Tuesday 22 October 2019

Richmond Barracks finally recognised

Michael O'Hanrahan being escorted into his court-martial, Richmond Barracks, 3 May 1916.
Michael O'Hanrahan being escorted into his court-martial, Richmond Barracks, 3 May 1916.

It is rightly referred to as the "lost chapter" in the 1916 story.  

Many people may not know of its existence, but in the narrative of the dramatic events of the Easter Rising in Dublin, Richmond Barracks, Inchicore played a significant role.

Now, a century on, it is getting ready to take its place as one of the State's seven "permanent reminders" of 1916, alongside the likes of its near neighbour, Kilmainham Gaol, the GPO, and Patrick Pearse's cottage in Rosmuc, Co Galway.

Richmond Barracks is where more than 3,000 suspected rebels, including Rising leaders and 77 women, were imprisoned before they were sent for execution or to prison camps in England and Wales.

The Richmond gymnasium was where Rising leaders were singled out and where the court martials were held before they were brought down the road to Kilmainham to be shot.

British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith visited Richmond Barracks in the middle of May 1916, following which there were no further executions.

The gymnasium is one of three barracks' buildings that remain and it and a former recreation room standing alongside it are being restored as part of the State's 1916 legacy project, in a partnership that also involves Dublin City Council and the local community.

The third surviving building, also a former recreation room, standing on the other side of the gymnasium, is in use by the HSE.

Richmond Barracks is about more than 1916. Built in early to the mid-1800s, soldiers departed from here for conflicts including the Crimean War, the Boer War and First World War.

One  of its regiments was the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, a well-known member of which was the poet Francis Ledwidge, whose work includes Lament for Thomas McDonagh, in honour of his friend who was one of the executed 1916 leaders.  

Ledwidge's friend, mentor and fellow Meath man, Lord Dunsany was a captain in the Royal Inniskillings and it was to him that the poet gave the manuscript of Lament for Thomas McDonagh.

The barracks was converted to housing in the 1920s and renamed Keogh Square, which declined into a slum and was demolished in the 1960s to make way for St Michael's Estate, an equally notorious flats complex which was razed in recent years as part of a regeneration project, now boosted by the restoration of historic buildings.

Éadaoín Ní Chléirigh, one of the tireless campaigners for its preservation, is now executive chair of the Richmond Barracks project.

When the restored buildings open on May 2, the gymnasium will be home to an immersive audio-visual experience evoking the atmosphere in this space following the Rising and stories of some of those involved

Surrounded by gardens, the restored buildings will also house a tea room and archives, and classrooms from the 1929 school building will become a venue for community, educational and artistic purposes. KD

Irish Independent

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