A magnificent statue at St Michan’s Park opposite the Little Green Street Gallery caught my eye recently. The statue stands within a park which was once the location of Newgate Prison, which the statue tells us was “associated in dark and evil days with the doing to death of confessors of Irish liberty, who gave their lives to vindicate their country’s right to national independence.”
Around the monument, the faces of figures associated with the 1798 republican insurection are to be seen. Lord Edward Fitzgerald can be seen in the front of the monument, while the Brothers Sheares are found on each side. Lord Edward died of gunshout wounds at the Newgate Prison as the United Irishmen rebellion broke out, and today his body is to be found in Saint Werburgh’s Church. It’s a great irony that Major Henry C. Sirr, who led the arrest party to capture Fitzgerald, is buried in the grounds of that same historic church.
Henry and John Sheares are perhaps not as widely remembered today as Fitzgerald, though they are fascinating characters in their own right. The brothers, sons of a Parliamentarian, had witnessed the radical changes to society brought by the French revolution firsthand and were enthusiastic members of the United Irishmen. They were executed n July 14th 1798, as the rebellion raged, having been betrayed by spies inside the movement. The pikes featured have of course come to symbolise the 1798 uprising in Irish popular history.
The statue of Erin on the monument is notable for its nationalistic features. She is shown for example next to a Wolfhound, and a Celtic Cross is visible alongside her. She clutches a wreath. The monument was begin in 1898 and completed and unveiled in 1903. Today, it sits rather oddly it should be said in the centre of a playground, and for a statue only a minutes walk from Capel Street it is perhaps one many Dubliners are unaware of.