There was a time when men, women and children fought and died for a better Ireland, when they stood for what was best for the people. Now we have politicians of brown envelopes, of underhand deals and of selling and giving away the wealth of Ireland. This week they destroyed the home of The Ó Rathaille someone who gave his all for a United Ireland. It was an important part of our collective history but greedy developers and other opportunistic individuals saw a chance to make money.
The destruction of the home at 40 Herbert Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin by Kennedy and McSharry (Derryroe Ltd), owners of the Herbert Park Hotel, was an act of historical vandalism. Michael Joseph O’Rahilly, known as The O’Rahilly, was the only leader of the 1916 Rising to die in battle. He was the first occupant of Number 40, Herbert Park in 1909 and his widow, Nancy, lived there until her death in 1961.
Knowing of its importance and of the plans to have it designated a protected structure by Dublin City Council (DCC) the Planning authority gave permission to develop the land for a €66m, 12-storey luxury apartment scheme which involved the demolition of the house. The approval came despite opposition from relatives of the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, An Taisce, the Pembroke Road Residents Association, the South Georgian Core Residents Association and the Department of Culture and Arts, and many individuals. In many ways this obscene act of violence against our revolutionary history typifies the vacuous greed and soulless nature of the society that is being shaped by the political and financial elites who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
DCC passed a motion lately to list the historic property on the Register of Protected Structures, pending reports. But the developers, under cover of darkness, sent in a demolition crew within 20 hours of DCC’s decision and leveled the whole building.
Now is the time for decisive action. The development should be blocked, court proceedings issued against the developers and the whole plot confiscated. A memorial garden should be erected to all who lost their lives fighting for the Republic. Nothing less will actually deter developers from simply destroying our heritage. But is the will there? Have enough brown envelopes passed hands to make this simply go away and be classified as a mistake? This proposed development was known for a long time yet DCC did nothing until the eleventh hour. The planning authorities knew of the DCC’s plans to protect the building yet rushed through approval and as we all know politicians have huge input into what gets planning and what is rejected.
This is no isolated incident, our heritage is being torn down across the country. Before we know it little will be left. The “redevelopment” of the GPO was spoken about a few years ago and is still in the pipeline; Moore Street Battlefield site is still under threat after being saved by the timely intervention of activists. FF/FG/Greens working with developers will do their best to kill our Republican history.
Sinn Féin Poblachtach call for an immediate implementation of protection orders on other historical sites across the 32 Counties before they too face the same fate as the Ó Rathaille home. There are plenty of other abandoned buildings with no historical interest across the country in desperate need of development.
1 Deireadh Fómhair 2020.
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