You know of course that Irish apples are the nicest, sweetest, juiciest apples in the world. I did a series of apple paintings a while ago. I was working on a project about Moore Street at the time. But wait’ll I tell you what’s been happening on Moore Street since then.
You know that Moore Street is inextricably linked with the Easter Rising of 1916. This is where the last stand of the revolutionaries took place. Five of the signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic spent their last hours of freedom here. But would you believe that there are plans now to turn this historic area into a gigantic shopping mall?
Of course there was protests. There was even a case against it in the High Court. The court ruled that the entire Moore Street battlefield site constituted a National Monument, to be protected and preserved by the state but still, believe it or not, the Irish government is challenging that decision!
Anyway, in the meantime, the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs set up a “consultative group” to consider views on the best way forward for Moore Street and, as it happens, I was there in City Hall last Friday to have my say. Now we only got the invitation on Thursday so we really didn’t get enough time to prepare but Donna Cooney, a relation of Nurse Elizabeth O’Farrell and a true stalwart of the 1916 Relatives’ Association, had a great presentation ready.
Carla Cowley, great great granddaughter of Molly O’Reilly, spoke first and then it was my turn. You can read the text of my speech below – it starts in Irish but the second half is in English.
Otherwise, just have a quick look at the black and white photo further down. This photo has had a lot of airbrushing over the years. First of all, some newspaper editor got rid of Nurse O’Farrell’s skirts and boots, airbrushed out of history, to simplify the story, I suppose. But I have a different memory of this photo. I remember my father sending it away somewhere – to get it ‘fixed’ – not to get rid of O’Farrell but to emphasise the fact the Pearse was in full military uniform (as Commander-in-chief of the rebel forces). He didn’t want people to think that Pearse was wearing a big winter overcoat. Funny what one remembers – I was only six years old at the time…
The text of my speech:
A dhaoine uaisle agus a chairde, tá cúpla nóiméad agam inniu le h-impí oraibh gan Sráid Uí Mhórdha a scriosadh. Tá sé náireach, amach is amach, go bhfuil muid fiú ag caint faoi seo inniu.
Fuair go leor daoine bás ar an sráid seo – laochra, a sheas in aghaidh Impireacht na Breataine; Laochra, a throid ar son ár saoirse; Laochra, mo mhuintir ina measc – ach i 1916, chaith muintir na cathrach seile orthu. They spat on them. Agus fós, 100 bhlian níos déanaí, tá roinnt daoine fós ag iarraidh seile a chaitheamh orthu.
Cén fáth? Sin í an cheist. Cén fáth go bhfuil drogall orainn comóradh ceart a dhéanamh ar na laochra seo? Na mná agus na fir ar sheas an fhóid agus a throid ar son a gcearta, agus cearta muintir na hÉireann ar fad. Cén fáth nach bhfuil muid lán de Bhróid? Cén fáth go bhfuil muidne, gaolta 1916, fós ag troid le go n-athnófar an fís a bhí acu, agus an misneach a bhí acu.
“I thank the goodness and the grace that on my birth has smiled, and made me in this Christian age, a happy English child”. A chairde Gael, this was the prayer on the first page of a reader that was used in every National School in Ireland, before 1916.
This was the ideology, the ideology that was rejected by the men and women of 1916. We had our own Gaelic culture, our own language, our customs and our history but this was not what the British Empire wanted to hear. Indeed, they were intent on suppressing it.
I’m not going to give you a lecture on history here but I will say this. That our language and our customs and our history is still under threat, right now in 2016. But we have a chance here to take steps to protect it. I think that the Moore Street Battlefield plan has some great ideas in it and I congratulate all those who were involved with it.
And I’ll say one more thing. My father, Piaras Mac Lochlainn was on the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration committee in the sixties. That place was derelict when they decided to restore it. They were all voluntary workers. They decided to restore it, as someone said: “to honour our glorious dead”. And that jail is now one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country. And the government at the time wanted to demolish it! Have we learned nothing?
A shopping centre is no different to shopping centres the world over. But Moore Street is the heart of Dublin. Such a special place of culture and history and I’m asking you now: Don’t delete it from the pages of history.
Shame on anyone who would even consider destroying it. Go raibh maith agaibh.
So now, it’s back to the studio for me… really, I’d prefer to stay away from these political shenanigans, and simply to paint my penny apples. But unfortunately, we just can’t leave it up to the politicians and their cronies. What do you think?