The General Post Office (GPO) on the west side of O'Connell Street dominates Dublin's main thoroughfare. Constructed from impressive mountain granite, the three-storey high building is still a functioning post office. The GPO has three iconic statues on its roof: Mercury on the right, Fidelity on the left, and Hibernia (the old Roman name for Ireland) in the centre.
Due to its dramatic role in the events of Easter 1916, which led up to Irish Independence, The GPO remains a key symbol of Irish nationalism --- indeed, some regard the building as a national monument. Several Irish patriots are commemorated in the main hall.
The main hall also includes an impressive bronze sculpture depicting the death of Cuchulainn, the mythical hound of Ulster. Created by artist Oliver Shepherd, it was dedicated to the participants of the 1916 Easter Rising.
Architect Francis Johnston, a civil servant, designed this neo-classical building in Greek revival style. The post office was opened for business on 6 January 1818, three years after the foundation stone had been laid by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland Charles Whiteworth, who commissioned the structure.
The GPO and the Irish Rebellion
During a largely symbolic military uprising against the British state in Easter of 1916, the building served as the headquarters of the Irish Volunteers, led by Padraig Pearse and James Connolly. Pearse read the Proclamation of Irish Independence in the GPO, and an original copy of this document is still on display in the museum.
A five-day long bloody siege continued, and at its end, the General Post Office was left a smoldering ruin. Bullet holes can still be viewed in the facade of the building, which was all that remained after the fire. The Irish Free State repaired the building and reopened it in 1929. The building figures prominently in the Hollywood movie Michael Collins, which dramatises the events of this period in Irish history.
Inside the building, a small museum features exhibits about the history of the Irish postal service, as well as the building's pivotal role in the 1916 rebellion. The postal exhibits include some of Ireland's oldest stamps, as well as a surprisingly interesting story of how the Irish postal service evolved, and how post was delivered in rural, Gaelic speaking regions.
The best part of the museum however are the exhibits and artefacts from the Easter Rising, such as an original copy of the Irish proclamation of Independence. Allow about half an hour for a visit to the museum.
- Fee: 2 euros
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday: 10am to 5pm
- Closed: Sundays and public holidays
General Post Office. Image by Fabio Paoleri