Kilmainham Gaol

19 Nov

Kilmainham Gaol, one of the darker parts of Dublin’s history, is a decommissioned prison located just over 3 kilometers outside of the city center. It was constructed in 1796 as a replacement for the previous jail located a few hundred yards from Kilmainham. Up until it’s decommissioning in 1924, the jail housed many very famous Irishmen. Some of these prisoners include Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Davitt, and the final prisoner to leave the gaol, Éamon de Valera.

The conditions that the imprisoned men, women, and children were forced into were absolutely horrible. Up to five prisoners were crammed into a 28-square meter stone room and were allowed one candle to provide light and heat. The jail would, at times, slowly begin to over capacitate its premises. This occurrence could have, and did, become so bad that prisoners would be forced to sleep in the hallways of the jail. As a solution to this, the jail began to send prisoners, particularly the adults, to Australia.

Many participants and leaders of the Irish War for Independence were incarcerated in Kilmainham. Many of these leaders of the Irish War for Independence were executed by British armed forces in the stonebreakers’ yard of the prison. A number of the men were lined up against a wall with little white crosses over their hearts indicating a target for the soldiers’ bullet. Among the rifles of the men who shot these prisoners, some faulty bullets were placed inside of them. This made it possible for the riflemen to say, “It was not I who killed him.” One freedom fighter, James Connolly, was not capable of walking due to injuries inflicted by the British army. As a “solution,” he was tied to a chair and shot on the opposite side of the stonebreakers’ yard from the aforementioned men.

From the information provided it is clear to see that the Kilmainham Gaol, although an improvement to its predecessor, was a horrible place that many were forced to suffer the grasp of. It now stands as a museum and provider of information of a rich part of Irish history.

David Byron

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