On Tuesday there were roughly 20 stalls set up along Moore Street, seagulls perched on their blue-and-white-striped roofs.
Some were empty and padlocked, only used four or five days a week. At others, traders sold bunches of colourful flowers, or boxes of oranges and bananas.
Towards the northern end, Margaret Buckley shoveled juicy shrimp into a bag for a customer. She’s been waiting 20 years already for the street to be shown more love from the state, she says.
It doesn’t surprise her a lot, therefore, that the much talked-about future changes haven’t yet come about. “Hopefully, I’ll live to see it.”
Other traders, too, are despondent these days, and say that while talks continue at the national-level Moore Street Advisory Group between those with stakes in its future – council officials, traders, TDs, relatives of those who fought in 1916, a private developer – the street is dirty and the market is dying.
Tom Collins, the chair of that advisory group, says members are teasing out the three threads of the street’s future: the national monument at numbers 14 to 17, the street market, and the vision of private developer Hammerson.
“What we’re trying to do here is to bring different world views and different emphases to form a coherent expression for all these world views on this particular quarter of Dublin,” he said. “It’s a really challenging piece of work.”
It’s about three years since protestors occupied buildings on Moore Street, worried that parts were at risk of being demolished. Court cases followed.
The minister for heritage set up the Moore Street Consultative Group, which produced a report, “Securing History”, which recommended it be developed as a historic cultural quarter, that historic buildings be kept, and that the market be regenerated and improved.
That report recommended that an advisory group be set up within six weeks, a framework of consensus on Moore Street and its lanes agreed within six months, and a planning application lodged with Dublin City Council within another six months – to make sure things kept moving.
That hasn’t happened, but progress is being made, says Collins, the chair of the Moore Street Advisory Group the minister set up.
There are three subgroups set up: one on the vision for the national monument, working largely with the relatives of those who fought in 1916; another for the future of the market, with traders and Dublin City Council; and a third that’s a liaison group with Hammerson, the developer.
“They all need to progress hand in hand,” said Collins.
Progress so Far
Collins said he hopes work will begin on the national monument before the end of this year.
The advisory group has seen early plans from Hammerson, too, Collins says. It’s more of a streetscape design, a mixed-use historic quarter, rather than a big shopping centre, he says.
It would keep the Moore Street terrace intact, and the idea of running cars through it has been abandoned in favour of pedestrianisation, he says.
It had homes, offices, and space for cultural activities, he says. “It is a very different concept from the Chartered Land concept, which really was little more than an extension of the ILAC Centre.”
“I don’t want to speak for everybody,” Collins says. But “their response has been largely positive”.
A spokesperson for Hammerson, Jackie Gallagher of Q4 PR, said the developer expects its final architectural designs to be done by autumn.
They’re in no rush to put in another planning application, as the planning permission they have is still current – they’ll do it once they’ve got consensus with all the different stakeholders, Gallagher said.
James Connolly-Heron, the great-grandson of 1916 leader James Connolly, who has been active in the campaign to protect Moore Street from demolition and preserve it as a cultural quarter, said the rough ideas he has seen are progress – but not ones they’d back right now.
They still have less of an emphasis on the historic elements than he would like, he said. “But that doesn’t mean that we can’t accommodate each others’ positions, but we’re a long way from that at the moment.”
As he sees it, the overall vision still hasn’t yet been agreed. “We’ve kind of got bogged down in the detail, rather than agree an overall vision and out of that emerges a new plan,” he says.
The government is hanging back too much, just waiting for the developer to act too, says Connolly-Heron. “The state must become proactive.”
In September last year, the advisory group agreed to commission a survey of the terrace of 10 to 25 Moore Street, to look at the provenance of each of the houses along that terrace, and how it relates to 1916.
That’s a big win, says Patrick Cooney, who has spent 20 years campaigning to stop the wider Moore Street area from being demolished and make sure it’s all recognised as a “sacred” site.
“How can you think of moving a brick, without knowing what’s here?” he said last Monday, down on Moore Street.
Cooney pointed to places in the lanes behind Moore Street, where older buildings along some of the passages are visible below the layers of newer ones: chipped granite ledges, a strip of old brick between two younger walls.
Further along, he points to the faded black lettering below one level of the lettering which is on the O’Brien Mineral Water works. They are reusable as buildings, and don’t need to be pulled down, he says.
Traders in Stasis
While the big issues are being gnawed over, some say there are short-term changes that need to be taken to keep the market alive, to make it safe and welcoming to work and shop.
There are empty pitches all along the street, which traders say could be filled with new stall owners, bringing more vendors and shoppers to the street.
In June last year, independent Councillor John Lyons asked council officials how many new traders had applied for licences in the last 10 years, and how many licences had been issued.
There are 69 pitches on Moore Street, listed in the new casual-trading bylaws. But the council’s reply to Lyons said there are currently only 19 traders licensed on Moore Street.
Due to “plans for redevelopment in the area new licenses have not been issued in the last ten years”. In that time, 31 people had applied and been added to a waiting list.
Traders feel as if they’re not welcome. “The bottom line is they just don’t want us there anymore,” says Marie Cullen, who runs a stall with her husband Tom Holbrook.
Holbrook, who has applied for another licence to expand their stall, said the council fobs them off, saying they won’t issue licenses while there is pending development. “That’s the answer. It’s a vacuum.”
“It could be a little dinger of a market,” says Cullen. If they added stalls with nuts, olives, other goods.
Says Lyons: “I think it’s a war of attrition.”
“It would be a lot better if the stalls were opened,” said Margaret Buckley on Monday, as she served customers.
Developing numbers 14 to 17 quickly, which are now in the ownership of the state, would bring more people to the street, too, she says.
There are other improvements that Buckley, Holbrook and others have long asked for. Better street lighting to help with safety and let traders stay open later in the evenings.
Buckley points up to a light several metres down, strung high up. It illuminates the spot below it, but not their stall. “They’re not adequate,” she says.
Cullen says more gardaí around would make the street safer too – that she and others are intimidated by people hanging around in large groups, or drinking or using drugs in laneways, and that the street is often dirty.
Collins, who chairs the advisory forum, said he had “a huge amount of sympathy” for the traders. “They are caught in a position that is really untenable for them.”
Taking Action Now
Collins says he believes the advisory group has been making “substantial progress” on the monument and plans for the Hammerson site.
“Certainly, I think once they move ahead it is inevitable that the market moves ahead. It is difficult for the market to move ahead, while the other two are in a state of stasis,” he said.
In the meantime, the School of Architecture at TU Dublin – formerly DIT Bolton Street – is working with the traders to shape a collective vision for the future market, he said.
Issuing more licences is a more long-term decision than cleaning up, Collins says – it depends on whether you want stalls selling olives, or hats, or vintage clothes, or cheese. “That has to do I think with what kind of a mix of retail is looked at.”
Improving the lighting, cleaning the street, removing clutter and dealing with antisocial behaviour could be done now though, Collins said.
Connolly-Heron also says there are lots of improvements that could be made to the street tomorrow. Signposts could go up. Shopfronts could be redone. The area could be cleaned up, he says.
Says Collins: “I think the traders should work, and feel they are working in a safe environment. In a clean environment. In an environment that’s welcoming of people into it,” he said. But they don’t.
“I’ve kind of given up hope,” says Cullen – whose mother ran a stall on the street, and earlier generations too – on the phone Tuesday, at the tail end of a holiday. “I’m not looking forward to going back to work, to be honest.”