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Glasnevin's iconic O'Connell tower reopens today - 47 years after it was bombed

The tower has been closed since it was bombed by loyalists in 1971.

Daniel O'Connell is buried underneath the tower.
Daniel O'Connell is buried underneath the tower.
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

VISITORS TO GLASNEVIN Cemetery will now able to climb to the top of the O’Connell Tower for the first time in more than 40 years after it was closed following its bombing in 1971.

The tower will be open to visitors from tomorrow after restoration work by the Office of Public Works. A new staircase needed to be built after the tower was bombed by Loyalist paramilitaries in response to the destruction of Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street.

The bomb exploded at its base, destroying the tower’s staircase and windows. A large crack through its base that can still be seen today.

Renovations began in 2016, and visitors can now climb a newly installed staircase to the top of the tower, where the 360-degree view reveals Meath, Dublin, Wicklow and the Irish Sea. As Glasnevin already lies 100ft above sea level, the views will over a panorama that hasn’t been seen in decades.

Daniel O’Connell

The tower was built in 1855 to honour Irish political leader Daniel O’Connell, and took hundreds of labourers 16 months to complete. O’Connell, often referred to as ‘The Liberator,’ campaigned for the rights of Catholics in 19th-century Ireland and for the country’s independence. Before his death, he requested that his heart be taken to Rome and the rest of his body buried in Glasnevin Cemetary.

O’Connell founded Glasnevin Cemetery, which now encompasses 124 acres and has 1.5 million people buried on its grounds, in 1832 as a place where people from all creeds could be buried. Extensive restoration work of O’Connell’s crypt, which is underneath the tower, took place before it reopened in 2009.

90163896_90163896 Then-president of Ireland Mary McAleese at the reopening of O'Connell's crypt in 2009. Source: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

The opening of the tower’s winding wooden staircase will allow visitors to experience “the full magnificence of this mausoleum,” John Green, Chairman of the Glasnevin Trust, said.

Of course, we remember O’Connell through the bridges, streets, and squares named after him, but as we approach the centenary of the founding of our state we must remember how important O’Connell is in our nationhood. O’Connell lit a beacon for the peaceful parliamentary political process, a beacon carried on by Butt, Parnell, Redmond and, perhaps more significantly, every Taoiseach since the end of the civil war.
Hopefully the exhibition inside the tower will not only enhance the climb but also help to reinstate Daniel O’Connell to his rightful position in the pantheon of Irish leaders.”

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The tower measures 155 metres from its foundation to the apex of the cross on its top.

Today’s reopening was marked by a time capsule placed at the bottom of the tower by students at the local O’Connell School.

Access to the tower is by ticket only. Tickets go on sale from today, and tours of the tower start tomorrow. Initially, tours will run between 1pm and 3pm. Tours will begin every ten minutes, with six to eight visitors per tour. These times will be extended after a trial period.

More information can be found on Glasnevin Trust’s website.

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

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