Minister Simon Harris launches appeal for former Kilmainham Gaol Restoration Volunteers

Simon Harris TD, Minister of State with special responsibility for the Office of Public Works today (29 October) launched an appeal for the 'Kilmainham Jail Restoration Society' workers who helped to save Kilmainham Gaol from ruin over 50 years ago to come forward so that their huge achievement can be recognised in time for the 2016 commemoration events.

The Kilmainham Jail Restoration Society started to work in the Gaol, which was then in an advanced state of decay, in 1960. With the help of many hundreds of volunteer labourers, who gave freely of their time and skills, the Society continued to work on the Gaol for many years, ensuring that the building was saved from ruin and was preserved for future generations. Kilmainham Gaol was formally opened as a museum in 1966 by President Eamon de Valera on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising. The building was handed over to the Office of Public Works in 1986 and was declared a National Monument, ensuring that it would be fully protected and conserved for the Nation forever.

The Gaol is now one of the busiest heritage sites in the country and receives about 330,000 visitors a year. The Government is providing funding for one of its signature 2016 Commemoration projects at Kilmainham with the restoration of the nearby Kilmainham Courthouse and its adaptation as a modern Visitor Centre.

The Kilmainham Gaol Board of Visitors, who provide a modern link with the Restoration Society, today joined with Minister Harris in asking all those who took part in the voluntary effort which began 55 years ago to come forward and make themselves known so that a full record of all those who helped to save the Gaol can be compiled.

"We want as many people as possible who were involved in the restoration works to come forward" Minister Harris said today. "These people worked tirelessly for many years on an unpaid basis so that the Gaol could be saved from total decay and it is our intention that their effort will be recognised publicly during 2016.

"We hope to mark the contribution of the many hundreds of people who helped with the voluntary effort over the years" said Damien Cassidy, Chairman of the Kilmainham Gaol Board of Visitors, the body behind the call to the former workers, and who himself worked at the Gaol over a number of years.

"A number of our old colleagues still visit the Gaol and are proud to see what they have achieved. However, we have also lost track of many of the workers over the years and some have sadly passed away. We are very anxious therefore to gather a full record of all the people who took part before the memory of what they achieved fades away" Mr. Cassidy said.

"The first step will be to launch a public appeal to ask people who were involved to come forward and identify themselves to us and provide us with their contact details” Mr. Cassidy continued. “We would also appeal to family members of deceased colleagues to also come forward and tell us their stories. We will be glad to hear from anyone who can help us compile the full record."

Minister Harris stated that the Office of Public Works will be glad to facilitate the Board of Visitors in their efforts and, to this end, is providing an email address for people to contact and leave their details and will also accept any approaches by post. All responses will be monitored, logged and an acknowledgement will issue to everyone who comes forward. The records will then be made available to the Board of Visitors so that an appropriate way of marking the huge contribution of the workers can be devised.

"What we would like essentially is for people to simply give us their name and contact details and to state roughly when they attended at the Gaol restoration" the Minister said. "We have a considerable amount of information already in the Gaol Archives but we would also like to fill in some of the gaps that are undoubtedly there and identify all the workers ahead of the centenary next year"

The Minister appealed to the media to publicise this effort so as to ensure that as many people as possible have a chance to come forward. "We will also be publishing this call to the former volunteers on various websites and social media sites associated with the Gaol" said the Minister, "but I would very much appreciate the media helping us with this effort in getting the message out."

-ENDS-

Notes to Editors:

For further information or if you wish to interview Minister Harris please contact Colette Davis, OPW Press Officer at 087 947 5552 or colette.davis@opw.ie

Former Restoration workers, or family members of former workers who wish to come forward and have their contribution recognised should email:

kilmainhamgaolworkers@opw.ie

or write to:

Kilmainham Gaol Museum
(Archive Section - Voluntary Workers Project)
Inchicore Road
Kilmainham
Dublin 8
D08 T2X5
Ireland.

before the 13th December 2015. All emails and postal correspondence will be acknowledged. Further correspondence may ensue in certain cases to clarify any details if necessary.

Information on the voluntary workers initiative is also provided on www.heritageireland.ie and www.opw.ie