Kilmainham Gaol a ‘sacred place’, says Archbishop Martin

‘A place of nobility, idealism’ and of things representing ‘deeper dimensions of humanity’


The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin has described Kilmainham Gaol as “a monument to the spiritual strength and the faith of the men and women who lived and died for an ideal which Irish men and women and children should be able to achieve”.

In a homily at the gaol he said: “We are celebrating Mass here not just in an historic national monument. We are celebrating Mass in a sacred space. It is sacred not just because it was at some moment or other blessed or consecrated in a liturgical ceremony. It is sacred because of the extraordinary faith which was shown here at a moment when all else seemed to be dominated by brutality.”

Archbishop Martin was speaking at a Mass in Kilmainham Gaol on Sunday which he said he was “honoured to have been asked to celebrate with you this morning”.

The Archbishop’s family, on his mother’s side, played a significant role in the 1916 Rising. His uncle, Martin Mullen, was in the unit at Jacob’s factory and was subsequently interned at the Frongoch camp in Wales. His Mary Mullen served with James Connolly’s Citizen Army.

Another aunt, and the Archbishop’s godmother, Bridie Mullen, fought at St Stephen’s Green. Meanwhile, another brother of that family James Mullen served with the British army at Gallipoli.

‘Mystical poetry’

Kilmainham Gaol, the Archbishop said, “was a place of harsh punishment and death. It was also a place of nobility and idealism and of those things which represent the deeper dimensions of humanity. Each of those who was executed here was a person of faith. It varied from the mystical poetry of Plunkett to the doubting faith of Connolly who found his peace with God right here in this chapel.”

It was “a place also where people accepted to face a violent death because they had a dream for Ireland. It was not a dream just for the Ireland of 1916, but it was a dream for us and for all the generations which will come after us also. Those executed here wanted us to benefit from their dream and for us then to realise our common dream for others.”

The dream “must be a dream about peace and harmony. In these days again we witness almost every day examples of senseless violence: there is the cold and unscrupulous violence of people shot deliberately, often in their homes and before their families.

“There is the repeated violence of stabbings, tragedies often unplanned, but nonetheless senseless and bringing tragedy to all involved. This violence attains nothing, and as citizens we must all rise up against it in whatever way we can,” he said.