Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dublin's Post Office and the 1916 Rising

The General Post Office (GPO) is Dublin's principal post office, but it has become a venerated symbol of Irish nationalism. Sited in the center of O'Connell Street, the city’s main thoroughfare north of the River Liffey, it is one of Ireland's most famous buildings, the last of the great Georgian public buildings erected in the capital. The architect was Francis Johnston (1760-1829).

During the Easter Rising of 1916, the GPO served as the headquarters of the uprising’s leaders. The assault by the British forces extensively damaged the building, and it was not repaired until the Irish Free State government took up the task some years later. The original columns outside are still pocked with bullet-marks, as is the case of the facade of the Royal College of Surgeons opposite St. Stephen's Green. An original copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic is on permanent display inside the GPO, and the building has remained a symbol of Irish nationalism.

Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation of the Republic in front of the GPO on Easter Monday, 1916. Pearse (1879-1916), an Irish teacher, barrister, poet and writer, was a leading nationalist and political activist who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. Shortly thereafter he and his brother were both executed by the British for their roles in the failed uprising.

Horatio Lord Nelson's Pillar, also designed by Francis Johnston, was formerly located in the center of O'Connell Street adjacent to the GPO; however the Nelson Pillar was destroyed by the IRA in an explosion in 1966. The Spire of Dublin now takes over this dominant position on the site of the former pillar.

The etching shows the Nelson Pillar and the front columns of the GPO circa 1830.

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