Saturday 1 October 2016

Link to the past: Cosgrave there to witness launch of GPO exhibition

Published 26/03/2016 | 02:30

Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave looks at a picture of his father, WT Cosgrave, who presided over the reopening of the refurbished GPO in 1929. Photo: Damien Eagers
Former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave looks at a picture of his father, WT Cosgrave, who presided over the reopening of the refurbished GPO in 1929. Photo: Damien Eagers
Singer Jack L performs at the opening of the ‘Witness History’ exhibition at the GPO yesterday. Photo: Maxwells
Aidan J Collins, dressed as an Irish Volunteer and, Sarah Kinlen, dressed as a member of Cumann na mBan. Photo: Maxwells
Ryan Tubridy with Genevieve Harden at the launch of ‘16 Letters’ – the presenter’s new show which was filmed in the GPO and explores some of the stories behind letters written during 1916. Photo: Conor McCabe

The most tangible link with the past was not the impressive displays of uniforms and artefacts on display in the glass cabinets, but the stooped figure of the elderly man whose arm was protectively supported by Enda Kenny.

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Frail former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (95) had been determined to attend the opening of the new permanent exhibition dedicated to 1916 at the GPO.

His father, WT Cosgrave, fought alongside Eamonn Ceannt at the South Dublin Union in 1916.

Not long before the Rising, WT had met with Thomas MacDonagh - and the poet had asked him what he though about the idea of the upsurge.

Cosgrave had told him it would be "little short of madness, as we lacked men and munitions".

"I was not impressed with gaining a moral victory; while there was a certain glamour in maintaining a succession of Risings against British domination, our policy should be directed towards leaving things better than we find them," he said in 1949.

WT Cosgrave went on to serve as President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State.

And it was he who had presided over the reopening of the refurbished GPO, after 13 years of lying in ruins following the catastrophic shelling of 1916, "with a key that didn't fit the lock", Enda Kenny yesterday quipped.

So it was fitting that his son, Liam, should attend the opening of 'Witness History' - which tells the human story rooted in Dublin's iconic building.

The immersive, interactive visitor attraction was officially unveiled as part of the Easter week commemorations, and is one of seven permanent reminder legacy initiatives to mark the centenary.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys both expressed their wish that the exhibition will remain for many years to come and would still be around in the next 100 years.

"It will give visitors a real sense of what it was like to be in the General Post Office and Dublin a century ago, and to reflect on how those days shaped Ireland over the following 100 years," said Mr Kenny.

"It will help to remind us that the men and women who lived in the city and who fought and died in the Rising were not just names and photographs in our history books, but were real people with the same hopes and fears as all of us today.

"We owe much credit to the early nation-builders who built up our public institutions as unassailable pillars of democracy."

And he added that it was important to recognise that the modern Irish State "would not have survived if it wasn't for the brave men and women who served and embraced the institutions of the early State".

An Post has appointed Shannon Heritage, which runs attractions such as Bunratty Castle and Bunratty Folk Park, to operate and manage the new centre.

The refurbishment also sees a newly opened courtyard area - which offers a fresh vantage point of the iconic building, along with an up-close view of the Spire.

"That's a mighty flag pole there," joked the Taoiseach.

The courtyard also features a memorial to the 40 children killed by gunfire during the Rising, created by renowned Dublin artist Barbara Knezevic, using polished steel. Each child is represented by pieces of black limestone dug from the ruins of Jacob's biscuit factory.

Irish Independent

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