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.