The GPO in 1916
Besides its architectural significance and role as the chief office of the Irish Post Office, Dublin’s GPO holds a place of particular symbolic importance for Irish people.
It was the headquarters of the men and women who took part in the Easter Rising of April 1916. While that rebellion ended in failure with most Irish people lamenting the death and destruction caused, it led to Irish independence and the creation of a new State.
Easter Monday, 1916
Inside the Post Office, a reduced staff was on duty keeping essential services open for the public. Just after mid-day, a contingent of men who had assembled at Liberty Hall, a short distance away, entered the building and ordered staff and customers to leave.
Upstairs, a number of Post Office telegraph staff and some unarmed soldiers barricaded the doors and refused to leave until shots were fired at them. The rebels, led by Patrick Pearse and James Connolly, were motivated by various ideals but held the common belief that only an armed revolt could bring about the independence of Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom. They chose the GPO, the communications heart of the country and the centre of Dublin city, as the building on which to hoist the flag of an Irish republic.
For nearly a week, the rebels held the GPO. Fighting here and in other parts of the city was intense with civilians bearing the greatest hardship. With the building on fire and crumbling, they tried to break through the surrounding army cordon and failed. Pearse, realising the futility of further fighting, finally took the decision to surrender.
The smouldering ruins of the GPO bore silent witness to the momentous events that had taken place.