Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sights on O'Connell Street

At the very heart of historic (and modern) Dublin City is the O'Connell Bridge at the base of- you guessed it, O'Connell Street.  The bridge really does sit at the center of the action in Dublin- crossing the River Liffey between Temple Bar and Viking-era Dublin to the West and the Trinity College area to the East.

O'Connell Bridge on the River Liffey in Dublin
O'Connell Bridge
The bridge (and street) are built to honor Daniel O'Connell, a 19th-Century Irish politician who campaigned for (and won) the right of Irish Catholics (gasp!) to sit in Parliament, eroding (some) of the religious control of Protestant England over Irish politicians.

Just North of the bridge is a statue to the man himself, upon a pedestal of Irish citizens and angels.  When we first arrived in Dublin (just over six months ago as of this writing!) our cab driver proudly but soberly pointed out bullet damage on the monument- particularly the lower angels- from a firefight in Dublin during the 1916 Easter Rising.

O'Connell with a Pigeon Buddy in Dublin
O'Connell with a Pigeon Buddy
 O'Connell street itself is a wide, divided, four-lane thoroughfare taking a straight shot North from the River Liffey.  Like any street in Dublin that actually goes somewhere (without turning into a tangled, dead-endy spiderweb) it is quite busy.  Pricey shops, chain restaurants, and tourist agencies line the main drag, and each side street (particularly Henry Street) is lively and bustling with smaller storefronts and ethnic food markets and eateries.

The street is lined through with statues and monuments, not all of them pictured here.  Father Mathew sternly admonishes the masses to stay away from their liquor just as he did during his Irish temperance movement in the early 1800's.

Farther up, James Larkin preaches to the camera-toting masses his message of labor reform.  Larkin founded the Transport Workers Union and was involved in strikes, lockouts, and other socialist activities in the early 20th century.

James Larkin monument, O'Connell Street, Dublin
Larkin Monument
Just beyond most of the monuments sits a very puzzling piece of... sculpture? ...Architecture? ...Art? ...Kitsch?  The Spire of Dublin (better photos on that link) stands proudly on O'Connell Street as a monument to... light.  It was built in 2002-2003 as part of a general revitalization of the street at a cost of over 5 million Euro.  Times were good and the government had the cash at the time, so why not?  In today's time of a weaker Euro, high unemployment, economic meltdown, and E.U. enforced austerity, the idea of a huge monument to nothing seems a bit silly.  Comments from several local residents echo this sentiment.

Spire of Dublin
Spire of Dublin

Turning to the West from the Spire, we are on the steps of the General Post Office of Dublin.  This building was the site of the proclamation of Irish independence in 1916, sparking the famous Easter Rising.  The rebels set up headquarters here during the rebellion, and the pillars are still marked with bullet holes from the fierce battle.

General Post Office in Dublin, Ireland
General Post Office
Near the top of O'Connell Street (at the intersection of- you guessed it...Parnell Street) is the monument to Charles Stewart Parnell.  Parnell had a vision of an independent but secular State of Ireland, so his policies went against the English land-grabbers and the Catholic Church- who would have preferred Ireland to be a religious State.  His movement was gaining momentum and public support until a personal affair was made public and used (by the English and the Church) to bring him down, delaying Irish independence yet again.  Today, his monument stands ringed with the names of all four provinces (Leinster, Ulster, Munster, and Connacht) and the names of all 32 counties of Ireland (North and South.)

Parnell Monument on O'Connell Street Dublin
Parnell Monument
Around the corner and up just a bit from Parnell is the Garden of Remembrance, Hugh Lane Gallery, and Dublin Writer's Museum.  The last two of which may appear in a later post.

O'Connell, because of its significance, should be rated a can't miss sight in Dublin on a visit.  Luckily, because of its prime location on and near many other sights in town, O'Connell is a... can't miss sight.  When in town, take the 20 minutes to walk this important (and convenient) walk.

Final note- The descriptions of the important political figures on this blog are not at all meant to be comprehensive.  These leaders all played important roles in shaping modern Ireland, and many died for their cause.  Their stories are much deeper and their history much richer than we would have time or expertise to dissect here.  I strongly encourage readers to take some time to research these people and events further for a deeper understanding.


  1. Thanks for the little history lesson accompanied with the photos. I've come across your blog and enjoy following it. My wife and I are moving to Galway in a few months so it is very interesting reading the blog about your experiences.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting. Good luck on your upcoming move. Haven't been to Galway yet, but I hear it's great!


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