Home of the Irish revolution open to public for St Patrick’s weekend

First Dáil planned at 6 Harcourt Street

No. 6 Harcourt Street is one of Dublin's most historic buildings. It was the Sinn Féin headquarters during the 1918 general election and for the first Dáil. Video: Ronan McGreevy

 

If any building could be considered to be the home of the Irish revolution, that building would be 6 Harcourt Street.

For four years it was the home of John Henry Newman, the founder of the Catholic University which would go on to become UCD. Some of the first students of the university lived in the house. That itself would make it interesting, but its history after that was of even greater importance.

From 1910 this elegant red-bricked Georgian building was the headquarters of Sinn Féin, at that stage a fringe party in nationalist politics, and the bank associated with its name.

It was here that Sinn Féin’s founder Arthur Griffiths first articulated the strategy of a separate Irish parliament and a policy of abstentionism from Westminster.

The windows of the building were smashed up by a loyalist mob following Armistice Day 1918, but the occupants of the building posed for a famous photograph with the smashed windows in view and the defiant slogan “business as usual”.

Sinn Féin planned its seismic 1918 British general election victory from 6 Harcourt Street. Robert Brennan, the head of the party’s publicity arm, worked 16 to 18 hours a day producing pamphlets and bills in advance of the election.

From here too invitations were sent out to the first Dáil and the Dáil loan was conceived and successfully implemented despite the increasing frenetic attempts by the British authorities to shut it down.

A who’s who of Irish revolutionary figures passed through this building, but the man most associated with it was Michael Collins who directed the Dáil loan from his room on the second floor.

On one occasion officers from the Dublin Metropolitan Police raided the building. Inspector Niall McFeely confronted Collins, but failed to recognise him despite him being the most wanted man in Ireland.

An another occasion Collins escaped through a hatch in the roof and across the roof top to safety. The hatch remains to this day.

A white safe, which is still in the building, contained much of the riches of the nascent Republic at one stage or another.

The building was continually raided by the authorities. In 1966 it became the headquarters of Conradh na Gaeilge. The organisation remains there to this day.

On Saturday as part of the St Patrick’s Festival, 6 Harcourt Street will be open to the public for viewing. This will be to be celebrate and remember the first Dáil and the Dáil loan.

These tours will allow access to the historic rooms where the course of Irish history was changed forever, and will include a reenactment of a raid on September 12th, 1919.

https://www.stpatricksfestival.ie/events/event/the_beginnings_of_dail_eireann_english_language1