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Ireland's first non-denominational cemetery re-opens in bid to revitalise local area

Goldenbridge Cemetery in Inchicore, Dublin re-opens today.

Image: Glasnevin Trust

IRELAND’S FIRST NON-DENOMINATIONAL garden cemetery is re-opening today following 148 years of closure.

Founded in 1828 by Daniel O’Connell, Goldenbridge Cemetery on St Vincent’s Street, Inchicore, Dublin was the first of its kind in Ireland. Unlike churchyards, garden cemeteries are independent of a parish church.

The cemetery first closed to the public in 1869 following a dispute with the British War Office office that worked out of the nearby Richmond Barracks.

The office argued that the funeral traffic was a disruption to the barracks, causing the closure, according to a spokesperson for Glasnevin Trust, Michael Quinn.

Taking inspiration from the famous Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, the non-denominational cemetery welcomed those of all religions and none in the wake of the Penal Laws, a series of laws imposed in an attempt to force Irish Roman Catholics and Protestants to accept the reformed denomination as defined by the Anglican Church.

“There was a huge outcry and it took two years before it was finally agreed that Goldenbridge was going to remain open to burials for those who already bought plots but was closed to new burials,” Quinn said.

Remaining open to the select few that had the above arrangement, “burials have continued at a slower rate since then,” said Quinn.

bnwz5p2sp56cupxko96qdrkcha9z0p5 Source: Glasnevin Trust

Revitalisation of local area

The decision to re-open Goldenbridge Cemetery was made by Glasnevin Trust because there is a current community effort being made to revitalise and regenerate the local area.

“There was a barracks that’s been refurbished around there, Richmond barracks, it’s probably off the back of that. It’s been a successful refurbishment so they’re thinking ‘if we open up Goldenbridge it will contribute to the regeneration of the area’.”

“It’s within their power to open or re-close it so part of the reason then was that they realised that this could probably regenerate the area a little bit more. They see it as a renewed role for the cemetery within the community these days,” Quinn said.

The cemetery will be officially re-opened at 3pm today by Minister of State for Communities and National Drug Strategy, Catherine Byrne, and chairman of Glasnevin Trust, John Green.

The event will be marked by a small concert and the annual Daniel O’Connell commemoration. The concert is set to include a re-enactment of Daniel O’Connell’s “speech of the establishment of the non-denominational cemetery”, musical recitals by St. James’ Brass and Reed Band, a lecture on the history of the cemetery, followed by an ecumenical blessing.

Today Goldenbridge holds the grave of many historically significant figures including:

  • WT Cosgrave: Politician, revolutionary, first head of government of the Irish Free State and one of the most influential political figures of 20th century Ireland.
  • Frank Burke: Member of the Irish Volunteers who was killed in the fighting at the South Dublin Union and step-brother of W.T. Cosgrave
  • Eugene Lynch: An eight-year-old child killed during the 1916 Rising. One of 40 children to lose their lives during the fighting.
  • Mary Anne Jenkins: A member of Cumann na mBan who served during the 1916 Rising, War of Independence and Civil War.
  • Andrew Clinch: A doctor and rugby player who played for Ireland between 1892 and 1897. He was picked for the British Lions team that toured South Africa in 1896 and was later President of the IRFU.

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