Kilmainham Gaol

| November 26, 2010 | 0 Comments

It is interesting that Ireland’s modern political history is best told in a horrific prison.  Kilmainham Gaol is a powerful symbol of the struggles of the Irish people.  Architecturally, it resembles the prison in The Shawshank Redemption. Unforgiving stones and steel.  Our tour guide was a burly, passionate Irishman with a full beard who talked non-stop for almost an hour and a half in a presentation that was rich with fact, anecdote and drama.  For instance, here’s a picture of the altar where Joseph Plunkett, one of the leaders of the 1916 uprising, married his beloved, 3 hours before he was executed by firing squad.  His bride lived to her 70’s and never remarried.

But the history of the prison vastly pre-dated this event, having been build in the late 1600’s.  All the Irish rebels through the years passed through Kilmainham.  The most dramatic story was that of Anne Devlin, who effectively sacrificed her entire family, not to mention herself, for the cause of Ireland.  I’m not disciplined enough recount her story, but click here for more.  It was our tour guide’s most passionate story and he concluded with the protest that one of the most grievous omissions in Irish history was the minor place to which this heroic woman is relegated.

The prison is now a multi-use facility where there are often concerts or theatrical performances.  It has also been used as a movie set, recently in the movie Michael Collins with Liam Neeson, which, outside of the dramatic love story, is a pretty accurate account of the founding of the Irish Republic.  Collins, of course, served time in Kilmainham.

Category: Politics, Travel, Vacation Ireland

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