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During the early 1900s, Ireland witnessed widespread civil unrest as different armed groups vied for control. Wicklow Gaol once again played a central part in history.

Easter Rising 1916

With the First World War in full flow and the British Army preoccupied, some Irish nationalists decided that it would be a good time to hold an uprising. The rebels were a tiny group. Most Irish people, even those sympathetic to the cause of Irish independence, were reluctant to fight. When the Easter Rising took place, over Easter in 1916, there were insufficient fighters and weapons to mount a real challenge.

The British Government sought out between 60-100 leaders to be court martialled. Sixteen men were subsequently executed. Hundreds more suspected rebels were arrested and interned.

Anglo-Irish War / War of Independence

The treatment of the 1916 rebels turned public opinion against the Crown and led to the 1919 Anglo-Irish War, also known as The War of Independence. The war officially began on 21st January 1918, when two members of the armed police force, the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC),were attacked and killed in County Tipperary by The Irish Volunteers (later known as The Irish Republican Army or IRA).

Irish Civil War

With time, the War of Independence ended. Irish rebels had won certain freedoms from British rule. However, the resulting peace treaty retained elements of control by Britain that were unpalatable to many. The Irish Civil War broke out in 1922 and lasted until May 1923.

During the Civil War, Wicklow Gaol was again put to use. Irish Free State forces (Pro-Treaty) arrested and held Anti-Treaty suspectst in Wicklow Gaol. The most famous of these was soldier, author and Glendalough resident, Erskine Childers, who was also the father of the fourth President of Ireland. Wicklow Gaol was closed again in 1924, when the Civil War came to an end.

Read more about Erskine Childers’ life and his time at Wicklow Gaol here »