Kilmainham Goal

Kilmainham Gaol is a former prison and now a museum on the history of Irish Nationalism and offers guided tours.

Fact:  Kilmainham Gaol played an important part in Irish history, as many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed in the prison by the British and in 1923 by the Irish Free State.


  • First built in 1796.
  • Originally, public hangings took place at the front of the gaol. From the 1820’s onward there were very few hangings, public or private.
  • There was no segregation of prisoners; men, women and children were incarcerated up to 5 in each cell. A single candle for light and heat. Most of their time was spent in the cold and the dark. The candle had to last the prisoner for two weeks. Its cells were roughly 28 meters squared.
  • Children were arrested for petty theft.
  • Many of the adult prisoners were transported to Australia.
  • Male prisoners were supplied with beds while the female prisoners laid on straw on the ground in the cells or common halls.
  • Decommissioned as a prison by the Irish Free State government in 1924.
  • Kilmainham Gaol is one of the biggest unoccupied goals in Europe.

This is where the hanging of prisoners took place.

The Chapel Alter

Famous Prisoners

Edward “Ned” Daly. Born February 25, 1891 in Limerick, Ireland. Died May 4, 1916 (aged 25) at Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin, Ireland. He was commandant of Dublin’s 1st battalion during the Easter Rising of 1916.

  • He was the youngest man to hold that rank.
  • He was the youngest executed in the aftermath. He was executed by firing squad.
  • His uncle was John Daly, a prominent Republican who had taken part in the Fenian Rising.

Allegiances – Irish Volunteers and Irish Republican Brotherhood. Years of Service – 1913 to 1916. Battles/Wars – Easter Rising.

Eamon de Valera. Born October 14, 1882 in New York City, New York. Died August 29, 1975.

  • One of the dominant political figures in 20th century Ireland.
  • His political career spanned over half a century, from 1917 to 1973; he served multiple terms as head of government and head of state.
  • He led the introduction of the Constitution of Ireland.
  • Easter Rising 1916. De Valera was court-martialed, convicted, and sentenced to death, but the sentence was immediately commuted to penal servitude for life.

Simon Donnelly, Ernie O’Malley and Frank Teeling escaped on February 14, 1921 from the gaol with the aid of two Welsh soldiers, a bolt cutter and two revolvers provided by Oscar Traynor, IRA Dublin Brigade OC.

Joseph Mary Plunkett. Born November 21, 1887 in Dublin, Ireland. Died May 4, 1916. An Irish Nationalist, Poet, Journalist, and a leader of the 1916 Easter Rising. Both his parents came from wealthy backgrounds, and his father, George Noble Plunkett, had been made a papal count.

  • Plunkett contracted tuberculosis at a young age. He spent part of his youth in the warmer climates of the Mediterranean and North Africa.
  • He took an active interest in Irish heritage and the Irish language.
  • Plunkett was one of the founders of the Irish Esperanto League. He also joined the Gaelic League. Studied and developed a friendship with Thomas MacDonagh.
  • In 1915 Plunkett joined the Irish Republican Brotherhood.
  • Plunkett was one of the original members of the IRB Military Committee that was responsible for planning the Easter Rising, and it was largely his plan that was followed.
  • Plunkett had an operation on his neck glands days before the Easter Rising. He took his place though in the General Post Office with Patrick Pearse and Tom Clarke. His energetic aide de camp was Michael Collins.
  • Following the surrender Plunkett was held in Kilmainham Gaol and faced a court martial.
  • 7 hours before his execution by firing squad at the age of 28, he was married in the prison chapel to Grace Gifford. Grace Gifford’s sister, Muriel, married Plunkett’s best friend Thomas MacDonagh, who was also executed for his role in the Easter Rising.

Grace Evelyn Gifford Plunkett. Born March 4, 1888. Died December 13, 1955. An Irish artist and cartoonist who was active in the Republican movement. She married Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol only a few hours before he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising.

