On Tuesday 18 March 2014 it was announced that An Post has been granted planning permission by Dublin City Council for the development of ‘GPO: Witness History’, an extended exhibition and interpretive centre measuring 1,550 sq metres at the GPO on Dublin’s O’Connell Street. The GPO is the key landmark building on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, and was built to house the headquarters of the Irish Post Office. It was designed by Francis Johnston, first president of the Royal Hibernian Academy, and was opened in 1818. It was built of granite and Portland stone, in a Greek revival style; at the front of the building are six Greek Ionic columns supporting a portico adorned by three statues by Edward Smyth, depicting ‘Mercury’, ‘Hibernia’ and ‘Fidelity’. The building had just undergone extensive modernisation a month before it became the headquarters of the insurgents during the 1916 Rising. The proclamation of the Irish Republic was read out outside the building, signalling the start of the Rising. It was extensively damaged during the ensuing battle and a subsequent fire, and was reconstructed in 1925 before re-opening in 1929.
The GPO is a protected structure owing to its historical, social and architectural importance. It currently houses the corporate headquarters of An Post, along with a large retail post office (the busiest in the State). The GPO complex also includes the GPO Arcade (Prince’s Street North and Henry Street) in addition to retail properties along Henry Street.
Mr Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and Mr Pat Rabbitte TD, Minister for Communications, visited the GPO to review the plans for the project, which is one of the State’s key 2016 initiatives. The new centre will extend from the GPO’s main public post office hall, incorporating most of the inner courtyard and some current An Post offices at the rear, and will house a permanent exhibition marking the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, focusing on the theme of the GPO as ‘Witness to History’. The GPO will continue to operate as the State’s flagship Post Office and An Post’s headquarters, while the integrity of the public Post Office hall and its unique original 1929 features will be retained.
Speaking at the GPO, Minister Deenihan said: ‘I am delighted that this project now has full planning permission. The GPO on O’Connell Street is an iconic location of great importance to the Irish people. When delivered, this interpretative centre at the GPO will be a major part of our centenary commemoration of the Easter Rising of 1916. This year, the Government has allocated €6 million in funding to support a number of important commemorative projects including this one’.
Reviewing the plans, Minister Rabbitte TD observed that ‘the GPO on O’Connell Street has long been the communications hub of this country. I am delighted to see the efforts of An Post in preserving the memories of the past through the Exhibition and Interpretative Centre, particularly in advance of the Centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, while they continue to work to modernise services for the future’.
Construction is expected to commence over the summer months, to be fully completed and ready for opening to the public at Easter 2016.
From History Ireland: The devastation of Dublin in 1916.