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Frederic William Burton - The Meeting on the Turret Stairs, 1864
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The Road to Freedom, part 1:

General Post Office, Dublin

The GPO, Dublin - photo by author

by Suzanne Barrett

It is now 92 years since the events of Easter 1916, eighty-seven since the signing of the treaty between England and the Sinn Fein representatives in December 1921. For more than a generation, history of Ireland during these five years was repressed. Only within the last decade has there been a resurgence in this vital period of Ireland's turbulent and often tragic history. Now, Irish Americans and other visitors are interested to learn more about the events that shaped Ireland today. Come as we journey on a mini tour of revolutionary Ireland.

Part I - Dublin
The facts of the Easter Rising were covered in a previous feature. Discussed here are the sites of importance to the visitor.

Arbour Hill CemeteryArbour Hill Cemetery, across from Arbour Hill Barracks on Dublin's north side is the final resting place of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. A mound of grass is enclosed by a rectangular limestone base on which the names of the leaders are inscribed. Behind it stands a wall upon which the Proclamation of Easter Week is inscribed in Irish and in English. Every Easter Sunday a memorial service is held at the cemetery for those who died for Ireland.

Dublin Castle was the seat of English government in Ireland from the Norman invasion until the establishment of the Free State in 1922. James Connelly lay injured here for one week awaiting execution. The room where he lay, then a hospital, is dedicated to him. The tower today is dedicated to the signatories of the 1916 Proclamation.

Located west of Dame Street. Bus routes 50, 50A, 54, 56A & 77 from City Centre. Open year round except 24-26 December and Good Friday. 10am - 6pm Mon.-Fri. and 2pm - 6pm Sat., Sun. and holidays.

Children of LirThe Garden of Remembrance at the top of O'Connell Street was where the prisoners were held overnight in the open. It was opened in 1966 on the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising and dedicated to all those who gave their lives in the fight for Irish freedom. A sculpture of the children of Lir by Oisin Kelly is set in its midst.

The GPO, or General Post Office on O'Connell Street was the rebel headquarters during the Rising. It is also the place where Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation of Easter 1916. The interior of the building was destroyed, but rebuilt in 1929. Today a statue picturing the Death of Cuchulainn attracts many visitors. The GPO is a still a popular site for political rallies.

The grave of Michael CollinsGlasnevin Cemetery, or Prospect, as it is known, is Ireland's national cemetery. There are plots for the cholera victims of 1832, plots for famine victims. Daniel O'Connell is buried here (look for the round tower), as is Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa, Roger Casement and many more. In a plot set apart from the rest is the grave of Michael Collins, not far away is the grave of Kitty Kiernan Cronin--as close to the Big Fella as she could be placed. The National Graves Association has a book titled The Last Post which lists all who are buried there and provides a map. The book is available at most bookshops.

Kilmainham Gaol is the subject of an upcoming feature and plays an important part in Irish revolutionary history, though by 1924, it was disused. The yacht Asgard which was used to bring guns into Howth Harbor in 1914 now sits in the yard outside the prison. In 1996, to coincide with the eightieth anniversary of the Rising, a new exhibition was opened in Kilmainham. Among the items on display are last letters of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, a letter written in the blood of a Republican killed during the Civil War, and the block upon which Robert Emmet was executed, which was also used by Michael Collins in a propaganda film to raise funds for the new government.

The Shelbourne Hotel which was built in 1867 overlooks St. Stephen's Green in the heart of Dublin. Here, British troops positioned themselves during the 1916 Rising, and it was here where the constitution of the Irish Free State was drafted.

St. Stephen's Green was laid out in 1664 and is Ireland's oldest park. It was the scene of military action during the 1916 Rising and contains statues of famous Irish men and women--Wolfe Tone, Michael Collins, Constance Markievicz, W.B. Yeats, and James Joyce. Also in the park is a lovely fountain, a pavilion, and a statue from the people of Germany to the people of Ireland.

statue of Sam Heuston in Phoenix ParkCroke Park is the headquarters of the Gaelic Games and can be accessed from Clonliffe Road and Jones Road. The history of the park is bound up in Dublin history. The spot where Dublin supporters traditionally sit during matches is built from rubble of buildings destroyed during the shelling of Sackville Street (O'Connell Street) during the Easter Rising. It is best known for the retaliatory attack during the Nov. 20 All-Ireland finals, when British troops opened fire on the players and crowd. The Hogan Stand is named after Seán Hogan, captain of the Tipperary team who was shot during the massacre.

The Gresham Hotel is about five minutes' walk from the Garden of Remembrance and is today a fine dining place. It was a favorite spot of Collins and his men, as was Vaughans Hotel, formerly located on the block between 29-32 Parnell Square. Vaughans was known as Collins' alternative headquarters, and above No. 30, you can make out the name Vaughans Hotel. (At the Granby Pub on No. 13 Granby Row, you can see the set for "Vaughans Hotel" used in the 1996 film "Michael Collins.") Also in Parnell Square is the Hugh Lane Gallery, not a part of revolutionary history, but housing a number of works by John Lavery who was a friend of Collins.

Phoenix Park is the largest urban park in Europe (700 hectares). Inside the park stands Áras an Uachtarán, once the viceregal lodge and now the home of the President of Ireland. My reason for including Phoenix Park is that a small but dramatic episode was played at the Magazine Fort. Small in size, it was Dublin's most important munitions store, and its defences included a surrounding dry moat with a single crossing point.

Around noon on Easter Monday, the hopelessly ill-manned fort was captured by Volunteers Patrick Daly and Garry Holohan. Unable to locate the key to the main store, the men were able only to set off a small charge with a cache of gelignite which did not make a sound to be heard all over Dublin as the rebels had planned.

In Part 2, we'll take a look at Dublin sites of importance during the Civil War and sites located around the rest of the country during the turbulent years of 1916 to 1923.

Until next time.

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