Irish history is a history of rebellion. For centuries the people living on this gorgeous island have fought for their independence from British rule. The biggest mistake you can make today is to think that Ireland is part of the United Kingdom; it is not. It is a fiercely proud independent republic, the Republic of Ireland. And its freedom was hard won. There were rebellions in 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867, 1883, 1916, with the Republic of Ireland finally being declared in 1949. The 1916 Easter Rising lasting seven days was one of the biggest and most famous rebellions with rebels taking over City Hall, the Post Office and other major city buildings. Although many of the leaders were executed, this resistance to British rule did succeed in turning the political tide though it took many more years for the British to let Ireland go.
Kilmainham Gaol, built in 1787 and based on Paris’s notorious Bastille, held many of the rebels over the centuries until it finally closed in 1924. The final prisoner incarcerated here was Eamon de Valera who went on to become the president of Ireland. These days you can visit the prison only on an hour long guided tour and it’s worth it to gain an understanding of the history of Ireland, of both its political struggle and its other historical battles such as the Great Famine, known as the Potato Famine, of 1845-50. During that time many people ended up in Kilmainham for stealing in order to try and feed their families. This was not a happy place; people crammed into the dark, damp cells: women, men, even children. Those deported to Australia probably thought themselves lucky.