Sites of 1916: The GPO
By Dr John Gibney
The General Post Office (GPO) on Dublin's Sackville Street (O'Connell Street) is the most famous location associated with the Easter Rising. Originally opened in 1818, the GPO was seized by members of the Irish Volunteers and Irish Citizen Army led by Patrick Pearse and others early on the afternoon of 24 April 1916.
The rationale for seizing it remains unclear, but the GPO was a key communications hub in Dublin. It was also a very visible symbol of official authority north of the River Liffey, and its location on the wide expanse of Sackville Street ensured that its seizure, and thus the outbreak of the rebellion itself, would be widely observed. It had both a practical and propaganda value, and the GPO became the headquarters garrison for the insurgents. In the early days of the Rising many observers noted an almost surreal atmosphere, complete with looters and sightseers, in the vicinity of the GPO, but as the week wore on Sackville Street and the GPO came under heavy bombardment, and fire broke out in the commercial district around the building. The building itself was hit by shells towards the end of the week, and was abandoned by the garrison.
Having been gutted by fires, it did not reopen until 1929.