St. Stephen’s Green

St. Stephen's GreenMany visitors to Dublin’s beautiful city centre park are unaware that it too played a part in the 1916 Rising.

On Easter Monday the 24th of April 1916, Michael Mallin’s company, made up mostly of the men and women of the Irish Citizen Army, marched from Liberty Hall through the city streets to St Stephen’s Green, the large 22 acre public park located in the very heart of Dublin city.

The former resident’s park had reopened to the public in 1888 following the generosity of Arthur Guinness-Lord Ardilaun, who had it re-designed, creating a lake, waterfall and large herbaceous borders.

On that warm sunny Easter bank holiday Monday, the park was filled with families and visitors, who were ordered by the rebels in the name of the Republic, to leave the park immediately. The park superintendent refused to leave as he wanted to take care of the park’s water fowl.

St. Stephen's Green aerial viewCountess Markievicz arrived in her car to inspect the garrison and Commandant Michael Mallin asked her to stay as he needed sharp shooters and she was an excellent shot. She was his second-in-command.

A Red Cross station run by Madeline Ffrench-Mullen was set up in in the bandstand for the wounded and the glass house and pavilions were used for the wounded and as an army kitchen. They dug trenches and set up barricades around the roads outside of the park. There was some firing, but as night fell it began to rain and the garrison tried to find shelter to sleep.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning, they came under heavy attack from British machine gunners located up on the roof of the Shelbourne Hotel, which under cover of darkness had been taken over by the British army who had positioned a heavy machine gun there.

The park provided little cover for the rebels from such an onslaught of firing. A number of men died, some were wounded. Commandant Mallin tried to carry some of his men to safety. Realising that their position was far too open and untenable he gave the order to evacuate St Stephen’s Green.

Countess Markievicz sculptureCountess Markievicz led a party to the nearby Royal College of Surgeons, the large medical school on the west side of the park and they managed to gain entry there. As the whistle sounded, the men and women under his command fled to the safety of the college building. They left their dead in the park and much of their supplies as they escaped under intense enemy machine gun fire.

During the week of the Rising both the British soldiers and the Rebels agreed to a twice daily truce or cease fire to enable the ducks, swans and birds to be fed and to swim and dabble in the water.

In St Stephen’s Green there is a statue of Countess Markievicz. Information panels to mark the Centenary of 1916 Rising were unveiled in March 2016.

Liberty Hall

Modern Liberty Hall.jpegThe original Liberty Hall building stood on Beresford place (near Eden Quay) overlooking the Dublin’s River Liffey. It was home to the Irish Transport and General Workers Union which was founded by the labour activist Jim Larkin and was used for meetings and social events.

In 1913 Larkin and the Union called for a strike for better pay and conditions for the thousands of Dublin workers. The Employer’s Federation, led by William Martin Murphy, reacted by locking out the workers and replacing most of them with scab labour.

During the long months of the 1913 Lockout, thousands of workers and their families were fed every day at the Union’s crowded soup kitchens in Liberty Hall run by Countess Markievicz, Maud Gonne and Nellie Gifford. Larkin and James Connolly also set up a workers’ army-The Irish Citizen Amy.

1n 1914 many of the workers had to return to work as Union funds had run out. Nellie Gifford continued to work in Liberty Hall, giving cookery classes and dance classes to its members.

When the war broke out in 1914, the Union hung a large banner across the front of Liberty Hall declaring, ‘We serve neither for King or Kaiser, but Ireland.’

Irish_Citizen_Army_Group_Liberty_Hall_Dublin_1914

In 1916 James Connolly was running Liberty Hall. Connolly’s Citizen Army and The Irish Volunteers united to plan and fight in the 1916 Rising. Liberty Hall became a hub of operation with bombs and ammunition being made and supplies organised for the rebellion against the British in Dublin. The proclamation was also secretly printed there.

Thousands turned up in Liberty Hall on Easter Sunday 23rd April 1916 only to discover that Eoin McNeill, head of the Volunteers, had issued orders cancelling the Rising. However Padraig Pearse, Tom Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, James Connolly, Thomas MacDonagh, Joseph Plunkett and Eamonn Ceannt were determined to go ahead with the planned rebellion.

On Easter Monday 24th April, a much reduced army of rebels gathered at Liberty Hall and set out across the city. Padraig Pearse and James Connolly led their large group of men and women towards the GPO. Nellie Gifford marched with her group under Commandant Michael Mallin to take St Stephen’s Green. The Rising had begun.

On Wednesday 26th of April, Dublin was a city was at war. A British gun-boat, the Helga, sailed up the River Liffey and bombarded and destroyed the Union building which was actually unoccupied.

Liberty Hall was later rebuilt and restored but in the 1950s, it was declared unsafe and had to be demolished. The new Irish Workers’ Union headquarters, a sixteen storey glass tower, designed by architect Desmond Ri O’Kelly was finally completed in 1965.

Dublin’s first and tallest skyscraper, a controversial landmark.

There are plans to replace it though many Dubliners have come to like it.