(click on photos to enlarge)
This trip was really intended to gain acquaintance with the island. The only cities visited were Dublin, Belfast, Londonderry and Kilkenny and visits were so brief that all I could conclude was that they deserved dedicated return trips. The visits to the four towns were nevertheless very interesting and worthy of documentation.
Settled by the Vikings, the town passed under the Danes and then the English. 17th century Dublin was an important European city but, in 1800, the Act of Union abolished the Irish Parliament and so it gave rise to the independence movement. The Easter rising in 1916 (centered on the General Post Office on O’Connell Street) made the Irish commitment to freedom irreversible. Today, a somber memorial in the yard of the old Arbour Hill prison marks the burial spot of the Leaders of the Rising. The text of the “Proclamation of the Irish Republic”, carved on the monument, reads as follows:
POBLACHT NA h-EIREANN –
THE PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT OF THE IRISH REPUBLIC TO THE PEOPLE OF IRELAND
Irishmen and Irishwomen: In the name of God and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of nationhood, Ireland, through us, summons her children to her flag and strikes for her freedom.
Having organized and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organization, the Irish Republican Brotherhood, and through her open military organizations, the Irish Volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army, having patiently perfected her discipline, having resolutely waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and, supported by her exiled children in America and by gallant allies in Europe, but relying in the first on her own strength, she strikes in full confidence of victory.
We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by a foreign people and government has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the Irish people. In every generation the Irish people have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty; six times during the past three hundred years they have asserted it in arms. Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in arms in the face of the world, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic as a Sovereign Independent State. And we pledge our lives and the lives of our comrades-in-arms to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the nations.
The Irish Republic is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance of every Irishman and Irish woman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities of all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by an alien government, which have divided a minority in the past.
Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government, representative of the whole people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her men and women, the Provision Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people.
We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High God, Whose blessing we invoke upon our arms, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by cowardice, inhumanity, or rapine. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which it is called.
Signed on behalf of the Provisional Government,
THOMAS J. CLARKE, SEAN MAC DIERMADA, THOMAS MACDONAGH, P.H. PEARSE, EAMONN CEANNT, JAMES CONNOLLY, JOSEPH PLUNKETT 24 April 1916
Today the President of Ireland resides in the Áras an Uachtaráin, the former Viceroy’s residence.
The city downtown is a real treat for tourists, Dublin Castle, Trinity College, the National Museum, the National Gallery and Library, the Leinster House (the seat of the Oireachtas, the national parliament) are all located on the south side of the river Liffey while the Custom House, the new Spire of Dublin (in front of the General Post Office) and the Abbey and Gate Theatres are on the north side.
The National Museum of Ireland, housed in a splendid 1880s building, holds exceptionally beautiful artifacts from several centuries BCE to the times of invasions. The wealth of gold artifacts displayed is unimaginable to the visitor from outside the country.
However, I think the VIII century CE illuminated manuscript The Book of Kells ought to be considered the national treasure. On view in Trinity College, its mastery is unsurpassed.
I was truly glad to have had the opportunity to visit, however briefly, this great city and happy that my travel was taking me to the north of the island.
Belfast (from Irish: Béal Feirste) is the administrative capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. The second largest city on the island, it is the seat of the government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly.
Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the Irish linen industry, tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding: the city’s main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, which built the well-known RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast on to the global stage in the early 20th century as the biggest and most productive shipyard in the world. The city’s industrial and economic success was cited by unionist opponents of Home Rule as a reason why Ireland should shun devolution and later why Ulster unionists in particular would fight to resist it.
Belfast struggles today to regain its old industrial relevance despite the crippling legacy of the times of ‘The Troubles’. The old sectarian strife is now largely under control even though physical barriers (the high, gated, walls) and murals on public housing blocks are a reminder that discord has not yet abated.
I was fascinated by the existence of “Black Taxi” tour companies offering guided tours of Belfast political murals and walls. The tour is certainly of interest to visitors even though the “service” may be of questionable value to the two local communities.
The newest addition to the skyline of the city is the Titanic Belfast building (well on sight of the two giant Harland and Wolff gantry cranes of the city’s shipbuilding area) offering a popular ‘show and tell’ of early XXth century Belfast and a detailed account of the construction and demise of the Titanic.
Among the best known landmarks of Belfast are the Albert Memorial Clock, a clock tower situated at Queen’s Square, the City Hall building and Queen’s University Belfast, chartered in 1845.
Officially called Londonderry, the city of Derry derived its name from the Irish ‘Daire’, meaning “oak grove”. In 1613, the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I and the “London” prefix was added, changing the name of the city to Londonderry. The old walled city lies on the west bank of the River Foyle. The Walls were built (1613–1619) as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland, they are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. The walls, originally with four gates and never breached, include the 1633 Gothic cathedral of St Columb, the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall and the courthouse. Outside the walls one can see the new (1890) Guildhall with fantastic stained glass work.
Kilkenny is located in south-east part of Ireland, built on the banks of the River Nore. The city heritage includes historic buildings such as Kilkenny Castle, St. Canice’s Cathedral and round tower, Rothe House, Shee Alms House, Black Abbey, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kilkenny Town Hall, St. Francis Abbey, Grace’s Castle, and St. John’s Priory.
Started as an early sixth century ecclesiastical foundation within the kingdom of Ossory, following the Norman invasion it became an important merchant town protected by walls and the Kilkenny Castle. The Lord of Leinster gave Kilkenny a charter as a town in 1207. In 1609 King James I of England granted a Royal Charter giving it the status of a city. Following the Rebellion of 1641, the Irish Catholic Confederation was based in Kilkenny and lasted until the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland in 1649. Kilkenny was a famous brewing centre from the late seventeenth century.