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Sites of 1916: South Dublin Union
The entrance to the South Dublin Union, taken in 1952. Photo: Bureau of Military Archives

Sites of 1916: South Dublin Union

By Dr John Gibney

The South Dublin Union, located on the site of what is now St James' Hospital, south-west of Dublin city centre, was Ireland's largest workhouse, housing 3,200 inmates on a sprawling complex that covered 50 acres. Given that the majority of military installations in Dublin were located to the west of the city, the seizure of such a large complex would have enabled the Volunteers to impede the movement of troops from Richmond Barracks and the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

It was seized by the 4th Battalion of the Dublin Volunteers under Éamonn Ceannt, who assembled in the Liberties before moving along Cork Street to seize the complex. A number of outlying buildings were also seized in this area, such as Watkins Brewery in Ardee Street, the Jameson Distillery in Marrowbone Lane, and Roe's Distillery in Mount Brown (the Volunteers declined to sample any of their wares). There was no attempt made to seize Kingsbridge (now Heuston) Station, which was a major oversight. The South Dublin Union was the site of intense fighting on Monday 24 April, Tuesday 25 April and Thursday 27 April. Part of the complex was occupied by troops, but their attention shifted elsewhere as the week went on. The Volunteer garrison in the Union surrendered on Sunday.

Dr John Gibney describes the action around the South Dublin Union during the Easter Rising. 

Read Peadar S Doyle's witness statement on the activities in the South Dublin Union area during the Easter Rising


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.