THE ROTUNDA, located at the top of O’Connell Street and within sight of the GPO, has always had a special place in the life of people in Ireland’s capital city. It is the location of one of the three main maternity hospitals in Dublin as well as being the first maternity hospital in the world.
What may be lesser known is the place it has in Ireland’s historic struggle for national independence and freedom from British colonial rule.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh, a noted republican historian as well as being a Teachta Dála (Member of Parliament) in Dublin for Sinn Féin, looks at the centrality of the Rotunda in Irish history, including being the birthplace of the Irish Volunteers, a rebel military force from which was to emerge the Irish Republican Army.
“The meeting to form the Irish Volunteers was switched to the small concert hall in the Rotunda complex, then to the large concert hall, which could hold 500; but, with interest growing, the Rotunda Rink, a temporary building in the Rotunda Gardens capable of holding 4,000, was booked.
“At the meeting, the stewards, all Irish Republican Brotherhood men and members of the Fianna Éireann republican scouts, got 3,000 enrolment forms signed. In addition to the 4,000 people inside the hall, a crowd of about 3,000 was unable to gain admission. Traffic on Parnell Square was blocked by the crowd. Two overflow meetings were held, one in the large concert room and the other in the gardens.”