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Tuesday 25 September 2018

A panoramic view of Dublin: First look at Glasnevin's iconic O'Connell Tower open again to public after 47 years

Kyle Ewald and Mark McConville

Visitors to Glasnevin Cemetery will now be able to climb the steps and view Dublin from the top of the O’Connell Tower for the first time in more than 45 years.

The 55-metre round tower was originally built in the 1850s in honour of Daniel O’Connell, known as the Liberator for his work repealing discriminatory laws against Catholics and withdrawing Ireland’s union with Britain.

Now, after decades of being unreachable, the 360-degree view will offer visitors a panorama from the Mountains of Mourne to Wicklow and Meath to Ireland's Eye.

It is a view that has not been seen since the original wooden staircase within the tower was bombed to pieces by Loyalists in 1971. The bombing was allegedly in retribution for the bombing of Nelson’s Pillar by republicans in 1966.

Tower renovations began in 2016 and cost around €400,000 in total, according to Chairman of the Glasnevin Trust, John Green.

"There’s no other mausoleum to an individual in Western Catholic Culture like this, royalty aside, so it is something really special that will restore what was the focal point of the cemetery for over a hundred years," Mr Green told the Independent.ie.

"O'Connell's vision for Ireland was so inclusive, he treated the whole island the same and he gave us not only a vision of what our country should be like, but also a pathway to that vision which is a peaceful, parliamentary process."

Mr O’Connell’s great, great, great granddaughter Emily Lenehan attended the opening of the tower and was able to see her grandfather’s legacy be celebrated over 170 years after his death.

Ms Lenehan also spoke of the importance of peaceful approaches to policy change highlighted in her grandfather's life: "I think in today’s world sometimes we don’t listen enough to pacifism so hopefully this will be a reminder to do so in the future.

"It’s a wonderful achievement for the graveyard and the people of Glasnevin and it’s taken years to get it to this stage, but it’s absolutely fantastic and a lovely tourist attraction as well."

Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe addressed the crowd of people at the reopening saying the new 198-step staircase "promises unparalleled views" and is "a testament to the man we refer to as the Liberator and one of the seminal figures in Irish political life".

To mark the reopening of the O’Connell Tower, a time capsule from students attending the O’Connell School in Glasnevin was laid at the base to join another time capsule from 1854 that contains medals, documents and other objects relating to O’Connell’s life.

Tower tickets go on sale today and are available on www.glasnevinmuseum.ie.

Tours of the tower will begin tomorrow, running every ten minutes between 1pm and 3pm with six to eight visitors per tour.

These times will be extended after a trial period.

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