The History Behind Ireland and Where it Lies Today

16 Oct

The Glasnevin Cemetery, just north of Dublin City, is one of the most unique cemeteries in the world. For one thing, it is incredibly large, with over 1.5 million people buried on its grounds. It is the only cemetery in the world that has a museum associated with it and it is also open to all religious denominations. It also has one of the most interesting histories ever as it is linked very closely to Dublin and how its people grew and died. Many famous Dubliners were laid to rest here and their stories are still very much alive in the hearts of the living today.

One of the most influential people of the working class of Dublin buried in Glasnevin has to be James Larkin. James Larkin fought for the rights of the average laborer in Dublin during the 19th and 20th centuries. He would set up unions for all of the different trades and help them demand rights from their employer’s. He was one of the first men to ever fight for worker’s rights and the first to go against the big companies that would do what they please with their workers simply because they knew that their workers needed money so bad, they wouldn’t leave no matter how bad they were treated. When he died and his body was brought to rest, many people filled the streets as the funeral procession made its way to Glasnevin, where he now lays.

What is ironic about Glasnevin is that because it is open to all religious faiths and was the main cemetery for most Dubliners, archenemies are buried within a few meters of each other. Just around the corner from James Larkin’s headstone is the resting place of a notorious figure that fought against him in the 1913 Lockout, William Martin Murphy. Murphy was a very powerful man in 1913. He owned a construction company, was a politician and also created the Sunday Independent newspaper. He fought against Larkin and his scheme to create trade unions because he believed that the formation of unions would halt a project he was funding to build a tram system in Dublin. He became notorious amongst those that supported Larkin simply because he was a man many people already knew through his business ventures and politics. Ultimately, the supporters of Larkin won their case and trade unions were created. Murphy died a few years later in 1919.

Another influential Dubliner who was laid to rest in Glasnevin is Daniel O’ Connell. During the 19th century, he fought for Catholic Emancipation and against the Act of Union. The Catholic Emancipation was a movement across Great Britain and Ireland to give Catholics their rights back by removing the penal laws and other derogatory acts that were enacted against them. The Act of Union was an act that brought Great Britain together with Ireland, something that most Irish did not like. Through his work, O’ Connell became a prominent political figure and was able to pick up a position in Westminster, something unheard of for a Catholic and an Irishman. Most people still regard to O’Connell with great respect today and his headstone reflects this. Headstone is actually an understatement. O’Connell’s grave is actually a giant tower in Glasnevin that spans hundreds of feet in the air. At the base of this tower is a tomb where O’Connell and his family have been laid to rest. In recent times, this tower has come under attack from extremists who do not support the Irish and a staircase that lead to the top of the tower was blown up from a bomb blast.

These three men are only a limited example of the people who are buried at Glasnevin. So much about Dublin, and Ireland as a country, is kept guarded by the high walls of this cemetery. Buried in its dirt are hundreds of years worth of history that would be irreplaceable if lost. Glasnevin is truly a national monument for Ireland, a place to come and reflect at what once was, and what is today.

-Scott Schmidt


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