I should know every line of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic by now. The text has been hanging on Dublin City Council’s facade for months, the size of an elephant.
I have been reading about the 1916 Easter Rising for weeks hoping to understand more deeply what I would be seeing, watching and hearing in the numerous exhibitions and tours celebrating the Easter Rising’s 100th anniversary.
Feeling enlightened and not as clueless, I now bring you a short guide on what to see and do in Dublin to get the best experience of this very significative commemoration. I have picked a selection of exhibitions and tours that I do think is worth your time and money.
Get Started At The GPO, The Heart Of The Rebellion
You can’t miss the impressive General Post Office, known locally as the GPO, standing on O’Connell Street. Completed in 1818, the building that you see now is not the original one. The GPO was rebuilt in the late 1920’s after it had been almost entirely destroyed during the 1916 Rising. After a week of intense shelling, only an empty shell remained standing. So what happened here in 1916?
As part of the 1916 Easter Rising celebrations, the GPO is now hosting a self-guided tour ‘GPO Witness History’ explaining the key role of the GPO during what many call a turning point in Irish history.
The exhibition takes you through a series of interactive displays with touch screens providing visitors with core information regarding the dramatic events of April 1916 and the political and social backdrop.
Artefacts and uniforms of the time can be seen, as well as a series of short documentaries. A 15 minute long movie on a big screen lets visitors uncover the events unfolding as they did day by day.
GPO Witness History
O'Connell Street Lower, Dublin
Immerse Yourself In The Rise Of The Rebels Bus Tour
This is not your usual bus tour where pre-recorded comments lecture you from nearby speakers. You embark on a customised-design double-decker bus with actors who dramatically revisit the 1916 Easter Rising events.
Gunshots can be heard all around you while the guides dressed in green period uniforms set the political backdrop which provoked the Easter uprising. Educational it certainly is, but also a true theatrical experience.
Your guides introduce themselves as members of the Rebellion who took an active part in those events. It is through their eyes that the Easter Rising is to be seen; not just the eyes of a man but also a woman, underlining the direct role played by women during the events.
The bus makes three stops: at Dublin Castle and City Hall, the GPO (‘General Post Office’) and the often overlooked Richmond Barracks. You can enjoy the actors constantly taking turns along the way in their passionate recollection, reliving key moments of the Easter Rising.
Based on real first-hand testimonies gathered from the Bureau of Military Archives and diaries, the actors’ dialogues bring these events back to life, prompting the passengers to step back in History.
Rise of The Rebels Bus Tour
Departs from College Green, Dublin
Enter Kilmainham Gaol, Where It All Ended And Started
Kilmainham Gaol or Kilmainham “Jail” is one of those historic places that owes its popularity to ignominious stories. Your guide will take you through what used to be a dark, damp and freezing cold place where men, women and children were sentenced to hard labour for petty crimes they had committed.
Opened in 1796, it was also a waiting room for convicts sentenced to transportation to Australia. Living conditions were harsh. The cells were overcrowded, especially during the Great Hunger where one meal in prison was still better than being free with an empty stomach. Standards within the jail improved with the construction of the impressive new East Wing adding an extra 90 cells in 1861-1862.
Kilmainham Gaol was also used to detain political prisoners. Your guide will lead you to the claustrophobic cells of the most famous: the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. The fourteen men were executed in the prison’s courtyard whose terribly high walls were to keep the executions away from the public eye.
Far from getting the expected outcome, their harsh treatment by the British government and their deaths changed public opinion in favour of the Rebels and would act as a catalyst that would lead to Irish independence.
The last of Kilmainham Gaol’s prisoners was Éamon DeValera, released in 1924. He was to pass again through the jail’s doors in 1966 for the Museum’s opening ceremony, this time as President of Ireland.
Inchicore Road, Dublin
Let The Tombs Tell Their Stories In Glasnevin Cemetery
Glasnevin Cemetery Museum runs a 1916 Rising Tour within the grounds of Glasnevin Cemetery, a non-denominational graveyard opened in 1832 at the initiative of Daniel O’Connell to allow anyone, but especially Catholics, to bury their dead with dignity.
A highly knowledgeable guide will lead you through the tombstones of those who played a part in the 1916 Easter Rising, sharing loads of interesting details and anecdotes while you gaze at the beautiful setting that is Glasnevin Cemetery.
Once the tour reaches the Republican plot, you will get the chance to listen to the re-enactment of Patrick Pearse’s oration at the graveside of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, a leading nationalist who passed away in 1915.
Other important figures lie in this part of the cemetery: Éamon DeValera, Harry Boland, Countess Markievicz and many more. Famous trade union leader James Larkins was also buried here.
A visit to the O’Connell Tower is also part of the tour. Designed like a traditional round tower, it keeps a watchful eye over the cemetery. At the bottom is the crypt which contains Daniel O’Connell’s coffin. Good luck should come your way if you are brave enough to touch it.
A very special place was kept for Michael Collins in the cemetery. A national hero, his tombstone lies beside the very modern museum for everyone to see and pay their respect. His fiancée Kitty Kiernan was buried not far from there.
Finglas Road, Dublin
Thank you for reading.
If you like this article, please share!