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Kilmainham Gaol (Kilmainham, Dublin)

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The Bottom Line

Kilmainham Gaol? Why should a place of suffering, despair and ultimately death be on the list of the top ten sights of Dublin? The answer is "1916". After the failed Easter Rising the rebel leaders were incarcerated in Kilmainham, joining a long list of Nationalists held there, from Parnell to Emmet. And more than a dozen men were shot, including James Connolly, famously strapped to his chair. The blood of these "martyrs" (a not unusual description) made Kilmainham Gaol hallowed ground to the Republic of Ireland.

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  • Historically significant building with connections to the Irish struggle for independence.
  • Pearse, Connolly and other rebel leaders of 1916 were executed in the prison yard.
  • Largest preserved Victorian jail in Europe.


  • Exhibition verges on the morbid at times.


  • Massive prison built in the late 18th century.
  • Restored in the 1960s and hosting exhibitions on punishment and the struggle for Irish independence.
  • Interior tends to be clammy and cold even in hot Summers.

Guide Review - Kilmainham Gaol (Kilmainham, Dublin)


The jail was built in 1789 and has held generations of criminals and ne'r-do-wells, as well as heroes of the Irish resistance against British rule. Robert Emmet spent his last days here, Charles Stewart Parnell did time in Kilmainham and the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising faced the firing squad in the yard. The last prisoner was none other than Eamon de Valera himself, after his release in 1924 Kilmainham Gaol was shut down.

Restored in the 1960s, it now acts as a museum of punishment as well as a memorial to all "martyrs" that ever spent time here. Visitors tend to shiver ... not just because it is usually quite cold in the prison. When looking at the chapel, you are for instance reminded that Joseph Plunkett married Grace here, just hours before he was executed.

On the other hand one is fascinated by the building, a kind of building usually only seen in the movies (and Kilmainham actually featured in "The Italian Job" as a location).


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