http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1331088,00.html Dublin may trade roots of its history for a modern view -------------- Plane trees that survived Easter rising may be cut down as city tries to create a cafe culture plaza ----------------------------------------------- They survived the two most traumatic events in modern Irish history, the bloodbath of the 1916 Easter rising and the civil war that followed, and watched Ireland change from an economic basket case into one of the wealthiest countries in Europe. But an avenue of ancient trees lining Dublin's central boulevard, whose bullet holes and shell scars are a source of national pride, are facing the axe in what some call an act of official philistinism. In a controversy that has pitted the old Ireland against the new, an alliance of academics, artists and politicians is fighting to save the 100-year-old trees, which are to be swept aside to improve the view of Dublin's Spire - a towering silver needle shortlisted for this year's Stirling prize for architecture. A row is growing in Dublin over the landscaping around the 120-metre spire. Known affectionately by Dubliners as the "Stiletto in the Ghetto" or the "Stiffy near the Liffey", the €4m (£2.8m) giant pin was completed last year to replace Nelson's Pillar, bombed by the IRA in 1966. O'Connell Street had fallen into shambolic decay in the 1970s and until the €300m redevelopment which began during the economic boom of the late 1990s, it was a tatty collection of fast-food shops and bargain basements. Already, more than 50 historic London plane trees in O'Connell Street, which witnessed the beginning of the new state, have been felled to make way for the spire and the city's new tram system and to create a "cafe culture" plaza in front of the bullet-scarred General Post Office - scene of the 1916 rising, which left 500 dead and ravaged 100 buildings. But despite a motion by Dublin city council to protect the remaining 10 trees, developers plan to axe them, saying they do not fit plans to transform O'Connell Street into a European boulevard to rival the best of Paris and Barcelona. The outrage deepened when plans were made to bulldoze a house in nearby Moore Street dubbed "Ireland's Alamo", where the 1916 rebels made their last stand and decided to surrender in what was then the back room of a fish shop. It was to be destroyed to make way for a shopping centre. Christy Burke, a Sinn Féin councillor in Dublin, led the campaign which secured a reprieve for the Moore Street house last week. He said he would fight for the trees. "They are part of our history," he said. "Some people couldn't give two tosses about Irish history, particularly 1916. But 1916 has been hidden long enough - it is time to put it out in the open. We should be proud of it." Ciarán Cuffe, a Green party MP and former architect and town planner, said that destroying trees which were "witnesses to history" would be "a crying shame". Michael Conaghan, the Dublin mayor, said piles of letters of complaint had arrived on his desk every day and he would fight to get the old trees incorporated into the new design of the street. Imogen Stuart, a sculptor, who sent an angry letter to the Irish Times, said: "These trees are monuments, living witnesses to the liberation of Ireland. How can we destroy them?" A spokesman for the O'Connell Street Project said public consultation over the trees had just ended and a report would be considered next month before the city manager made a final decision. About 160 replacement trees would be planted. He said the felling of the mature trees was regrettable. "But from an architectural point of view, it was felt their height didn't lend itself to the design of the street in terms of symmetry." ------------------------------------------------------------------------ I for one am shocked at this approach to history and what is a national heritage. Could you imagine removing the Alamo or Nelson's Column (for example) just because some town planners and an architect think changes need to make progress and for cafe society to prosper?