Located on Inchicore Road, Kilmainham Gaol Museum stands as a memorial and stark reminder of Ireland’s turbulent political and social past. Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the new county gaol for Dublin and it closed as a prison in 1924. During its 128-year history, the gaol was at the centre of many of the main historical events in 19th and early 20th century Ireland. It is closely associated with the Irish struggle for independence from British rule, reflected in the large number of leading revolutionary ficharacters and political activists imprisoned within its walls. The prison’s stonebreaker’s yard offers a poignant reminder that this was the site of execution for the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.
The names of Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell and Patrick Pearse are all synonymous with Kilmainham Gaol. There is however, another side the gaol’s history, which relates the stories of lesser known men, women and children. Offenders of every crime imaginable have passed through its doors, it was a prison as much for murderers and hardened criminals as it was for petty thieves and juveniles. There are stories of loss and separation from a time when the gaol served as a convict depot, for those awaiting their sentence of transportation to Australia. The gaol would also witness episodes of famine, which devastated the county and her people, and at times, it struggled to cope with the influx of prisoners incarcerated for stealing food or begging in the street.
There is perhaps no other building that encompasses as many aspects of Irish history. Although abandoned when it finally closed in 1924, the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee established in 1960, with its dedicated band of volunteers, ensured that this historic National Monument was restored and preserved for future generations.
Kilmainham Gaol is now one of 740 National Monuments managed and protected by the Office of Public Works. As part of the 2016 programme, to mark the centenary of the Easter Rising, the renovated Courthouse, located next to the gaol, opened as the Kilmainham Gaol Museum Visitor Centre. Today Kilmainham Gaol Museum and Courthouse welcomes visitors from all over the world, as it has done for the past 50 years, and remains an integral part of the local community in Dublin 8.
Kilmainham Gaol is open all year around, apart from the 24th, 25th and 26th December.
9am - 5:30pm (last admission) daily.
Booking in advance is essential through their website.