The GPO and the 1916 Rising

The GPO is located on O’Connell Street in Dublin’s Georgian Quarter. It’s a beautiful and iconic part of Dublin City and has seen a lot of action down through the years. From playing a part in Ireland’s colourful history to serving as the headquarters of the postal service for over 150 years, the General Post Office - also known as the GPO - is one of the most important buildings in Dublin.

The GPO today

With its huge pillars marking its entrance and its three unique statues on the top of the building, the GPO is hard to miss.

Nearly 200 years after it first opened, it continues to be the headquarters of An Post. It has seen millions and millions of mail items and transactions pass through its doors and is still as busy as ever with An Post staff helping you do all kinds of business.

It also houses the An Post GPO Witness History Visitor Centre, where you can learn all about the role of the GPO in the 1916 Rising, the building’s history and the story of Irish Stamps. 

The General Post Office in 1916

In 1916, one of the most important events in Irish history happened when the GPO became the headquarters for the Easter Rising. At that time, Ireland and Britain were a United Kingdom but many Irish people believed Ireland should be in control of its own affairs and a few were prepared to fight for Irish independence.

On Easter Monday 1916, Irish rebels led by Padraig Pearse, occupied the GPO and used it as their base. Pearse himself read the Proclamation of independence to onlookers in the street and, from the front of the GPO, declared Ireland a Republic.

After a quiet start, fighting grew fierce and lasted for almost a week during which much of Dublin's city centre was destroyed. The GPO itself suffered great damage and a fierce fire took hold inside the building making it impossible for the men and women inside to remain there. They tried to fight on in other buildings but it was an impossible task and Pearse decided to surrender.

While the Rising was a failure, it had a great influence on people and paved the way for Ireland to become independent a few years later. Interestingly enough, Post Office staff played an important part in the Rising, some helping the rebels and others just doing their best to keep communications working, and you can read more about them in a book called GPO Staff in 1916 - Business as Usual available from the GPO's philatelic shop.

Did You Know?

Did You Know?

There are three statues standing on the roof of the GPO. Made by Edward Smyth, they are Mercury - the messenger of the gods, Hibernia – who represents Ireland, Fidelity and her hound – who represents the trust that the nation has in its’ postal service.

1916 Rising quiz sheet

Activity

1916 Rising quiz sheet

Write about the 1916 Rising

Activity

Imagine you are living in Dublin during the time of 1916 Rising. Write a letter to your friend describing what you are witnessing on the streets and how you feel about it all.

If you need any more information on what happened during that week of unrest, just ask your teacher.