Kilmainham Gaol is one of the largest unoccupied gaols in Europe, covering some of the most heroic and tragic events in Ireland's emergence as a modern nation. Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the new County Gaol for Dublin, and closed its doors in 1924. The Gaol is closely associated with the Irish struggle for Independence from British rule, and leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848,1867 and 1916 were detained in the Gaol. The prison’s Stonebreakers Yard was the site of execution for the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising.

Many members of the Irish Republican movement during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-21) were also detained in Kilmainham Gaol, guarded by British troops. Names such as Henry Joy McCracken, Robert Emmet, Anne Devlin, Charles Stewart Parnell as well the leaders of 1916 will always be associated with the building. However, as a county gaol, Kilmainham held thousands of ordinary men, women and children. Their crimes ranged from petty offences such as stealing food to more serious crimes such as murder or rape. Convicts from many parts of Ireland were held here for long periods before being transported to Australia.

Although abandoned when it finally closed in 1924, the Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Committee established in 1960, ensuring that the historic National Monument was restored and preserved for future generations.

Kilmainham Gaol Museum is operated and managed by the Office of Public Works.