Monday 5 December 2016

Kilmainham Gaol hopes to attract 500,000 visitors after €5m revamp

Barry Lennon

Published 06/04/2016 | 02:30

Simon Harris with OPW chairwoman Clare McGrath and Damien Cassidy, Kilmainham Gaol Board of Visitors chairman, as they pay tribute to the gaol’s volunteer workers. Photo: Colm Mahady
Simon Harris with OPW chairwoman Clare McGrath and Damien Cassidy, Kilmainham Gaol Board of Visitors chairman, as they pay tribute to the gaol’s volunteer workers. Photo: Colm Mahady

Kilmainham Gaol hopes to attract over 500,000 visitors every year after recent renovations were finished to coincide with 1916 Rising commemorations.

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The Office of Public Works (OPW) invested €5m refurbishing the gaol and the courthouse beside the building.

Visitors will now enter the gaol through the courthouse, instead of the original entrance the 1916 Rising leaders were brought through.

Visitors can now also book tickets online to avoid queues.

Junior Minister Simon Harris praised volunteer workers who initially helped save the historic building from ruin in the 1960s.

Mr Harris said it was important to "recognise the commitment of the workers who saved Kilmainham".

"They said 'not a hope in hell will we let this building go to rack and ruin,'" the minister said at a special event held last night to honour the volunteers who refurbished the prison.

"The achievement of restoring Kilmainham does not belong to this or any Government.

"I ask you not to see tonight as a one-off but as a thank you for all the volunteers restoring the building. The OPW hopes to attract over 500,000 visitors in a year and this most recent renovation can enhance those numbers," he added.

Chairman of the Kilmainham Gaol Board of Visitors Damien Cassidy said recent 1916 commemorations held at the Stonebreakers' Yard of the Gaol "had moved him to tears".

"The most moving moment I can remember was the wreath-laying ceremony with President Michael D Higgins," he said.

"Looking at the national flag, it moved me to tears.

"There was a great feeling of pride and of pride for Ireland."

Mr Cassidy was one of a number of volunteers who helped restore the building in the 1960s and remembered how the building was when he first walked inside.

"Everything we did was voluntary, we insisted on that.

"I remember going inside at first and there was weeds an ivy on the floor. I remember seeing there had been an equal number of future Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil supporters in both cells [held after the Rising]," he told the Irish Independent.

"Simon (Harris) must go back after this event to see if he can help bridge that divide once more in forming a new government."

Volunteers said they were unhappy not to be introduced to President Higgins or acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the wreath-laying event at the Gaol on Easter Sunday.

However, Mr Cassidy said workers who saved the gaol were invited to the official ceremony.

The OPW has also appealed for families to donate items relating to Easter 1916 and other historic items relating to the gaol for the renovated museum.

Irish Independent

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