The Phoenix park is one the largest walled city parks in Europe. Situated on the fringe of Dublin city centre, the park was opened to the public in 1745. Since then it has seen numerous monuments and buildings erected and has seen its fair share of controversy.
1. The Wellington Monument
Situated close to the city and alligned with the thoroughfare of the North Circular Road the Wellington Monument is the best known monument in the park. Standing 205 feet tall it is one of the tallest obelisks of its kind in the world. It is dedicated to Duke of Wellington, an early 19th century British general who gained great fame after he defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.
Work began on the monument in 1817 however funds ran out before the final 16 feet and a proposed crowning statue could added. It was not finished until 1861 when the bronze reliefs were added.
This imperialist inscription on the relief’s eastern side reads “Asia and Europe saved by thee, proclaim invincible in war thy deathless name. Now round thy brow and civic oak we twine that every earthly glory may be thine” . The survival of such a monument to imperialism after Independence was probably due to its sheer size which made it difficult to destroy. Other similar if smaller statues did not survive most famously Nelsons Pillar which was blown up by the IRA in 1966.
2. The Papal Cross
The Papal Cross is one the most recent monuments erected in the Park. In 1979 the pope of the day, John Paul II visited Ireland and 1 million people attended an open air mass in the Phoenix Park at this cross. This was one of the largest public gathering in Irish history.
3.The Magazine Fortress Raid
In 1745 the magazine fortress was built as weapons storage facility. Although used into the 20th century it is now derelict and unfortunately not accessible. On December 23rd, 1939 the I.R.A. raided the Free State’s weapons stores in the fort and made off with over 1 million rounds of ammunition. The majority of the ammunition was recovered in early 1940.
4. Áras an Uachtaráin and the Phoenix Park murders
Áras an Uachtaráin is the residence of the President of the Republic of Ireland. In the 19th centruyt it served as the residence of Lord Lieutenenat of Ireland. It was close to Áras an Uachtaráin that the famous Phoenix park murders took place. In 1882 a group of fenians and former fenians known as the invincibles executed the British chief secretary and under secretary for Ireland as the Land War was coming to end . The executions brutal manner (surgical knives were used) shocked Europe. Eventually those involved were apprehended when one of the group informed.
5. The Statueless Plinth
This plinth once supported a statue of George William Howard 7th earl of Carlisle who had been Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. It was erected in 1870. It however was not as indestructible as the Wellington monument and it was blown up by the IRA during their iconoclastic phase in the 1950’s and 60’s. The plinth which survived with minor damage was left in situ since then with no statue.