TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore was treated to a guided tour of Richmond Barracks during a visit to Kilmainham last week.
Mr Gilmore was invited to the area by Deputy Michael Conaghan (Lab) who is a member of the All-Party Oireachtas Consultation Group on Commemorations and of the Inchicore Kilmainham Heritage Group.
“It was my pleasure to invite the leader of the Labour Party and Tánaiste to view the surviving buildings from the former Richmond Barracks,” Deputy Conaghan said. “It was also an opportunity to hear from the Inchicore Kilmainham Heritage Group and other interested parties on the historic importance of the site and proposals for restoring and adapting the buildings as a modern heritage location.
“In the short term, we are preparing to put in place an exhibition for the 2016 centenary period that would recall and celebrate the stirring events that took place in Richmond Barracks in the aftermath of the Easter rebellion.”
The 200-year long history of the site is a fascinating one. It represents the British colonial era, the struggle for independence and the history of working class Dublin families.
Construction of Richmond Barracks began in 1810 and the first regiments arrived in 1814. Over its 108 years as a British military barracks, almost every regiment would have spent time there.
It is also where many Irishmen departed from to fight in World War I.
“The remaining buildings of Richmond Barracks here have very specific connections to the Easter Rising and its immediate aftermath,” Deputy Conaghan added. “After the surrender, it was designated by the British as the holding centre for over 3,000 suspected rebels, until they were released or sent to prison camps in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“The signatories of the Proclamation and other leaders were also interned, court-martialed and sentenced to death in the barracks before they were sent to Kilmainham Gaol for execution.
“It is said that further executions were stayed as a result of the visit of the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to these buildings in May 1916.
“The rooms where many of these key events unfolded are still intact.”
In 1922 the barracks were handed over to the Free State Army under Commander Keogh.
Two years later they were given to Dublin Corporation and converted into housing tenements known as Keogh Square. By 1969 Keogh Square had become very dilapidated and was demolished. The St Michael’s Estate flat complex was constructed on the site. The three buildings of the original Richmond Barracks which still stand were retained for educational purposes and in 1929 became a primary school.
It has since closed down as a school but the building still stands, unoccupied.
“Sadly the rich heritage of this site has never been fully acknowledged, remembered or presented,” Deputy Conaghan stated. “With the centenary of the 1916 Rising almost upon us it is imperative that we prepare these rooms to commemorate and celebrate those nationally important events that were centred on these rooms.
“We envisage a permanent exhibition housed here. This would be an adjunct to what is portrayed at Kilmainham Gaol museum, with visitors guided here accordingly.
“This proposal has the potential to transform the area by further enhancing the district’s cultural tourism potential. The community will be involved to the greatest degree possible in all aspects of the project both physical and heritage related. The benefits for the community which this project has the potential to deliver include education, training and employment opportunities for local people and the creation of a living repository for the history and memory of the area.”