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Gaol restorers 'angry' over access


The main hall of Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

The main hall of Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

The main hall of Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

Volunteers who saved and restored Kilmainham Gaol have claimed they are being denied the right to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the start of their work.

About 20 conservationists, including a Civil War veteran, accused the Office of Public Works (OPW) of breaching a contract agreed after the state took day-to-day control of the rebuilt jail.

Damien Cassidy, a volunteer from the gaol restoration, said officials have reneged on the agreement and warned he will boycott the popular tourist attraction.

"The volunteers have no intention of getting down on bended knee to get into the jail," he said.

The contract with the OPW was signed in 1986 - more than 25 years after a team of volunteers set about restoring the iconic prison. It stated that a visiting committee should be set up every five years to oversee access for the former workers, rather than force them to join queues and book in like school groups and tourists.

Mr Cassidy said he has been told privately Kilmainham is too busy to be closed for a commemoration service.

"The volunteers, who actually rebuilt the prison, made the chapel which had no roof and trees growing up through the floor and brought the altar in, for them to have to go on bended knee and ask for permission to go in was unacceptable to us," Mr Cassidy said.

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Kilmainham Gaol is hosting an exhibition of photographs from the decades-long restoration until January. Mr Cassidy features on a number of the photos and appeals have been posted to ask for information on some of the unnamed workers.

The OPW said it has not received any application for a commemoration and if the volunteers wish to hold one they must apply to the department.

"It should be noted, however, that the gaol is one of the country's busiest tourist and heritage sites and is heavily booked for the remainder of this year and even into next," a spokesman said. "While every assistance would be given to assist the volunteers group, it is not possible to close the gaol specifically for a Mass or any other event and there is a possibility that the event may be disturbed by the day-to-day tourist traffic within the site."

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