1. Rick Garland says:

    Unlike a shopping mall, one a piece of history is gone, it can never be replaced. I hope that such history will not be taken away in the interests of commericialism as had happened so often here in America.

  2. Liam says:

    It’d be very sad to lose such an important part of our history for the sake of commercialism, but I guess Ireland is no different to many other countries these days with respect to how commercialism rules. It’s hard to preserve anything forever, but 1916 Rising isn’t that long ago. Maybe a middle ground can be achieved. Hopefully we don’t just give up our national treasures for the sake of a few Euro.

  3. I hope that Ireland seizes this opportunity to preserve Moore Street and create a living memorial to the Rising that gave birth to our Nation. Hopefully, commercialism will not win this battle.

  4. Lynn says:

    Here hear! Surely the importance of preserving this treasure will outweigh the “need” for another mall! Well said, Ms. Heaney!

  5. Muriel says:

    Thank you so much for your superb article. It expresses so well what this whole campaign is about and is greatly appreciated by those who are working in this in Dublin.

  6. Joseph T. Gleason, aOH historian and seanchai, sadly too long away from Tipperary and the beloved land our ancestors fought and died to save from despolation. says:

    How heartbreaking it is to witness the short-sighted greed that has blossomed in modern ireland and would callously sell its historical birthright for a few pounds of profit. Have you not observed and learned from the American experience? Is yet another shopping mall really needed in Dublin’s fair city? When the mall rots away and profits decline and the tourists find no reason to visit, what will you do then?
    Not even the British did as much to destroy the visual heritage of our irish people and nation as the Irish who remained. There is yet hope for a change of heart. Sell not your birthright for a bowl of porridge.

  7. Tommy Reilly says:

    I was lucky enough to have walked in Moore street on a visit to Dublin last year, I was angered and appalled the local councils are even taking an interest in removing this part of Ireland’s history in place for a shopping Mall.
    Let’s not forget what those brave signatories began on Easter Monday 1916 the flame was set alight in the fight for a free Ireland.
    700 years of British rule was to come to an end, during their reign they forced poverty, cruelty,disease and famine upon Ireland’s population.
    Famine killed more than 1 million and forced another million into emigration.
    Britain you were cruel in your time you caused what is now known as genocide shame on you .
    Moore street played a significant role during the 1916 fight for freedom , When the GPO had to be vacated by those brave irishmen the fight carried on in Moore street until an unconditional surrender had to be signed.
    The leaders and signatories were taken away and executed days after they surrendered .
    Their bodies were then dumped into one grave covered with lime to burn any remains of human flesh and bone.
    Let’s never forget the brave men and woman of that time and also those
    who carried on the fight during the war of independence.

    Moore street should be preserved for all to see, I have been lucky but there are many of my generation and future generations who should have the opportunity to witness where Ireland’s fight for freedom began .

    Turn this area into a national monument Like Glasnevin, Arbour Jill And Kilmainham Gaol .

  8. Pol o Piobair says:

    Please sign the save the moore street battle site petition on facebook

    is mise le meas

    Pol o Piobair

  9. John Ashe says:

    saving history is a must,,,for all the Free Irish,,I live in American but my family is from Kerry going back to the 1700s…keep out History alive

  10. John Ashe says:

    My Great Great Uncle Tom’as Ashe gave his life for our Freedom,,are we going to alow his history to be buried too?

  11. martin begley says:

    There are too many in Ireland trying to whitewash our history of struggle, the memory of the men of 1916 are trotted out every year for a day and the so called republicans of shame fein wear a lily and spout their orations, the same people who are propping up a brit government in the still occupied 6 counties of the north of Ireland. Moore St needs to be save so that the shame of todays pro brit republicans is not hidden in history.
    Tiocfaidh ar La

  12. Sean Griffiths says:

    This maudlin and overwrought article is typical of the rubbish written about 1916. The national monument in Moore Street is in absolutely no danger, other then that posed by a group of unemployed descendants of 1916 rebels who use their (rapidly-tarnishing) name to oppose the renovation of the national monument. They seek to have an entire city block preserved, a city block almost completely made up of buildings built AFTER 1916.

  13. Excellent piece. Your end-note that the future should learn from the past is a point which cannot be over-emphasized. Removal and “re-purposing” of historic buildings in the name of “progress” erases the past and a plaque erected on the side of a shopping mall does little to instill an understanding of the importance of what happened on that ground. Thanks for the article. I will send it on wherever I can and hope that Moore Street is preserved for future generations.

  14. Mike says:

    Just read your piece. As we speak 10/01/16 the diggers are just about to demolish this street please check the news and do what you can to help save Moore Street Dublin Ireland. God bless you.

  15. I see by the dates this has been a long drawn out fight. Now we are in 2016 and the fight continues so someone must be listening. Wonderful piece. Thanks for writing this. Its too bad the Irish government doesn’t support and protect their own history.

  16. Collie says:

    https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_Irish_Government_Save_the_1916_Terrace_in_its_entirety_and_restore_it/

    Here is an online petition I intend to send to the government when we reach a good number of people to save it. Please publicise it and share it an sign it.

  17. Please sign and share this online petition to save the last vestiges of real heritage from 1916 and stop greed destroying a legacy for all future generations.

    https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/The_Irish_Government_Save_the_1916_Terrace_in_its_entirety_and_restore_it/?sLOfMfb

  18. Mik Heslin says:

    I was visiting Longford from the US last July and made a special trip into Dublin to visit Moore Street and show support for the folks trying to save the area. To sympathetically bring the area back to life in the form of an Historic Quarter would not only be an appropriate way to pay respects to the brave souls of 1916 but would be a greater asset to the Irish economy in the long term than a shopping mall will ever be. I also think another mall would also be the final nail in the coffin for the generations-old market.

  19. Frank Allen says:

    Is there anybody who can deny that No.10 Moore Street is of immense historical significance. Through the wall of this house the whole GPO garrison including three women entered because Moore Street itself was being raked by machine gun fire from the Britishbarricade on Great Britain Street. NAMA has now sold off these buildings to an English and German retail investment group. That is a fact. I have a copy of a letter from the CEO of the British Co.. Our government have fumbled in a greasy till for years now but the citizens have risen again. Save Moore Street from the philistines who purport to govern us. Power to the people. Read the Proclamation.

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