Dublin’s Kilmainham Gaol | Discovering Ireland

Main Hall

When I toured Kilmainham Gaol, walked its gloomy corridors, and peered into the grim cells through its peep holes, I could feel its sadness within its walls. Although this former Dublin prison is now empty, one could only imagine the anguish it once held; all the men, women, and children (as young as seven) that were once crammed in these tiny cells. Time has passed, and today Kilmainham Gaol is a musuem with an important narrative for the struggle of Irish Independence.

Peephole into a prison cell

Kilmainham Gaol was originally built in 1796, and was decommissioned in 1924. Not only did this prison hold common prisoners, but it was the site for incarceration of important Irish nationalist leaders, of both physical force and constitutional traditions. The reason why the prison’s history is closely related with the story of Irish nationalism.

Landing where the 1916 Rebellion leaders were held prior to execution

It housed and executed many prisoners of numerous rebellions from 1798 until the 1900s, the Easter Rising of 1916, and anti-treaty forces of the civil war period. Several notables were also imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol including Charles Stewart Parnell, along with many of his parliamentary colleagues.

Cross marking the place of execution of James Connolly

The conditions at Kilmainham were dismal, and at one time there was no segregation of the prisoners; men, women, and children were incarcerated together in one tiny cell. There were up to five prisoners per cell, with only a candle for heat and light. Most times the cell was cold and dark, since each candle only lasted for two weeks.

Madonna mural painted by Civil War prisoner, Grace Gifford Plunkett

Children prisoners were common and they were mostly arrested for petty theft, which was a means for survival. It is said that the youngest prisoner was only seven years old. Women prisoners had an additional section, but remained overcrowded with women sleeping on beds of straw in the cells, and along the halls.

Prison corridor hall

Overcrowding at Kilmainham was a serious problem, which led to disease, poor health and hygiene, especially with the non-separation of adult and child convicts. The over-crowding was caused by several factors including the Great Famine (increase of food thefts), the prison being used as a holding depot for prisoners being sent to Australia, and the incarceration of the mentally ill.

Hanging Cell

Public hangings had originally taken place at the front of the prison. From the 1820s there were few hangings that had taken place at Kilmainham, public or private. In 1891 a small hanging cell was built on the first floor, between the east and west wing.

Words penned by the Easter Rising leader, Patrick Pearse, who was executed in May 1916 at Kilmainham Gaol.

After the restoration of Kilmainham Gaol, it has been recognized as one an important Irish monument of the modern period, in relation to the struggle for Irish Independence. Today it has great historic importance as a museum and National monument, and is an intriguing location to visit and learn more about Dublin, as well as Ireland’s Independence.

For visitor’s information, please visit their website- Kilmainham Gaol Musueum


Photo Gallery

Old lock and door
Prison Courtyard
Prison Courtyard
Kilmainham Gaol tour
Cell door
Skeog Patrol
Main Hall staircase
Main Hall
Five snakes in a chain above prison enterance


There is no greater education than travel…

– Jon Butcher
Yours Truly in Dublin

🌎 Thank you for visiting my website and NEVER STOP EXPLORING!

📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre

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