Historic museum brings the 'City of the Dead' to life
THE DIRECT descendant of the 'Great Liberator' Daniel O'Connell only visited his famous ancestor's grave yesterday -- despite studying in Ireland for four years.
London-based 26-year-old Daniel O'Connell, O'Connell's great-great-great-grandson, was on hand to help open a new, state-of-the-art museum at Glasnevin Cemetery yesterday.
O'Connell opened the cemetery in 1832 with the aim of burying "people of all religions and none".
The Emancipator's body is buried under the O'Connell Tower in the cemetery, which is also the focus of the new development.
The young O'Connell said he had never stepped foot in the cemetery, even when he spent around four years studying politics and philosophy at Trinity College.
"This is my first time at Glasnevin. I was studying very hard at Trinity and doing a few other things," Mr O'Connell said.
"I knew about the tower but I had no idea about the work they've done here and how spectacular it looks.
"I always knew from a young age. I read the story about how he died on the way to Rome and his heart was taken to Rome and his body back to Ireland but I never knew about the cemetery until three or four years ago.
"The family still have houses down in Kerry, where Daniel O'Connell's ancestral home is. So, from a very young age, we were all quite immersed in it but it wasn't until coming to Dublin and Trinity that you actually realise what a central figure he was in Irish history.
"The family is very proud of our heritage and a day like today just reinforces that."
The new museum includes the interactive 'City of the Dead', which covers burial practices and religious beliefs and has records of the 1.5 million people buried in Glasnevin.
The 'Milestone Gallery' will house special exhibitions on key historical figures, starting with Daniel O'Connell.
Other figures buried in the cemetery include Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, Charles Stewart Parnell, Brendan Behan and Michael Cusack.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen said the new centre, which was championed by his predecessor Bertie Ahern, would prove to be a big tourism draw.
"It's a very historic place, so many famous people are buried here and cultural tourism is an important aspect of how you bring people to major cities and this will be an important added facility," he said.
"The museum is a wonderful facility and I think people will find it an inspiring place."
John Green, chairman of the Glasnevin Trust, said there was no cemetery in the world that "mirrors the life and history of a nation as Glasnevin mirrors the Irish nation".
Access to the museum and graveyard tours is available seven days a week and admission is €6 for adults and €4 for children, with 10pc discounts for students and OAPs.
And the cemetery will link up with the Botanic Gardens and the Tolka Valley Linear Park to create the second biggest city park in the country behind the Phoenix Park.
history forgotten, david quinn