The Easter Rebellion was played out in less than a week at several locations throughout the centre of Dublin. Six days saw most of the capital’s principal thoroughfare reduced to ruins, where relatively little damage accrued at the other conflict points beyond the central cordon around the GPO.
In a country where heritage is central to the tourist economy and its protection is ostensibly secured by some of the strongest legislation in the world, the lack of attention given to sites associated with the rebellion in the city is somewhat surprising. The maintenance of heritage sites associated with independence struggles is a global phenomenon, yet the most legible of these sites in Dublin has only recently been afforded National Monument status, where permission has been granted to transform the surrounding urban landscape into a shopping mall. Other sites afforded legislative protection are secured on architectural criteria alone, their association with the Rising a secondary concern, where considered at all.
In the political context of the centenary of the Rising, a project is being undertaken between Dublin City Council, UCD School of Archaeology and Archaeology and Built Heritage which will examine the landscape of the Rising throughout the contemporary city.
The archaeological investigation of these sites has the potential to add to the received narrative of the Rising and to provide a more considered account of the conflict and its aftermath in the contemporary urban environment. Recent archaeological work in the Moore Street sector has, for example, offered a significant reinterpretation of the final hours of the Rising, mapping the withdrawal of the GPO garrison from what most consider to be the central locus of the rebellion, out into the warren of lanes and eighteenth-century houses to the north. Here a new focus has been pulled on the civilian experience of the Rising, where an investigation of the built heritage has quantified the survival of elements of a rebellion landscape which has been disregarded since the foundation of the State.
The project will further examine the afterlife of the sites beyond the conflict, questioning the value placed on ‘independence heritage’ outside the auction rooms of the city, positing the events which took place back into the historical landscape of the contemporary capital.