The People’s Garden in the Phoenix Park is home to a magnificent statue of Sean Heuston, one of the sixteen men executed for their role in leading the 1916 uprising.
Only a short walk from Heuston, one comes to the the remnants of a memorial to the old order in the form of the plinth belonging to the statue of George William Frederick Howard, the 7th Earl of Carlisle. Born in Westminster in April 1802, Howard had served as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland on two separate occasions in the 1850s and 60s. It was one of several statues targeted by militant Irish republicans in the decades following independence, bombed in July of 1956. Lord Gough, who also stood in the Phoenix Park, was badly damaged by an explosion the following year.
The statue was unveiled by Earl Spencer, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, on May 2nd 1870. Paid for by public subscription, newspaper reports give an account of a rather unusual ceremony. It was noted for example in The Irish Times that:
There was no formal ceremonial, and no display of oratory. It was rightly felt that to touch upon all the merits of Lord Carlisle would be impossible, and that it was better not to speak imperfectly of his character and deeds.
John Henry Foley was the sculptor. The location of the statue, inside the People’s Garden, was chosen as the Earl had contributed towards the People’s Garden as a place for “the recreation and instruction of the poor of Dublin.” The statue showed the Earl of Carlisle in the robes of the Grand Master of the Order of Saint Patrick, and The Irish Times noted that the statue, as a work of art, “is not unworthy of the known fame of the artist.”
The statue sat upon a granite pedestal, still with us today. Within this pedestal was a marble slab, which read:
George Wm. Frederick, seventh Earl of Carlisle, K.G
Chief Secretary for Ireland, 1835 to 1841;
Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, 1855-1858 and 1859 to 1864
Born 1802. Died 1864.
On July 28th 1958 an explosion would cause serious damage to Foley’s work. It was reported the following day that the statue was embedded two feet in the soil next to its pedestal, giving some idea of the power of the blast. The Irish Republican Publicity Bureau came forward immediately to distance itself from the explosion.
Within a month of the Carlisle statue being bombed, a monument in Stephen’s Green to the 13th Earl of Winton was also targeted by republicans. Unlike explosions prior to it against symbols of British rule in Ireland, the explosion in Stephen’s Green almost resulted in a loss of life, with a civilian and two Gardaí lucky to come away with their lives. The Irish Times noted after it that “the great Tsars were guilty of real tyranny; yet the peasants and the workers of the Soviet Union have allowed their monuments to stand in peace.”