  • At the age of 16 she went to the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, where she studied under the Irish artist William Orpen.
  • In 1907 she attended a full-time course in Fine Art at the Slade School of Art in London.
  • She returned to Dublin in 1908 and tried to earn a living as a caricaturist, publishing her cartoons in The Shanachie, Irish Life, Meadowstreet, and the Irish Review. Her work was edited from 1913 by Joseph Plunkett.
  • During the Civil War, Grace Plunkett joined the Anti-Treaty IRA, which was engage in combat against the National Army.
  • Grace was arrested in February 1923 and interned at Kilmainham Gaol for three months. She painted pictures on the walls of her cell, including one of the Blessed Virging and the Christ Child. She was released in May 1923.
  • She illustrated W.B. Yeats’ The Words Upon The Window Pane in 1930.
  • Her material circumstances improved in 1932 when she received a Civil List pension from Eamon de Valera’s Fianna Fail government.

Born Constance Georgine Gore Booth on February 4, 1868 in London, England. Married in 1900 to Count Casimir Markievicz and became Countess Markievicz. Died July 15, 1927 (aged 59) in Sir Patrick Dun’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland.

Irish Sinn Fein and Fianna Fail Politician. Revolutionary Nationalist. Suffragette. Socialist.

In 1892, she went to study at the Slade School of Art in London and train as a painter. She also joined the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. Later she moved to Paris and enrolled at the prestigious Academie Julian where she met her future husband, Count Casimir Markievicz.

In 1903, the Markieviczes settled in Dublin. The Countess gained a reputation for herself as a landscape painter. In 1905, along with artists Sarah Purser, Nathaniel Hone, Walter Osborne, and John Butler Years, she was instrumental in founding the United Artists Club.

In 1908, Markievicz became actively involved in nationalist politics in Ireland. She joined the Sinn Fein and Inghinidhe na hEireann (‘Daughters of Ireland’). In 1909, Markievicz founded Fianna Eireann, a para-military nationalist scouts organization that instructed teenage boys and girls in the use of firearms. The Countess was jailed for the first time in 1911 for speaking at an Irish Republican Brotherhood demonstration.

Easter Rising 1916

  • As a member of the ICA, Markievicz took part in the 1916 Easter Rising. During the Rising, Lieutenant Markievicz was appointed second in command to Michael Mallin in St. Stephen’s Green.
  • Upon surrender, Markievicz was transported to Kilmainham Gaol. She was the only one of 70 women prisoners who was put into solitary confinement.
  • She was court martialed and sentenced to death, but General Maxwell commuted to this to life in prison on “account of the prisoner’s sex”.
  • The Countess was transferred to Mountjoy Prision and then to Aylesbury Prison in England in July 1916. She was released from prison in 1917.

Making History

  • In December 1918, she was the first women elected to the British House of Commons. However, in line with Sinn Fein abstentionist policy, she would not take her seat in the House of Commons.
  • She was also one of the first women in the world to hold a cabinet position; Minister of Labour of the Irish Republic from April 1919 to January 1922, in the Second Ministry and the Third Ministry of the Dail.
  • Holding cabinet rank from April to August 1919, she became both the first Irish female Cabinet Minister and at the same time, only the second female government minister in Europe. She was the only female cabinet minister in Irish history until 1979.

In October 1919 Markievicz was imprisoned at Cork Gaol for making a seditious speech. Markievicz was in Holloway prison for the first meeting of the First Dail, the Parliament of the revolutionary Irish Republic. She was re-elected to the Second Dail in the elections of 1921.

Markievicz left government in January 1922 along with Eamon de Valera and others in opposition to the Anglo-Irish Treaty. She fought actively for the Republican cause in the Irish Civil War. She was not elected in the 1922 Irish general election but was returned in the 1923 Irish general election for the Dublin South constituency. She did not take her seat though and was once again sent to jail. In prison, she and 92 other female prisoners went on a hunger strike and within a month the Countess was released from prison.

She joined Fianna Fail on its foundation in 1926, chairing the inaugural meeting of the new party. In the June 1927 general election she was reelected to the 5th Dail as a candidate for the new Fianna Fail party, which was pledged to return to Dail Eirann, but she died only five weeks later, before she could take her seat.

Sean O’Casey said of her:  “One thing she had in abundance-physical courage; with that she was clothes as with a garment.”

(Photos by RSheridan)


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