History Around Dublin

Inside a cell at Kilmainham Gaol

Learning about Irish History has proved time and time again to be of utmost importance to my foundation of understanding the Irish culture.  Having a solid background in Irish history has allowed me to appreciate my time here even more. I have learned about the countries hardships as well as its success, enriching my relation to the society I have grown to know and love. Being in a foreign place for such a limited amount of time has inspired me to take in as much as I can before I disembark. Due to this I have visited a wide assortment of historical landmarks. Of the places visited my favorite has been my trip to the Kilmainham Gaol.

The jail holds an immense amount of history within its protected walls. With thousands of prisoners once held within its grounds due to the potato famine, various political movements, and crimes; my visit was incredible. I was able to walk into a cell and around the premise, the same as Constance Markievicz, who was elected to Westminster parliament in 1918, once did. The jail also plays an important role in the events leading to the War for Independence. As does another important building located locally as well, the General Post Office. Along with the jail, the GPO is one of the most important buildings in Irish history. Its significance lies in its involvement in the Easter Rising— an event which inedibility lead to the beginning of Irelands fight for Independence. While visiting today, you can still see the bullet holes that mark the buildings front columns.
A cell kept in original condition
The Post Office proves to be truly iconic in the involvement of the Easter Rising. This historical event was a result of an extremist attempted to overthrow British Rule. Visiting the museum located directly inside with Roisin was highly helpful in piecing together these events. Although Britain was prepared to grant Ireland Home Rule, a group of nationalists plotted to demand a free Republic of Ireland. Although the Easter Rising was not necessarily successful, it sparked the beginning of the War of Independence. After this rising, the British took into custody the 14 men responsible for the event. Of which were then held in Kilmainham Gaol, and executed one by one within its walls.
Because of Britain’s unjust retaliation against the leaders, the Easter Rising gained the support of the Irish people. Thus snowballing into war. After a very involved series of events, the Irish War for Independence ended in a standstill in July of 1921. Britain agreed to a truce, as it was loosing popularity with its own people. Although this treaty marked Britain’s recognition of Ireland, it did not recognize the Irish Republic as the Irish had intended. Due to this fact, the treaty caused continued angst amongst the Irish people. It was believed by some that the lives lost during the War of Independence were lost fighting for the Irish Republic, not a Free State. This became the dividing factor within the country itself— because the treaty established Ireland as the Irish Free State, Britain was still in the picture. The treaty also gave Northern Ireland an option to opt out and remain a part of the Britain, which it did. The official Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in London on December 6th, 1921.
General Post Office

Although the country did not receive proper recognition for its efforts to control all of its counties, the Irish people were relieved the fighting had stopped. Despite the favored support by the pro-treaty public, the Anglo-Irish Treaty divided the nation into two opposing sides. It was the pro-treaty side who believed that the treaty was not “ultimate freedom… but the freedom to achieve” (Michael Collins). On the other hand, the anti-treaty opposer’s believed the treaty gave “away Irish Independence” and “acknowledged the head of the British Empire as direct monarch of Ireland” (Eamon de Valera). At this point in history, the Irish members of the IRA and political figures part of the Dáil, who had been fighting on the same side, divided and became enemies essentially overnight.

For me to have the opportunity to not only learn about the history of this nation, but to visit the actual places that most of these events occurred is so incredible. There is an immense amount to be learned and putting a ‘face to the name’ of sorts makes all the difference for a foreigner. Although I am one hundred percent an outsider looking in, I feel as though I have a huge tie to the country given my understanding and appreciation of its history. 

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