Study visit to GPO Dublin on 13th December 2017

GPO Dublin. Image source: https://www.gpowitnesshistory.ie/

The beautiful neoclassical facade of the GPO Dublin’s GPO provided a fitting location for a Monaghan Community Network study visit on Wednesday 13th December 2017 to engage ethnic minorities and minority faith communities, an event of the Cultural Awareness Programme which is supported by the PEACE IV programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). This event was chosen because culture-aware approaches contribute to understanding, preventing, mitigating and recovering from conflicts. The study visit to the GPO, Dublin explored a visual and chronological history of the uprising from all perspectives, from the social unrest leading up to 2016, the different factions that came together, what it was like in the GPO and what the public thought of it all. The GPO played the central role in the 1916 rebellion that eventually led to the Irish Free State and independence from England 10 years later.

The GPO as an iconic post office of Dublin is intrinsically woven into history, bearing the bombs and bullets of 1916, and later the explosion that obliterated Nelson’s pillar which had been in the city since 1809. Built (and rebuilt) mostly of granite with Portland stone at the front, it will be 200 years old in 2018. The still bullet – holed front of it is 220 foot long, with a portico of 6 fluted Ionic columns, and bearing three statues – Mercury, the God of financial gain & commerce; the Virtue Fidelity on the right (My word is my Bond) with a hound at her feet and a key in her right hand, and Hibernia resting on her spear and holding a harp.

The 1916 Rising exhibition weaved together all the disparate groups involved in the 1916 Rising and their backgrounds. As well as the re-creation of the scene in the GPO during the Rising, there are a number of other videos providing direct insight into the period before, during and after 1916 that explained what happened and the impact on the establishment of modern day Ireland. Also of huge interest during the study trip was the role of women in the Rising.

Also on view were a number of original artefacts telling the unique stories of those involved, perhaps the most poignant being Pearse’s surrender note written from Arbour Hill Prison 3 days before his execution, and the silver Olympic medal won in the 1912 Olympics by Rising participant Michael Walker. While the rebels were ultimately defeated, public opinion was changed by the executions, and eventually led to independence for 26 counties of Ireland in 1922. There was also an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of all the Irish flags down the years.

Despite its fame as an iconic place of Irish freedom,  the ironic truth is that ground rent for the GPO continued to be paid to American and English landlords until the 1980s, a reminder if it was needed that in a lot of Irish and  international history, things are not always black and white.

The study event provided equal reflection on all those who suffered on all sides during the rebellion from civilians who suffered the most (54%, including 40 children under 15), to the rebel forces, British Armed Forces and DMP (Dublin Metropolitan Police). The aftermath was no prettier for the following 6 years with the War of Independence and Civil War 1922 to follow. As William Butler Yeats put it in his poem Easter 1916, “All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born”.

A project supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

A project supported by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

PEACE IV Programme Boilerplate

  • The Special EU Programmes Body is

a North/South Implementation Body

sponsored by the Department of Finance

in Northern Ireland and the Department of

Public Expenditure and Reform in Ireland.

  • It is responsible for managing two EU

Structural Funds Programmes, PEACE IV

and INTERREG VA which are designed

to enhance cross-border co-operation,

promote reconciliation and create a more

peaceful and prosperous society.

  • The Programmes operate within a clearly

defined area including Northern Ireland, the

Border Region of Ireland and in the case of

INTERREG VA, Western Scotland.

  • The PEACE IV Programme has a value of

€270 million and aims to promote peace

and reconciliation in Northern Ireland and

the Border Region of Ireland.

  • For more information on the SEUPB please

visit www.seupb.eu