Sites of 1916: Mendicity Institution
By Dr John Gibney
The Mendicity Institution is a charity that was originally founded in 1819 to deal with the problem of begging in Dublin by providing schooling, training and meals to Dublin's urban poor - in 1916 alone it served meals to over 16,000 people. The building in which it was originally housed, and which was occupied in 1916, was built in the 1750s as the townhouse of the earls of Moira, who sold it after the 1800 Act of Union. It was located on the southern side of the River Liffey at Usher's Island, on the edge of the vast complex of distilleries and breweries based in that part of the city.
The building was occupied by members of the Irish Volunteers led by Seán Heuston, who was later executed for his role in the Rising. The building was chosen due its location on the Liffey quays: Heuston and those under his command were to ambush any soldiers who might be mobilised from the Royal Barracks (now Collins Barracks) on the other side of the river. This was to enable other members of the Volunteers to establish positions around Church Street and the Four Courts without fear of attack.
The original building has been demolished but the outer walls survive located beside the James Joyce Bridge, and beside the Georgian house that was the setting for Joyce's short story 'The Dead'.