Kilmainham Gaol – A Must See in Dublin.

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On a recent trip to Ireland I visited Kilmainham Gaol. I had heard it was a must see while in Dublin and I was not disappointed.  Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol (or Kilmainham Jail) has an unique place in Irish History and was where for more than 100 years those who fought against the English occupation of Ireland were imprisoned and where many of them died. It is a somber, even chilling, place to visit, but absolutely fascinating and gives a profound insight into the history of Ireland.

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The last prisoner held in Kilmainham was  IRA leader Eamonn De Valera, who in later years served first as Toiseach (Prime Minister) and subsequently President of Ireland.After his release the prison was closed, locked and essentially left to rot by Ireland. Many wanted to erase the memory of the  injustices, torture and executions with which it was associated.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that efforts began to preserve it and open it again to the public. It opened in time for the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising and is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Dublin.

100_5593One of the most poignant events that ever took place in Kilmainham was the marriage of Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the 1916 Rising, and Grace Gifford. When Grace found out her fiancé  was to be executed she convinced the prison to let her marry him in the chapel  inside the prison.  On May 3rd 1916 the two were married in the small prison chapel and the next morning Joseph was shot by a firing squad.

Grace never remarried and died in 1955. She was ironically imprisoned there herself in 1923 and while she was there she spent her time painting on the walls of her cell. Her painting of Madonna and Child is still on the wall to this day as you can see below.

100_5597If you are in Dublin, do not miss taking a visit to this fascinating place. The guides there are wonderful and bring the gaol to life with the wealth of information they possess. I left the museum with new knowledge and understanding of the struggles Ireland faced in gaining their independence. A must see. . .

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