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Dublin: 19 °C Thursday 22 August, 2019
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Rebuilding work begins on bombed O'Connell Tower at Glasnevin

Forty years ago, loyalist paramilitaries blew up the original wooden stairs that led to the top of the tower.

WANT TO GET a view from 160ft above Dublin city, at the top of a historic tower?

Soon you will be able to, thanks to construction beginning on the restoration of the internal stairway in the O’Connell Tower Monument at Glasnevin cemetery.

The stairs had been destroyed in a Loyalist paramilitary explosion in 1971, an attack believed to be in reprisal for the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar on Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

The cost of the restoration project will run to €200,000, and is a collaboration between the Office of Public Works and Glasnevin Cemetery.

imagePic: Susan Daly/TheJournal.ie

Brian Hayes, TD, Minister of State, was at today’s event marking the beginning of the construction work, and described it as a “particular privilege” to be there.

He said that the restored tower will offer visitors “a unique bird’s eye view of our city”.

John Green, chairman of Glasnevin Trust, said that completing the renovation of the O’Connell Tower “has long been a dream of the Trust”.

The restoration of the stairs completes this task and will establish this iconic monument as one of the ‘must do’ visitor sites in Dublin. We are delighted to collaborate so closely with the OPW in completing this work and are grateful for their assistance and expertise, without which the restoration could not have occurred.

He added: “It was the foresight of Daniel O’Connell which forged Glasnevin Cemetery as a site of historical importance, so it is appropriate that, above all others, Glasnevin Trust should honour his memory.”

Restoration

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Minister Brian Hayes speaking at the launch today. Pic: Chris Bellew, Fennell Photography

A new winding wooden staircase is to be installed, leading to the top of the 168ft tower. At the top will be a new viewing platform, which will accommodate up to eight people at one time.

The site is 110ft above sea level, meaning that there will be spectacular views from the tower’s windows, taking in the Mountains of Mourne to Wicklow and Meath to Ireland’s Eye.

Glasnevin Cemetery was established in 1832 under the direction of Daniel O’Connell. The tower was built in the mid-1800s, around the same time as the Wellington Monument in Phoenix Park and Nelson’s Pillar on then-Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street).

The building is a listed structure, so the new design had to stay relatively faithful to the original staircase.

However, the engineers will be adding handrails and other safety features in keeping with today’s building standards.

Resident historian at Glasnevin cemetery, Shane MacThomais told TheJournal.ie in December:

We’ll be giving it safety features that it didn’t have 150 years ago.

imageJohn Green, Chairman Glasnevin Trust and Brian Hayes, TD, Minister of State. Pic: Chris Bellew, Fennell Photography

The building of the tower to commemorate O’Connell’s death was funded by public subscriptions and designed by George Petrie. It was was seen as a political move by some, as it was a Catholic Nationalist monument pointing to the sky, and the 1971 bombing was an attempt to destroy it.

But the tower survived, mainly due to the fact was constructed using three-foot-thick granite stones.

After the bombing, for safety reasons it was sealed up, even the crypt at the bottom which contains the sarcophagus of Daniel O’Connell.

In the early 1990’s the Glasnevin Trust Board took the decision to restore the crypt area of the monument. Following extensive work, it was opened to the public in 1995.

This final phase of the restoration of the O’Connell Tower will be completed by October of this year.

Read: Bombed staircase in O’Connell Tower at Glasnevin to be rebuilt>

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