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The Garden of Remembrance is a memorial garden in Dublin dedicated to the memory of "all those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom. It is located in the northern fifth of the former Rotunda Gardens in Parnell Square, a Georgian square at the northern end of O'Connell Street.
The site had previously been part of the Rotunda Hospital’s pleasure gardens, which opened in 1749 (a year before the hospital’s construction began) with a fee for admission, part of Dr. Bartholomew Mosse’s strategy for funding the hospital.
The site for the Garden was bought from the hospital in 1939, and a design competition was held in 1940. Six years later, Daithí P. Hanly was announced as the competition winner. There was a further hold-up even at this stage – according to The Irish Times on September 9 1958 (p.3), “In 1949 the hospital was allowed to build a temporary pediatric [sic] unit on the site during an outbreak of infantile mortality. […] There has been some delay in [handing over the site] as it has been necessary to erect an alternative permanent pediatric unit in the hospital to house the 30 cots which the temporary unit catered for.” In 1966, the Garden had its official opening on Easter Monday, marking the 50-year anniversary of the 1916 Rising.
It’s a fascinating space. It’s a very specific representation of Ireland and its history, going heavy on Celtic mythology and religious symbolism, and using the rigidity of military plans. Inevitably, something so specific is going to have an immense power for some, and it’s going to leave others (including me) cold if neither religion nor Celtic myth nor the military have any significance for them. And maybe others still are left slightly baffled – a friend of mine, new to Ireland, once described a protest as starting “at that place they turn children into swans.” Memorable, just maybe not always as intended.