Kilmainham Gaol

6 Nov

This past weekend I visited Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. The former prison now serves as a museum. The gaol served as a prison for 128 years. It was built in 1796 to replace a former gaol.  At the time of its height, the prison housed some of the most famous individuals active in the movement for Irish independence. It was in this prison that the leaders of the infamous 1916 Easter Rising were executed. But, independence leaders were not the only prisoners here; women and children were also present. Children were often arrested for petty thefts, such as stealing bread or begging. The conditions in Kilmainham Gaol were less than satisfactory. In any cell up to 5 prisoners could be found. Women had far poorer conditions than men, including a bed of straw. All prisoners became familiar with the cold, damp conditions of the gaol, little heat and little light. When the gaol was first opened, there were frequent hangings that took place. Overtime, this trend faded. The most prominent executions however were that of fourteen of the Easter Rising leaders. They were shot in the Stonebreakers’ Yard. In addition, Robert Emmet and Charles Stuart Parnell, both influential socialites at the time, were also executed. This gaol is both a historical sight and a place of significance for Irish people. It is historical because of the number of people who were imprisoned there and the individuals who were prisoners. It also holds significance for Irish people because it is a symbol of the struggle towards freedom. The majority of prisoners were involved in the campaign for Irish independence. They sacrificed their lives and endured great suffering for the sake of freedom in Ireland from Britain. In 1924, under the ruling of the government of the new Irish Free State, the gaol was closed. Today, the facility serves as a museum with guided tours to the public. It symbolizes Irish nationalism and the struggle towards independence.

“Heritage Ireland.” Kilmainham Gaol. N.p., 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2013

“Kilmainham Gaol.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Oct.  2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2013

 

 

 

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